Lesson 5: Listen to your Body
Have a nagging injury? Get regular upset stomachaches or headaches? Have chronic back pain? These are only a few examples of common issues that we are use to accepting as ‘normal’. So many of us just tough it out and live with the pain when there are ways to reduce that discomfort in healthy, sustainable ways.
Most of us just don’t listen to our bodies or we simply find a quick fix to take away the issue. I have been guilty of this myself. There was a time when I was in bed for 5 months on medications and couldn’t move! A clear sign that my body was shutting down and all I wanted was for the pain to go away. This pain led to surgery, but all of it could have been prevented if only I had taken a closer look at how much I was neglecting my own health.
I am going to teach you how to better listen to your body, especially when it comes to pain or discomfort. Our bodies are very good at telling us what is wrong; however, our brains are even better at ignoring our body’s needs. We are so use to living in pain, and somehow that becomes our new comfort level.
Your body will tell you exactly what it needs and when…if you listen to it.
Pain is the body’s way of giving you a warning sign. It’s saying to us, “if you keep doing this, it will get much worse”. Dismissing it because it is an annoyance to your daily living is a huge mistake, like in my case, which led to a surgery. Instead it is worth it to take a deeper look into the source of that pain so that we can see what is specifically causing it. Even though your body is signaling to you the presence of lower back pain, it could be that you are tight in your upper back, weak in your glutes, have poor posture, tight hips, or a weak core…these are just a few examples of what the source could be and notice I didn’t mention once that the lower back is the actual cause of the discomfort. The body is much too complex, which is why it is even more important to find the source of the pain, not just the site of the pain. Investigate above, below and inside out!
Maybe you wear heals every day for eight hours; I can only imagine what kind of stress that places on your body. Again, it’s worth repeating: Find and track the source of the pain, it may not be stemming from the actual site of the pain! We have become detached from proper movement qualities and because of that we develop a nasty cycle that looks like this:
Pain causes compensation (a limp)–> compensation (the limp) causes dysfunction –> dysfunction causes poor movement quality –> poor movement quality cause muscle imbalances and asymmetries = higher risk of injury!
Yikes! All of this because we tried to alleviate the pain with a quick fix to get on with our lives. Simply put, listen to the signal, listen to your body and address the issue. It is a slippery slope into bigger issues; which only increase the odds of a significant injury.
For example, running is a great physical activity, it’s free and the runner’s high can be addicting. However, a lot of runners don’t have the proper mechanics that allow them to run with grace and in proper form. Without proper running mechanics, it is easy to see how quickly dysfunction and imbalances creep up. If your feet turn out when you walk, when your knees turn in when you walk, if you can’t lift your arms above your head, or if your head protrudes forward or any other hang-up that doesn’t allow you to be in upright posture, it’s a good sign you shouldn’t be running yet. Heck, if you aren’t even walking with proper walking mechanics, why are you accelerating that movement pattern into running or sprinting?!
By accelerating faulty movement patters, we also accelerate the risk of injury.
Now I can’t leave all runners hanging here, strength training and self-myofascial release (foam rolling) alone can do a lot to get your stride moving like a well-oiled machine and reduce any nagging pain! Always listen to your body, sometimes it is as simple as scaling back to prevent overtraining, which again leads to increased risk of injury no matter if you are a marathoner, a lifter, a highland game competitor, or a cyclist, etc.
I know what you’re thinking, “But Christine it is so much more convenient to pop the pain pills than to do my corrective exercises every day!” I ask you this: how convenient is surgery? I’ve seen it way too many times and thankfully not with my own clients! I am fortunate to be in the business of movement and reducing the risk of injury by helping people be more aware of their body and how to move more efficiently – without causing any pain.
If you have trouble sleeping or have consistent headaches or stomachaches, taking a closer look at your diet may give you a hint as to what your body does not agree with. Experimenting and keeping a daily food journal will help in time to pinpoint what your body gets energy from and what your body rejects. Stop eating foods that make you sick. Tracking your food and eliminating certain foods to find the root cause is a very simple tool that may just be the ticket to feeling your best.
Here are a few tips to help practice body awareness if you experience any discomfort that may be preventing you from enjoying day-to-day activities.
- Knowing when to modify a workout routine
- Knowing when to subtract something from your diet
- Knowing when to step back from any stressors causing you to be tense or irritable
- Knowing when to seek out help from a physical therapist, fitness coach, chiropractor, massage therapist, etc.
- Knowing when your body needs more rest and recovery are very important factors in achieving your goals and making progress, eliminating any possibilities of setbacks.
- Find activities that your body is meant to do. If you can do the activity free of pain, enjoy every second of it and by all means keep enjoying that activity!
- If you are starting a new activity, progress slowly and give your body time to recover and adapt.
Be proud of knowing your body, take the time and have pride in knowing if something is off or doesn’t feel right with your body. It feels good being in control of how you feel and knowing the difference between what feeling amazing feels like versus not being at your best and why. Simply knowing the difference and what the source is will liberate you from further pain and discomfort. Get plenty of rest, a minimum of seven hours of sleep, consume foods that nourish your body and make you feel energized, and take good care of your body. The last time I checked you only get ONE J
To your results,