Should You Listen To Your Body?
Your workouts and meal plan are dialled-in. You’ve been in the same routine for a while, and it’s working for you. You have your rest days, some minor aches and pains after intense exercise days, and generally feel good. What’s next, you ask? Well, there’s a way to take your physical, mental and emotional health to a new level of success. It’s something you’ve heard before, but you’re going to have it explained in a whole new way. Time to answer your question… “Should you listen to your body?”
YES – listen to your body
Listen to your body. It’s a phrase you’ve heard many times before, but what does it mean, and how do you do it?
We tend to rush through things and go so quickly; we don’t often pause everything. Stop what you’re doing for a few minutes. Stand still, sit, or lay down. Pause from scrolling, chewing, moving, talking.
You can do this by paying attention to one area of the body at a time or noticing what most pulls your attention. What are you feeling in your body? For example, is it a sore lower back, rumble in your tummy, stiff ankle, or dull headache?
You may feel or notice certain sensations. See if you can catch it without reacting. The way your neck feels warm and tight. How your right shoulder feels like it’s contracting. The pressure or heaviness in your belly. Become aware without doing anything to shift, move or fix it. Listening means not doing anything right away, not rushing to fix the problem.
Get curious by asking questions. What movement might feel good? What direction does this body part want to move to feel light or loose? What do I need right now? What does my body need? It might be a walk around the block, a glass of water, stretching your arms overhead or resting.
Try doing this for 5-minutes a day. Stop to pause and notice.
All this might seem like mindfulness mumbo jumbo. We get it! Here are some practical reasons why it’s a great idea to start listening to your body.
Distinguishing muscle soreness vs pain
When listening to your body, you can more easily tell the difference between muscle soreness (good) and muscle pain (bad).
Soreness is good because it tells you that the muscle fibres are in repair mode, becoming even stronger. Soreness is:
- A general ache
- Lasts for 3-4 days
- Hurts when you move but not when you’re still
- Feels dull, heavy, tight, stiff, a bit annoying but nothing major
An injury is more serious, requires additional rest and possibly some medical intervention, like physiotherapy. An injury is:
- Pinpointed pain
- Lasts longer than a week
- Hurts when you’re still and more when you move.
- Feels stinging, radiating, burning, sharp, stabbing
Get stronger faster
Listening to your body allows you to intensify your workouts and push yourself to reap even more significant benefits. Check-in with your body and ask, how does this feel, can I add more weight or do another set? It’s about making constructive changes consciously, intentionally, and, more importantly, safely.
Less chance of injury
By regularly listening to your body, you are training your brain to focus. More focus means less chance of injury. Bring your attention to the task at hand, focus on your goals. Minimize distractions and disasters. Increase your capability to react to a sensation that requires your attention. The longer we ignore what our body is telling us, the louder it becomes.
Are your workouts feeling harder, you are unable to get going, feeling sluggish, tired, or sore?
Listening to the body could mean more restorative movement, increasing rest days, stretching and foam rolling. All of this prevents injury so you can keep working out at the level you love.
Sharpen your mind
Listening to your body requires focus. It can be challenging to focus because of our continuous tendency to scroll to the next item; our attention span is short. Practice bringing your mental game into your workout but tuning into your body, even if it’s short bursts of focus. Leave the phone in the gym locker or at home while you go for a run, free yourself of distractions so you can listen.
If you want to be more toned or lose a few pounds, listening to your body can help eliminate mindless snacking. Instead of eating out of habit or boredom, wait for the sensation of hunger to set in. Are you shovelling in gulps of food while staring at the computer screen? Put down the fork for 10 seconds, shift your eyes away from the screen and take a few deep breaths. When your body is stressed, your digestive system does not function optimally, impacting the body’s ability to absorb the nutrients from your food. Take a few breaths, relax, chew slowly and mindfully. Your body will tell you when it’s satiated.
Improve your mood
Are you feeling cranky, restless, tired, overly critical of yourself, or frequently getting sick? You could be over-exercising, overworking your body, or perhaps there’s something else going on. Listening to your body is an effective way to determine what is impacting your health so you can take care of it and live the full life you deserve.
*Pro-tips for listening to your body
Notice the rise and fall of your chest. Feel the air moving in and out of your nose. Consciously tuning into these actions will train you to notice other sensations that will improve your workout results, such as setting your body up for a big lift.
Keep a record
Writing down what you notice is the best way to remember the sensations you felt and verify if anything was there. For example, during a moment of pause, you notice your ankle feels a bit sore, it’s still reasonably mobile, but you note it in your journal. A week later, you roll it during a high-intensity workout. Looking back, you can see that yes, I did notice my ankle was feeling a bit off. Next time you notice the same sensation, you’ll know that incorporating a few strengthening exercises may help prevent a sprain.
When you become masterful at tuning in to your body, you can give it what it needs, saving yourself from injury and taking your health to the next level of success. You have everything you need to listen and thrive.
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