Thursday, September 28, 2006

Listen to Your Body

Should you ever decide to take up the honourable practice of long-distance running, one of the first pieces of advice you will hear is composed four simple words. Listen to your body.

What does that mean? Exercise-induced endorphins are great, but they're not going to cause you to start hearing voices. Listening to your body is about monitoring how you feel and adjusting your training schedule accordingly. If your knee is screaming in pain after five miles, you need to stop and give it a rest. If your muscles are a bit whingy when you start, perhaps you're going out too fast and would benefit from slowing down and including stretching in your routine. If you're running out of steam near the end of the run, maybe you need more carbs before you run.

Listening to your body is about tuning into what you need and following through on it. I wasn't great at listening to my body. Probably because from 1990 to 1998, all my body ever told me was "More chocolate!" and "Sure, the Super-size Meal is better value." and "I'm hungry! Yes, again." I didn't trust my body at all. My body was the enemy and my job was to drag that enemy out of bed every morning and wrestle into shape.

This worked to some extent, but the thing I had to learn is that pain is not the same as hunger or salt/chocolate cravings. Pain means something is wrong and needs attention. I wasn't great at accepting that pain meant something was wrong. I was a fat girl training for a marathon - a fat, stubborn girl who didn't care that my poor knees were taking 10 times my body weight with every step. My knees, and my fat by extension, would be conquered.

I nearly ended up not making it to the start line for my first marathon. Had it not been for Peter's oversight and the help of an excellent sports medicine physician, I might have ground my knees into powdery lumps.

I'm older now, thinner, and a tiny smidge wiser. I've taken the last week off of my training regimen and am working on redesigning my plan to do my tough training in the pool, where my knees aren't bearing the brunt of the abuse. I've had a bit of swelling in my knee - it's an old rollerblading injury and it flairs up around this time, when the weather changes. It'll be fine - I just have to give it a break. This was a momentous decision for me. I think it was probably the first time that I unilaterally decided a rest period was needed. Usually, Peter has to help me out. I usen't to be able to tell myself to take it easy, but I would (grudgingly) follow such advice from Peter.

What does this mean? Am I getting soft and lazy? Or have I am I finally making peace with my body? I'm afraid there will always be a tiny part of me who is terrified that, if left to my own devices, I will become fat and unfit again. There will always be part of me who wants to push through the pain and get the exercise done. That's the part who gets edgy and impatient during these rest breaks. That's the part of me that says "Oh, sure, one rest day a week is more than enough!"

But maybe there's another part of me that is finding her voice - a part that realises that caretaking is as important as achieving goals, that it's illogical that the price of fitness would be injury and discomfort.


At 28 September 2006 at 23:23, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Going to go running again and I'm fully expecting trouble. Need to start doing some flexibility training methinks.

At 29 September 2006 at 13:22, Blogger Radio Free Newport said...

"But maybe there's another part of me that is finding her voice - a part that realises that caretaking is as important as achieving goals, that it's illogical that the price of fitness would be injury and discomfort."

Very well said. For all of the abuse I take from my friends -- like...well, you! -- about being old, it's all in good fun, but the physical part is trying at times. I'm a lifelong athlete -- I ran long-distance for about eight years, and for a good 10 years played basketball 5-6 times a week (plus various spurts of baseball, tag football, etc.).

I've lived most of my life with something taped up, bruised, sprained, or just plain sore. I always played thru it and took a typically stupid male pride in doing so. But, stuff hurts and it just lingers. I never appreciated how fast I healed when I was 21.

At this particular moment, I have a sore groin muscle (from my virgin stint into broomball on Sunday), a very sore lower back (aggravated by hiking in Oregon and a long flight home), and swollen right ring finger from basketball eight weeks ago. Various bouts of ice, anti-inflammatories, etc. aren't winning the battle.

And so, I'm mostly resting at the moment. But it's killing me. I haven't played basketball in two months, and haven't cycled in a month. But I'm trying to be, you know, grown-up about all of this... ;-)

I enjoy being older and wiser, but I want my 21-year-old body back.

At 30 September 2006 at 18:27, Blogger Career Guy said...

Good news, after nearly three months rest, my tendonitis seems to be diminishing. My elbow is still painful, but not as sensitive as it was in July. Thanks to swimming, the swelling has gone down. I was afraid to do anything, but after only one swimming workout, it started feeling better, so I've been in the pool four days a week now. At this point, I'll take my 35 year old body back.

At 3 October 2006 at 03:02, Blogger Lyss said...

Glad y6ou're on the mend and not working towards bionic knees.

At 3 October 2006 at 03:03, Blogger Lyss said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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