Listening to Your Body

Think about some of the longest relationships you’ve been in: your parents (since the moment you were born), siblings (if you have any), relatives, long-time friends, your spouse/significant other. What do all of these relationships have in common? They require effort and good communication to keep them strong. There are easier times and there are harder times. But you always keep working at the relationship because it’s worth it. The rewards far outweigh the effort.

Thanksgiving 2012

It’s the same with our bodies. We are in a lifelong relationship, so to say, with our own body. There will be ups and downs. There will be times you give it the silent treatment and times you will think it’s the most amazing creation. There will be times when you don’t have time for the relationship.

But in the end, the more effort you put into this relationship, the more you will get out of it. The more time you invest in nourishing it, moving it, resting it, and respecting it, the better your life will be. You’ll have energy when you need it. Your body will do what you want it to do (within reason). It will try its hardest not to get sick.

WHH toughing out the Tough Mudder

Granted, it’s not always that easy. Sometimes your body will do things you don’t want it to do. Despite all of your efforts you may get sick or some part may not function correctly. Perhaps there’s a kink in your genes that makes something go awry. It is especially important to listen to our bodies during this time. Don’t push aside those instincts that we all have built into us.

Echinacea and Emergen-C

Take it easy and take care of yourself when you’re sick!

Are you starting to get sick? I beg you to take it easy! Are you feeling a twinge somewhere, but power through your workout anyway? Take note of it and though you shouldn’t necessarily worry about it, don’t ignore it. Have you been burning the candle at both ends? Make a real effort to cross something off your list that’s really not very important and get to bed earlier than usual. Your health comes first. If you can’t take care of yourself, how can you take care of others?

Sometimes our bodies can “trick” us. Say you don’t get enough sleep. Ever notice that your body is signaling it’s hungry a bit more the next day or two? This is because the less you sleep, the more leptin is decreased (satiety hormone) and ghrelin (hunger hormone) is increased. In this case you don’t necessarily want to listen to your body in the conventional sense (obeying the hunger by eating), but instead notice the hunger, think about why you may have the hungry horros, down some water, and make sure to get enough sleep that night!

Sometimes the relationship can be especially frustrating and we can get really mad at our body. Really, really mad. I had never experienced such anger at my body as I did last summer. I felt it had betrayed me even though I was doing everything to try to make it healthy. The harder I tried to make it better, the worse I seemed to get, which only fueled a terrible cycle of worry and anxiety, causing my body to pump out stress hormones, which only continued to inhibit healing.

I didn't know I could bruise in so many colors.

I didn’t know I could bruise in so many colors.

Once I started to adopt a more relaxed attitude, one of understanding and acceptance, I could feel my body loosen up and start to heal. I wasn’t fighting it; I was working with it. It didn’t happen overnight and there were some steps back, but the overall progress was forward.

Running after plantar fasciitis

Running again!

I know I’ve touched on this topic before, but I feel it’s an important one that bears repeating. Of course, I’m say this as I’ve reached another frustrating plateau in my tennis elbow saga because I know that I need to continue this attitude moving forward and that it’s what has gotten through my other injuries. I want to be mad and I want to just throw up my hands and give up, I want to fight my body, but it won’t get me anywhere in the end.

KT tape for tennis elbow

KT tape for tennis elbow

Occupational therapy helped for a time. I have better strength and range of motion in my arm and hand than when I started, but I still have pain every day that inhibits my activities. I’m too young to throw in the towel; there’s so much I want to do.

So, after talking through my probable options with my OT and seeking the opinions of a few other people, I have finally accepted taking (oral) prednisone for the next couple of weeks. The idea is that it can hopefully get me over this hump that seems insurmountable. After that? A possible second cortisone injection that I am still very iffy about. Otherwise a very complicated surgery in which they cut open my tendons in order to get that darn calcium deposit causing all of this drama.

Questions: Do you have a good relationship with your body? Do you listen to it most of the time? Ever gotten in a fight with it?


12 thoughts on “Listening to Your Body

  1. Very interesting about the lack of sleep and feeling hungry all the time. I have also struggled with ‘listening to my body’ over the years… Says the girl who is running the Boston Marathon with Plantar Fasciitis:) I definitely have a hard time resting, even when I know my body needs the rest…. it’s hard thing to do!!

    • Oh, yes. I definitely notice a difference in my hunger when I’ve slept poorly.
      Haha. Well, you can negotiate with your body a bit, too. I’m sure it’s going to want some time off after the marathon. Plus, this year is especially special and it’s almost worth it to push it a bit. Any other year maybe not.
      Such is the marathon training mentality! I have actually come to enjoy my rest days! You can still be active–you know, doing yardwork, housework, walking around a lot. I know if I don’t take them, I’ll get weary or hurt.
      I’ll be watching for you on Monday (on the TV)!

  2. Great post as always, Steph! So true! To have understanding and acceptance of what your body feels is to know the wisdom it teaches us and to acknowledge it speeds the healing process as well! Nice one! 🙂

  3. Hope your elbow gets better, that sounds so painful and annoying.
    I have a good relationship with my body, didn’t always (the joins of being a teenager), but definitely do as an adult.

    • Thank you. Yes, definitely annoying, to say the least.
      That’s great that you have such a good relationship with your body.You can tell, too, because it seems to listen when you (nicely) ask it to do something.

  4. Hi Stephanie, I try to listen to my body as much as possible but sometimes its does not get the attention and care it needs. Too much stress, poor eating, lack of exercise…. it can quickly wreak havoc. Thanks for the great reminder !

    • It seems like you have an overall great relationship with your body. Don’t be too hard on yourself! Life gets in the way sometimes. Stress can definitely be a hard one to avoid at times. Keep up the good work!

  5. Hi Stephanie,
    Great point about sleeplessness. all this time I thought I had a good appetite.
    I definitely have just learned to listen. But fighting does make you smarter/Dorkier.
    I feel Injuries make you a well rounded athlete, because it forces you to take up another sport.
    ( cross train ).

    Tune-up Stay Strong,
    U Steve

    • Thank you! Yes, injuries can make you better in a weird way. What with cross training, increased stretching, and general knowledge of how your body works (plus, knowing when to ease up in order to not get injured again!), you definitely change the way you work out and don’t take anything for granted!

  6. […] always stop the DVD during the cool down and do my stretches. Don’t forget that you need to listen to your body and I’m guessing you’ll hear it asking for you to hold that stretch […]

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