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Fitness: Pay Attention To Your Body, But Not Too Much


December 2012

One of my favorite bloggers writes a lot about “listening to the body” for signs that one needs rest or to back off a bit. I’ve been trying to work out for some time how to agree, but with a huge caveat… Because I don’t listen to my body very often – my head has a tendency of butting into the conversation.  I’m more likely to tell my body (usually the legs) to shut the hell up rather than to heed a warning.  Let’s just say it’ll be screaming at me before I start paying attention.

This is my logic…  I’m faster than average when it comes to riding and running, but compared to your average ranked runner or rider I’m slow as all get out… When my body (or my melon) starts whining about wanting to back off, the first thing I think about is how much harder I have to work to get that fast.  I’m in good enough shape but if I face facts, I’ve got a long way to go before I have to listen to any part if me complaining that I’m trying too hard, because if they can go that fast, the only thing between me and that speed is air and opportunity.  Now granted you have to work up to speed just as you would distance.  The point is that I have to separate the difference between the pain associated with pushing myself and an actual injury.

A perfect case in point occurred over the last couple of weeks. I bumped up my running miles way faster than recommended (I doubled my mileage rather than the recommended 10% bump) and ended up with some ridiculously taught hamstrings. This worked down to my feet and I had what felt like plantar fasciitis. Plantar’s requires rest, everyone knows this, but I wasn’t having any of it – I kept my mileage the same but altered my spinning sessions to stretch my hamstrings – I rode in the drops at an active recovery pace (slow speed, high cadence) once or twice a week and I’m right as rain. Had I listened to my body I’d have sat out the last two weeks and probably would have gained six pounds rather than push through the pain.

On the other hand, just the other day my morning heart rate – normally in the low 50’s – was elevated, into the mid-60’s… Now that’s not something I should ignore…because that’s not something I can control or over analyze – it was elevated because I was a little overcooked so I did have to take a couple of days off.

Another fantastic example is when I pulled my plantaris muscle running several months ago.  My body told me to take three days off thinking I’d really hurt myself but when I went to see my doctor, he had me resume cycling and running immediately with only a slight alteration to my cycling stroke (dropping my heels at the bottom of each revolution to stretch the pulled muscle on the injured leg – I dropped both figuring that it would help the other as well).  Three days later I was pain-free walking and cycling – two or three days after that I was running without pain.  To make the situation even more interesting, I read a post a few weeks later in which a blogger that I follow suffered the exact same injury and her doctor recommended two weeks of rest.  Now there is a slim chance that the severity of her pull was greater than mine but I doubt that’s the case – more likely, her doctor recommended the wrong course of recovery from the injury because he didn’t know any better.

The point is, not only am I prone to misinterpretation when it comes to what my body is trying to tell me, there are times when I don’t even know the proper treatment for what my body is telling me in the first place.  I’ve learned from a grateful friend of mine that most times I’ve just gotta push through the little pains – and if they get worse, then maybe I can pay attention and follow that up with a trip to the doctor’s office to make sure I heal it correctly.


  1. IowaTriBob says:

    Well said and as I still get used to the longer and more intense workouts I find that my mind “coach” is always telling me to back off because of some impending failure that is going to happen (which never does). What I’ve learned to tell myself is that unless a pain is a sharp instant and intense pain, I should probably just ignore it and learn to push through.

    I’ve also come to really love wearing compression socks for my calves after a run, rolling out my hamstrings, quads, and IT band on the foam roller right away, and some easy spinning for a faster recovery from both long and speed interval runs.

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