Listen to your body

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No don’t get your headphones. Yes I’m aware that Christina Aguilera released a song called “Your Body” in 2012, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about listening to your body when it tells you not to lift that weight because your nervous system can’t take more beatings. I’m talking about calling in sick when you feel like this cold could turn into something worse if you don’t rest right now. Our body speaks to us almost constantly and we should value what it has to say because in some cases it could even save our lives.

Since I was 18 I tried to lift weights as my form of exercise. I would be on and off at the gym from 18 until around 21. I would go in with some sort of program to follow and I felt that I had to follow said program to the letter. If I had to benchpress 50 kilograms 12 times, but I could only manage 10 with good form- I would force out 2 more reps with terrible form putting immense stress on my tendons and nervous system. My body was telling me to put the weight down by the 10th rep, but I didn’t listen. I’m sure some of the people that are reading this are probably thinking “You need to push your limits to get stronger!”. This is true, but there’s such a thing as going over the threshold. More often than not we crash and burn and this is a terrible way of getting stronger.

Back to the story. I am now 23 years old and it’s been 2 years since I started lifting weights again. What’s different about this time around though? I make my own programs. I research different exercises and see if my body approves of them or not. I have a set rep range that I only follow if my body is ok with that. I go into the gym and only do the exercises I enjoy and I stay only as long as I want to. I trust that my body will tell me when it’s had enough. I’ve managed to stick going to the gym 3-5 times a day for 2 years and have no intention of stopping just by letting my body decide what it can handle and I’m in the best shape of my life.

Giving our body free reign is something we can do, but we need to learn how to interpret what it’s telling us. Say you’re starving. How much water have you drank today? Are you sure that you want something to eat or are you just thirsty? Dehydration can cause us to think we’re hungry, try a glass of water. Are you craving a double hamburger with extra fries and a large soda? Your body is telling you that you need a lot of carbs and fats right now. Fortunately there are better ways of getting them than gulping down a bunch of processed food with unhealthy fats and sugars. Keep that in mind the next time you’re craving sugar. Try some dates or cashews instead. You’ll notice that your sugar cravings will dissipate almost immediately.

Our body can even tell us when we need various minerals. Feeling pain or stiffness in your joints? You might be craving a banana right then and there. Bananas have potassium in them. Feeling jittery and stressed? Chill on the coffee because your body wants some magnesium.

If we look back on exercise, there are so many more ways our body tells us what we should and should not do. When I started practicing yoga, there was a pose called King Pidgeon with forward fold. I tried to do the pose exactly the same way that the yoga teacher did it. To say the least, it was very painful for my knee. I decided to look at how the beginners were doing it and modified the stretch so I could do it without experiencing joint pain. My body was telling me, “It don’t bend that way man”. Today, I’m getting closer to being able to accomplish said pose the way the yoga teacher does. I’m proud to say I’ve never had a sports related injury. No back problems, no joint pain, no digestive problems or any bodily problems of the sort. All because I decided to listen to what my body was whining about when I was doing something it didn’t approve of.

How you listen to your body is all of a matter of stopping for a moment. Obviously this is something we have to learn all over again. If you would ask me for the best way I’d say doing yoga and mediating are the best ways of learning to listen to your body. Bringing your awareness inward will help you scan for all sorts of problems you didn’t know you had and lead you onward to better general health.

Take care of yourself. You’re only here for a short while so why not make the best of it?