It wanted me to tell you that it didn’t mean to make you eat that whole package of cookie dough, and it’s sorry it convinced you to skip your workout in favor of that House Hunters marathon.
Oh, wait…that was my body, not yours. Sorry!
If there is one thing that separates us humans from the furry rank-and-file of Kingdom Mammalia, it’s our ability to use our big heads to control the desires of our hairless little bodies.
Which is why I don’t normally “listen to my body.”
Because my body is kind of a little bitch. Yep, this body is all about guarding its own shortsighted interests. Go for a run, body? Noooo…I asked the legs, they’d rather take a rest day! Eat some of that broccoli? Noooo…taste buds want ice cream instead! Get out of bed and go to work? Oh…I consulted the epidermis and it says that these warm covers feel just fine, so we’re staying put, KTHXBAI.
If I listened to by body, literally, I would be fat and sedentary and ridden with all sorts of unsavory diseases. And probably unshowered. With a permanent crust of Cheeto crumbs on my chin.
And I’d be miserable. Duh. So most of the time, I tell my whining little corpus to shut the eff up and get on with whatever it is that I know I need to do: run, do planks, put down the bottle of wine, eat more bean sprouts, etc.
Of course, those things are good for my body in the long run. And deep down, on some subliminal level, I believe that my body knows this. It knows the joy of flying through the last interval of a tough track workout, the simultaneous pain and elation a hard effort. It knows the serenity of waking up in the morning after a healthy dinner and a good night’s sleep, as opposed to an all-night cheeseburger-and-beer bender.
However. In the face of immediacy and decisions to be made, the part of my body that shouts the loudest usually just wants instant gratification. That needy, greedy, lazy little bitch.
Our bodies are like enthusiastic and exceptionally vocal border collies. Once in a while, their woof signals something real and important (“Timmy’s sick!” “Pa fell down the well again!”)….but most of the time? It’s just a bunch of barking.
And this is why I scratch my head when I see statements on blogs like this:
“My alarm went off at 6:30 this morning but I didn’t want to get up and work out. So I listened to my body and went back to sleep!”
Followed by a rush of congratulatory comments: “Good for you for listening to your body!” “Sounds like you did the right thing!” “Way to go!”
(1) It’s the asssssss-crack of dawn. Of course your body wants to sleep. You caved. So…?
(2) Fact: Running is hard. Working out is hard. Taking rest days is easy. (Well, rest days can be mentally challenging sometimes, but from a physical perspective, sleeping in and doing jack doody instead of working out couldn’t be easier.) So….congratulations?
(3) Look: I’m not at all judging sleeping in and taking a rest day. I love being lazy. But own it for what it is – being lazy and resting! yay! – rather than trying to re-frame the situation with pseudo-self-aware justifications regarding the body and it’s desire to (duh) avoid effort.
(4) And then there’s injury. Sickness. Genuine burnout and over-training. Obviously, you’ve gotta “listen to your body” when it’s giving you feedback about an acute issue. Even if 98% of your body’s signals are horsecrap, there’s that 2% of the time when you really do need to listen. And back off.
That last one? That’s the kicker. Learning to hear the critical notes of injury or illness in a chorus of run-of-the-mill complaints is not easy. It takes practice. And discipline.
In other words: for every “OMG Timmy is face down in the creek!” bark, there are a whole lotta “Gimme more kibble” and “Rub my belly” barks. If you heed every one, they’re gonna become difficult to distinguish.
And when that happens, your body is running the show. You avoid ever experiencing the physical stress that is necessary to gain fitness, and you won’t improve. Because…well, not to sound like a broken record, but:
Running. Is. Hard.
You have to push through it sometimes. Even when your body doesn’t want to. If you stay in bed every time you’re tired, bored, or slightly sore, you’ll never get stronger, faster or fitter.
So, what is the point of all of this? Um, there probably isn’t one. Except for me to (hopefully) open a discussion about a term that gets thrown rather frequently here in blog-world.
And to (hopefully) encourage everyone to be the best runner/gymrat/meerkat/whatever that they are trying to be.
And, honestly? It’s just timely, for me, because I’m kind of laughing at my own body right now. It’s mini-taper week, and with reduced mileage and no speedwork, I can tell that my legs think they’ve pulled one over on me.
Little do they know what’s in store for them on Sunday morning. They’re going to be blindsided. Rest now, tender legs. You’ve got 13.1 tough miles on your docket.
I’m hoping for a kick-ass race. As it happens, it was almost exactly a year ago, back in New York, that I started going to team workouts and trying to get back in decent running shape. I’ve put in some quality work over the last year. I’ve made good progress. I’m ready to run hard.
And I never would have gotten here if I’d listened to my body every time it whined, complained and resisted.
(Although I do have a certain allowance for impromptu rest days, HGTV and raw cookie dough in my lifestyle. And beer. And potato chips.)
So, let’s discuss. What do you think about “listening to your body?” Do you listen to yours sometimes, all of the time, rarely, never? What’s on your body’s LIKES and DISLIKES lists?
Also, it’s officially St. Patty’s Day, so feel free to tell me if you think I’m full ‘o the shit. Cheers, y’all!