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The Myths and Truths of “Listen to Your Body”

Foam rolling to nurse an aching leg before a run

Listen to your body.

How many times have people said that to me over the past ten years since I decided to become physically active?

But what does it mean? The implication is: If your body tells you it is tired, if your body tells you it needs a rest, then give it a rest.

But it’s not that simple, is it?

The easiest thing in the world is to use “listen to your body” as the best excuse in the world not to go to the gym, or not to go out and run, or not to get on that bike and cycle. That’s what physical activity does: it makes you feel tired. You’ll have aches and pains. You’ll get ravishingly hungry. You’ll feel hot or cold or itchy or sleepy or mentally pushed to your limit. If every single time we listened to our body when it told us we didn’t want to do something, we would hardly do anything.

I cycled across Europe last year. I know I go on and on about it. But it was one of the best experiences of my life. And I learned so much from it. On that trip I felt tired every single day for a two-month period. E V E R Y  S I N G L E  D A Y. There were times on that trip when I had cycled for more than 100 kilometers, I was lost, I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was hot… but I kept pushing myself to get to my next destination. I complained in my blog posts during that trip incessantly. I complained about how tired I was. I complained about my aches and pains. I complained about all my anxieties. It’s what I do. I express myself to get the feelings out of my head and be done with them. I got many messages from people telling me it was all right to take a break. It was all right to slow down. It was all right to give myself a rest. Yes. It would have been all right. But I didn’t need to. I could and I did keep going because I knew I had it in me despite the aches, pains, and anxieties. I knew I had the physical and mental strength to do exactly what I set out to do. And on the few rare days when I felt I really needed a break, I gave myself one as a treat.

I’ve been training for a marathon now for months. I’ve found this experience even more grueling than a two-month cycle across Europe. (more…)

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