The Comeback Tale: The Secret to Listening to Your Body
Running has been a long journey for me with many ups and downs. And as I will talk about many of my experiences and how they made me into a better runner, today I’m going to talk about listening to your body.
As a dietitian, I have learned and taught the ways of fueling your body correctly and learning to listen to your body. But like most teachers, sometime we refuse to take our own advice. I’ll raise my hand high on that one or can I raise both hands? Seriously, something dietitian’s struggle too. Shocker I know. But for me, I teach people how to listen to their bodies and learn what their bodies need to perform. And those concepts are lost on my own training.
I like to tell myself “I’m different. I can handle this stress. I can [fill in the blank].” I love to convince myself that the rules don’t apply to me (not the most positive habit for sure). And that mindset has gotten me into little problems before: Shin splits in high school and few minor injury setbacks over the years. Now that mindset ended up sidelining me.
Let’s go to summer training 2018: I had just come off a disappointing marathon that had not gone as planned due to knee pain. I had started experiencing a little knee pain the few months before but had felt like it was under control. I had seen a doctor. I had done lots of recovery. I was good. Right? WRONG! This was my body telling me to rest. It was basically screaming at me to take a break. I had been training hard from May 2017 straight until that May 2018 marathon. I didn’t listen to my body when it kept telling me it was tired.
So I took a month off running. That will do it, I thought. Then slowly started training for the Chicago Marathon and NYC marathon in the fall. Summer training seemed to go well, not great, but well. I had a team now and was pushing myself to try to get back to same fitness from a year ago. [Berlin marathon 2017 was my peak. More on that in future posts :)] But truly my body wasn’t firing on all cylinders any more. Something was off, but I ignored it. Blamed it on stress. Blamed it on low hydration. You name it, I blamed it.
Like clockwork, knee pain came back right before Chicago marathon on October 7th. I couldn’t believe it! I did everything, right?! Well, I’ll do everything I did before and hope for the best on race day. The best didn’t happen. Fast forward to November 4th and I was cleared to run the NYC marathon. I did it with no knee pain! So what did I do for the month between to get no knee pain?? What’s the secret you might ask??
The secret is….I rested. Yep, you read that right. I stopped running. Now, I also went to see 3 different specialists who all said rest was best with some little strengthening and mobility exercises. So rest I did. And guess what happened? Well, besides the pain free marathon. I mentally felt less exhausted. I took all the time I would have used on running and invested in other passions of mine: strength and my love of nutrition.
Rest provided me to opportunity to learn my body’s needs. And you know what I learned? That my body knows exactly what it needs. No rules. No equations for me. My body knows what it needs to perform, I just need to stop and listen.
Stop and Listen
That’s the secret. Nothing magical. Nothing amazingly special. Just the simple act of stopping from the flow and craziness, and listen to what your body is telling you. This practice will be part of my future training cycles, do you worry. I’ve learned the hard way so now to put it into practice.