Listening to (or ignoring) your body

Listen to your body. That’s fairly common advice for recreational runners. I’ve even doled it out at times myself. But I hate it. It makes no sense. Let’s be honest: if you listened 100% to your body, you’d never get out for a run! Your body lies to you. It tells you it’s tired and that it would rather sit on the couch. Once it gets going, often enough it’ll start humming along, but a lot of running and training to get faster is your mind convincing your body it can keep going. I’ve learned that my body very often wants to slow down, or stop. It is lazy.

This mind/body dichotomy becomes even more pronounced when training for a marathon. Most human bodies are capable of running 5K, 10K or even a Half Marathon with little to no training (and I don’t mean run them fast – I mean they can just cover the distance.) But the marathon is outside the realm of what our bodies are naturally designed to do. That is why we have to train them. We do this with long runs which push the boundaries of what we’ve previously been capable of, and by running more miles than what feels naturally comfortable. To successfully train for a marathon, you have to do the opposite of listen to your body. You have to learn to tune out your body’s whines and complaints. The more success you have in doing that, the more success you will have in the marathon. UNLESS… Unless your body is telling you to slow down or stop because it is getting injured, or over-tired, or a little too stressed to be able to recover. Then, you’re supposed to start paying attention again. This is what I’ve found so hard about marathon training. We get good at it because we learn to over-ride our bodies’ complaints, but then when we get injured someone will invariably say, “Well, you should have listened to your body.” When exactly?? On that 30K run when it was trying to tell me to stop at 20K? At 5:00 a.m. on Wednesday when it said it wanted to sleep in instead of getting up to run intervals? After my 5th hill when it told me my legs were tired even though I had 9 on my plan? Of course not! I never listen to it in those instances.

“I’m not listening!”

Right now I am nearing my peak in my current marathon training build. My body is tired and creaky and cranky. Every week a different niggle seems to crop up. Maybe my body is telling me that if I won’t listen to one injury it’ll just rotate them around until I pay attention? But what can I do now? Suddenly start listening?? I’m not even sure what to pay attention to! I only know how to keep going and tuning it out and pushing towards my goal – even if it seems to be getting a little less achievable every day.

And this is where wise people will say, “Listen to your heart or your gut.” To be honest, I have even less chance of hearing these organs. So back to ignoring my body, and hoping everything works out for the best …

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