This piece of advice does not come from anyone in particular. In fact, many people throughout my life, from my mother and on to my teammates have suggested that we need to do a better job at listening to our bodies. Since I am thirty now, I figure I should have a suggestion for myself and for others. So, everyone… listen to your body.
Somewhere along the line, I think we forgot how to do this. But our bodies are magical and have developed and adapted in order for us not only to survive, but thrive. Too often we ignore the signals that our bodies send us and end up sick, tired or even in danger. We ignore the exhaustion because we have a deadline. We toss aside cravings because how in the world could eating a pint of ice cream actually help? And the gut feeling that something isn’t right is disregarded and taken for foolish nerves. Our bodies are designed to protect us, so why don’t we listen? That’s a question that I don’t have time for. However, I will tell you some stories about what I have learned.
For the past week to two weeks I decided to make a concentrated effort to listen to my body, heed its warnings and do so all without guilt. End results? Remarkable. For seemingly no reason at all I started to feel extremely tired sometime early last week. I pushed through it and continued on with my routine, but I longed for bed from the moment I woke up until the moment I was back in bed. Apparently that was not enough for me (hence the idea for this post) so my uterus attacked me. I had no choice but to go to work a little late and when I came home that night I decided to stay home from practice. I slept for 12 hours. Uninterrupted for 12 hours. How? I have no idea. Did I need it? Apparently. Was I a raging ball of energy for the next few days? Yes. And now my sleep cycle feels balanced.
I have also really started to listen to my aches and pains. Playing rugby is not easy on one’s body and I’ve started to notice that with old age comes more pain 😉 Since I would like my body to work even after I stop playing rugby, I am now paying more attention to these aches. All athletes have at least one of these three as a best friend: a tiger tail, foam roller or epsom salt. I have begun to utilize at least two of these on a daily basis. I no longer give myself a quick 5 minute stretch and believe I am ready to go knock people on their asses. I take my time. I am learning not to feel rushed and to be OK with the fact that I might need to love (in terms of warm-up) my body a little bit more than a 21-year-old. I am finding that when I respect my body, my body respects me.
Food. This is a sensitive area and I am no nutritionist, but I follow some fairly general guidelines. Drink lots of water for all the reasons that people say. I try to eat healthy and make sure I have a balanced diet. However, I do not feel guilty when I have chicken wings and fries for lunch or if I buy a pint of ice cream and before I realize it, the neighbors must have eaten it–did I even have any?! Why? Because life is about balance. For the most part, I hold the belief that cravings are the body’s way of telling you that you’re lacking something. When I was in high school and had preseason for soccer, I am sure that dinner at least every other night was a spicy chicken sandwich from Wendy’s. I was burning off a million calories and my body was panicking; it thought I was going to starve. It was screaming “Fat! Give Me FAT!” Next time you go through a phase when you have a craving for something, think about what is in that food and what your body might be trying to tell you. You just might learn something.
Emotions. I can be an emotional basket case– I am learning to accept that. However, I no longer want to apologize for when I feel sad or angry or even happy. I am a freaking human and not a robot, people! Sometimes I just need to cry. Why? I literally haven’t the slightest idea, but I do know that most of the time I feel better after I do– so apparently there was something cathartic about it. Do I have days when I am so happy and vivacious that people want to kill me? I certainly do. Do I also have days where even rainbows and unicorns would want to hide from me? Sure thing. Maybe our body releases pent-up energy in different ways. Maybe there is some subconscious memory that makes us cry on a random Tuesday afternoon. Maybe our body is just trying to remind us to feel. Either way, listen to your emotions and feelings. Deal with them as best as you can, accept that they are there and move forward.
I think if we took a bit more time and paid attention we could be happier and healthier. My fourth goal for 30 is to better listen to my body. And with any luck I will still be listening at the age of 90.
This is just the beginning. This is thirty.
If you listen to your body when it whispers….you won’t have to hear it scream.