This is part two of my two-part series on how to listen to your body. If you missed part one, or want to review my advice, you can find it here.
We’ve all heard that listening to your body is key to staying healthy throughout a training cycle, but just how do you listen to your body, and what do you listen for?
I think it’s important to listen to your body physically, mentally and objectively. In my first article, I shared my tips for listening to your body physically. In this article, I’m focusing on how to listen to your body mentally and objectively.
Listening To Your Body Mentally
Running is a mental sport. While many of us use running to disengage from the day to day hustle, it still requires a mental focus to get it done. And let’s be honest – every day you’re not likely gung-ho to go for a run. If you are, good for you, but most people have good days and bad days where it is just a struggle. It’s natural because your body likes to send feelings like worry and doubt when faced with the unknown. Each run always has the unknown future of being a good run or a bad run. So how do you manage those thoughts?
Take the good and the bad but hope that you have more good.
One thing is for sure – listening to your body does NOT mean nixing a run when you feel bad or want to quit (unless you’re truly injured). In fact, sometimes the best runs happen when you don’t feel like it.
Listening to your body from a mental standpoint means taking note of when positive or negative thoughts occur and using the feedback to guide your training.
For example, do you tend to have negative thoughts on the days where you have a workout scheduled and positive thoughts when it is an easy run? If so, this is totally normal! But again, the key here is documenting these instances and developing strategies around them to cope with the feelings.
Another example could be that you often back off when the workouts get tough and don’t get through the whole workout. Workouts are seen as the proving ground for the voice inside your head that tells you to slow down when it hurts. There’s always the fear that the mind will win and the workout will not go as planned. The hard part is understanding that this is ok. For the vast majority of us, running is just running, not your livelihood.
Here are some of the strategies I like to use to cope with these feelings:
- Focus on the process, not the outcome. I prefer to shift the goal to running faster for a period of time, not necessarily to nail a specific pace.
- One workout does not a training cycle make. The sum of the training cycle is what prepares you, not one workout.
- It’s always better to fail in a workout than to fail in a race. Training is the time to make mistakes and fix them so they don’t happen when it counts.
- Remind yourself that you can only ask for your best and be happy with the results as long as you can say you gave it your best effort.
- A logical progression of small doses of working hard and building confidence over time is easier than trying to bite off a challenging workout once.
- Other stressors in your life can have a major influence on your running. Keep track of life stress, as it may tie closely to your ability to remain mentally focused in your running.
- Have fun! Never let the fun of running fade away. That’s why you’re out there in the first place, right?
Listening To Your Body Objectively
The bow that ties the physical and mental aspects of listening to your body together is being objective. This too is a learned skill. It takes a certain level of self-awareness and a non-biased view to be able to analyze your feedback objectively. Not everyone has the ability to be objective of their own training, which is why being part of a training program and/or having a coach can be useful.
A coach has your well-being and ability to make it to the starting line prepared to race as his motivation to provide objective feedback. And while a self-coached runner holds the same goal, the self-coached athlete also has to deal with the internal thoughts of fear, worry, and doubt to contend with, which can easily bias the decision making process.
Once you’ve learned how to listen to your body physically, mentally, and objectively, you’ll become a much more internally and externally focused runner. While some of the steps described above might occur only over a longer period of days or weeks, being in tune with your body’s signals will pay off sooner rather than later, minimize your time on the sidelines, and help get you to the starting line healthy and ready to run your best race.
What’s been “good” about your training cycle so far?
Have you had to overcome anything “bad”?