Learn to read your body

Every runner is sure to have heard it before: "You should listen to your body." But how exactly do you go about doing that and why is it so important?

After an injury or poor performance, we often hear that we should have listened to our bodies. Then we "listen" for a few weeks, taking it easy and recovering. Then, as soon as we can resume training, our resolution to listen to the body's signals disappears.

We simply tune out many everyday noises, such as the noise of the computer at work. And in the same way, many tune out the daily aches and pains, because they are simply part of the experience for many runners. If you skipped training every time just because you didn't feel 100% fit, then many of us probably wouldn't run at all. One problem is when the aches and pains become a habit and are therefore hardly noticed. When we no longer notice that we are exhausted because exhaustion becomes the normal state. When we block out the pain and then forget what it's like to feel good. Or when little aches and pains that we've repressed become a case for the doctor.

To some extent, it's a balancing act: don't we often have a deaf ear to our bodies screaming at us to stop halfway through a race? We encourage ourselves to keep going and block out the pain for the moment. And that's when the problem and the solution become blurred. Because each runner has to decide for themselves how much pain, agony and what discomfort is normal for them for a workout or race and when it's an injury. But... how do we decide? How do we understand what our body is trying to tell us?

"You can't ignore the warning lights."

We have some simple tips for you:

  1. Warm up. It's beneficial to take it easy for the first few steps of your run. That way you'll feel better how your body is doing. Take your time and use the first few minutes of your run to feel your legs.
  2. Focus on recovery. Many may know it: when you come home from training, you are distracted by many things, for example, when you look at your smartphone you see emails or other messages that want to be answered. Then it's easy to be tempted to answer them while stretching or using a massage roller to regenerate your muscles. You shouldn't do that, because messages can still be answered after you've recovered. Focus on what you're doing. Do it slowly, breathe calmly and think about how your legs feel. Because that's the point where you can prevent injuries before they stop you from exercising.
  3. Take a little time out. After your run, sit on the porch, on the steps outside your home, on the bumper of your car, on the curb, or somewhere else and let your body breathe in peace. Unlace your shoes and feel any possible pain. Listen to your body.
  4. Write it down. Some use paper and pen for their training diary, others love the data provided by GPS and online training diaries. Some even use both. Write down how you're doing and add descriptions in the training diary. "Felt good" says a lot, "Felt like I was dead" says even more. Keeping a log of your heart rate after waking up is also quite useful, from this you can draw conclusions about your health and fitness.

You can't ignore the warning lights. When we see the check engine light on in the car, most of us immediately drive to the garage to fix the problem. Others open the hood, check the engine for leaks, change the oil and pay more attention to the car. Some never notice the check engine light and end up on the side of the road with engine damage. Give yourself and your body a break. Take at least 30 seconds after each run to assess how you're doing. In the long run, it will make a big difference.

Image source: piqs.com