Listen To Your Body*

I hesitate to write this post for fear of sounding like a pretentious-know-it-all-elite-runner-coach. I of course am none of those things, but that doesn’t stop me from having an opinion. And since this is essentially my soap box, I will proceed.

“Listen to your body.” It is good advice. If we didn’t listen to what our bodies were telling us, we’d end up running ourselves ragged, developing injuries, and eventually come crashing down as lumpy piles of human flesh. Lately, I have been hearing this phrase quite a lot, and it almost seems to be the new mantra in the self-help exercise world. I’ve seen it bandied about on facebook, twitter, blogs, even speaking to some other runners. Personally, I don’t mind the New Age, Hippy Granola, wannabe-Zen, catch-phrase, but I think it needs a little caveat, a but, an asterisk.

The problem is, that if all we did was listen, we wouldn’t get anywhere. Listening is great in that it alerts us to a potential problem; our job is to hash out the problem and react accordingly. Therein lies the real issue. Too often – I think anyway – people will pick up a knock or feel some tension or a sore muscle and take some time off, or ease up on their workouts. Our reactions tend to be way overkill. If every time we felt discomfort of some sort, we would stop. Our bodies don’t really like pain or hurt. Most first time marathoners vow to never run that far again. How many people would run ultra marathons if they just “listened to their bodies?” How about an obese person getting into a fitness program? I can’t imagine their bodies are happy with that feeling when they start.

Just because we feel something that might be out of place or uncomfortable does not mean we should stop – or even slow-up. Rather, I think we should push a little harder and see where it takes us. More often than not, those little nagging uncomfortable spots disappear; the sore muscles fade and we’ll be in the clear. When they don’t we can take it easy – but never stop. Eventually, over time, we learn to interpret what our body tells us, but it takes effort and a fair bit of pushing. A child will never learn to swim if they stay in the wading pool, likewise we will never learn to run to our full potential if we ease up when something ‘hurts.’ It takes time to learn your pain threshold and where that falls on the continuum of healthy pushing vs. overtraining.

There are no universal rules to learning your body and it’s messages. The only way is to push. So next time you listen to your body, and it’s telling you to stop – think seriously why it’s telling you to stop. Then go for a run.



5 thoughts on “Listen To Your Body*

  1. I have plantar fasciitis. It has been troubling me for a couple of months now. I could easily continue running all be it at a plod but surely this will increase the time it takes me to recover. What am I to take away from your musings?


    • This is going to be long…

      Firstly, I think PF is one of those runner injuries that no one really gets. There aren’t any solutions that work for everyone, and the actual reasoning behind what causes PF varies from doctor to doctor. I’d hope that you’d get a diagnosis from a doctor – one who runs.

      For me, I’d tell you to stop jumping around from VFF to Instinct 1.5s to Brooks. I totally get throwing in a heeled pair of shoes, but I’d look to a shoe with a 1-4mm drop, or even just put a lift in your zero drops. I’d also be wary of going with a shoe that has too much of a stack height – even if it is zero drop as too much stack causes for poor ground feel and poor form.

      I’d still run every day, but maybe less mileage with less intensity. I would try to work on my form and getting things right. Concentrate on not overstriding and landing with the heel. Making sure there isn’t a lot of cross over with your stride.

      When you have a running injury, taking time off doesn’t really do anything Sure things get better, but as soon as you get back out there, the problem returns as you didn’t change anything. When your auto overheats, you get it fixed by modifying the radiator.. If you just turned it off, the engine would cool and you’d be okay for a bit, but eventually you’d over heat again. Our bodies are the same way. POLICE, not RiCE. (Protection, Optimal Loading replaces Rest).

      Feel free to email me directly if you want.


  2. This has such appropriate timing for me. 🙂 I’m feeling good lately, but I’ve had to do a LOT of this pushing through some discomfort when I was just coming back from my tendonitis. If I hadn’t, I would have already called it quits on my training and I wouldn’t be running a marathon in 16 days. There was a point where the injury wasn’t an issue anymore, but I still had kinks to work out. I’m glad I did it that way rather than just sit the whole thing out.


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