Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Recovery Part III: Listen to Your Body...

“Listen to your body……” 

This is a phrase I’ve heard many times. Heck, it’s even a phrase I’ve caught myself saying to clients I work with. But what does that even mean? Because if I’m honest, when I hear the phrase “listen to your body” it’s often accompanied by an eye roll. Yeah right. Like I’m going to let my body be the boss of me. Usually I’m telling my body to shut the f*#@ up and push it harder.

Remember this? I didn't listen to my body here...
Or here.
Oh here.....

 I can be my own worst enemy. But that same quality, the one that causes me to push the limit every time, is what also drives me to success. It’s my strength and my weakness all in one. What would it be like if I let my body tell me what to do? Never would I finish a 100-mile race. Not a chance. I’m pretty sure my body was screaming at me, begging me, to stop running at Foresthill this year. But my mind was in charge and said “we’ve still got 40 miles to run” and so my body obliged. If I let my body be in charge, then how would I ever know my limits? Or surpass them?

Little Reminders.
Then back to the original question, what does it mean to listen to your body? It’s not as simple as we make it out to be. I pondered this question over the last couple weeks as I began to test the waters with my rehab. A little of this….ok., no pain the next day; a little more….ok, some pain, dial it back. It’s been a constant back and forth of trying new bits of activity and mindfully assessing the impact over the following 24-48 hours. And practicing non-reactivity to whatever I’m feeling. THIS has been a big challenge for me. Normally, I would take this feedback and use it as fuel for the fire- to push even harder the next time. But, in this instance I’ve had to just acknowledge what I’m feeling and move on. Not DO anything. I’ve had to re-wire my mind, but it’s been a good practice in learning more about my body.

 Over the past two weeks I’ve been adding some new activities to my regime. It’s been so great! I now have a schedule that includes CHOICES: strength training, rowing, swimming, biking, yoga, and barre classes. I have been mixing it up so I don’t do the same thing EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. It’s been a welcome change and I feel like I’m making progress. Not every day or activity has been great; no that would be too easy. It’s been more trial and error to find the right amount of stress without pushing too far. The first day I tried biking I was grinning as I pedaled for 15 STRAIGHT MINUTES! I felt no pain and practically bounced my way out of the gym. But then, 24 hours later my heel was sore. Drat. I pushed it too far. So I waited a few days and tried again. 15 more minutes on the bike. Similarly, I felt good and then only had some slight discomfort over the next day. Progress.

20 min on the bike!

 This routine been a common theme: try something new, have my body totally freak out, relax and recover for a day, and try again. Normally after a few sessions, my body becomes accustomed to the new stimulus and it starts to feel good. It’s slow and there is a lot of trial and error associated with figuring out the balance, but it’s actually kind of fun to learn. So I’m listening to my body and using the feedback as a tool to determine what I’m ready for. Back to the cross training. So I’m biking and swimming, which is one of the biggest breakthroughs on my recovery plan. Yes, it’s only 15-20 minutes, but that’s head and shoulders above where I was a few weeks ago. I still have good days and bad days, but having the freedom to get up and CHOOSE what I want to do is such a great feeling. However, always keeping in mind: some is good, more is not better. Which doesn’t always jive with my over-ambitious-always-pushing-the-limit personality, but I’m learning ☺

 “Listen to your body……” 

Rebecca Bell, The Yoga Lab
I also explored what this means by talking with my good friend and yoga teacher Rebecca Bell. Rebecca and I could sit and talk for hours about the body, the mind, and what it means to get to the core of a human being. Rebecca was kind enough to help me create a yoga practice that supports my recovery. She guided me through poses to help open the right side of my body while strengthening the left side. After guiding me through a moving meditation, we sat, warm and happy sprawled on our mats, and talked. In the past, we’ve had conversations about the similarities between yoga and running and what they mean to us. That connection, that allows us to transcend and get to our core. Who we really are. Raw and real. This is a feeling I crave. It makes me feel alive. I posed my question to Rebecca “What does it mean to listen to your body?

 “Our bodies are a culmination of our stories that that are stored on a cellular level.” 

 I thought about this for a while. Our understanding, our assessment is based on our being and experiences. "Running and/or yoga invite us to clear the pathway and witness what arises, and shedding what doesn’t support us. This clears the way for healing and arriving in the present moment only to move forward." That makes a lot of sense. Listening to your body is really about tuning inward and letting our journey be our guide. Deep thoughts. But really, the more I think about it, the more it resonates with me. Observe. Acknowledge. And let go…..

And how freeing that feels; to just let go. Instead of feeling trapped under a certain mindset or predetermined path, our thoughts and actions are just part of doing. Not being defined. I talk about this idea a lot when I give nutrition advice. A “diet” is not a category or label to fall into, but rather a way to eat. The foods one chooses to eat make up the diet, not vice versa. We don’t have to subscribe to a certain way of being, we just have to simply be. More deep thoughts.

As I reach the halfway point (6 weeks!) post-surgery I find myself looking forward to each day. I’ve able to make tangible progress, both physically and mentally, and it’s wonderful. I AM glad for this experience. Truly I am. But, I’m also glad to put some of the tough stuff (hopefully) behind me. I talked a lot with my friend, Sandi Nypaver, before my surgery and she mentioned what she was happier now (not running much) than she was before she had surgery. “If I could only get to that point…..” It seemed elusive. And now, suddenly, I can see it. I’m not fully there yet, but I’m on my way. As I continue to explore and test new physical and emotional boundaries, I look forward to more growth. And happiness!

Happy National Croissant Day!

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