In my teens, 20s and early 30s I got sick a lot. In high school, I almost died from a bacteria infection. I had two surgeries in two days and was hospitalized for 10 days. That was a year after I had mono for the first time.
I’ve had mono four times total. In my 20s and early 30s, when I was working as a corporate attorney, I got sick often. I went through a range of tests and the best they could come up with was a diagnosis of fibromyalgia.
I often woke up with pains in my body. I had chronic lower back pain and chronic migraines.
Often, I let those pains keep me away from the gym. I was “listening to my body.”
After all, thats what everyone tells us to do: listen to your body.
Here’s the challenge: how do you know what message the body is communicating?
I’ve learned that listening to the body isn’t always the best idea.
What I Learned When I Stopped Listening to My Body
When I started my fitness first ritual, I made a commitment to myself to start my day without hitting snooze endless times and without getting caught in the vortex or email and social media. In the early days, I played a game. I called it the Get out the door as quickly as possible game.
Getting out the door as quickly as possible meant that I could no longer play the “wait and see” game with my body. In the “wait and see” game, if my back was hurting or I felt a little tired, I would inevitably do something else for a while — most likely email — while I waited to see how my body felt after a short amount of time. That game inevitably led me down the rabbit hole. Because once you get started in email, extracting yourself is difficult.
In the new game, I created a way to acknowledge whatever sensations my body felt, and then I went off to a workout. I approached my body’s experience with curiosity: if movement felt good, I would continue. If it didn’t, then I would stop. Either way, I was not going to hang around on email waiting for something to change by magic.
Like a good investigator, I maintain notes of my experiments. By charting what I felt before my workout and what I felt after, I soon discovered that the aches and pains I felt upon waking up typically dissipated once I started moving.
Having a record of this helped keep me on track in the early days. When I’d wake up with low back pain and feel the temptation to “wait and see,” I would remind myself that the week before I found healing from movement. That would help me get out the door.
Eventually those chronic aches and pains started disappearing altogether. Not only that, I stopped getting sick all the time.
Movement is medicine.
When to Listen To Your Body
The body will not break if you exercise every day. In fact, daily exercise is natural — the body was designed to move.
Maybe that was the message my body was trying to send all along.
I read the following in an article about fitness secrets
The body tricks us. It does not wish to work hard. In every sphere of human activity, the body’s message is “this is fine, this is enough”. The fitter we are, higher the bar for our body to lie to us.
If you perform physical exercise every day you will know that you are not a lazy person. Then when your body asks you not to push it too much, you know it is not laziness speaking but something serious.
One of the lessons I’ve learned over the past six years is that it’s not the body that tricks us; it’s the mind. The body simply sends sensation. The mind interprets what the body says based on what the mind wants. The ego mind is what gets in the way.
So what’s the takeaway here?
Listen to your body, but only if you know for sure what it’s saying. Otherwise, keep moving.