Listening to Your Body
Your body has a lot to say and is in constant communication with you. Whether or not you are listening is the issue. From waking up in the morning feeling tired to craving certain foods to feeling sore; your body is trying to tell you what it needs in order to be at its best. I am going to try to cover these various messages your body is giving you in as succinct a way as possible, because each message could be a blog post in itself.
Let’s start with cravings. Cravings can indicate anything from you aren’t taking in enough calories to support your expenditure, to some type of memory has been triggered that is making you want a certain food, to your hormones being at work, just to name a few reasons. To avoid turning this into a psychology and physiology paper as I explain the interplay of memory and hormones on food cravings, I will just be talking about taking in calories to meet expenditure. When you are undereating your body wants to get in energy as fast as possible in order to refuel. This is why we tend to reach for the bag of chips or the cookies because our bodies have learned we can get a lot of calories in very quickly and often it is pretty tasty. Learning to take in the proper number of calories to support your daily life is very important. Your goals determine how you should be eating; when looking to lose weight and get leaner you will need to take in calories at a deficit, when you are looking to put on mass and get bigger you will need to take in calories at a surplus, and when just looking to stay where you are and support your daily life you should be eating at a balance. This equation doesn’t look the same for everyone though, it isn’t as simple as just eat less than what you expend to lose weight and eat more than you expend to gain weight. Each person is different and will respond to diets in a different way.
Waking up in the morning feeling tired can indicate that your quality of sleep during the night wasn’t that great or that you are not getting enough sleep. Getting enough sleep is an easier correction to make than trying to figure out how to improve sleep quality. Having a daily schedule and bed-time routine helps make getting the proper number of hours of sleep a little easier. If you know you are going to wake up at say 6am every day, and that you want to get 8 hours of sleep then you should be in bed and asleep by 10pm every night. In order to make that happen you should develop a bed-time routine that allows you to be in bed and asleep at 10pm. This can look something like finishing dinner by 8:30pm every night, turning off the television and putting away other screens (phones, tablets, laptops, etc.) by 9pm, having a book to read before you go to sleep, and maybe you have a white noise machine to help you fall asleep as well. We as humans like structure, and by creating a routine for falling asleep it will help signal to your body over time that once ‘x,y,z’ happen you should be asleep. Now waking up feeling tired due to poor sleep quality can be signs of not eating enough as well, having high levels of stress which causes your body to release cortisol outside the natural circadian rhythm, or you could have some illness present causing you to not get in a good sleep. Depending on what the reason is for sleep quality determines what step you need to take next to improve the quality of sleep. (That is post for another time though)
Now to address being sore. It is good to be sore because it means you have challenged your muscles enough be in a state of re-synthesis. You worked out hard and now your muscles are repairing themselves. It is not good to be so sore you can’t move every single day of the week. Being in a constant state of muscle repair means that you never give your muscles a chance to fully recover and this can lend itself to injury. Click here to read a previous post of mine on the benefits of resting and taking a day off from your training.
So, if you are reading this sentence, I am going to assume you clicked that link and read (or re-read s/o my loyal following) my previous blog post. Taking a day off from anything is important to both physical and mental health. You need to step back from whatever it is you do during the week in order to come back to it refreshed and excited to work at it again. My fitness fanatics are probably thinking in their heads right now, but what about an active recovery day? Yes, those are good but what are you calling active recovery? For me an active recovery day is a leisurely walk or a casual bike ride. It isn’t me jumping into the pool and swimming laps (no matter how slow I am going, swimming is actually a very interesting exercise modality when it comes to energy expenditure), or going for a long run, or going to the gym and doing accessory lifts. Active recovery should be incredibly low impact compared to your weekly training. There is nothing wrong with moving on an off day, but this movement shouldn’t be intense or high impact. Off days are intended to be for taking your foot off the gas and giving your body the chance to recover and refresh.
This turned out to be longer than I intended, but the thoughts just kept flowing. The sad part is I could have written even more, the science behind all of this are textbook chapters in exercise physiology. What I want to be the takeaway here is listen to your body, it knows what it is saying and wants to support you as best as it can. Taking a day off is fine, taking multiple days off is fine, you need to listen to what your body needs when it comes to rest. Eat well and eat to support your goals, you get one chance and one body when it comes to living life, so live life well and treat your body right.