What does “know your body” actually mean?

This week we’re focusing on understanding our minds and bodies.

I broke the basics up into four different parts so they are easy to digest:

1. In my last post, I talked about knowing what your body is trying to tell you when it’s feeling sore. This is a common issue and most people don’t think about the causes or effects on the body.

2. If you’re on my email list, I sent you an email on Monday about WHY it is important for us to understand our unique bodies.

3. Today, I want to talk about HOW we can get to know our own bodies.

4. Tomorrow, I will finish off the week with an email about how we can better understand our own minds and our personalities. It may sound like a strange concept, but it leads to some surprising insights. (Make sure you sign up if you want to receive this email.)

So, how can we get to know our bodies better?

Recognizing and knowing your own body is easy, but it takes effort that most people don’t bother to exert. It requires slowing down a bit and spending a little extra time focusing on ourselves. Here are a few examples of what I mean…

  • Before you brush your teeth in the morning open your mouth and look around. See any spots, crooked teeth, mouth sores? I started paying more attention to my mouth after I had a dentist visit and they told me my gums were receding. I was embarrassed to admit that I had never even noticed. Now I look once a day because I will only be able to see a difference if I know how they looked yesterday, and the day before, and the week before that, etc.
  • What if you’re scrubbing your head in the shower and you notice a bump on your scalp- Is it a bug bite? Did you hit your head? Does it hurt to touch it?
  • Maybe you find a new mole and it looks different from your other birth marks. Mention it to your doctor. Little things like this might go unnoticed unless you point them out.
  • While you’re getting a manicure, you notice your nails are brittle or curving upwards. This could be a sign of anemia/iron-deficiency and you might need to change your diet.

In all these examples, the first step is just being aware of yourself. Staying healthy requires paying attention to your body and its cues.

Not everything that can be mindless should be.

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Why am I sore after my workout?

Have you ever tried a new exercise or pushed yourself a little harder than usual and the next day you wake up and can’t lift yourself out of bed?

This stiff pain is known as delay onset muscle soreness (DOMS). It usually starts the day after a new or difficult workout, and lasts for a couple of days. If your pain lasts longer than a few days, it’s likely more than just soreness and you should rest or see a doctor.

I personally love this feeling because it is proof that exercising and strength training make our bodies stronger. This stiff pain comes when the body works to repair the tiny little tears in our muscles caused by eccentric contractions (muscle lengthening under a load) in our workout. Once repaired, the muscle is stronger than it was before so if you did this workout again you would be much less sore, if at all.

You can prevent DOMS by doing a warm-up before starting your workout and making sure your exercise progression is gradual (for example, if you did a bicep curl with 10 pounds last week don’t jump all the way up to 20 this week).

If you do end up getting sore, I would recommend holding off on working that muscle until it is back to normal for a few reasons. You want to make sure it’s just soreness and not injury, and you also want to get the most out of your workout, which you won’t if your muscles are too sore to push.

Work on another muscle group until you’re back to normal. If your legs are sore, do an upper body workout or go for a swim. If your arms are sore, do a lower body workout or some cardio like running/cycling.

Soreness isn’t fun but it’s a good reminder that you worked hard and your muscles are growing!

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My Running Addiction and the Injury That Killed It

I was a runner.

That’s how I defined myself. Running was my outlet and my stress-reliever. I ran for hours so I could prove to myself that I was mentally strong and disciplined.

But there was a downside, of course. I was constantly facing overuse injuries like shin splints, runner’s knee, IT band syndrome, you name it. I would always try to figure out a band-aid fix so I could keep running through the pain. I was too addicted to running to take a day off.

In 2013, I had my reality check. All of the damage I did from over-training built up over the course of a few months and caused a stress fracture in my femoral neck (a teeny tiny piece of bone that connects the main part of the femur to the ball-shaped end that goes into the hip joint). The doctor told me to stay completely off my leg for a few months or I would risk a full break in the bone and need hip surgery.

That sounded like a death sentence. I needed to run. I needed to move. What the hell was I going to do?!

On top of that news, I also found out that my MRI showed impingements and torn labrums (cartilage that surrounds the hip joint) in both hips, which is super bad news for a long-distance runner.

After getting opinions from a few orthopedic doctors, I learned that my injury was the straw that broke the camel’s back, not an isolated occurrence. I had a lot of issues I had been ignoring and I was not taking care of my body. According to the docs, I had two options if I wanted to avoid further injuries to my hip:

1. Get arthroscopic surgery in both hips

2. Minimize exercises that aggravate my hips, ie. no more running

I did a lot of research on the surgery option and eventually realized that is was not worth it to even try. This type of surgery is still relatively new and didn’t show much success for people like me.

So I had to go with option 2. No more running…at least not like before.

After a few years and a lot less running, I can now look back on this experience and pull the good from it.

What did I learn?

I’m getting older and so is my body. This doesn’t mean I’m falling apart, but it does mean I need to take good care of myself if I want to stay healthy and active later in life.

Listen to the warning signs. I felt pain and I ignored it. Remember that your body is smart and if it’s telling you to stop, then stop. There’s probably a good reason.

Injuries are a blessing and a curse. Unfortunately, my injury and hip condition have forever changed my ability to run long distances. Being a runner with a love for marathons, that was very hard at first. But I found a new appreciation for my body and have learned to take better care of it. I put my extra energy into trying new workouts and finding new outlets.

Mindset is everything. If you get injured, remember that it’s not the end of the world. There are always options. Get your mind right, move on, and you’ll be okay.

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