Listening to your Body

Chicago River bridge liftOn October 11, 2015, several of my running buddies, from our local women’s running group, competed in the Chicago Marathon. There were also many others who competed in other races, including a half marathon in New York City. By Sunday evening our Facebook group was filled with posts about dehydration, injuries, close calls, trips to the emergency room, etc. This is from a group of highly experienced runners. Some of them are (or have in the past) qualified for the Boston Marathon. But a theme emerged in their posts and discussions: how do we do a better job of listening to our bodies?

As an athlete, it’s a tricky balance between knowing when to push and when to stop. Part of our training includes not stopping at the first tinge of pain; not stopping the first time our minds say, “enough”; not stopping when we cramp and ache.

Ok, so we don’t stop at the first sign but when is the right time to stop? When is the mind driving the show? When do we start ignoring the credible signs from our body? And which signs are ok to ignore and which are red alert warning signs?

It’s probably pretty hard to know the exact moment when we cross the line from reasonably pushing our bodies to pushing our bodies into the danger zone of injury, dehydration, and exhaustion. However, if we cultivate a habit of listening to our bodies, then we develop sensitivity to its signs and can, hopefully, react appropriately to each different type.

Developing this sensitivity takes practice and slowing down. Reiki self-practice is an excellent tool for developing this listening ear for our body’s signals. When we spend some time each day in quiet contemplation we notice the body’s energetic signs – where it hurts, where it’s in flow, and how our mind influences our experience of these bodily sensations.

Reiki is definitely helpful in this regard as are other mindfulness practices like yoga, meditation, and many others. The important point here is to practice listening, assessing, and remembering what it was like to hear the body with honesty and open-mindedness.

Another helpful tool is to run with a buddy. (Substitute, “running,” for any activity that you do and, perhaps, “mentor” or “teacher” might be a useful substitute for “buddy.”) In our running group we run with each other for a number of reasons: it’s fun, motivating, safer, and makes you a faster runner. A running buddy (or professional mentor or friend) who is familiar with you and your ability and skill can help you know when you’ve gone too far. They’ll help to push you and, on the flip side, help you know when you’ve pushed too much.

How do you cultivate listening to your body? Are there specific techniques that you use? Share them with us in the comments below. Thanks!

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