Bringing the body to the party

That’s a misleading title for this entry, it sounds more like an episode of Dexter than a blog post about physical exercise. My body is on my mind, though. I’m thinking a lot about training, about my natural adoration of exercise and how it can and should slot into my life and my desires.

This is partly because I’ve been seeing my friend Jo. She’s a chartered physiotherapist, and she’s studying some very exciting new techniques and approaches in her discipline. As a result of her input, I’m starting to learn to listen to my body, and it’s a journey full of surprises.

One key Jo gave to me – perhaps unwittingly – was the remark: “People think their bodies are there to serve them.” I turned that statement over and examined it from many angles. With the holistic approach Jo takes in our sessions, it made sense. Yet how could you think any other way of your body as something to serve you, when you’re training for difficult, demanding races?

This morning in the pool I might have hit upon the answer. When you’re training, your body needs to be on board for the experience. You shouldn’t push it, you shouldn’t have to. It’s difficult to explain, but here’s my experience this morning: I aimed to do 1:45. By 1:20, my left shoulder muscle started aching – just a little bit, but I noticed. I might have noticed because I’ve been learning to listen to my body, to not only hear her when she starts screaming for attention with an injury, but to be tuned to the messages she gives me as I train. I took the sore shoulder as a message from my body that this was as far as it was prepared to go, stopped swimming and got out of the pool.

Now, this can be a dangerous way to look at things. There is a degree to which we might need to push through pain. I have no doubt that doing an endurance race, you’ll have no choice but to do so. But for now, I’m not going to set goals according to some schedule. I’m going to look at what Imy body is comfortable doing right now, plan for something about 10% higher, and swim/cycle/run until I hit that extra 10% or until my body tells me it’s gone far enough. I’ll continue aiming for that previous comfort zone + 10% until my new comfort zone includes the addition. Then it’s time to add 10% to that, and aim to bring my comfort zone up to that.

I’m not sure if this really is different from what people do already in their training. However, I think even if I don’t change much in my training programme, a big change has taken place in my mind.

I learn something new every week.


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