I am guessing if you’ve been carrying extra weight for more years than not, you’ve probably learned to ignore the messages your body is sending you. Are you in tune to how certain foods make you feel? Have you noticed how fatigued you are? Do you know when you are hungry? Are you aware of when your body hurts? Not listening to my body did NOT serve me well…
A few years ago when I decided “This is it!” I would consider myself in desperation mode. I was going to do whatever it took to change my health and lose weight. I was going to do it in a way that made sense for me without giving up all my favorite things…I knew I would have to learn moderation and change, but I wasn’t willing to give up cookies and chocolate forever. I had accepted it would take awhile to get where I wanted to be and I was fine with that.
I learned a lot as I went along, but one subtlety I seemed to miss (but have since learned…the hard way!) is to listen to my body. I was so focused on getting the weight off my body and exercising as intensely as I could, I ignored many signs I was hurting my body. In my desperation to drop weight, I figured the more I moved the faster the weight would come off. Instead of doing my total body bootcamp-style workouts 3-4 days a week, there were weeks I pushed and did those workouts 5-6 days a week. As my strength improved I used heavier weights…weights I was ready for during some exercises, but not all. The exercises I wasn’t ready to use those weights I simply muscled it up and forced my body to comply…with poor form! I was desperate to make a change! I wanted out of the body I had then! I remember chanting to myself during workouts “Fat be gone! Fat be gone! Fat be gone!”
As I got close to my “goal weight” I pushed even harder. I wanted to get there, to hit that number on the scale, and I pushed my body mercilessly to the end. Yes, I was eating good fuel, too, but at the time I felt like the exercise would make the most difference. Looking back now I can see how I ignored my body. I was tired. All. The. Time! My body was sore and weak. All. The Time! At the time I turned 40 when I reached my goal weight, I was also coming off being more sick than I can recall in my adult life: my first sinus infection and a terrible virus which hung on for weeks with a hacking cough. I was exhausted. There were lots of signs my body gave me, but which I completely ignored.
In the last two years I’ve had lots of change in my routine…something which is difficult for me. Once I find something that works I don’t want to change it. Bootcamp worked for me and I didn’t want to give it up. I was terrified if I wasn’t following the routine that helped me lose weight that I’d put it all right back on. Putting the weight back on after working so hard and making so many changes was a fear that immobilized me. I finally figured out a routine that included some bootcamp workouts along with some group fitness and STILL I pushed and punished my body for fear of gaining weight again.
In addition, I believed at that time if I wasn’t pushing as hard as I possibly could during EVERY exercise during EVERY workout that it was a total cop-out, a failure. Push, push, push!!! Here is what happened to me in the 18 months after I quit bootcamp: I began to get weaker and couldn’t lift the dumbbells that I had worked up to anymore, I was unable to do toe-pushups in ANY capacity anymore, I began to have a burning sensation and “catch” in a hip, I began with pain from one shoulder down into my elbow, the top of one of my feet hurt upon flexing my foot or during any lateral movement, and finally at the end of this 18 month stretch I fractured my other foot. During this 18-month stretch I also gained back about 10 pounds from my goal weight. My worst fear was coming true despite my efforts!
I wasn’t listening to my body and sadly, I hadn’t been for a long, long time! I was so focused on losing weight I didn’t realize I was beating my body up in a whole other manner. After I fractured my foot I had no choice but to re-evaluate what I was doing–for at least 8 weeks my body was not going to be doing any jumping, running, or weighted lower body work. I was forced to stop and think about how I could move that didn’t aggravate my injury and sideline me for longer. I was mad! I was frustrated! And it was a blessing in disguise! For almost 12 weeks I didn’t run, didn’t jump, didn’t add weight to any lower body exercises. For 12 weeks I put efforts into being very careful about the food I was consuming. My exercise routine consisted of an upper-body strength program and incorporating heavy rope work for cardio once my foot healed enough. As I strengthened my back and used the proper weight for each exercise I found my shoulders hurt less. My hip issues resolved themselves and my other foot stopped hurting, too. Finally, I didn’t gain weight as I had feared would happen when I wasn’t pounding out a workout five days a week.
What I learned:
- Give your body rest when it hurts. Pain is an indicator in our body which is not meant to be ignored. Learn the difference between fatigue and persistent, chronic pain.
- Build rest into your exercise routine. If you lift, alternate exercises so you don’t hit the same muscle groups two days in a row. If you do total body interval style workout, give your body a rest day in between workouts.
- Bodies like change. If you have been doing a singular type of workout for years now (like I did with only bootcamp workouts for 2+ years), you would probably do your body good to change things up. When you find a format you love it is difficult to shift gears, I understand that. Remember though trying new things is healthy for you in lots of different ways. You can always go back to your favorite thing after a hiatus.
- Easing off when you have pain or an injury is NOT slacking off, it IS good sense. If you love yourself and your body enough to exercise regularly, then love it enough to give it a chance to heal without continual pounding. Either discontinue your exercise for a little while or find/ask for appropriate variations and USE THEM!
- When you hurt in several places daily, for weeks at a time, your body is telling you to STOP and make a change. If you’re still going to bootcamp when you need variations for half of the exercises or you are getting weaker then there is a problem! Back off and re-evaluate.
Figuring out this “maintenance” part of health is tricky…much more difficult than the process of improving health and losing weight. I’m here to tell you that learning to change your routine is invaluable and is one of those keys to long-term maintenance. As you grow and change…and as your body ages…you will need to make adjustments. These adjustments are part of life and part of maintaining your health. They are difficult and scary, but I assure you when you listen to your body and allow for change you will come out the other side feeling better and will ultimately be better equipped to keep your new found health for the long-term.
Listen to your body!! It won’t let you down!