I am relatively new to athletics, in May will be the anniversary of my first year of serious athletic training. When I started this little journey, often I stopped pushing forward as soon as my mind began to plead for me to stop. My mind would be shouting to me that serious injury will occur if I continue and that I will be laid up in the hospital if I pushed the discomfort. As I trained more I learned how to really listen to what my mind was telling me and I learned that my body was talking as well. Ironically a vast disconnect often existed, the mind said ‘STOP’ but the body said ‘I am hurting, but I have more, lets go and see what we can do’. I now realize that the hardest challenge of any serious training is truly knowing how to listen to what your mind and body is saying and understanding how to interpret both, knowing when its ok to push forward and when to hold back and take it easy.
This week has been my first week in over a month where I have attempted to train at a high volume intensity, pushing for over nine hours of solid training. By the end of Wednesday I had already completed five and a half hours of hard training in less than three days. I felt ok going to bed, but very tired. This morning when I awoke at my usual 5:00 A.M. I felt terrible. Usually I do not wake easily at this time. Often I have to get up and get some coffee and breakfast before I am awake and ready to take on my first workout of the day. But this morning something felt a little different. My mind as usual was pleading for more sleep. But my body was not just feeling the normal hum of soreness from a week of training, it was pleading for more sleep as well. In my early days of training I would have been reluctant and afraid of missing a gym session. I might have been fine. But my body was clearly sending me a message, it needed more sleep.
It is this constant communication that I feel I have gotten more ‘in tuned’ with as I have trained. I now understand that the mind will often lie, especially with the pressure of a long endurance workout or pushing the limits. The body likes to join in and will complain as well. After months of training and experimenting, pushing a little here, backing off a little there, I have become really good at understanding what is really being said. I know when something is not right and when the body’s message is serious. I also know when my body and mind are just trying to hold things back because of slight discomfort and soreness. I can understand what my body is truly trying to tell me. But as I have mentioned it took time and some trial and error to truly learn how to interpret the messages.
As I have gotten more fit, I have grown more confident. I know what I am capable of and what I can truly do. But the biggest boost to this confidence and reduction in injury fear has truly come from learning how to listen and interpret the messages my body and my brain are sending and understanding their meaning. The biggest goal an amateur athlete should strive for is to remain injury free, being able to continue and train at a high intensity. It is my opinion the one only becomes successful at this when they truly learn to listen. When I went to turn that alarm clock off I knew my body was serious about needing more rest. I would rather give it another hour or two and possibly miss one workout then miss a month of workouts because I did not listen. So reluctantly I changed the time, reset the alarm and went back to bed. Til next time.