Getting to know your body is one of the most powerful things you can do in your life. You really need it to live a healthy and long life.
Just to let you know — this post is going to be little bit all over the place.
I'm just pouring out the thoughts that came up after a short conversation with my chiropractor today. He reminded me of two important things about health and fitness…
1.Everything That Happens To Your Body is an Opportunity to Get to Know It
As you may know, I have come a long way from doing a million workouts a week to cutting back to yoga, walking and 2 strength trainings a week. Many of my overtraining symptoms, like hypothalamic amenorrhea, low body temperature, poor digestion and maybe most importantly for me, insomnia, either disappeared altogether or got so much better.
But not everything about this process has been awesome and the progress hasn't always been linear. After I recovered from hypothalamic amenorrhea and started training again, I injured my knees and then back.
When I have occasionally increased my workout intensity, it has caused me to lose my sleep a few times.
Increasing my workout intensity has also lengthened my cycle a few times, so that there have been some abnormally long (40+ days) cycles.
Congrats, You're Getting to Know Your Body
When I started my recovery from hypothalamic amenorrhea, there was a time when everything seemed awesome. I was feeling more rested, my body was waking up from this exhaustion that had started to feel endless. There was this anticipation to be able to work out again soon, and the gained bodyweight didn't bother me so much because I felt so much healthier.
I learned to know my body and understood that I need to eat much more than I had been eating thus far, and that I need to work out less and choose different kinds of workouts, in order to calm my body down so that it can do what it needs to do. My body likes to move slower and with less intensity — at least at this point in my life.
But what about the injuries, unstable cycles, and those few nights a month when I still get only 6.5 hours of sleep? When I mentioned my chiropractor about my insomnia and that I see a correlation between increased exercise and loss of sleep, he told me: That's awesome, you're getting to know your body.
And isn't he right? I now know that pushing my body the way I pushed it before, is not healthy for me. That's knowledge that is helpful for me.
Even the back injury that has been one of the most painful experiences I've had, is actually a learning opportunity. The fact that I injured it while lifting too heavy weights (for me) with already tight hips, definitely taught me something. It would not make sense if I got my back healed completely and then went to the gym and started heavy back squats again.
2. You Don't Have to Do Anyone Else's Workouts
Another really good point that came out from this conversation was something that I've definitely learned by now, yet it was still a great reminder: You don't have to do anyone else's workouts, you do yours.
When we talked about my past workout habits, I mentioned that sometimes people get overwhelmed with all the workouts that they feel like they're supposed to do because everyone else around them is doing them. This is of the reasons why I worked out that much too — because I was following these people and accounts that were all about not making excuses and always pushing harder.
It's no surprise that these messages get into our heads if that's what we surround ourselves with. If you have a bit obsessive nature (I certainly do), when you get into something, you want to do it 100%. Everything else can be put on hold because we must follow through no matter what.. Sounds familiar?
We really don't need to, and even shouldn't, to do anyone else's workouts if they don't work for us. Working out is like dieting in that no one else can tell you what exactly to do. Someone may thrive on the keto diet, but someone else may barely survive. Similarly, someone may crush it doing high intensity weight training six days a week, but you may completely burn yourself out if you try to do that.
How to Get to Know Your Body Better
It's starts with two things: Awareness and taking action based on what you notice as you become more aware.
For example, if you're working out 5 days a week and never feel rested as you wake up in the morning, there's clearly something wrong. Because you're not supposed to feel tired, you're supposed to feel energized! (ok, maybe not right during the first 5 minutes after getting up but in general.) If you don't feel like you never wake up rested, no matter how much you sleep, the worst thing you could do is to keep working out as much as before or even adding some just because that's what someone else does.
You can only become aware if you stop running around all the time and take time to actually feel what's going on in your body. This is exactly what I didn't do. When I felt tired, I thought that the right thing to do was to go and work out to get over it. This is how I did most of my HIIT workouts at the end of 2016 — exhausted — and it was possible because of the adrenaline rush I got from working out at high intensity. Had I allowed myself to sit down and feel what my body was actually feeling, I would NOT have gone and worked out, because that's not what my body really asked for.
Every time before you go and move your body, do a body check and ask: How do I really feel like moving? Do I have the energy to do HIIT training, would getting under a heavy bar feel right today, or do I need some time in fresh air so I just go and walk three miles? These questions are very important to ask, and your body never lies to you. Just don't be scared to hear the answer and act accordingly.
We may try out what someone else does and if these things work for us, we can add them to our routine as well. If they don't work for us, there's no reason to keep them.
Because every single thing our bodies go through, teaches us something about it. And we should never do someone else's workouts (or diets, or relationships, or jobs…) but only ours.
Tell me something that you have learned that works and doesn't work for your body!
Do you have hypothalamic amenorrhea? Learn how to eat to recover from it.
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