Essential Sports Nutrition


Listening to the body

I had an incredibly tough past four days of training as I gear up for Ironman Wisconsin in 34 days. While no workout was "long" per Ironman-training standards (my longest bike was 3.5 hours and longest run was 1:21), I tested myself both mentally and physically with very structured workouts at a high intensity. While I shocked and impressed myself with the ability to perform my workouts as planned, Karel was unable to follow through with his scheduled training as he was feeling very fatigued and empty inside.

Rather than pushing through or training with an ego, Karel listened to his body (that was screaming "rest"). While he still trained, it was loosely structured, low volume/intensity than planned and he based it all on feel. He didn't complain or worry about his season as he knows all too well that the body is worth listening to when something feels off. 

As athletes, listening to your body can be rather difficult. For if you listened to it every time you felt tired, sore or fatigued, you probably wouldn't get much done. But if you are always ignoring the red flags that your body is telling you, all because you want to train as hard as you can, burn calories, stick to your normal routine or you fear losing fitness from a missed workout, this can be a big problem.

While we all love the rush of endorphins when training and the feeling of accomplishment when a workout is complete, I feel most athletes are unable to properly listen to the body because they can't put the ego aside. There's no award or badge of honor of continuing to train when your body is giving you warning signs that it's not in the right state of health to push through pain, fatigue or other issues. No one workout will make your season better and certainly no workout (or race) is important enough to damage your body and risk long-term health consequences. 

To reach athletic goals, it's important to push yourself physically, mentally and emotionally. We all have that voice inside of us that is telling us to quit and we must often soften that voice to keep the body moving. But it's not ok to ignore the voice inside that is telling you to adjust or slow down when something is not right with your body. It takes experience and practice to identify this voice and many times, it isn't until you make a few mistakes in ignoring this voice that you learn that this voice is actually there to help you become a stronger athlete and not a weaker athlete. 

The next time you worry about losing fitness by not sticking to your scheduled workouts because your body is telling you something important, remind yourself that there are serious consequences to not listening to the body. Injuries, burn out, hormonal issues, stress fractures, depression and other issues are not part of the training plan and are certainly not worth that "one" workout that you feel you must complete. 

Not only does your body become physically exhausted and broken down with training but so does your mind. Listening to your body is important. The more in-tune you are with your body, the stronger and wiser you become as an athlete.  You must take good care of yourself, both physically and mentally for training is demanding and we all have our limits of what is "too much."

My best advice when it comes to listening to your body is to never wait until you can't do something with your body to rest it. When the pain, exhaustion or fatigue becomes so uncomfortable that you can't train, you've gone too far. Try to stay one small step ahead of your body. This means that you can still "test" yourself to see if the voice inside your head is telling you the right information but be very aware that something may be going on. This requires a smart mindset for you must be in the moment so that you can quickly adjust in the case that the body is trying to tell you something serious.

Missing a workout or two will not derail your overall training efforts but ignoring your body will put you at risk for a major injury or health issue - which will certainly ruin your training and racing season. For the sake of your long-term health, listen to your body and give it what it needs when it needs it. No workout (or race) is worth it.