Listening to Your Body vs. Endurance Training Discomfort

17 May

Disclaimer:  While I was inspired by Jenna’s post, this has nothing to do with whether or not what she did was right or wrong.  It’s just a philosophical conversation I had with myself based on her decision and the responses it garnered.

When Jenna announced that she was stepping down from the 60-mile distance from the 100-mile distance of the Echelon Gran Fondo, I knew there would be uproar in her comments section.   Some of the comments congratulating on her for “listening to [her] body” made me think:  where is the line drawn between listening to our bodies and the normal wear and tear of endurance training?

If you’ve trained for an endurance event, whether it be a half or full marathon, a triathlon, or a ride, you know that endurance training is hard work.  Your body aches and hurts.  Your mind plays tricks on you.  You are emotionally and physically exhausted.  If I had “listened” to my body during my half-marathon training, I would’ve quit at least once a week.  Hell, if I had listened to my body, I never would have started running in the first place.

Pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones is painful and hard.  If it were easy, everyone would do it and we wouldn’t have to train.  The entire point of endurance training is to push beyond our current abilities to improve and get stronger – to gain endurance.  If we all gave up whenever we listened to our body’s discomfort, we’d never get anywhere.  What I’m saying is you shouldn’t give up because your body (or mind for that matter) is saying you can’t.  YOU CAN.  You will never know unless you TRY.  Pushing past a mental block is extremely difficult.  For me, it was one of the hardest parts about starting to run.  I still struggle on a daily basis with the mental aspect of running.  You just HAVE to push through it in order to improve.  Fight the good fight!  Winning the battle is both mentally and physically fulfilling.

Granted, there is a distinct difference between pushing through a mental block and continuing while injured.  If you are injured, you should absolutely do what it takes to get better – even if that means giving up.  In that case, you NEED to listen to your body.  For example, if you have shin splints, listen to your body.  Ice.  Rest.  Take the necessary precautions so it doesn’t become a bigger problem.  Same goes for IT Band issues and the like.  Look at me!  Two weeks before my half, I almost had to drop out due to my IT band.  But I took a solid week off to rest and I took care of myself.  It was still painful, but completely and totally worth it in the long run (literally and figuratively).


4 Responses to “Listening to Your Body vs. Endurance Training Discomfort”

  1. Abby May 18, 2010 at 6:57 am #

    This is great! It is such a hard line to distinguish. I think everyone’s different, but there is certainly a difference between pain and injury. Regardless, it’s just really important to take care of ourselves!

  2. ashlee May 18, 2010 at 12:53 pm #

    I wholeheartedly agree with you on many of your points! Endurance is all about letting yourself believe you can, and pushing hard. However, it’s also REALLY important that you train correctly so you DON’T run the chance of injury. Training well also help with self doubt. Of course a 100 mile ride sounds daunting, but if you up your mileage each week on a training plan, it’s not 0 to 100, it’s 80 (or whatever your last training ride is) to 100. Just like when I trained for the half marathon. 13.1 miles is scary, but going from my training run of 11.5 to 13.1 was not as scary. I’m a firm believer in training and a positive outlook… you can do anything!

  3. Melanie May 18, 2010 at 1:14 pm #

    I am a firm believer that if you train properly you can accomplish any goal. My trainer always tells us that your mind gives up before your body. Which is very true. There are times I talk myself out of running an extra mile but in reality I know physically I can do it.

  4. blondeviki May 18, 2010 at 4:08 pm #

    This was really interesting (so was having a nosy at all your pics – I hope you don’t mind, you have a beautiful home and your wedding pics are lovely!).

    “Hell, if I had listened to my body, I never would have started running in the first place” – this completely reflects how I felt when I started to run.

    I think there is a difference between listening to your body and listening to what your mind is telling you your body should be feeling. I think until you have had a real injury, it can be really hard to distinguish between the exertion of pushing yourself to go that bit harder/further and real pain. When you’re new at it – everything will feel bad.

    I agree that many times it’s about some sort of mental block – you’re used to not being able to do something, so it must be hard. Working on having a positive outlook is hard but it has to be worth it!

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