When I raced professionally in Ironman Triathlon I was definitely NOT GOOD at listening to my body. Three stress fractures, Achilles surgery and a mountain of other injuries were evidence of this. The problem was that the driving goal was to get to the start line of a chosen race and often I ignored key warning signs in order to achieve this goal.
If you are the typical Type-A personality then it can be difficult to adjust to the different mentality of not pushing yourself all the time. Sometimes a yoga session, an easy ride, or even just a total rest altogether (shock!) is just what the body needs to recover and to ensure you don’t end up in a big hole with an injury just around the corner. Having now had 2 kids and competing for fun I started to follow some self-defined rules in order to keep active but not overdo it. These rules for myself are outlined below:
- Set a limit on what I do each day. I write up on the fridge every Sunday night what I am aiming to do in the coming week, but this is limited to only one thing per day, e.g. ocean swim, walk/run, indoor cycle.
- Take a mandatory 2 week break if I get any niggles, realising that 2 weeks has very little, if any, impact on performance. Return to the activity nice and slowly and build strength back up. This has enabled me to keep any injuries at bay and remain healthy and fit over a much longer time.
- Focus on the peripherals i.e. sleep and nutrition. If I’ve had less than 7hrs of sleep a night (which is often with a newborn) I tend to revert to easier training that day. I also make sure I start the day right with a super charged smoothie. This is nutrient dense with avocado, cacao, dates, banana and blueberries in it, helps to replenish any lost stores and keep energy high.
Finally, the most important rule and one that I’ve had to seriously work on, is to LISTEN TO MY BODY! This requires a level of flexibility and acceptance. I’m no longer a slave to my programme, if the body isn’t feeling good then I just don’t push it. I’ve found that performance is so much better when you focus on getting to your goals injury free rather than overdoing it and limping to the finish line, disappointed and needing significant rehab.