We hear things all the time like “pain is gain,” and “pain is just weakness leaving the body” when we talk about fitness. The idea is that in order to get better, you have to bust your butt all day, every day to achieve your goals. If you aren’t sore, you aren’t doing it right.
There is truth in the idea that you need to get out of your comfort zone to improve and grow. You definitely need to challenge yourself. However, you also need to recognize that your body has limits. It gets tired sometimes and it can get hurt if you overuse it.
Also, your body is the only body you are going to have in your life. You have to prioritize the sustainability of quick results. If you work out too hard, too often, you could potentially suffer from burnout or even an injury that sets you back.
You have to learn to trust your body and give it the attention it deserves when it’s trying to tell you something. It knows what it needs, whether it’s food, exercise, or a nap. By learning how to listen, you’ll be able to extend your health. Here’s how you should do it:
Listen When It’s Telling You to Rest
Let’s pretend that yesterday you hit your personal squat record. That felt great, right? You left the gym with a huge smile and told everybody you know. You had a nice shower, ate dinner, and got a good night’s sleep. Now it’s the next day and you roll out of bed and can’t bend your legs. You barely make it to the bathroom.
That pain is your body telling you to take it easy today. There’s no shame in taking daylight. Maybe you go for a low-impact walk (if you can), or you do some light resistance training. You could even just take the day off completely! Your body will tell you what you are capable of. The last thing you want to do in this situation is push yourself and hurt yourself worse. It is not worth it.
In the long run, off-days are good for you. You may feel like you’re sacrificing gains that could be had, but what you’re gaining is an honest relationship with your body.
Listen When It’s Telling You to Eat
Think about all the things a car needs to run correctly. It needs gasoline, motor oil, wiper fluid, battery power, and more.
Your body is the same way. Your body needs fuel to run and nutrients to keep things working smoothly. We often think of food as a pleasure that we can only reward ourselves with occasionally. Food is a pleasure for sure, but you should look at it more like nourishment and fuel. It is something you need.
This isn’t an invitation to go to town on a mountain of French fries. You still have to supply your body with high-quality, premium food. But instead of fearing food, enjoy it and give your body the fuel it needs to work at its highest level.
Listen When It’s Telling You to Bring It
Hard work is important, plain and simple. While your body can tell you you’re going too hard, it can also tell you it’s time to give a little more effort. These two things are equally important. There is a sweet spot to fitness. It’s between destructive hard work and complacency. The only thing that will be able to tell you how much you can handle is your body. You have to trust it to tell you, and it can only tell you if you’re actively looking for its advice.
When you’ve been doing the same thing for a long time, when you don’t feel you’ve done enough, that is your body telling you that you aren’t using it to its full potential. That’s when you have to take a look at what you’re doing and reevaluate. Your body wants to be challenged, so challenge it! Give it the engagement it needs to grow and get better. You can do it!
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