listen

Compared to even 5 years ago, life to me seems even faster. With childrens’ commitments, work ventures, and Justin Bieber’s appearance changing exponentially it is easy to let time prevent us from relaxing and taking pause to reflect on how the body is feeling. It is feasible to lose perspective on how we feel physically.

One thing we know for sure: Exercise is good. Well, the proper amount of exercise at a suitable intensity is good. The challenge is figuring out when enough is enough and when it’s just too much. The good news is that our bodies already know the answer. We just need to ‘listen to the whispers’ before they become ‘screams’!

Here are three ways we can go about it:

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1-ARE YOU OVER TRAINING?- Your gaze is on the prize (a wedding, 40th,50th, cruise, those skinny jeans you had when you were 21) and you’re training hard with intention to rock everyone’s socks when that date arrives. Have you stopped to consider that you are over training? If you don’t give your muscles the time to adequately recover between workouts you might be suffering from prolonged fatigue, soreness, insomnia, a cold you just can’t shake and/or an inconsistent or elevated resting heart rate. Not only do the muscles need time to recover , so too does the central nervous system(CNS). It is the CNS that generates muscular contractions for the entire body. Without adequate recovery, the muscles become inefficient during a workout (and we all know I LOVE efficiency!).

What to do: Rest! Take a day or two off to allow muscles to ‘regroup’ and recover. Ensure you (and your cells) get adequate nutrition. Aim to have good sleep (albeit hard for some with young children, and one ear always on alert!) . Wait until that prolonged cold is really gone and don’t beat yourself up for missing a session or two. You will be more efficient and progress further in the long run.

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2-ARE YOU GETTING TOO MANY INJURIES? ‘No pain no gain’ -that famous catch phrase to push us to go strong and last the set. While it is true in some degree (DOMs or ‘delayed onset muscle soreness’ is healed through muscle growth and regeneration), if your pain is persistent or chronic and constantly nags or ‘screams’ at you- listen to it! Don’t just pop some ibuprofen, put a brace on and ‘push through’. You won’t get a medal or gain a spot on the dais with an injury. What’s more, you might be cursed with a long-standing injury which could have been prevented if only you had heard the whisper and perhaps used even a little intervention.

What to do:  You need to establish where the pain is coming from. While this might sound like a ‘derr statement’ , many conditions may cause pain referral to other areas of the body. Sciatic pain down the legs may stem from spinal stenosis or a disc bulge or herniation, pain in the biceps or deltoid might be referred from tendon damage within the gleno-humeral cavity or tingling in the fingers can result from cervical spine stenosis, arthritis…etc. If the pain is chronic, it is sensible to go to a doctor or specialist to organise diagnostic testing for reliable results. Once the primary point of pain is discovered, rest it (oops I said it AGAIN!). When the pain has subsided it is important to take ‘baby’ steps on the recovery road. Too often we want to take off where we left off. Wrong. As frustrating as it might be, you need to take it easy. Many times our muscular pain actually arises in the restriction of the fascia in between the muscles. The fascia is made up of connective tissue and connects the muscles and joints- think of the strong, stringy bit on a raw chicken breast! To help with this restriction, get the foam roller out of the shed and roll! The more often you do it, the better you will feel. Mobility comes next on the rehab road. Small, deliberate movements of the smaller muscles will help the larger muscles get back on track . Your physio can give you the exercises you need (and be sure to ‘do your homework exercises’ . They are given for a reason!). When mobility is back, you can then work on the strength part of the equation. Your fabulous personal trainer can help you here! It is also possible (and professional) for your PT and physio to work together in getting your well-oiled machine running again. Having said all this I WILL stress the fact that as a trainer I can prescribe programmes AROUND injury and I hereby forbid you to use an injury as an excuse not to train at all. There are always diverted programme paths around your pain!

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3-ARE YOU GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP (I KNOW, I KNOW, EASIER SAID THAN DONE)

While some of us wear our late-night-early-morning routines like badges of honor (and others of us have this routine without intention), lack of sleep or poor quality sleep can play havoc on the body.Productivity, fitness routines and our overall sense of well-being can take a nose dive  . When I say ‘poor sleep’ I am not meaning an isolated event but rather a continuous and vicious circle. Sleepiness compounds to create energy crashes during the day, increases stress hormones, and promotes poor eating habits. As the energy roller coaster dips, we often turn to caffeine, sugar, and energy drinks (DON’T DO IT) to combat fatigue. These quick fixes further complicate the energy crisis. It’s only a matter of time until illness or depression, or chronic fatigue set in, but it’s not until the daily energy crash turns into an all out well-being train wreck that we begin to take notice. Again, listen to the whispers (in this case, the dark circles under the eyes, waking up tired, hitting snooze until the alarm gives up on you completely).

What to do: The easy answer is to just sleep! But, as a mum, I know we never actually ‘switch off’ (unless you’re like one friend of mine, who’s name rhymes with ‘Jennifer’). We tend to always be listening for that baby to wake up, that cough to settle down, that wheeze to ease, or that husband to co-ordinate the turning of the key when it’s been a long, long, long lunch). For me, as soon as it’s dusk I’ll light all my candles (you know I love them) to begin ‘settling down’ for the night. At least that’s the theory! If at all possible, we eat quite early or whenever childless friends like to ring me-they go hand in hand. As I get up at 5:00am most mornings, preparation is key. I put my training clothes (active wear) in an IKEA fold out box in the bathroom ready for the next morning. Any ‘saved’ minutes through preparation I’ll take for sleeping! Don’t tell anyone but I keep a pillow in my car. I arrive at school pick up time early and grab a 20 minute power nap in the car! Amazingly, even a 15 minute power nap can make a huge difference in recharging the energy levels. Adding on an hour of sleep wherever you can will make a difference both physically and emotionally to our whole body. No one thinks sanely when they are tired. A calming bath (as the children peek under the door), reading or your partner giving you a long, beautiful foot massage can all help you get to sleep earlier. Remember, it’s for your health (wink wink). Don’t laugh but when I had four children under 2, I ALWAYS slept with heavy duty airline ear plugs in. Worked a treat!

I DO hope you’ve gained some knowledge- even just a little. Remember, you can only do the best you can with what you’ve got! Listen to the whispers before they become screams. Your body deserves to be heard.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on getting a good night’s sleep…leave your comments below and PLEASE share my blog (so that one day I can buy more candles).