Listening to your body when running? Why It’s Important!
Listening to your body means paying attention to its signals – such as pain, stiffness, and energy – and being mindful of what they’re trying to tell you. Maintaining a practice of listening to your body while running can help you avoid overuse injuries and burnout.
Learn more about how to listen to your body and why it’s important.
How can listening to your body help runners (benefits)?
The most important way runners benefit from listening to their body’s signals is by avoiding overuse injury. Since running does require a certain amount of pushing past your comfort level, runners (especially new ones) often ignore more serious signals and end up injured.
What are other benefits of listening to your body while running?
- Knowing when to push and when to rest
- Noticing the enjoyable parts of running more
- Avoiding physical and emotional burnout
- Paying attention to the progress you’ve made
Do professional runners listen to their bodies while running?
In specific cases, professional runners can push past their body’s sensations in order to win a race (more on that below). However, even professionals listen to their bodies during their training routines to avoid injury and overtraining.
Are there any drawbacks to listening to your body while running (drawbacks)?
If you are new to listening to your body while running, you may confuse normal soreness for a pain or injury signal. This can impede the development of a regular running routine, especially in new runners, and make you feel discouraged or defeated.
When is listening to your body a bad thing in running?
Muscle soreness is a normal part of running – in fact, it’s a sign that your muscles are getting stronger. If you mistake routine muscle soreness for pain or injury, you are likely to underestimate what your body can handle and see much slower improvement in your running.
When should you not listen to your body when running/training (turn it off)?
Seasoned runners and athletes can enter “The Pain Cave,” a colloquial term for the feeling of blocking out your senses and ignoring your body’s pain signals. Professionals will sometimes use this phenomenon to push themselves hard enough to win close games and races. However, medical professionals advise against this for anybody except professional athletes.
Why is it important to listen to your body when running?
Learning to listen to your body during and after your runs is vital to avoid overuse injury and overtraining. Your body needs rest to repair the micro-tears in your muscles that promote strengthening, too – knowing when your body needs to rest directly improves your running.
How does rest improve my running?
When your muscles are sore, that means they have micro-tears in the muscle fibers caused by exercise. If the body gets to rest properly, it repairs these muscle fibers to be even stronger than they were before, strengthening your muscles and improving your running.
Do runners usually listen to their bodies while running?
Overuse injury and overtraining are incredibly common in runners, especially new ones. This might be because new runners tend to have much more of an emotional attachment to their workout routines than those new to other exercise routines.
What happens if you over-train for running?
Symptoms of overtraining include:
- Difficulty completing normal daily tasks
- Noticing your run times getting slower as you train over time
- Pain from everyday tasks
- Fatigue and/or pain that interferes with normal life
- Sleep issues
- Repeated “bad” workouts
Related: How Do I Know If I’m Overtraining?
How do you listen to your body when running?
Knowing how to listen to your body when running helps you maintain a challenging workout while avoiding injury and overtraining – but how do you do it?
Learn soreness vs. pain
Muscle soreness – the kind that promotes strengthening – feels like more of a dull ache and is less localized than injury pain. When you’re injured, you will feel a much sharper pain that hurts whether you’re moving or not. Here’s how the two types of pain compare for most people:
|General ache||Pinpointed pain|
|It Lasts 3 to 4 days||Lasts longer than a week|
|Hurts when you move, doesn’t hurt when you’re still||Hurts when you’re still, hurts more when you move|
|Dull, heavy, tight, stiff||Stinging, radiating, burning, sharp, stabbing|
Let technology help you
Most people already have some sort of heart rate monitor, like a FitBit or a smartwatch (looking for a running smartwatch? Check out my review on smartwatches; some of these devices also measure sleep cycles, which are another important body cue. Paying attention and learning what’s normal for you can help you notice when your body is reacting abnormally, which could indicate injury or illness. Some folks recommend investing in technology that measures your power output and your heart rate so you can compare the two metrics.
Track your feelings
Regularly tracking how you feel using a journal or an app also helps you learn your “normal.” If you track things like pain, fatigue, mood, and energy on a regular basis, you are much more likely to notice when you’ve been overtraining.
Although it has a bit of an “out there” reputation, mindfulness is actually just the practice of noticing your sensations and thoughts without judgment. If you associate pain with being a “good runner,” then you might not pay as much attention to your body trying to tell you it’s injured. If you are able to notice the sensation without judgment, you can more objectively determine what your body might be trying to tell you.
Listen to your reactions
Many of us struggle with scrounging up the motivation to go for a run – that’s perfectly normal. If thinking about your daily run fills you with an undeniable dread, though, consider taking a break that day instead. Your body and mind are one and the same, and your thoughts and feelings can signal pain and overuse as well.
Plan to rest regularly
Learning to listen to your body when running takes time. Proactively planning to rest between runs is one of the easiest ways to avoid overtraining while you learn, and it jumpstarts a practice of mindfulness and rest from the beginning.
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