What "Listening to Your Body" Means to Me

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I’m sure “listening to your body” is not a foreign phrase to any of you. Whether you’ve heard your favorite blogger preach it, seen it in the title of an article or read about it on Instagram, I’m almost 100% certain you’ve come in contact with the elusive idea of listening to your body.

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But in the over-saturation, over-sharing and over-emphasizing of this idea, I think we’ve lost the meaning of this term. Before consciously thinking deeply about it, I never really stopped to wonder what listening to my body meant to me.

How do I “listen” to my body? Am I doing it? Am I doing it right?

That’s where I want to pause for a minute. Before getting into what “listening to your body” means to me, I want to make one thing is very clear – listening to your body is an individualized idea, listening to your body will look different for everyone and there is no right or wrong. How you listen can change day-to-day. It’s not something that can be mastered and never worked on again. Listening to your body is a journey, possibly a long one, but worth it. So, so worth it.

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I’ve gotten pretty dang good at listening to my body, but it took me completely ignoring my body’s signs for a long time to get there. It took me pushing my body to its absolute limits day after day after day, no matter how sore or tired I was. It took me ignoring hunger cues because “I had already had a snack” one too many times. It took me running mile after mile no. matter. what. even if my knees, shins or ankles were screaming at me to stop. It took me taking “no days off” literally. It took me turning the other cheek to my constant stomach pain, not digging deeper to figure out what was wrong, because I thought everything I was doing was helping rather than hurting. As you can see, it took a lot. And although that time in my life was hard and tiring and draining and felt like rock bottom, I’m thankful for those struggles because it led me to where I am today. It led me to form the positive relationships with food, exercise and myself that I have today and it makes me grateful to be where I am today.

Okay, now let’s get to it…

To me, “listening to my body” means:

Knowing when pushing myself to workout will help or hinder. I’ve learned to tune in to know if, when I wake up at 5am, my body is tired simply because it’s early or because I need to give my body a break. I know when I’m starting to feel sick if I’ll benefit more from laying low or sweating. I know when I’m sore if I need to opt for stretching and rolling or if a shake-out run will do the trick.

Changing my mindset when something hurts, from “shit my knee hurts, what a nuisance” to “thank you for hurting and signaling my body to rest.” I used to get so angry at my body when I got injured, but now I realize it’s a blessing in disguise. It makes me take a step back and give my body the rest it probably needed before getting hurt. I really started making this mindset change back in April when I hurt my back working out and had to dial it way back.

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Taking three rest days one week and being completely okay with it because my body needs the extra rest and recharging. Last year I would have NEVER taken three rest days. A year before that I wouldn’t even take two. Sometimes I barely took one… A couple of weeks ago my body just wasn’t having it and I listened to that. I didn’t let my mind get in the way and tell me what it used to “you only take two rest days a week.” But the biggest thing for me was that I didn’t even think twice about it. I just realized I needed more rest, accepted it and moved on. I didn’t overthink it or feel guilty for not working out.

Knowing when my body needs extra fuel and giving my body it even on rest days. Just yesterday I was talking on my Instagram story about how I had practically had four meals before 10 am and I hadn’t even worked out that morning. Some days my body is hungry every hour and I honor that. If I’m hungry I eat, no question about it. I used to think rest days required less fuel, but that’s bs. I used to be confused when I was super hungry one day and not the other. Now, I just go with it and give my body the fuel it needs.

Having NO food rules that get in the way of honoring what my body wants and needs. This sort of goes off of the above point. I used to have an exhaustive list of food “rules.” I couldn’t eat meat more than once a day. I only liked eating one snack between lunch and dinner. I liked eating at the exact same times… you get the idea. Now? I eat when I want, I eat when I’m hungry (even if that means eating four breakfasts), I eat ten snacks if that’s what my body needs and I eat meat almost every day for lunch and dinner. I’ve realized my body is smart and it knows what it needs, so I finally stopped fighting it.

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Not feeling guilty for cutting a run short or taking it extra easy at the gym because my legs feel like bricks or I’m extra tired. First off, I used to never cut a run or workout short. I would power through no. matter. what. I would make sure to lift for an exact amount of time and run the exact amount I had decided on when creating that week’s fitness schedule. Slowly I started realizing there were times that I needed to cut back a little, but I still always felt badly when I stopped sooner than I intended. I’ve reached the point where I no longer feel any trace of guilt and instead feel grateful for my ability to know when I need to stop. One week, I literally cut every workout short, and that’s okay! Even during marathon training – as long as I can power through my long runs, I have no problem cutting the other runs short.

Tuning into cravings and honoring them – even if that means chicken for breakfast and a smoothie for lunch. Some weeks I eat the same thing for breakfast every day because that’s what sounds good. Other weeks I eat random combinations that typically wouldn’t be seen as “breakfast” food. Some days I snack on Larabars, other days I snack on squash and chicken. I’m able to truly figure out what my body is craving and I have no problem honoring that, even if it’s “weird.”

Deciding to sleep in (gasp) until 6:30 on a Saturday (yes… that is sleeping in for me) instead of feeling obligated to still get up at 5 to get my workout in early. This is exactly what I did yesterday. I barely slept Thursday night, so by Friday night I was beyond exhausted. I went to bed early and decided I would decide if I felt like working out or not once I woke up. This sort of thing used to drive me crazy!! If I couldn’t decide if I should workout super early or not, it’d make it hard for me to fall asleep, so I would typically just end up setting my alarm for 5am and working out as always, because veering from that normalcy freaked me out. I woke up this morning around 6:30 and all I wanted to do was wrap myself in my fuzzy blanket, drink my coffee, eat my favorite breakfast and work on the blog in the peace and quiet of my apartment. The last two Saturdays I’ve actually worked out midday, which although still not my favorite, has been feeling really good! It’s nice not feeling so tied to my schedule.

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Filtering through everything I constantly see on Instagram and staying true to ME. I’ve stopped trying to follow every food and fitness trend simply because it’s popular – my body doesn’t like spin classes, I get bored taking baths (which seems to be every wellness bloggers’ favorite form of self-care), runny yolks freak me out sometimes and brunch just doesn’t do it for me. #sorrynotsorry

Not feeling badly for doing what’s best for my body or caring what other’s may think. Lastly, listening to my body means realizing this is my body and it doesn’t matter what other people think about what I do to take care of it. Do what makes YOU feel best.

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Listening to your body goes hand-in-hand with respecting your body. When you hear your bodies signals and cues, honor them, respect them, pay attention to them. Your body is smart enough to know what it needs and precious enough that you need to respect that. It feels so dang good to be in a place where I do this full heartedly every day. I’ve tuned in to my body and my body has never felt better.

XO nat

Related: Learning To Respect My Body, What Taking a Bread From My Fitness Watch Taught Me, We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together: My Fitness Watch Break-Up