Let’s hand out some red flags. Get waving them at me if you are:
- Feeling either unpleasantly plump or dangerously preskeletal.
- Ravenous at times, off your food at others.
- Lying awake at night, thoughts racing.
- Tired all the time.
- Racked with aches and pains.
- Accident and injury prone.
- Forgetting easy stuff like names, birthdays, the day of the week.
Almost no one ever tells you should exercise LESS but if you’re waving that red flag at me right now, this yogi is.
Now I know what it means to not listen to advice. I also know what happens when you ignore the wisdom of your body. So, before you dismiss this course of action as outright lunacy, please read my story. It’s all here, alongside some yogi tools to reclaim balance and enhance your hormonal health.
Plus, I’ll share why being less active can sometimes actually help improve athletic performance. It’s all about listening to your body folks. Come with me. It’s time to tune in and tune up.
First here’s how my active lifestyle got me into serious trouble…
I once ran, cycled and swam my way into chronic back pain. Adding mile on mile, brick workout on brick workout, fuelled by a no pain, no gain mantra. I wore my capacity for toughness like a badge of honour.
My idea of balanced training was being a triathlete – that’s three disciplines, so I’m doing a full body workout, right? Made sense to me even if there was some underlying confusion. As a strategy, it wasn’t showing up as gains in my fitness and performance. Nor was it making me more resistant to injury. In fact, my back pain was getting worse.
I thought they were idiots
When I was beyond toughing it out, I went in search of the fix to help me carry on doing exactly what I was doing.
Every pain expert, physio, acupuncturist told me to ease off training and yes, I thought they were idiots who just didn’t ‘get it’ or ‘get me’. I had a training plan for my first marathon and a ‘can do’ attitude – just iron me out and dose me up. You can see where this is going. CAR CRASH…
Yep, I ignored their sound advice and I ignored the wisdom of my body. My fingers were wedged well and truly in both ears. La, la, la, la, la. (Ever done that?)
In 2013 I ran my marathon, but I’m sad to say it was the last time I ran.
Quite frankly, I could hardly walk… for months and months later. Even mundane movements like putting on my socks, getting out of the car, reaching down to pick up dirty washing, would bring me to tears. Running was now impossible.
The only good news is when you get so far down this road, (your car has crashed and you didn’t die), there is only one place left to go.
Thankfully my ‘can do’ attitude was still waiting for me when I put my mind and energy into recovery and doing the work necessary to heal and rebalance. It took three years and a daily, consistent yoga practice, but my back is so strong now and ironically, I am leaner and fitter than I ever was.
Don’t ignore the red flags.
Let’s be clear, this blog is NOT about me saying running is bad for you and we should all just throw down our yoga mats and chant ‘Ohm’ instead. In fact, yoga practiced without awareness, can get you into serious trouble too.
Nope, I’m all for following your bliss. What makes you feel good (sustainably so, not just in the moment or for a quick fix), usually is good.
What I am saying is don’t ignore the red flags. When it’s not feeling so good, it usually isn’t.
When your body is trying to tell you to do less. Best you listen up.
Here’s why doing less can sometimes actually improve performance. Let’s talk about STRESS baby.
Here’s the thing. You don’t just get stressed from things like too much work, being late, or getting stuck in traffic. When you over-train or over-exercise your body also begins to secrete stress hormones – adrenaline and cortisol. It does this because a message has been sent from your brain to your adrenal glands that something threatening is happening and you need to prepare to stand and fight or get the hell out of there.
For an athlete, this can feel great at first, because as your adrenaline increases all your body’s resources go into responding to the threat. Here’s what happens
- Your heart rate increases
- Your breath rate increases
- Your blood pressure increases
- Your muscles contract
- Your pupils dilate
- Your mind gets alert/you become hypervigilant
- The blood diverts to the arms and legs away and from your vital organs
This response makes you more alert, ready to deal with whatever’s coming, to be ready to run, be physically stronger. GREAT, you’re thinking?
But guys, don’t be seduced. This fight or flight system is very cool and necessary, but it wasn’t designed to run and run and run. Spend too much time in the stress response and you rob your body of its ability to restore, repair and recover.
Having too much cortisol is a highway to burnout in the body. It is not where you want to be – and you’ll know it because your body will begin to wave red flags in one, or more of these areas.
- Body temperature regulation
- Metabolism regulation
- Reproductive cycles
- Sleep wake cycles
- Sex drive (or lack of)
- Blood sugar balance
- Blood flow to the brain
Left unchecked, these can lead to more serious health problems like diabetes, infertility, stroke, mild depression and anxiety, obesity, insomnia, or contagious diseases.
Are you paying attention now? Ready to listen to some solutions?
GREAT! Keep with me.
Here’s how the downright delicious practice of yoga will help.
Yoga, as I keep banging on about, is not just about poses and shapes and flexibility and chanting. A big part of the practice is awareness and tuning into your inner wisdom.
Carving out time on your mat will allow you to find the space and time to witness the choices you’re making off the mat, to pay attention to the red flags, and help you to course correct before any imbalance leads to a potential car crash.
Choose the right practice and poses, you also get to switch off your stress response and switch on your sister response system, the rest and digest response. It’s called the parasympathetic response and is responsible for calming everything down, bringing you back to balance and increasing your ability to recover, rebuild and repair.
Be strong, injury free and ready to train hard another day. Find your balance on the mat and continue to perform your best off the mat, for longer. It’s as easy and as simple as that.
Yoga truly rocks folks and I would love to teach you more if you’ll have me guide you. Come right this way to find a class or sign up to this blog and get regular tips and yoga info. And, if you liked this post please pass it on and help me get yoga out there. We all need it.
Let’s do it…
Namaste Josie X