Why it's important to listen to your body



It's important to understand the cues your body is sending and how to respond to them. Here, Paul Ford helps you understand your body's issues by sharing four key areas to pay attention to.



Your body is in constant communication with itself. Much of the communication is tacit, silent. A plethora of biofeedback loops subconsciously to maintain limited ranges within body systems. You have two main communication systems: the nervous system and endocrine-hormonal system. Each does its thing, in different time frames, to keep you going about your day, ensuring you respond during sessions and adapt to regular training.


Other parts of the communication network are explicit – they’re not self-talk. These signs usually tell you that something out of the ordinary is going down and that you need to take note. If not, ill health, injury, staleness and loss of performance will visit. Deciphering what these signs are, and what to do about them, is the key to listening successfully to your body. The key signs to listen for are those related to pain. 

What to listen for 


There are four key areas to listen for when your body talks.

1.  Acute, unusual and sudden pain:

• Pressure, stabbing or ‘fullness’ pain in the chest; may radiate into your arms, neck, jaw and face

• Sudden lightheadedness, dizziness, headache or vertigo that doesn’t pass quickly

• Unusual shortness of breath – without a cough – when resting, or between intervals

• A stab, shot or sudden searing pain in a muscle or tendon that makes you suddenly change your action, technique or gait; slows you down or makes you limp or stop

• Pain that radiates from your back or neck and down your leg/arm

2. Health:

• A prolonged low-grade fever or a fever that comes and goes; or an ‘overnight’ high fever

• A fever associated with neck stiffness, chills, wet cough, profuse sweating, headaches

• A persistent cough not associated with a cold or flu

• Coughing up blood, or green, yellow or reddish-brown mucus

• Persistent abnormal or irregular bowel movements and urination not related to changes in diet 

3. Fatigue:

Fatigue and temporary muscle weakness are normal when training regularly and performing some hard training, yet heed fatigue:

• Not relieved by a few lighter days (50 per cent reduction in volume, lower intensity) or days off

• That persists over several weeks and isn’t changed by improved sleep and diet

• Associated with significant appetite change with weight gain/loss, energy and mood swings, and loss of motivation to train or race

• Coupled with other symptoms: unusual pulse, changes in HRV, shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting, fever, significant muscle weakness

• Significantly higher perceived effort or heart rate at rest or during low-intensity efforts

• A lower heart rate and lethargy during harder efforts

• A persistent elevated heart-rate between repetitions and sets

• Inability to regularly complete or recover normally from moderate or higher-intensity sessions

• A persistent loss of technique, concentration and strength/power

 4. Musculoskeletal

Some delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and muscle and joint stiffness is normal when increasing or changing the nature of your training load, particularly after a ‘rest’ phase. Yet, be attentive to:

• Sudden or acute muscle, tendon or joint pain that gets worse (likely a strain or sprain that will require R.I.C.E.R. and/or medical assessment)

• New or persistent pain, tenderness or swelling around joints, tendons and bones

• Early morning or warm-up stiffness that becomes more persistent or painful

• Asymmetrical pain – pain in one joint, or muscle group, on one side

• Shooting nerve pain

Looking for more training advice? Find out how to improve your performance on race day and get all the latest nutrition tips.

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