Listening to your body


As runners, we all have days when we are feeling great, our run goes to plan, and we can’t wait to get back out for the next one. We also have days where things don’t go as we’d hoped, days when we can feel that something isn’t quite right. Sometimes the reason that our run didn’t go to plan is obvious, for example heading out when we know that we’re not feeling very well, but at other times, it can take a little more unpicking to find out what’s going on.

If something doesn’t feel right during a run, it’s a pretty good indication that you are asking your body to do more than it is capable of at that point in time. It’s a warning sign. Whether it’s a specific muscle complaining, your digestive system playing up or your whole body feeling sluggish, listening to what your body is saying is crucial; it’s trying to tell you something.

In order to spot those warning signs, though, you need to know what’s normal for you. Not what’s normal for the friend that you run with or that fast group in your club; what’s normal for you. The better you know your own body, the sooner you’ll pick up when it flashes those warning signs, and the sooner you’ll be able to do something about it. You need to know what your body feels like when it is running well, and also what it feels like afterwards. How quickly your body returns to normal after running is a key measure too.

It's not just about how your legs feel...

So what ‘normal’ should you become familiar with, and how?

  • How your muscles and joints feel when you are running easily and running hard, and how soon they feel normal again afterwards
  • How your breathing feels when you are running at an easy effort, a hard effort, and uphill, and how quickly it returns to normal when you stop
  • What your heart rate feels like when you are moving along easily and working as hard as you can, and how soon it feels normal when you’ve finished. If you’ve got a heart rate monitor, learn the numbers that match how you feel, including your heart rate first thing in the morning too – if it’s higher than normal, something is up

Learn how your heart feels when you are working really hard

  • Whether you have any specific body parts that typically react when you run, for example do your fingers always swell up when you run for over an hour, or does your face go bright red regardless of how hot it is?
  • What your urine typically looks like, including during a run and afterwards; this is a good indicator of your hydration levels. Do you normally need to stop for a pee during a run? Perhaps you find it hard to pee for hours afterwards? Note it all
  • What do you typically eat before a run (including the day before) and how much energy do you normally have for running? When, if at all, do you need to eat on a longer run? If you do eat during the run, what can you normally digest? And how long is it before you feel like eating again afterwards?

Your typical post-run craving? Bacon butty - or cake?

  • If you’re a woman, how does having your period (or menopause symptoms) affect your run? Does it normally make no difference or is your run usually impacted in some way? (You can monitor this via Garmin Connect or the FitrWoman app)
  • How well do you typically sleep after a run, and does it vary between a shorter, easier run and a really long run?
  • What is your mood normally like before a run? Are you usually raring to go? And during the run? How is it afterwards? Is your normal to be in a great mood or does it take you some time to feel human again?

Keep an eye on changes in your mood...

Whatever is normal for you, make note of it and pay attention when something falls outside of your norm. Stop and think about what’s happening to your body. It may be easy to identify and rectify yourself, but if occurs again, seek help; it’s a warning sign.Your body is not happy with what you are asking it to do.

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