Just a few days ago I was doing a home yoga practice with my online companion 'YogaGlo'. The class, taken by Kathryn Budig was pretty challenging (as I've come to expect). Through my struggle to breathe, hold strong and maintain alignment in an intense pose one comment brought me to a complete standstill, Kathryn casually states:
“let the voice of your body be louder than the voice of your ego"
Instantly I hit pause, grabbed a pen and noted it down - soon after this was translated to my blackboard of inspiration. This would be my new mantra..
While this may seem like a perfectly logical statement to many, I'll be the first to admit that my ego has been schooling me for years. I'd perfected the art of ignoring the 'voice of the body' and getting on with the job.....
In the past I'd say that competitive sport fuelled my determination and my ego to no end.
If I look back 10+ years ago to my days playing netball with chronic shin splints, I would much rather have somebody wrap up my legs from knee to ankle with strapping tape and spend truck loads of money on really painful massage than simply take some time out...the worst thing is that this was social netball - fun....while standing one foot where possible because it took the pressure of the calf on the other side (yes in hindsight I must've been having a blast)!
Again several years later when I started triathlon I pretty easily managed to advance those shin splints into a stress fracture. When given the diagnosis I stupidly quizzed the doctor as to whether the rest period was really necessary, after all I'd coped fine with a 20km run only one day prior and my complaint was general muscle tightness that I couldn't fix, not shin pain!
You'd think by this time I would've learnt but again two years further down the track I'd developed a healthy case of plantar fascia though ignorance and at this time I was training on my own, just me and the ego urging me along...you must be stronger, faster, better, keep running, increase the km..
It seems that over a several years I'd pretty effectively found a way to block the signals between my legs and my brain...
For some time this approach didn't seem all that bad, I actually viewed my ability to persist as a key strength. It was when this approach started to creep into my work (in a big way) that things started to come to a head.
It was a build up of a really challenging 9 months on a difficult project, followed by 3 months of living out of a hotel (in what I thought was my dream job), finishing up with 3 weeks of working 75+ hrs feeling like I had the weight on the world on my shoulders that started to un-ravel me..
The 100km MTB ride that I tacked onto the back of this (just to balance out all that work) was where everything quite literally came undone....I was mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted, in tears within the first 35-40km probably for the first time ever saying I just can't do this and truly believing it. Every part of me was saying please no more its time to stop but somehow I continued to push through and finish the ride.
Normally a tough day out like that leaves me feeling energised, motivated and inspired, almost instantly I'm planning the next attempt, although this time there was none of that....I walked away from that ride thinking to myself I never want to feel like this ever again..and that feeling hasn't faded with time (as can sometimes happen after a really tough race).
Sometimes we really need to come crashing down to take the time to reflect on the how and the why.
I'd managed to turn my strength into a weakness by becoming so completely absorbed and focused that the voice of my body was barely a blip on the radar..
I still believe that the ability to push on is an essential characteristic for somebody who undertakes endurance type racing, it will hurt - that's a fact, but being able to continue to push through this...that's what sets you apart, it is however a very fine line to walk. On reflection I think it all comes down to knowing your body and understanding when to listen and when to continue.
I'm still very much learning to listen and then take notice of what my body is saying. I've come up with a number of triggers that force me to step back and think about what I'm doing, they are little things like 'eating meals while standing' and 'feeling like I don't have enough time to exercise'.
Already with only a few months of this enhanced awareness my overall wellness has increased 10 fold. Maybe with a few months or even years more I will be able to run regularly without any shin/plantar fascia issues.
As I continue on my path to somewhere with my broadened perspective I will continue to ask myself:
Is it my ego urging me along or am I pushing my edge with full awareness of my body?
If it's the ego then I'd like to think I've developed enough personal case studies to second guess that little monkey on the back. It will take time - I'm super competitive and driven by nature, but at least now I know that I should be stopping to ask the question...