The edge between more and quit.

listen to your body | kourtney thomas fitness

I used to use the song My Body by Young the Giant in my fitness classes all the time. You probably know it. The chorus goes like this:

My body tells me no!
But I won’t quit
‘Cuz I want more, ‘cuz I want more
My body tells me no!
But I won’t quit
‘Cuz I want more, ‘cuz I want more

The story of the song and the meaning of the lyrics are actually totally irrelevant to the application, but the hook is so perfect. What better motivation could there be when you want to quit, when your body is telling you no?

Looking back at my excessive use of this song to inspire my clients to always keep going, no matter what…I cringe. What a crappy thing to do. To assume every body wants more, needs more, especially in the face of that body telling you it doesn’t. What if that’s actually the part of the chorus you need to hear in that moment?

It’s super common in the fitness industry to preach all about intensity and pushing hard and no excuses and never give up and DON’T STOP UNTIL YOU’RE PROUD! Common, however, doesn’t make it the right or best or even all that helpful. In fact, in a lot of cases, probably most, it’s the opposite.

The alternative is the advice to listen to your body, which is also increasingly common. And much like its more aggressive cousin, it’s not always helpful. Probably not as damaging as #noexcuses, but equally as challenging.

The problem with “listen to your body” is that a lot of people don’t know how to do that. You can totally blame me and my poor choice of playlists, because it basically amounts to the awful feeling of how the hell am I supposed to listen to my body when I’m jumping up and down with weights and trying to listen to an instructor yelling instructions over blaring music in the semi-darkness. “Listen to your body”??? Sure. OK.

I get it. I do. I’ve been there.

I’ve run miles and miles through pain and fractures, never listening to what my body was trying to tell me because hey, you’re probably just being wimpy and everything’s fine.

I’ve pushed through that first tweaky rep for more, even though I knew something was wrong, continuing to train the same damn exercise until I literally couldn’t twist around to wipe on the toilet without feeling like I wanted to cry because hey, that’s the cost of getting jacked.

I’ve even simply tried to force myself to do stuff I didn’t like and my body was completely indifferent to because hey, this is what worked for so-and-so to get The Bod.

At first, this disregard could be attributed to inexperience. There were a lot of years where I was new to different kinds of movement and just didn’t know when something was wrong. I didn’t know that a three out of ten on the pain scale warranted attention, and would actually be more helpful to my progress than waiting till it turned into an eight.

A little further down my path, my snubs of the messages my body was sending me where just that. Ignorant rebukes, flying in the face of what I knew to be true for the sake of accomplishing some particular goal.

Come full circle, and I’ve turned into a good listener. I’m no longer inexperienced, and I’m no longer an asshole to myself. I’ve cultivated a wonderful relationship with my body, where I give her credit and believe what she tells me from day to day. But learning how to listen in that way can be more of a challenge than it might seem at first blush.

There’s a delicate balance between the real no and the nah, it’s not time to quit yet. And a thin line between that hurts and that hurts so good.

I think there are a few reasons why some people struggle to tune into their bodies’ messages. Certainly one of those is external pressure and messaging from a good portion of the industry, as well as media, and our friends and family. Again, if you’re into fitness at all, it can often seem like there’s only one way to do this, and a leisurely walk is not it. That makes it tough to feel like you’re not a lazy bum if you’re not drenched in sweat, panting, and possibly immobile after your workout. So, you just push through, thinking that if everybody else is doing this, you should be able to do it too.

I think another reason for it is that we’re afraid to truly hear what our bodies have to say. We may have caught some of what they’ve said, but then decided we didn’t want to hear it. Because sometimes, those messages mean things like we can’t do something. We’re getting older. We’re not good at this. We have to take a break or do something different. Or indeed, we haven’t been trying hard enough.

And one more big thing is that life is noisy. Whether it’s thumping EDM at six in the morning, or your annoying sister constantly calling you with “helpful advice,” there’s always going to be noise distracting you from yourself. Even though our bodies are what carry us through our days, they’re often the last thing we listen to in all the rest of the competing commotion.

So how do you figure out how to quiet the extraneous babble? How do you learn to pay attention and find your balance?

Stop.

Seriously, stop. If only for a breath, stop. But maybe for a week or a month, stop. Close your eyes. You can just sit or stand. Purposefully be in your body.

Snoop.

Touch or flex and relax parts of your body. Perhaps do a body scan. Feel your physical body.

Suss out.

Interpret the results of your snooping. This is the listening part. What did you find? What did you feel? What does that mean for you today? Green light? Yellow light? Red light? Change of direction?

Like so many other things in life, this is an area where we just want someone to give us answers, a la, “Listen to my body? Well, I don’t know…can you just tell me what I should do?” But no. I can’t, no one can. No one but you.

You’re the only one who can determine what your edge between more and quit looks like.

That takes looking and listening inside instead of always watching and relying on outside. It takes time and attention. And as with listening anywhere else and to anyone else in life, it takes effort and practice. I never said it was an easy, overnight, three-step process.

But if your relationship with your body is important to you, isn’t that effort worthwhile in the end? After all, it’s quite possible the loudest message your body has been trying to communicate to you is that it’s happy, right here, right now, just like this.

What if you’ve been tuning that one out?


Don’t tune that out, friend. If you need a little help figuring out your balance? Send me an email anytime, or schedule a free chat with me right here.

share this: