Listening to your body is the most important skill you will develop in the gym.
Much like learning the kettlebell swing, or the barbell deadlift, it takes time and practice to become a really good listener.
Many of us have spent a lot of time ignoring signals from our bodies, so this may be something totally new for you.
I promise there will be times when you want to do something in your brain, but your body doesn't feel ready -- and you know it and ignore it any way.
I can't tell you how many times I have trained alone and raised the 24kg KB to start a getup -- only to put it back down. My body says no ... over and over and over. My head says yes over and over and over. But it doesn't feel right. I feel wobbly and unsure. Fortunately, I detest being injured, so I have learned to listen and react accordlingly. I will continue to listen because I have learned through experience that ignoring my body will result in an issue I will have to REALLY listen to later.
Listening usually requires a response. So do it. You know I support you. If you want to go lighter, sit out, go heavier, stretch, or go home. I will support whatever your body tells you to do.
Listening is the essential skill to keep you safe and safely progressing in the gym.
I can't feel what you feel. I wish I could. I joke about attaching a meter to you to get the same feedback you are getting. I wish it were possible.
I do see signs of what you are feeling, but I depend on you to confirm them. And most of the time, you are great about listening. You are learning to take charge of your body so that you know what to do and how to respond no matter where you are and what physical activity you are doing.
I believe that listening is the greatest PR you can ever achieve.
And what you hear and feel will change constantly. Once moment you might feel strong and fresh and ready to bump up weight. In an instant, there could be a muscle twinge, or an empty feeling like you just ran out of energy. You could feel like you are on top-of-the-world, or tired from a lack of sleep the night before. You will experience so many scenarios that I can't even begin to summarize them here. There is never a moment off from listening, feeling, discerning and learning.
Here are some tips to improve your listening ability:
- Nourish your body with food, sleep, water and rest so that you can really hear what your body is saying to you when you train in the gym.
- Train with a coach who will guide you and help you discern what your body is telling you.
- Never let a muscle twinge or joint issue, or anything that feels weird, go unnoticed. Stop, assess and address.
- Pay attention to changes, such as a loss of balance, reduced grip strength, extreme tightness, light-headedness, an inability to concentrate, pain and so on. Listen and react.
- If in doubt about how much is too much, take a day off and rest! Training should not deplete you; it should energize you.
- Keep a journal to log how you feel or use our online skills tracking program to log results/concerns in the Notes section. Review often. Share with your coach if you wish.
- Add some gentle movement and stretching outside the gym "to feel it out" if your body is sending you signals of concern. Address the signals now.
- Talk with your coach if you have questions or concerns. Don't stay quiet because you don't want to call attention to yourself in class. I always want to know.
- Listen during the training session, afterward, later in the day, the next morning, two days later and at the end of the week, month, year. How do you feel? Yep, listening, and therefore, learning, never stops.
Being a good listener will help you keep your body safe in the gym and in your everyday life.
Never lose sight of why you are training in the first place: to be healthy, strong and vibrant for life and sport. Nothing is worth compromising that overarching goal.