Friday, February 9, 2018

How To Start Listening To Your Body

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Three years ago, I was suffering from major back pain. This wasn't a new injury. I had been suffering for almost four years. I had chosen to ignore my body, on more than one occasion, and this had resulted in a major injury.

Let's get really personal...

Backing up a bit–I had an unhealthy relationship with exercise when I was in college. I was always curvier growing up and decided to change things in college. I became a personal trainer and became obsessed with physical appearance. I ran, lifted weights, did Crossfit, yoga, hiking, swimming, pilates, cycling–sometimes multiple workouts in one day. I completed my first half marathon in 2011. Six months later, I wasn't running as much [although still running very regularly] and I was doing Crossfit. I became insecure about the muscles I was developing and started adding in more cardio to look more lean. One day at Crossfit, the friend I had gone with finished before me. I start pushing myself because I was embarrassed she finished first. During one of the exercises, I felt my back start to sink in–I will never forget this feeling. After the workout, she tells me she skipped some of the exercises because she was tired. I was annoyed but also felt relieved that I had actually finished the workout. The next day I woke up in so. much. pain.

I tried to stretch and foam roll. I talked to my instructors at Crossfit. Literally nothing helped me. The worst part was everyone around me encouraged me to keep going. No one wanted me to take a break. I was finally [somewhat] happy with how I looked and wanted to keep going–I was in a really dark place.

I kept going and the pain got worse [shocker]. I slowed down a little bit but I kept working out. I had just signed up for two more half marathons and was determined to complete them. Two weeks before the first half marathon, I knew I wouldn't be able to complete it without severely hurting myself more so I opted out. This was emotionally painful because this event required a trip. The race was in Canada. I was going with a friend. We had flights and a hotel booked. Bummer right? I went on the trip, cheered her on, and tried to ignore my super disappointed feelings.

After this trip, things continued to be rough. I had seen a couple doctors and was going to physical therapy regularly. I wasn't making any progress. I was still in just as much pain. It wasn't getting worse but I wanted to be my "old self" again.

Over the course of three years, I tried a chiropractor, physical therapists, and loads of doctors. I got acupuncture, massages, pain killers, muscle relaxants, products I'll never remember the name of, and cortisone shots in my spine [the most painful thing ever]. After my MRI, my doctor told me I'd have chronic pain for the rest of my life. He told me this at 23 years old. He put me in a support program for people with chronic pain. I had to get a full evaluation with a doctor, physical therapist, and psychologist. I had to go to appointments multiple times every week and saw no improvements.

Nearly three years ago, I decided to get one more opinion before moving to New York. My friend had told me about a special type of physical therapy–the Graston Technique. I found an office in my town that utilized this technique and called them up. One month later, I was pain free. It was the most insane thing ever. Apparently, my back injury had healed itself a long time before but I was left with a lot of tightness that caused referred pain; your muscles tighten up to protect areas that have been injured. It truly was a miracle!

After my injury and years of suffering, I've learned the importance of listening to your body.

I appreciate movement and how it makes me feel [mentally and physically]. I also would never want to push myself past healthy limits again.

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I mainly go to classes and walk. Obviously walking happens a lot naturally in New York City. I really like ClassPass because I have so many options. There are so many classes that are geared towards mental health and relaxation as well–I went to a restorative yoga and meditation class the other day.

I don't work out to look a certain way anymore. For years, that was my motivation and focus. After years of recovery from injuries and an unhealthy relationship with my body, my body has changed a lot. Five years ago, I would never post a photo like the photo above. Now I'm proud of my body, changes and all. I'm finally listening to my body and letting it change naturally based on its needs. I may not totally have it down yet but I'm working on it. Progress not perfection!

I also like activewear that feels good on my body. The outfit pictured above was sent to me by Fabletics, a company I've admired for years. Fabletics [Kate Hudson's activewear company] is an affordable yet quality-focused activewear line. I really admire that Fabletics is a size inclusive brand, offering sizes XXS-3X on their website. They also offer great introductory deals – 2 pairs of leggings for $24 – a $99 value – when you sign up for their flexible VIP membership program. Highly recommend this line!

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This post is extremely long so to sum things up: choose movement that feels good to your body and avoid pushing yourself passed your limits. Our bodies work so hard everyday to function properly so we need to show them some love too!

What do you do to listen to your body? I'd love to find out in the comments!

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