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Growing Up

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Listen to the Body

My son couldn't sleep last night because time trials for high school swimming start today. Last year he was excited and nervous, understandable for a freshman, and this year his body wouldn't let him rest because it remembers.  William's body took a beating last year, and he developed scary autoimmune systems from over-training. I told William that his body remembers getting sick, and that he has to promise himself that he won't let it happen again.

It's taken me a long time to understand that my body has memory and wisdom separate from my brain, and that I need to listen to it. The brain might say "sure, I can run a marathon, anyone can do it," while the body says "that's not right for you." Speaking from personal experience here, the body trumps the brain in the end.

In any sport an athlete is taught to train past "normal" stopping points, to practice through fatigue and break through mental barriers.  My concern isn't with this type of training, it's with excess, when fatigue becomes exhaustion, when the digestive tract shuts down from stress and the lack of rest pushes somatic systems into permanent fight or flight.

The old mantra of "no pain, no gain" is outdated. Fatigue is good, most pain is not.  Rest is a vital component of any training plan; rest and recovery are often overlooked.  Last weekend, after just a few days of rest (and the absence of over-training), William dropped an astounding 2.5 seconds in his 100 free.  As he had dropped 1.5 seconds two weeks prior, he's cut an unbelievable 4 seconds off a 54 second race in a month. He's worked since July to recover his health and build his strength, and now he needs to stay the course in a much choppier sea.

It's hard for anyone to stand out from the group and say "I need something different," especially for a 15-year-old among his peers. But the body speaks loudly, and we have to choose whether to listen - or to pay the consequences.


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