“Listen to your body” has become a popular phrase in recent times, especially among fitness and wellness experts, but you may think it’s a little vague or complicated. But understanding the meaning behind this phrase is an important key to efficient workouts and greater well-being.
Listening to your body basically includes being aware of the signals coming from your body such as heart rate, aches, pains, hunger, and thirst. Science explains this condition with the term “interoception” – a kind of sixth sense that helps your brain understand what’s happening inside your body. Studies have shown that improved interoception contributes to overall well-being, emotion regulation abilities, and workout efficiency since an increase in internal consciousness enhances the capacity to give your body what it actually needs.
Interpretation of internal cues gives insight into when you should test your body’s limits, or when you should slow down, and be smarter at reading your hunger signals.
But of course, this is all easy to say but hard to practice. Developing a mind/body connection takes time, so we’ve drawn up a few helpful tips for how to listen more closely to your body:
Accept your body without judgment
Acceptance is the first step of building a healthy relationship with your body. Can you communicate openly with a friend when you constantly deny and criticize that person’s true self? Accept your body with no judgment. You may not like some features of your physical appearance, but you need to accept that these “flaws” make you the person you are.
Improve your self-worth
People with high self-worth prioritize themselves over the process. And thus they trust the signals telling them when to stop or push themselves for more. Lower self-worth makes you prioritize yourself lower than your workout schedule.
Break the belief that resting makes you weak
The belief that resting before doing a workout shows your weakness prevents you from true communication with your body. Rest is part of your progress and gives you time to gain energy for challenging workouts. Asking yourself why you feel a need to push yourself this hard can be helpful in understanding the root cause of your belief and breaking this destructive thinking pattern.
Differentiate between a need for motivation and a need to stop
We must emphasize that listening to your body doesn’t mean avoiding pushing your limits. Instead, it’s all about learning to differentiate between needing a challenge and a rest.
Sometimes you feel unmotivated to start a workout – but which human has the same motivation level all the time? To understand whether you need to stop or push yourself, first take a deep breath, then warm up your body and take a look at how you feel.
Our top tip: If you can’t maintain the correct form while exercising, no matter how much you try, it’s a good idea to take some rest.
Mindfulness is the practice of observing your entire presence at the moment, without any judgment. Meditation, body scanning, and yoga are all good mindfulness practices to strengthen the communication between mind and body. Taking time for just 5 minutes of mindfulness a day can make a big difference.
Writing is a great tool for making sense of your body signals. Try keeping a workout journal in which you write your observations and feelings before and after your workouts. This will help you gain awareness of your workout patterns. For instance, you may notice that three HIIT workouts in a week decrease your performance for strength workouts, so you can adjust your workout schedule by giving yourself space for recovery before your strength day.
The bottom line
The phrase “listening to your body” can be confusing – but we hope we’ve given you a few ideas of where you can start. It may feel weird at first, but gently remind yourself that learning to understand your internal cues is a process and one you can work on for the rest of your life.