I’m a big proponent of becoming body aware and knowing what is going on with yourself. Your body is a very intricate bit of kit, that gives you so much feedback and information, based on what you are doing. Unfortunately most of us are too out of touch with our body to interpret or understand what it is saying.
Through working out, meditating, personal experimentation and scientific testing, you can get back in touch with your body and act accordingly.
Become body aware to get the most out of training
For a day to day example; about 50% of the time, I ‘freestyle’ it in the gym. I don’t follow a set program; I go when I feel like going and do as much or as little as I feel like. I’ve become very attuned to my body and I know when to go hard, when to push beyond the comfort barrier and when to take it easier. To do less or even have a day off.
When I am following a program – which is mostly a function of where training lies in my overall life priorities at that time – it works the other way. I know when I need to eat or sleep more, to recover and sustain my training. I can go hard and have a pretty good idea of what I need to do, to allow myself that, without overtraining.
It’s taken many years to get to this point and I’m not recommending everyone starts ‘freestyling’ their training. Most people are better off following a program. Indeed, I make best progress when following a program, but I need that to be prioritised above other things in my life to support it.
What motivated me to write this post wasn’t actually about training as such, but rather about my health.
Become body aware for the sake of your health
I’ve been back properly at the gym for about 2 weeks, after having 3 months of not much training at all. I’m also working hard, as I am now settled for a couple of months and not travelling anywhere for a while. You could say I’ve been burning the candle at both ends for the last couple of weeks, so to speak.
On Monday I was feeling incredibly lethargic. I was tired and unmotivated. Procrastinating on my work deadlines until the last minute and just not motivated to do a whole lot of anything.
Initially, I thought I was just tired, I had been to the gym every single day for 10 days and had a pretty big night out on Saturday, I thought it was the after effects of that. So I took the day off training and eventually willed myself to get a bit of work done.
Tuesday comes around and I feel the same. In fact, I feel worse. Even more tired and lacking motivation. I was planning to go to the gym…I went home from the coffee shop to get my stuff and head off…
3 hours later and I’m lying on my bed watching Youtube videos still. Write another day off from training or doing much useful work.
I was feeling a bit dehydrated and had a funny taste in my mouth. I was getting the first inkling of what was wrong with me…I’ve experienced this before.
By Wednesday morning, I had a full blown metallic taste in my mouth. I was trying to ignore it and get on with stuff, as men tend to do. I went to the gym, went through my warm up routine and I felt so crap; tired and sick. I walked out of the gym 15 minutes after walking in, without doing a single exercise. I still had the metallic taste in my mouth.
Now I knew what was wrong.
I was mineral deficient. It was going to be magnesium or zinc. They are the minerals most depleted through intense exercise and I also know that my diet is a bit one-dimensional right now.
These minerals are abundant in red meat and fish. Neither of which I eat as much of in Thailand as I would at home – they are just not that available. It’s all chicken, pork or shrimp here.
I remembered the last time I had felt like this and I knew that it was zinc that fixed it. So I went to the shop and bought some zinc supplements.
I popped a couple with lunch and a couple more at dinner. By that evening I was feeling mostly better. I still had the metallic taste, but my energy and focus had come back.
By Thursday morning the taste had gone and I felt back to normal. Motivated to train and to be productive with work. It’s now Friday as I write this and I feel fine. I went to the gym yesterday and felt good. I had one of the most productive days, writing wise, that I have had for a long time and even managed to go out for a drink in the evening, rather than crashing on my bed.
I fixed my health problem in less than two days.
The alternative; when you have not become body aware…
What would have happened if I didn’t know my body as well as I do?
First of all, I would probably panic. People fear the unknown and we all tend to be hypochondriacs when we are sick. I would have got more stressed out the longer it went on. This would make it worse, as stress depletes these key minerals, and the problem would exacerbate.
I would have to go to the doctor – in a foreign country – I would describe my symptoms and if Thai doctors are anything like English doctors, I would probably be prescribed some sort of medication to ‘pick me up’ without them having any clue what was actually wrong with me.
My symptoms would persist and after a week of more anxiety, worrying and losing money from not getting any work done, alongside the medical bills, I would go back to the doctor.
This time they would run some tests to see if I had yellow fever or some sort of exotic disease. These would, of course, come back negative and eventually – hopefully – they would run a full blood panel and notice that I was zinc deficient.
Then I would probably get a shot and prescription for some tablets.
A few weeks, lots of stress and few hundred pounds later, I would have reached the same place I got myself to in under two days.
Knowing your body is powerful.
How I became body aware
Learning to be in touch with your body is not something that happens over night. It is a process that takes time and builds upon itself.
Here I will talk briefly about some of the things that I have done.
- Training: I really think training is one of the most important things you can do to become body aware. You learn how to feel your body, to activate different muscles and control fine movements. It builds the connection between your body and your brain.Plus you learn the difference between good discomfort (working hard) and bad discomfort (something is wrong). You learn what it feels like to be tired, to be fatigued, etc.
- Meditation: Guided meditation and getting in touch with your breathing is a real easy way to become body aware. As you focus on your breath travelling through your body and become aware of residual tension throughout your body, you are becoming aware of more subtle feelings within your body.
- Self experimentation: People are individual and we react differently to different things. Through education and experimentation, you learn what works and doesn’t work well for you. For example, here I speak about my reaction to coffee and intermittent fasting; which, being a fast caffeine metabolizer, would be totally different to someone who processes caffeine slowly, or to someone who has bad blood sugar management.If you have experienced something before, you can review that experience and connect it with the current experience, as I did this week with the zinc deficiency.
- Scientific testing: I’ve had a lot of testing ran on my body, blood panels, saliva, genetic testing. I used to work with someone who is now one of the worlds foremost nutritional and ‘bio-hacking’ experts, focused on researching human life extension. I was lucky that I got to work with him on his rise, before he got a massive opportunity and moved beyond working with ‘normal people’ on their health/fitness goals, to bigger things. Through the testing and his expertise in interpreting the tests, I was able to learn a lot about myself and my body. Things that have altered the way I train, the way I eat and the way that I live.
Data and science, when combined with experience and body awareness, is extremely powerful.
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