When Listening to your Body Makes all the Difference...
This past week, I had the unique pleasure of chaperoning my son’s cross country team in Colorado. What started as a long 11 hour trip out ended as a short 11 hour return.
Within the first few hours of driving, my glutes cramped up and my knee began to swell. Clearly, I had not familiarized my body to the force of such a trip and the beating it was about to receive.
When we arrived to our cabin in Granby, I immediately unpacked and began introducing my body to the 8,000 foot altitude that I would consider home for the duration of the trip. With the swelling in my knee and glute pain dissipating I prepped for our first run. Light stretching, a few gulps of water, and off we went…
Three minutes into the run my lungs were burning, my legs ached, and sweat was dripping down my back. Back home in Nebraska, the altitude flirts around the 1000 feet mark. With such low altitude oxygen can easily pass through permeable lung membranes and into the blood. But here, the low air pressure in the high altitude makes oxygen entering the vascular system more difficult. Seemingly, I felt as if I was dying…and doing so while attempting to keep up with these high school students. What was I thinking when I volunteered???
As we returned from the first run, I could think of nothing better than a shower and sleep. Although neither would come, I continued to ignore my body telling me it was dehydrating. Soon after my muscles began to cramp. More specifically, the side stitch came with a vengeance.
The following morning, I woke to pain in the low back and overall fatigue, yet I still ignored my body crying for attention. By the end of the day, every muscle in my body hurt. Breathing even felt like a workout, but finally, I listened. Sleep, water, and food became a top priority.
Over the course of the next 4 days we worked out 3 times a day. Every morning I woke up with the same routine. Hydrate, stretch, massage, repeat. What I noticed was running began to be joyous rather than an exertion of hard labor.
We even ran the Manitou Incline- which is a trail that gains nearly 2,000 feet of elevation in less than a mile! At 2,744 steps, it is singlehandedly the hardest workout I've ever completed. Although exhausted and worn out, I suffered no pain and was still able to run the 3 mile downhill haul back to the vans and again later that night with minimal fatigue.
Upon returning home, I massaged my legs at every stop, hydrated, and completed a series of exercises to keep my joints and muscles relaxed. No more glute pain, no more knee pain. The 11 hours flew by and the next thing I noticed we were in Kearney, only a few hours until we reached home.
We need our bodies more than it needs us. When we ignore the basic needs, pain sets in. Our lives are busy- all of ours- and we can easily make excuses as to why we can’t take care of it. Moral of the story- the happier our bodies feel, the more productive we are. Move, stretch, hydrate, massage, and pay attention to it, it’ll thank you in the long run.
Stretch for shin splints - Tibialis Anterior Stretch
Kneel on the floor and sit back on your heels. Push your ankles into the floor until you feel tension in your shin. Hold for 15 seconds, and repeat. For a stronger stretch, grab your feet with both hands and try to lift them up.
Food for Thought:
If you suffer from leg cramps or Charlie horses, try drinking pickle juice. Those extra electrolytes may be the key that you’re missing. ;-)