Managing your physical wellbeing for a stable body
When it comes to assessing your physical wellbeing, it should be easy. The body has many indicators of wellbeing. The question is, are you aware of them and are you listening to them?!
It is true, some people are more in tune with their body than others. It is also true that people have different indicators, perceptions, sensations and tolerance levels. You just have to listen and look for the signs.
“Know thyself”, an ancient Greek phrase/philosophy1, is something we all should adhere to. Learning your body and knowing how to progress, maintain and, even, regress is vital to overall health and physical wellbeing.
The body will tell you if it is heading into an unbalanced state, you just need to know what your body’s signs are. Miss or ignore these signs, and you WILL suffer the consequences.
Some tell-tail signs (of old / re-occurring injuries or ailments) are very noticeable. Whether it’s a sudden, painful sensation in a muscle or joint, or a flare up of the glands thanks to chronic fatigue ailments. These are obvious sign, but nevertheless, often ignored.
Alongside these noticeable signals, there are other, subtle, signs that present themselves very early. These are the early indicators of imbalance, if you notice these and act accordingly, you could prevent the small niggles becoming big problems.
Most injuries / ailments creep up on us, but there are always early signals. The way the niggles manifest themselves are different from person to person. If you think hard enough, you will find a trend to the build-up of a negative physical wellbeing “episode”.
Learning what your indicators are and reacting to them early will prevent minor problems worsening and disturbing the flow of your training. Basically, you will need to ease back, assess your habits and rest more in the days following your initial signal. Time it right and you can save yourself weeks or months of disruption.
Here are some common signals to look out for:
Structural / mechanical injuries
If you have a “niggle” prone area (a site on the body that has been injured in the past or where you carry tension at times of stress) be in tune with its performance.
- Does it start to feel achy in or after sessions?
- Has it started to cramp in or after sessions?
- Are you feeling pins and needles in the area?
- Does it feel cold – lack of blood flow due to tension?
Some people are more prone to contracting ailments; they rarely get injured, but seem to be much more susceptible to viruses and fatigue syndromes. There are tell-tail signs associated to these too:
- Tickles in the throat
- Patches of irritated skin – eczema, hives, etc
- Tummy problems – irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), sickness
- Tenderness / swelling of glands
7 management steps for quicker re-balancing
Upon noticing your unique signal(s) for any of the above, assess your training and life balance and manage accordingly:
- Ease back – injuries and ailments are often brought on by training too hard or too much in an already busy life schedule.
Everything in life causes stress; work stress, family stress, sleep patterns, diet, training, etc. Stress can be good, and stress can be bad. As a rule, though, if one stressor goes up, another needs to go down; to keep the balance.
- Time-out. Take a day or two off the discipline that causes the signal to arise. It may be early enough for you to make the executive decision to have time off, to let the area completely rest from the action that is causing the issue.
- Linking to the 2 points above, remember fitness, and specifically aerobic fitness, is essential to your triathlon performance – all triathlon distances are aerobic.
The beauty of aerobic fitness is it can be gained in any discipline and “used” in any other disciple! It is the specific movement patterns that differ and become inefficient.
Therefore, if running, for example, causes a niggle, feel free to swim, bike and even walk instead. You´ll still gain aerobic fitness, and if you walk more frequently, you´ll still be reminding the body of run movements!
- Examine your diet – are you getting enough calories, vitamins and minerals in to allow your body to cope with the heightened stress levels? Be aware that mental stress causes the body to burn more calories too!
The two main deficiencies that people have are in calorie intake and salt intake. Make sure you are eating enough and getting electrolytes in.
- Pay attention to your training kit. Old running shoes (we all have a pair, that we have “bonded” with and don´t want to let go of) are a very common cause of niggles that can then lead to major injuries. Similarly, if you have invested in a new pair of shoes – ones that are different to the old ones – they need bedding in!
- Recovery, or lack of. If you are “burning the candle at both ends” you are asking for trouble!
Training only benefits the body if you allow the body to recover from the workload. It is the only way the body works. The stress, recovery and adaptation cycle1 is well documented (first presented in 1956 by Hans Selye) and so obvious if you think about it.
Stress your body (any kind of stress), let it recover so it can adapt. Training stresses the body, you then rest and eat to allow it to adapt and become more efficient.
Recovery doesn’t mean “do nothing”, recovery can be achieved by training easy or by training a different body part – swim instead of bike or run.
- Make sure you sleep – this ties in with recovery. Sleep is where your body will repair itself, structurally and mentally. If you don’t sleep, there will be a lack of secretion of key repair and growth hormones.
Different people need different amounts of sleep, you’ll know if you get too much or too little. Often, triathletes don’t get enough – due to their type-A personality, they try to control and fit everything in to their waking hours. As a result, we often set curfews for our coached athletes! All training stops at an agreed time, whether they have trained for 5 minutes or 60. This way they will unwind and get some sleep!
If you suffer from sleep insomnia or suspect you have a sleep disorder, seek help. Sleep disorders are common, and there are ways of helping to get back on top of your sleep patterns.
Your body is a clever piece of kit, it has early warning systems programmed in it. You just have to know what it’s warning signals are and that it is OK to react to them – for your long-term physical wellbeing.
Easing back early can save you from pain, illness and prolonged delays.
Be strong and sensible and control your life stresses so you stay healthy and injury / ailment free.