Listening to your body... INTUITIVE TRAINING

Some days we can come to our favourite class, or smash out a 5k run, and it feels absolutely incredible. Other days, though it’s exactly the same session, it can feel like an unbelievable slog. Am I right??

This is simply because we are not machines that can operate in exactly the same way, day in day out. The time of day, the season, sleep, our menstrual cycle - all of these have an impact on how we come to and experience exercise. Furthermore, modern life means we are surrounded by additional stimulus and stressors (or even a global pandemic) that give us fluctuating energy levels, changing emotions, and some days even mysterious aches and pains.

So what can we do? Give ourselves a break!

We can listen to our bodies and consider that while looking at calories burnt, distance run, or reps completed is incredibly useful, it isn’t the only way to measure progress. Especially if working in this way means were often left feeling a) physically and mentally burnt out from overdoing it or b) disappointed and hard on ourselves as we haven’t done as much as we set out to do.

There is a need to stop punishing ourselves with strict rules and restrictions, and instead take a healthier more sustainable approach to our fitness and relationship with our body.

This approach has now become termed by many as intuitive training. It means checking in and taking cues from our mind and body about what it needs in the moment, and how it wants to move.

It’s an approach to exercise, training and how we move, but also about valuing what we do outside of class or training as well. Essentially we only get maximum gains if we build in rest and recovery between sessions. This allows the body to adapt to the positive stress of exercise, return for a sufficient period to a full resting state, and repair any damaged muscle tissues. It also aids the body to replenish its glycogen energy stores for future sessions, meaning when you do train you are at your best – and we need to build in this time feeling guilt free.

So in summary, intuitive training is about being in touch with our body, taking an interest, and actually putting some real authority on our own subjective experience of training; your body is likely on point if it doesn’t want to do in a third HIIT session in 7 days. And if you still really feel like moving, it could be that some gentle yoga or Pilates would do instead.

But don’t I always need to push through the wall, I hear you say??

Not necessarily. Pushing during a session when we feel our body is ready to cope and perform can be fantastic, but pushing beyond a reasonable point – perhaps on too many consecutive days – can compromise form. Technique deteriorates and we risk injury as well as burn-out. And in its extreme, reaching this point could in turn put you off moving altogether, for some time! And in terms of always looking for an afterburn when you train, it’s not the only sign you’ve progressed and benefited your body. If you do have mild to moderate muscle soreness, this can be common and generally harmless. On the other hand, severe muscle soreness can be damaging and dangerous, and not something we should actively seek out!

Of course, intuitive exercise still does require some discipline (we don’t want to be opting out completely for weeks on end). But it is about recognising between sessions when there is a genuine need to rest, and then when you do want to move it is about thinking about which type of training might be best. This can represent a huge shift in the way we often behave and plan our exercise. And adopting a new approach and feeling confident with it is likely to take time. We can support each other along the way though, and this is absolutely something Move Happy Fitness can help with (much more to come on this topic soon – watch this space!).

But in terms of a takeaway today? Plan your week – active and rest days – but also take your internal check in or scan every morning, and also before you’re scheduled times to train. What is your bodies response? How hard do you need to push today? Just to ensure the planned activity is the right fit. The good news is that it's your body and no one else’s, and that you really can trust it!

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