On January 1, self-care is a hot topic. Most start the new year aiming to be a better person. Respecting yourself, and your body, is a large part of this.
Working hard is celebrated in our culture. Extremes are praised. We know good things don’t come easily. In physical pursuit, we hold the celebrated idea of our bodies being machines.
I used to aspire to this. I ran hard and didn’t properly refuel after. I didn’t stretch or perform mobility. I didn’t give the long, hard miles the respect they deserve. A 20-miler? Eh, it’s nothing for this “machine.”
Maybe it’s age or the aftermath of injury, but I now have a different attitude. My body is not a machine. I don’t want it to be.
Machines are cold and robotic. They perform as long as they have the correct fuel – electricity or the like. My body as a machine would remove the wonderfully messy experience of being human.
My body performs, but it has more delicate and complicated needs. It has thoughts, feelings, a soul. In order for me to perform my best and feel good, I need to treat my body with care.
Through the years, I’ve fine-tuned self-care, especially during a marathon training cycle. I focus on:
Sleep. This makes the most noticeable difference for me. I need sleep to recover physically and mentally. I strive for eight hours on weeknights, and try to sneak in a least one nap on the weekends.
Nutrition. I count my macronutrients, but I also ensure I’m getting at least 100% of the RDV of my vitamins and minerals, my micronutrients. I do this through food, but also try to pop a multi-vitamin here and there. (I’m a horrible pill taker, which is why I say “try to.”)
Mobility. I do at least 10 minutes of mobility per day. The usuals are foam rolling, torturing myself with a lax ball, and Derek rolling my legs with The Stick. I also try to fit in at least two yoga sessions per week.
Respect the distance. A 16-miler is a big deal. A track session is a big deal. Even an “easy” 5-miler is a big deal, especially when it’s added to 50+ miles that week. Respect the distance; respect your body. It works hard and needs TLC.
Say no. I allow myself to say no to social events and engagements. Sure, I might WANT to plan a fun night on the weekend or help a friend with a project, but when the time comes around, I’m exhausted and the last thing I want to do is leave my house. I allow myself to turn things down and just be. These events will be there when you have the time and energy, especially in offseason.
Gratitude. My body and I have our issues, but I’ve developed a deep sense of appreciation for it. I am thankful every step and every mile. The ability to train is a gift, one I don’t take for granted as I used to.
Remember the rest day (and keep it holy). When training, I only get one day off from running, so I really dial in. No cross training, only movement with purpose on this day, remembering to take it easy both physically and mentally.
I feel a big difference in my mind, body and spirit when I focus on self-care. I hope you do, too. Cheers to a fantastic and healthy 2017.