We're all ticking time bombs for injury whether we're athletes pushing our bodies to our limit or we're grinding day to day raising a family around home. I'm talking about acute injuries like a sprained ankle and those long, nagging injuries like sore fingers and knees. And we've done a darn good job of ignoring our bodies.
Through the last year I worked on mobility, stretching, and really listening to my body, and realized how many quiet signals I missed under the noise floor. My knee is one thing, but more so, I notice when my lower back is a little tight [note mentally to stretch my hip flexors], I notice when my stomach feels a little upset [eat some yogurt], I notice when my whole body is a little more tired than yesterday [decide to take another rest day], I notice when my breathing is a bit more constrained [pause to assess my stress level and possible causes].
We're in our twenties, but only mentally.
Especially as athletes, we push ourselves as if we're a twenty-some aged male. We used to heal overnight; if we really damaged ourselves, we healed in a week. We didn't need to really figure our bodies out. Come our thirties and beyond, we slow down--a lot. If we had so-so form on pullups, after thousands of repetitions on a climbing wall, that micro damage will catch up as a nagging shoulder pain, enough to keep us away from the wall for a couple weeks until the symptoms fade. Then we're back at it without checking whether our form is right, and we rinse and repeat. Pain and inflammation are screaming signs. Imagine what a scope of our knee or shoulder joint would look like if we actually feel pain--it's not like the inside of those joints are sensitive like fingertips!
Today's tech world has taught us to ignore and keep on going.
We ice, take ibuprofen, wait for the symptoms to recede, work our asses long hours sitting so we can hit the gym for an intense 3 hour workout, and then push again. Multitaskers are heralded; move, move, move! We don't even know what our body's baseline is since we never take the time to sit down and listen to it.
We're victims of chronic stress.
The pressure to work hard, raise a family, make ends meet, and keep up with the Joneses, has made stress our new baseline. The effects of cortisol long-term are staggering: yes, it leads to depression, decreased immune system, depression, blah blah, and it drastically reduces our body's ability to heal. We'll push super hard in a workout, our muscle and connective tissue will normally break down, but we'll take longer than our normal 48hrs to heal--at which time, we'll jump back into the gym, break down muscle more, and wonder why we ache.
The future isn't all that dreary, and I certainly hope you push hard, work out strong, impress yourself, and have fun. But change is life, and we'll hit the inflection point when we have to learn from our bodies at some point. It may be a genetic lottery when that happens, but it's best if we learn about ourselves so that we can better deal when the time comes. If you're injured, take the time to read up on mobility and form for that body part and consciously ingrain that change into your day-to-day and workouts. Try new training regimes and learn how your body responds. At any time, take a few minutes to pause and catalog how your body feels that day. Guided body scan meditations on YouTube are great--get past the weird serene voices and the stigma of "meditation"--and you'll immediately begin noticing your body's signs when you just tune out the world.
Life will hand us the same lessons until we learn from them. Best to learn the first time.