cycling utah May 1999

Your body has a voice, so pay attention

By Dr. Michael J. Cerami

Everyone, especially athletes, can benefit by reviewing their concepts or "story" on how to listen to and treat their body. Most of us never really decided on our current approach to health, it was passed down by our parents actions or slowly absorbed from the people we were around growing up.

The idea of "paying attention" to ourselves was pretty foreign or considered egotistical. So now most of us focus outside of our body for answers on healing and information. Let's change that today.

A number of professions help athletes' check-in with their body to improve performance. My experience is 14 years within the chiropractic profession and as a triathlete for the past 6 years. In this series of articles I'll discuss how you can get better at looking inside yourself, listening to your body and what it might have to say along with some specific exercises you can do to keep your mind, body and spirit happy and working together.

In addition I'll review some basic exercise physiology, the biomechanics and assessment of the spinal subsystems. I'll also cover the neurological implications of adverse mechanical tension on the spinal cord, its causes and how past physical, chemical and emotional traumas may be keeping you from setting your next personal record.

The more you know about how you respond to stress, the more you can do to improve your performance and gain an edge on the competition. To begin we need to determine how well you listen to those internal clues or messages coming from different parts of your body.

First let's give your body a little more credit. You are amazing in your unique abilities to manage 75 trillion cells 24 hours a day, seven days a week, adapt to your environment and have time to push yourself up those canyon rides. Without conscious thought, you can heal minor cuts and major fractures. You can replace 3 million red blood cells every second and pump 26 gallons of air per minute through your lungs when exercising and only two gallons per minute when you are resting.

Now if you feel that your body is pretty smart and can make the right choices for the good of the whole system, maybe it has a few things to tell you. Are those symptoms just things to be treated or are they wake-up calls from your body?

If your body is telling you something, try to listen to the message and not judge the situation as a problem or bad. This may be difficult at first because the will power of the athlete is strong and has to push through resistance (mentally and physically) to gain strength and desired results. Gradually you will be able to discern the difference between a green light to push harder and a warning signal to slow down.

Your physical condition can be a message from your unconscious. When your body shows signs of stress, strain or disease, pay attention to the signals as they show up and focus on the body part that alerts you. Your unconscious may be warning you that your life is out of balance.

Place your hand over the area and check in with the feedback. Ask questions: Have I seen this pattern before? Do I feel tension? What might this mean? What else might this mean? There are more answers inside than you could imagine when you ask the right questions.

The more you listen the more you will hear. What you sense may make the difference between taking an extra day off or getting injured. Remember, in the long run, real performance takes years to build. Start to improve today with a good foundation by honoring the body/mind connection.

Next month: Assessment of spinal and neural integrity.

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