Learning How to Listen to your Body: A Lifelong Journey
In the first trimester, push-ups on my feet were also off limits. Something about the gravity of lowering my body towards the ground made me feel physically ill unless I was on my knees; yet close to the end of my last trimester, I was still on my back doing core work and jumping rope.
Through the past three years, I have had many pregnant clients. Receiving a mix of information of what is or is not contraindicated, I tell them about what I’ve seen and what I have firsthand experienced. But the biggest piece of advice: listen to your body. If it doesn’t feel right it isn’t.
For a fitness enthusiast, that it is not always easy. We want to be as competitive as we can; we thrive on pushing our bodies to our limit. Even before I was pregnant, though, I started to be more in tune to my body. A series of injuries when I was 20 (a stress fracture and tendinitis after the 1998 NYC Marathon) taught me that the more I cross trained the better for me. I noticed that doing yoga, high intensity interval training, body weight exercises, strength training with weights, all aided in my running and I remained injury free for years working out five to six days a week and completing another three marathons.
Knowing the importance of working your body in multiple ways, this was my mindset when developing fitness classes. You will see that when taking my class. A year after Sophia was born, I became a fitness professional. At the time, I geared my workouts towards new moms who wanted to get an efficient, total body workout yet still bring their little one with them. I started off teaching about 4-5 classes a week. Over the first year, the 4-5 a week evolved to an average of 4-5 a day. Soon I found myself teaching north of 20 classes a week.
For about 2 years straight now, I have been around 20-25 hours of teaching a week. This is just teaching hours; it does not include my own workouts, not to mention work that I need to do for the business. I love teaching and do my best to give myself off days. But I have known for me, this pace, was long term not sustainable.
This past March, I was speaking with a friend; I told her I felt like I was in the best shape of my life. However, I was exhausted. When I wanted to do my own workouts, such as a run, I often felt unmotivated to get myself out there, or stopping when I knew I could run more. My body felt overtrained and unbalanced.
A few days after this conversation, my right foot was really bothering me. Even walking was painful. The memory of my first six weeks in a walking boot due to a stress fracture during my semester in Florence seventeen years ago came to the forefront of my mind.
Sure enough, I was diagnosed with a stress fracture in my right foot. I knew once I was diagnosed, I needed to find a doctor who understood what I do for a living; the answer “just don’t do anything for 6 weeks” wasn’t going to work. This is what the first doctor I saw said. I quickly moved on. The second doctor looked at the results of my MRI which confirmed the stress fracture. He said “If it hurts, don’t do it. If it doesn’t hurt, it’s fine.” Those are the words I stuck by while continuing to teach through my injury as well as finding alternative workouts for myself.
Then, the second weekend in May, six weeks after I first felt the injury, I went for my first jog. After teaching a class at The Great Lawn in Central Park, I asked my clients to watch Sophia while I ran a lap. As I ran the lap, which was just over a half mile, I felt the endorphins kick in. Feeling the runner’s high I missed so much starting to kick in on that beautiful sunny Saturday I wanted to keep going. Unlike six weeks ago, when I couldn’t walk without sharp pain, the running didn’t really hurt. I could have kept going. But it didn’t feel quite right.
Listen to your body.
Laura Kovall is a personal trainer and creator of The Fit Co. For more great tips, check out her website here.