Sometimes life steps in and says “hey, take it easy”
As much as I hate to admit it, I’m not always so good at receiving the messages my body sends me. An ache here, a twinge there, brushed aside and powered through, written off as a fact of life while I hurdle myself forward, onward and upward. I’m a fast mover, literally and figuratively. Physically moving forward, quickly through the world from one place to another… and from one task to another, rarely allowing myself the time I secretly know I need to decompress and just be. Like, I’m sure, many of you, my days are filled to the brim, nearly every waking minute is accounted for with work, gym, more work, feeding myself, and socializing (ha), and as much as I try to quell the habit, my brain is often busily strategizing how to get even more out of those precious hours. While we may be quick to recommend a friend take it easy or relax, it can be difficult to heed our own advice. Luckily – or not so luckily, depending on how you look at it — our bodies have their ways of letting us know when enough is enough. Sometimes those messages are small, like the aches and pains we too easily brush aside, and sometimes they’re so loud we’re stopped dead in in our tracks. Forced to account for our actions and just. slow. down.
I received just such a message last week. After finally getting my hands on a much-needed new pair of running shoes, I promptly embarked on a long run. Possibly the longest distance I’ve tackled in awhile (ahem… tops it was five miles…), and while my calves felt a little tight towards the end, I brushed it off, stretched a bit, and went on my way. Big mistake. Huge. Because I chose to ignore that small missive from my body, I paid for it tenfold throughout the following days. By Tuesday, my legs felt like two tightly-wound cords, ready to snap. Walking was laughable. Like, truly funny because the only way to go was sideways, like a crab. Working out? Absolutely out of the question. For the first time in awhile, I was laid up. Forced to actually take some time for myself (and take accountability) and work on healing my excruciatingly sore legs. Being sidelined like this came out of left field, I haven’t been sick in months, which is basically the only other time, save for Saturday mornings, that I’ll allow myself any substantial amount of time to reset. And it was surprisingly hard to step back and accept that, at least for a few days, I’d have to take it easy. Which gave me pause. If it takes an injury to slow me down, maybe it’s time to step back and reassess. Self-care, while it should be dotted throughout your day, is more than just taking a few minutes to eat breakfast or draw or work on a project, it’s also allowing our bodies the time they need to heal themselves and rest. It’s swallowing your pride and calling out sick when you’re in bed with a fever. It’s not going to the gym when an ache can’t be ignored. It’s realizing that the body and mind are separate, and we can’t always will ourselves well again.
After accepting my sideways-walking fate — and let me tell you, acceptance did not come easy — I set about fixing the problem, caring for my legs the way I should have to begin with. It wasn’t immediate, but after several epsom salt baths, a long myofascial self-massage, and some very painful time spent with my foam rollers, there was finally light at the end of the tunnel and four days later, I was walking almost like a normal person and making vows to not repeat the same mistake (stretch! We all need to stretch more!). While stupid and painful, last week provided a reminder that sometimes the healthiest thing we can do for ourselves is to not do anything at all. To slow down and be quiet and listen to the messages that our bodies are sending us, to turn off and tune in.