If You Use This Phrase, I Want to Punch You in the Throat.

I’ve been having a lot of conversations with other skaters recently — both people that don’t know me, other than through the book of faces/emails/website, and those that I currently skate with and know me pretty well. As I’ve been talking with them and listening to their frustrations, struggles, and successes with cross training, I keep hearing myself saying (or thinking) one thing over and over and over:

Listen to your body.

And this makes me want to punch myself in the throat. To disable my voice box. So that I can’t say that dumb shit anymore.

Listening to your body IS great advice. (Of course it is, I mean, I’m giving it.) But it sounds hard. And stupid. And like I might have to dance under a full moon while twirling a shawl over my head and singing Fleetwood Mac.

Ugh. No Thanks.

Ugh. No thanks.

But the idea of “listening to your body” is also vague and difficult to define. What do you mean “listen to my body”? More importantly, HOW DO I DO THAT?

It all comes down to 2 basic questions:

  • Can you interpret the data that you’re getting?
  • Do you trust yourself enough to react to the data appropriately?

The hardest bit about listening to your body and practicing this mindfulness (in all areas) is that no one can coach you through it, not really. (But it does help to have support, which you can get through 1-on-1 Customized Training. Apply here!)

You can read all the articles online that you want to, but it ultimately comes down to you. And that’s some scary shit, right? Especially because in areas like health & fitness, cross training, and nutrition we’re brainwashed to listen those that are “experts”. And those experts might know anatomy or physiology or dietetics, but they don’t know you.

Listening to your body (and building your mindfulness muscle) is about KNOWING that no one really knows you better than you do — because that’s true — and trusting yourself to be in control of your cross training.

Or whatever else you want to be in control of: your food obsession, your emotional health, your mental toughness and mindset. All the things!

So, again, HOW DO YOU DO IT?

I talked a little bit on my podcast with Kickit & Flat Mat Yoga (Part 1 & Part 2) about accepting what your body tells you as “objective data”. That’s the first part. The heart of mindfulness and learning to listen to your body is to watch yourself. Be aware of what your body is doing and how your body is feeling.

You’re doing this already, I promise. Your mind is constantly cataloguing all of the data that your body provides. It’s just about becoming aware of it. It’s a lot of work (at first), but eventually becomes second nature. Just something you automatically do.

It’s not about casting judgment. Just checking in: How am I feeling today? Do I have the energy for a full-tilt workout? Is my {insert wonky body part} bothering me more than usual? What are my feelings about my cross training today? Do I want to do it? How hard have I been hitting it recently? I’m feeling kind of sore from practices…can I do 10 minutes of my workout and reassess from there?

Feeling sore, feeling tired, or feeling like you just don’t give a fuck isn’t something to be ashamed of. It doesn’t make you a failure, it doesn’t make you worthless. It means you’re gathering data, it makes you smarter. And, it allows you to make better choices about your cross training. Listening to your body is about toeing the line between “PUSH, PUSH, PUSH!! GO, GO, GO!!” and “Imma just sleep for the rest of my life”.

Listening to your body is just about learning how to ask those questions. Then deciding what to do from there.

So…how do you do it?

It’s not a lot of hippie voodoo. There are actual steps you can take.

1. Get discerning about whether you’re actually feeling tired or just whingeing.

Some times my inner self is a weakling. I don’t want to be challenged, I don’t want to do work, I mostly want to live my life like a cat. In other words, there are days when I just don’t feel like it. We all have them, right?

So get discerning. Ask yourself one big question: Why don’t I feel like it?

You’ll come across 3 main answers:

  • I don’t want to. In which case, do it anyway. Quit being lazy and go out there and bust your ass. You know (and I know) that you’ll feel better when you’re done. Put your Nikes on and just do it.
  • I’m tired. Not to be confused with “I’m pretending to be tired” from above. If you’re legit wiped out, take a break. If you don’t want to feel like a completely useless sack of shit, take a leisure walk, do some {very} gentle yoga, or foam roll. But don’t push yourself. You’re tired. Respect that. Remove the guilt from this one. It’s just objective data that you’re acting on.
  • I’m not sure what’s going on. Great. Put your shoes on. Try to go for 10 minutes and reassess. If those 10 minutes were tough to get through because you were lacking the energy, stop. If you’re starting to perk up, keep going.

2. Keep data.

This is one of the big rocks of intelligent cross training for a reason. Let me illustrate with an example.

Skater X has a pretty critical mindset. She consistently beats herself up and feels like a failure if she misses practice or a day of her cross training. Recently she’s been feeling super tired and ineffective at practice, but hasn’t been working that hard. Not really. So she decides to up her game both at practice and during cross training.

This skater probably doesn’t collect data about what she’s doing cross training wise and she’s probably not following step 1 above either.

Why does this matter?

Because skaters with this mindset (and there are a bunch, myself included) tend to forget how hard they’ve been working in light of how they’re currently feeling.

If I feel like I’m not doing very well or working very hard, chances are good that I will “remember” that I haven’t been doing very well or working very hard.

Even if that’s not true.

There have been multiple times since I started collecting data for myself that I’ve gone back through it and been surprised by how much I was actually doing. Seeing my workouts written out actually helpes me eliminate some of the FEELINGS (!!) that came from acting on the data my body was giving me.

3. Find the middle ground.

I’m going to say it. Even if you don’t want to hear it.

It’s okay if your cross training doesn’t constantly have you dripping sweat and puking in the corner.

Sometimes you want that. Sometimes that’s desirable. But’s it okay to take a goddamn break once in while.

I spent the first couple of months of this season attending an insane number of practices and doing an intense amount (and style) of cross training. So much so that both of those things, alone, would have been a lot to handle. I monitored myself closely — using steps 1 & 2 — and by the end of the 2nd month, I was starting to hit a wall.

Did I get pissed off and feel like failure? Did I just keep going because I was trying to be the biggest derby badass?


Those are things I might have done a couple years ago, but not this time. I recognized that I had worn my body down pretty hard and it would need more than a few days to recover. So I found the middle ground.

The middle ground allows you to fulfill your need to cross train, but also respect your body’s need to rest.

You can exist outside of the middle ground. But it’s not sustainable and you’ll need to return there eventually.

This is mostly a reminder for balance. Train hard, rest hard in equal measure. Or train moderately, rest moderately and gain more consistency. (Probably.)

So that’s it, huh?

Yes. Mostly.

I, of course, wasn’t able to articulate this as I was talking to everyone which is probably why this made it to the blog.

There is a space where you can both cross train and build strength, but not become obsessed, exhausted, and over-trained.

Want more?

If you’re interested in more exclusive content, access to my FREE resource library, and the slightly weird workings of my inner mind, you can sign up for the Iron Octopus Fitness email list HERE. Wherein I harass you weekly with all things intelligent cross training, mindset, and…other.


About IronOctopusFitness

Online athletic training and nutrition coach, full-time mom, okay skater, and connoisseur of all things tea, chocolate, and roller derby. I'll help you unleash your inner athlete by building a strong, capable body that can withstand whatever life throws at you.

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