This past weekend, I had the opportunity to run in the Chicago marathon. For anyone who has run a marathon, you know it takes a lot of preparation, and for me the training began back in February. Up until a couple weeks out, my mentality was to diligently follow my training program, get enough sleep and have fun on race day. However, two weeks out, my mind jumped into competitor mode, and I began to think about the goal of breaking 4 hours. During the marathon, I felt great for the first 20 miles, thanks to my training, but we all know the real race is miles 20-26, and that’s where the mind took over and the body cried out for help. My race ultimately ended 800M shy of the finish line as my body gave up and fell into heat stroke. The medical volunteers were incredible (I’ll spare you the details), and fortunately I made a quick recovery. My ultimate lesson from this marathon is surrounding the importance of listening to one’s body as it is powerful and gets to have an equally loud, if not louder, voice than the mind to make it to any finish line.
Every day your brain processes about 70,000 thoughts. Of those thoughts, the most commonly reported that people notice are their to-do lists, insinuating that the main focus is on ‘doing’ and not ‘being’. “The mind is often telling us to override the signals of the body that tell us when it’s time to eat, rest, move, play, connect, and create,” says author Lynn Rossy. Whether it be mile 18 of a marathon or hour 6 of a workday, these signals are imperative for decision making.
We have engrained within us the mantra ‘work hard, play hard’. In order to be able to ‘play’, we must work to the greatest extent. From Harvard Business Review, “[Workers] valorize overwork in both work and nonwork settings as a means of striving for “balance,” pushing themselves in both realms. Others maintain a willingness to commit to overwork during the week, so long as they can use the weekend as an attempt to recuperate. Yet, by Monday, both groups become caught up once again in the same work grind. Over time, adhering to ideal worker norms can result in breakdowns of the body and mind.” Overworking ourselves is not something that only appears in the office.
Whether at work or not, it is important to be mindful of what our bodies are telling us and doing so will allow us to be the most productive. I am now turning my sights to activities that could help break up daily stressors, like taking the dog for a walk or re-instating a weekly yoga practice. I may even slow down and finally practice meditating for 5-10 minutes per day. No one wants burnout, or to finish with heat stroke, so take my advice and develop a relationship with your body so you can quickly listen for warning signs.