Day 26: Mindful Movement

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This morning I went for a 14-mile walk, which was miles farther than I had intended when I left home. Carrying my MBTA pass with me, my plan was to walk from station to station in Newton and then take the green line home whenever I got tired. But the fatigue never came, so I ended up walking home instead.

This afternoon, I called my surgeon’s office just to make sure it is okay that I am walking that kind of distance at this point in my recovery. They told me that 14 miles has to be some sort of record for this soon after major back surgery, but as long as I am feeling good (which I am) then they see no problem with it.

Joanne and I talk about mindful eating with our patients, but the concept of mindfulness extends beyond just dietary habits. Adjusting mode, frequency, duration, and intensity of physical activity yields all sorts of permutations of movements, and our bodies are great at giving us feedback regarding which ones work for us. We just need to make sure we listen.

Approaching physical activity with a spirit of mindfulness means paying attention to and honoring the feedback that our bodies give us in response to our movement choices. Today, for example, I was fully prepared to end my walk as soon as my body told me it was time to stop, but instead I felt great so I honored that and kept going. Yesterday, in contrast, I was hoping to go for a long walk, but my left heel felt uncomfortable just a couple of blocks from home, so I turned around and called it a day. Although I was disappointed to go home early, better to nip whatever it was in the bud and let it heal immediately, rather than push it and risk a long-term injury.

Besides injuries, other consequences can arise from not being mindful with our movements. We risk increased stress, overtraining, undertraining, burnout, and simply not enjoying ourselves. Although I was never the type of personal trainer to push my clients past the point where their bodies were telling them to stop, holding myself to the same standard and listening to my own body’s feedback has been a challenge at times, and I have paid the price via overuse injuries and getting sick of activities I once enjoyed. Moving our bodies can, and should, be fun.

Given my personal challenges, I consider yesterday’s aborted walk a greater accomplishment than today’s 14-mile trek. By listening to my body and honoring its signals, even as it was telling me something I did not want to hear, I put myself in a position that made today’s walk possible.

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