At the beginning of each class I teach I invite my participants to Listen, Honour and Challenge themselves. I also remind them to meet themselves where they are today. It’s not just a catchy phrase or something I say light-heartedly. Body respect is essential if we want to “stick with it” and get the outcomes we seek.
True (and lasting) health and performance doesn’t benefit from pushing through at all costs. If we’re genuinely seeking health and performance outcomes – we need to tune into our body and lead with body respect.
Body Respect is not just a principle within the Intuitive Eating framework, it’s an intention that truly encompasses how I view the pursuit of health and fitness as a whole. Because health is about more than checking boxes and “getting it done.” It’s about recognizing that some days when we listen in, our body is ready for it, and sometimes it’s not. If we can listen and honour our bodies where they’re at, both are decisions reflective of health and a healthy relationship with our body.
When we lead with this intention it gives us permission to offer ourselves grace and space to meet our bodies from a place of honour and respect.
How this translates:
- Some days that will result in a gritty, challenging sweat sesh.
- Other days that will result in easing off and giving 50%.
- And occasionally that will result in taking a rest day, because that’s what your body needs.
All three are healthy.
I know what you’re thinking…
But what about my plan?
This exact question came up recently in a client conversation. They asked about about the struggle to follow “structured” programs (the kind that are commonplace in the Fitness Industry) and the struggle to balance that with real life “hiccups.” How often times (pre-Super You and our body kind approach) she’d push through – no matter what (even if sick or injured)! An “at all costs” approach that would often lead her to having crappy experiences with her workouts and often times to chronic injury.
The struggle she was speaking to is all too real, and relatable.
Consider this scenario:
What happens if you’re following a 12-week, 30-day or this new “75 hard“* plan and you get hit by a cold or flu? Do you push through? What if real life means you were up 1/2 the night with a kid or sleepless with stress? Do you still get up at 5am to exercise? Are we respecting our bodies when we take the push through at all costs approach? Is this healthy?
*Side bar: I’m deeply bothered by this new “75 hard” trend. And the number of people I see adopting it. I’ve had a few people ask me about it, and I thought about writing a blog, but I don’t want to give it any more “air time” than it’s already getting. What I will say is this: it’s basically the epitome of Diet Culture at its worst. For 75 days you follow 5 rules – follow a diet to the letter, drink a gallon of water each day, exercise 2x per day for 45-min (no rest days), read 10 pages of non-fiction per day, and take daily “progress” photos. If you screw up (even a little) you go back to day 1 and must repeat until you complete all 75-days without fault. It was designed by a “coach” to help promote mental toughness, but I genuinely believe it’s a recipe for a disordered relationship with food and fitness and highly dangerous. To say nothing of the potential stress, burnout, injury and imbalance it could cause. PLEASE I beg of you – if you’re going to follow a “plan,” don’t follow this one. #rantover
Back to the topic at hand…when we take a push through at all costs approach, is this healthy?
No, I don’t think it is, here’s why.
For me this comes back to the way Diet Culture steals autonomy and takes us away from body attunement (the ability to listen to our bodies needs and honour them). This is why I lead with Listen and Honour (before Challenge).
Sure, challenging yourself is important (both mentally and physically) if we want to affect change. It’s how we develop our self-efficacy and encourage the body to adapt and get stronger (yay!). But if we push to affect change at the cost of our overall health and well-being, aren’t we kind of missing the point?
If you’re sick, injured or under-slept, your health priority needs to be getting well, healing and resting. Not finding your grit and determination. Grit and determination are great. But when you’re sick or injured, they need to wait, because your body’s basic needs must be attended to before performance outcomes.
Rest is not for the wicked, it’s for the wise.
So what’s the alternative?
How can we integrate a body kind/ body respect approach and still, “get after it?”
I think this comes down to a reframe.
If your ultimate goal is health + well-being, when you are sick, injured or under-slept, what is more important? Completing a workout or offering your body the rest and recovery it needs?
Take a step back and harness perspective. You’ll likely see that what’s most important is to rest and recover. Pushing through isn’t healthy – it’s harmful. It’s likely backsliding the “results” you’re looking for (namely the pursuit of “health” or possibly a more specific fitness outcome). More than likely, if you grit through in this scenario you’ll delay healing or extend the duration of your illness! If you simply rest, you’re actually far more likely to be able to get back to your gritty focus sooner!
(Hey runners, I’m looking at you here! Your training plan will not be side-lined by one week off to rest and recover. For reals. What will side-line that training plan? Weeks or months off when that “niggling” injury turns into something major.)
Often times the rigidity of our our fitness plans do a great job of the “challenge” piece. But rigid plans tend to completely disregard listening and honouring. The “trick” to a balanced, kind, respectful approach to health and fitness is to recognize that sometimes honouring means giving your body the space and grace it needs to perform its best, tomorrow.
The bottom line…
If you love a “program,” I get it. I love structure too. And, don’t forget what the true priority is: the health + performance of your awesome body. Regardless of how you define your optimal health and performance, remember this. Pushing through when your body says no, is not only not showing your body respect, it’s not productive!
Listen, honour and challenge your awesome body (with heavy emphasis on listen and honour)!
Looking for some support to listen, honour and challenge your (awesome) body? Great! I’d love to connect for one-to-one coaching. Love a group environment? Cool! Consider joining our super rad community of body respecting women in the Super You Studio!