Listen To Your Body – It’s Telling You To Rest

My little experiment that reaped great rewards

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Copyright Dennis Mitton

Your body will tell you when it’s time. Will you listen?

Maybe you’ve noticed something now that you’re forty or sixty or eighty: your body takes a little longer to do what it used to do easily and effortlessly. Use this information wisely. Be nice to yourself. Take care of small scratches and cuts as they can take longer to heal. Be patient with others as they are moving a little slower too.

This is essential advice if you actively exercise. Back in the good ol’ days that we all talk about, I could step on the scale on Friday morning, frown, run ten miles on Saturday and another five on Sunday, and smile at the scale on Monday morning. Not now. Losing weight takes a concentrated Herculean effort now that I’m pushing sixty. And that many miles will tire me out for a week.

runI learned to give my body time to rest last summer in sunny, blistering, buggy, and drippingly humid, South Carolina. It’s glorious in April but by the end of May I will wake up to 85 degrees and the temperature will top at around 100. Running on paved roads adds another five degrees. I tried waiting until we had a brief shower but that drives the humidity up to where one can hardly catch a breath. Natives complain less than I do but for this coffee-infused Son of Seattle it’s a tough slog.

So I quit running. I took August off and enjoyed the air conditioning and concentrated on stretching and yoga. I ran a three-mile loop one night a week when the temperature mercifully dropped to below 85 degrees. September here is as hot as August so I started back up in mid-September to get ready for a race in early October. I wasn’t sure what to expect and was truly shocked when I turned in my best times for both a 5k and 10k run. I felt smooth and comfortable the entire race. At first, I thought it was my new Lycra tights. They admittedly look pretty sweet but I don’t think they contributed to my times. I wondered if it was the cooler temps and I’m sure that helped. What I’m most convinced of is that the time off helped. Stretching and resting gave my legs time to repair from long runs in the late spring and it took a few weeks of rest to begin feeling the benefits.

We act like this is the goal…
When, really, this is the goal. Whole, healthy and hale.







Every fitness book and trainer talks about rest. It’s when our bodies repair and recharge but few of us really believe it. We’re athletes! We push through pain! We force our body to submit to our iron will! Well, maybe not. So I’ve incorporated indolence and sloth into my weekly regimen and I feel so much better for it. When my legs feel like lead on Tuesday, I listen to them and take off until Saturday. I stretch. I get a couple hours of extra sleep. I loll about and read.  Maybe even spend some quality time with the family! And I feel better for it.

So go work out. Work hard. Breathe hard. Pump your muscles. Feel your body work. And when you’ve worked enough – you’ll know when that is – take a rest. Maybe for a day. Maybe for a week. Or for six weeks like I did. It’s not the end of the world and will almost certainly make your world a little better. And isn’t that exactly what living the good life is all about?

Similar posts:

Take Care of Small Things
Running in the Heat


Fitness at 50. Stretch it out with yoga.

Copyright 2015, Dennis Mitton
Laugh with me not at me.
Laugh with me not at me.

For some time now I’ve been posting book reviews on Thursdays, but alas! I am just too damned busy. I hardly have time to read these days though I’m swiping my finger through another great JC Oates tome (Black Girl White Girl).  I will continue to write and post reviews – it’s one of my true writing loves – but will do so on a more selective basis.

What I plan to do is to focus on fitness for at least one day a week. I love evolution and biology but I also like the thought of living long enough to see my children win the Nobel Prize for Medicine. Or at least get out of high school.  Health has been an interest of mine for a long time and is one of the topics I’ve published on in the academic press. I’ve been working on a writing project about health and fitness and will post from that project on Thursdays for a while.  Posts will be geared toward a kind of holistic and life-long approach. I am a decided contrarian toward the lose-fourteen-pounds-by-Friday routines and lean wholly toward a lifestyle that includes real food, steady exercise, stress reduction, and enjoying relationships. I’m not as good at it as I want to be. I have still never met a hot dog or cookie or piece of pie that I haven’t fallen in love with but I keep at it. Progress comes in small steps but they all add up.

So I begin with yoga. Yes. You too Mr.

Do This.
Do This
Ignore This
Ignore This

How to start?

Start anywhere. Wear comfortable clothes. Decide to stretch for two weeks until you can comfortably touch your toes. Get a DVD or use You Tube. I like Rodney Yee DVDs though there are hundreds to choose from. On You Tube I like the DOYOUYOGA series. And remember that there is no end point to yoga. You never arrive. Yoga is only a journey.  Try to stay away from books and magazines touting the upside-down-monkey-on-a-trapeez pose. The few people who do those are not normal. They do not have normal jobs. They do not come home and do homework with the kids after making dinner. They do not try like hell to carve out ten minutes of peace with a DVD to do some yoga. Later – if you want to – you can try to do some of those. But when you are starting out just practice breathing and stretching. And if you can’t do yoga then just sit for five or ten minutes. Just sit. It’s amazing what it can do for you.

There are all kinds of benefits to yoga but I’ll relate one that I don’t often heat about. Lymph. That squishy fluid that courses in and around your organs and cells and bones without tubes or capillaries that is essential for good health. It has no valved tubes and collects in nodes and carries immune cells and washes out waste. But with no pump like blood has. It relies on body movement to squeeze around.

A hundred years ago no one needed to count steps or go to the gym to make sure they were getting the exercise they needed. Cutting a day’s worth of firewood was all the workout they needed. Dragging a carpet outside and stretching it over a clothes line would probably get a good sweat going. Not so today. We need to invent ways to move and yoga is an excellent one that both stretches and strengthens. And moves that lymph around. You will be healthy and hale and better able to correct you footing when you step on a concrete edge.

There is a kind of magic to yoga and I am no believer in any kind of magic.  You know when people say that they aren’t religious – they are spiritual? Well I’m not even spiritual. But there is a kind of magic here. When I do a consistent twenty or so minutes each night I begin to feel a little lighter. I start to feel a bit of air beneath my feet when I walk. I notice that I can stand up at work, (I sit in a cube for ten hours a day) , stretch my arms up, feel a rippling up my spine like a zipper, and feel one hundred percent better. All good stuff.

You might find people with lingering thoughts of sweaty hippies chanting mantras while stretching. Just recently I talked with a young woman who has been burping for a year. Right. A year. Being the Nosey Parker that I am I asked if she had been to the doctor?  “Oh god! They’ve done every test there is!” she said. “Nothing works.” “Have you seen a nutritionist? Or maybe tried some yoga or meditation?” I kept my voice down in case the bearded bear of a man behind me might hear and punch me. No need to be quiet. The girl looked straight at me and laughed out loud. Laughed a kind of ‘Well bless you’re heart” kind of laugh, loud and obnoxious, which is Southern code for “You are one stupid Yankee shit aren’t you?”

I guess these sweaty hippies weren't all that bad.
I guess these sweaty hippies weren’t all that bad.

Oh well. It’s not for everyone. But I am increasingly coming ’round to thinking that any fitness program should include a full stretching or yoga component as we age. It improves flexibility, improves strength, and improves immune response. Maybe those sweaty hippies were right all along?

Yoga and Stretching for Health

Yoga – start small on grow…

I’ve written recently about viral infections and how to avoid them. While on the topic let me step outside the peer reviewed medical box and offer some not often heard advice: yoga and stretching. Why? I’ll explain.

You’ve heard of lymph nodes and lymphoma but most people don’t really know what the lymph system is or how it works. While blood is carried throughout the body via tubes – blood vessels – much of the lymph system is free floating. There are lymph vessels that are not valved and lymph nodes where lymph is collected. Lymph itself is made up of different components including transmitters, proteins, and, important for our purpose, immune cells. It is also essential for removing waste products from cells and organs.

The key difference between the circulatory and lymph systems is that the lymph has no pump like the heart. It relies on body movement to circulate. Thus yoga and stretching. Most of us simply do not move as much as we should. Who, a hundred years ago, needed a watch to count steps or miles? But we sit at desks, put food in micros, and shove clothes in the dryer. So we need to push this stuff around otherwise it can’t work as powerfully as it can. There are two main benefits: one is that the lymph system collects waste to help shuffle it out of the body. It also distributes immune cells through the body to maintain a firm defense against infectious agents. It’s under-rated how important moving is for us and yoga or stretching can be one of the best forms of self treatment when under the weather. Oh, and you guys? Think yoga and stretching is for the weak and, well, more feminine among us? Pick up Tony Horton’s P90 yoga CD. If you make it though ten minutes you’re in better condition that most. And don’t worry – it’s only ninety minutes long so you only have eighty to go!

You can start anywhere and, like all exercise, the smallest effort is helpful. Small efforts combine and lead to larger efforts. There are thousands of web pages devoted to yoga and stretching. Search them out and try it. Stick with it for a while and begin to feel the benefits. You just might find that you like it. I guarantee it will like you back.