disease symptoms, exercise,

Listening to the Body

Listening to the Body

I am convinced that the human body contains its own intelligence apart from the conscious, or even the subconscious mind. It is demonstrated in many ways. For example, the body is able to talk. It has its own language, which we refer to as symptoms. I was taught, and after years of dealing with people facing health challenges firmly believe, that the most important information I can gather to determine what is wrong and how to correct it is what an individual tells me his or her body is saying.

Symptoms are the bodys warning lights, its smoke detector, and its burglar alarm. When they are viewed as such the cause of the distress signal can almost always be uncovered and corrected. When symptoms are treated as diseases and turned off, disease typically progresses unabated with serious consequences.

Pain, for example, is a symptom not a disease. It is the bodys way of saying that something is desperately wrong and needs to be corrected. Nevertheless, people routinely purchase over-the-counter pain blocking drugs or are given prescriptions for pain relievers without any effort being made to identify the reason for the pain or attempting to address it.

Aversions and cravings are one of the most intriguing aspects of the bodys innate intelligence. When the body first encounters something that is harmful, it usually responds in an adverse way. Nearly everyone who has ever inhaled cigarette smoke is able to recount that they coughed, became lightheaded, were nauseated, and perhaps even turned green while smoking their first cigarettes. I still remember the burning I experienced in my throat, nose, and esophagus the first time I tried to drink a Coke. If the bodys warning that the substance is noxious is ignored and the behavior is continued, the body will become tolerant of its use. Over time the body may begin to crave that which it first recognized as harmful.

Cravings often indicate that the body is lacking important nutrients. When this occurs the condition is called pica. Because iron is needed to manufacture hemoglobin for the baby that is developing in the womb, iron deficiency commonly develops during pregnancy. The body often responds with a craving. In years past women in the Deep South would crave clay; today the most common craving associated with iron deficiency is for ice. Carbohydrate craving is a sure sign that the body is deficient in B vitamins or minerals such as magnesium, chromium, or vanadium.

I have recently been challenged by my bodys response to exercise. While I know that regular physical activity is critical to maintaining good health, I have rarely enjoyed exercising. I could even say that I have traditionally had an aversion to exercise. There was a time when I broke through the aversion, became tolerant to, and then craved jogging, but I eventually broke the habit.

Why, I asked myself, did my body not crave intense physical activity in the same way it craved food? Why was my body resisting what was in its best interest? I felt that there must be a reason.

I may have discovered the secret at long last. A growing number of trainers are saying that the missing link in most exercise programs is rest. This is particularly true in strength training, the aspect of exercise that my body has most vigorously resisted.

When a muscle is worked to exhaustion the body immediately goes to work to repair any damage and to make the muscle stronger. The repair process takes time much more time than is generally recognized. Exercise physiologists are beginning to realize that it may take five days or even longer to fully recover from an intense workout. When an effort is made to perform intense weight training daily or every-other-day muscles do not have time to fully repair themselves before they are once again broken down. This limits progress, and the body responds with an aversion signal.

I have been pursuing a twice weekly schedule of weight training for the past month and for the first time in my life find myself craving the work. By the time 3 or 4 days have passed my body is pushing me to perform the exercises once more. It is, to me, a sign that my body knows that the work is what it needs to grow stronger when it also receives the rest it needs to fully meet the challenge. It is a surprising, but pleasant, reaction. I hope the craving continues.