Have you noticed the happiness that lights up the face of a small child? Have you heard the pure joy in the chuckle of a baby?
You can be certain when an infant or small child is happy, every single thing is perfect for that small being at that moment. They are not smiling in spite of having a headache/cold/tummyache. They will let you know in no uncertain terms if there is a problem! And that makes it all the more perfect when you see the unbridled joy.
We can learn much from this attitude. I’m not suggesting we start whining whenever we have a cold, although I suppose we all know adults who do!
I have never met a small child who will “power through” a grazed knee. If they sprain an ankle, they take the weight off it naturally. Even animals listen to their bodies. A bird with a broken wing is not going to give flying the old college try! My dog goes into a stretch (downward dog, literally) every time he sees me get the leash out!
At a certain point, usually by the time children get to school, they learn to multi-task with their concerns. They learn that they can still be worried about homework or a friendship or math test and yet still go out and have fun on the playground. The joy is not the same undiluted joy as the small child who is still able to live totally in the moment. That’s how we roll as adults too. That’s life and there’s only so much we can do to cope with that.
Just like the small child who will listen to his/her body and refuse to put weight on a sprained ankle, we should at least learn not to power through injury.
A Personal Experience
As someone who came to running comparatively late in life, I know from personal experience the cost of not listening to your body. I over-trained before my first half-marathon. I ignored an ache in my hip in the days leading up to the event, even though I cut back slightly on the miles. When race day came around I gave myself a “trial” jog around the parking lot first to “see if I was OK”. Let’s be clear, I was fooling myself. I had no intention of pulling out. I had been looking forward to this for weeks! After a few steps I convinced myself it was much better and went ahead with the race. After the first mile I allowed myself to believe all was well. Yay me! But by mile ten I was seriously hurting. Still I kept going, knowing that if I stopped, I wouldn’t be able to restart. I made it to the race finish.
I actually won in my age category. I know this only because my son told me they had announced my name. I had limped back to the car that was parked a small distance away to change. I couldn’t make it back to my family.
An MRI showed a stress fracture in my hip. I was on crutches for close to six months with no running...or much of anything else. Oh, the vanity and stupidity that had kept me going!
Listen To Your Body
That is an extreme example and one of which I am not proud, but I have learnt from it. Listen to those aches and pains! Your body needs rest just as much as exercise and at times, more than exercise.
I am happy to report I made a full recovery and, now wiser, have run many more half-marathons. But each time I go for a run, no matter the distance, I consciously listen to all the parts of my body and then give thanks that I get to be out on the trails on that particular day doing what I love.
And that is pretty close to the joy in a child who is running and laughing with everything perfect in his world at that moment in space.