For nearly twenty years, my least favorite phrase from athletes (the first part of my career) and now clients, has been: “No one knows my body better than me.” This phrase is generally uttered, at least in my world, when discussing someone’s exercise program and specifically, how they are responding to the exercise program. And in the vast majority of cases, I’ve been tempted to blurt out, “No, I’m quite certain you don’t know your body better than anyone.” An anatomist, physiologist, or medical doctor possess training that positions them to know far more about our bodies than we do. Applied to exercise, a trained exercise physiologist knows how your body responds to exercise because, if they are good, they have read the hundreds of scientific papers examining a human’s response to every conceivable variable of an exercise program. This is why we seek expert counsel concerning our bodies.
Now, on the other hand, we do KNOW our bodies, and we absolutely should listen to pain, discomfort, and signals that we are or are not recovering from our exercise. From the above example, the anatomist, physiologist, medical doctor, or exercise physiologist can’t feel or experience what we are feeling or experiencing. So, in this sense, we DO know our bodies better than anyone. Here are a couple of practical tips for how we can use our own personal understanding of our bodies to get more out of our exercise.
- Listen to your body’s signs regarding your recovery to exercise. Are you improving on each exercise? Are you sore going into your next workout? Do you feel less mentally and physically prepared for a strength training workout (potentially due to lack of sleep, increased stress at work, or your 20-mile-long run you did Saturday morning). Collectively, an experienced trainee KNOWS their body and should be listening to the signs and signals that indicate recovery from exercise. Great results require a commitment to recovery which may involve manipulating sleep, daily protein, other forms of exercise, the number of strength training workouts during the week, or even the protocols used on each strength training exercise. Listen to your body and share with your trainer; this is an important part of the “art” of exercise science.
- If you have pain during an exercise, share this with your personal trainer (with as much detail as possible). The exercise is just a means to an end, not an end in itself. If you are experiencing musculoskeletal pain during an exercise, your trainer can help you adjust the range of motion, change the performance of the exercise, or perform a completely different exercise that targets the same muscles all while doing so in a pain free manner.