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  • Writer's pictureJulius "Ju" Hearn

Pushing Yourself vs Listening To Yourself

I’ve been so busy the past few weeks I haven’t had a chance to sit down long enough to write my next blog post. Yet I’ve received inspiration from a few people that have reached out asking about my next article. So before I get into the topic I would like to say thank you to those that value my opinion and respect my craft. It means a lot to me. Because of that, I knew I had to make time to get this done. This article, like most of the ones I write, relates to everyone: kids, everyday athletes, elite athletes, professional athletes, senior citizens etc. Health is universal. No matter your age or physical capacity. I remember growing up and always hearing the question, “are you injured or are you hurt?” It’s a good question really, because there’s a fine line between the two. Growing up on the west side of Chicago, I was taught never to show weakness. That same mindset remained with me throughout my athletic career as I prided myself on toughness. At the time I didn’t understand the difference between playing through every day aches and pains like sprained ankles, jammed fingers, muscle contusions etc., versus playing on an injury that could possibly become worse. Injuries like muscle strains, concussions, and broken bones. I’ve experienced and played through almost everything from a torn meniscus (knee), torn tear duct (eye), broken fifth metacarpal (hand) and other injuries. I personally always felt that sitting out of a game meant letting my coaches and teammates down. I’ll be honest though and say that if I could do it all over, I would do it differently. A big reason why I entered into the health and fitness industry was to better understand the body and how to prevent injuries. So the topic that I want to address is pretty important to me and may hit home for a lot of people like it does for me: “PUSHING YOURSELF VS. LISTENING TO YOURSELF.” It’s something that we’ve all struggled with in one way, shape or form. If you’ve ever worked out with me one of the first things I always ask is, “how are you feeling today?” or “how does the body feel today?” Such simple questions that dictate a lot. The truth is the average individual doesn’t even realize they have aches or pain until it prevents them from doing a daily task. What people don’t realize is how this translates into your overall health over time. That same minor ache or pain will eventually cause over compensation somewhere else in the body which then eventually turns into an injury. I’ll give you an example. Studies from Johns Hopkins show that by the “age of 30 the rotator cuff begins to change and weaken.” The rotator cuff consists of four muscles in the shoulder (infraspinatus, supraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis) that allows it to perform its functions and movements. Studies also show that by “the age of 60 years old, there is a good chance there are some partial tears or complete tears of the rotator cuff.” But there are ways to help support/prevent this particular injury from escalating: (1) stretching (2) range of motion (3) strengthening muscle groups such as rear deltoids, latissimus dorsi, and rhomboids. Pushing through a rotator cuff injury is not a wise decision because it leads to deeper tears of muscles which in turn lead to further injury or even surgery. That’s just one example of how one ache or pain or minor injury to one area of the body can turn into a major injury and setback in your health journey. And just like it’s been engrained in me since I was a child to “tough it out,” I’m sure there’s something’s that’s engrained in you too to make you want to push past your limits. Here’s a fact though: no one knows your body like you do. So when it comes to pushing through or listening to your body, ultimately you know best. You have to be honest with yourself. Here’s something to remember: pain and inflammation is a sign from your body that something is not right. Yet, most of us have gotten so good at ignoring pain or try to “push through it,” so it can be a very complicated call to make. Trust me, I know. Most people, like myself, find it hard to live with the QUITTING mentality, especially when it comes to athletics. Maybe even a fear of quitting or failing yourself and others in some way. But there are some factors that definitely need to be taken into consideration. Remember when I said health is universal no matter your age? And remember those stats from Johns Hopkins? Well depending on your age, those worse case scenarios that are often played out in our heads when we’re contemplating throwing in the towel or pushing through – that worse case scenario always stands the chance to be more debilitating the older we get. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but the fact is that as we age, it takes longer for the body to heal or bounce back. Now, that’s not always the case depending on each person’s physical fitness capability, but speaking in general, that’s typically the case. I personally hate not being active when I’m out with an injury and I find myself being affected both physically and mentally. So I get how hard it can be to listen to your body even if you don’t want to agree with what it’s telling you. But, I would much rather prefer to take 48-72 hours to heal versus having to be out weeks, or months, or having to undergo surgery because I didn’t listen to my body. So when it comes to working out and pushing through vs listening to your body here’s my suggestion: if you’re in a championship game, playing or performing for a paycheck and are on your last leg, your adrenaline will typically kick in and block out the pain, so go for it. (Professional athletes are a whole other ball game though, so this is not advice meant for the average person). If you are doing something recreational, listen to your body and live to fight another day. Don’t let something as simple as a tired muscle or an ache or pain sideline you for longer than it should. After all, you only get one body, so be good to it. Dr. Julius “Ju” Hearn

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