How to understand what your body is trying to tell you when it comes to exercise

So I’m just back from seeing a Physio about my knee which I injured last week. For the first time in my life I actually decided to rest it and get it looked at instead of pushing through and doing more damage. It’s sad to say that it only took me the guts of 8 years and a lot of trial and error to get to this stage!
To help anyone else out and save you a lot of time I thought I’d share some of my experience on what your body is trying to tell you when you get sick or injured.
Can finally go back to training my legs!
Doctor’s and Physio’s will almost always tell you to rest or scale back your training – which is exactly what to do but when you’re in a regime and enjoying training then it can be so hard!When I used to row I could be training up to twice a day everyday so the idea of taking a week off and missing 14 sessions was unimaginable in my mind – but looking back if I had just taken a week off when I first got injured it would have saved me taking another two weeks off when I inevitably made it worse!
The principles to avoiding injury are the same no matter if you’re an elite athlete or a normal gym goer – you need to allow yourself time to recover between sessions by getting enough sleep and making sure you’re eating a healthy diet full of nutrients, minerals and repair proteins. You also need to be able to understand your body and know what it is trying to tell you…
*Common complaints and what they might mean:*
1. Pain:
There are a few different types of pain, one being that sort of generally achy feeling after a tough session that is normal and just means you worked hard and usually goes after a day or two. Another is a sharp pain that happens when you are doing some sort of activity (like twisting an ankle or pulling a muscle) and this is definitely something you need to get checked out by a physio! There’s also pain that comes on gradually overtime and may not have an exact moment that causes it. It could be due to tight muscles or sometimes problems with your feet (which is what gives me a lot of trouble) and I find getting a sports massage or specialized insoles for your shoes can help. Also, make sure you stretch or foam roll after sessions, I go through phases of really sticking to this or doing none at all and notice that it’s when I slack that I get more injuries.
Foam rolling is a cheaper and faster alternative to sports massage you can do at home
2. Feeling under the weather:
Generally the advice that is given is that if your symptoms are above the neck such as a slight runny nose, dry cough or headache then exercise is OK. If it’s below the neck and you have a fever, chest congestion or stomach issues then it is not advised and you don’t want to infect other people. Overall exercise helps strengthen the immune system but some studies suggest that immediately after  intense exercise your immune function is slightly decreased so it’s best not to hang around a cold gym in sweaty gear especially when you’ve been working out on mats or sharing equipment as bacteria will spread from your hands to your face pretty fast.
3. Mentally feeling drained:
A) If you’re just having an off day and feeling a bit stressed out then exercise can actually be just the thing you need. It allows you to blow off some steam and in the process produces endorphins which automatically put you in a better mood. Keep in mind it’s always perfectly acceptable to skip the gym once in while and sit and binge on NetFlix! However if you’re constantly skipping workouts then ask yourself is it just because you’re feeling lazy or because you genuinely hate exercising. If it’s the latter then maybe it’s time to switch up your regime or find a new sport or class to join. Exercise is about getting you fitter both physically and mentally but if it’s making you sad and frustrated then you need
to re-evaluate. I went through a long phase of hating training, I actually had a calendar where I ticked off the days until the Championships were over and I could quit. Looking back on how miserable I was I realize I either should have spoken up about it or quit earlier as I ended up resenting sport for a while after. Taking time out and trying a new way to exercise was just what I needed and now I love it again.
Don’t be afraid to leave something that no longer makes you happy, life’s too short and there are so many other things out there to try!