‘Make sure you listen to your body’ is something I always tell my clients before, during and after expeditions. Aches and pains and bodily changes such as in stool consistency can all show something is wrong.

In my book ‘Mind of a Survivor’ I discuss why I believe explorers, adventurers and extreme athletes rarely discuss their emotions or how they deal with things like fear and anxiety in any great depth. I believe this is to do with dissociating themselves from distraction. These potentially overwhelming emotions threaten to engulf them if a coping mechanism is not learnt and when you are kayaking off a 100ft waterfall or base jumping from a Norwegian fjord wall there is little to no margin for error and if emotions would be allowed to cloud judgement or bring on tunnel vision which fear causes, the athletes very life would be in danger.

The same can be said for the body. I prided myself when I was younger and I was rock climbing 6 days a week that I was in tune with my body. When I was on the rock I felt every move. Every minute muscle flexion that held me in place or allowed me to grip I listened to and felt. I felt in control and strong and it was a beautiful feeling as I moved up the rock face.

I actually had a wake up call recently that this is the state that someone who relies on their body should be in. And when did I leave that zone? As I have got older and realise I am not immortal and that the consequences of injury in terms of the work I do has increased, rather than embracing prevention techniques, like stretching which I find mind numbingly boring ( I know this is not an excuse), I have just stopped listening to the niggling aches and pains. Just as I am able to separate out the emotions and ignore them so to am I able to do this with pain. I do not want to acknowledge it so I just shut it out. Pain is part of being an athlete or working day in day out with your body. I do not have the luxury of off seasons (nor would I be able to adhere to them anyway) and quite frequently I will be jumping environments, timezones and working 18 hour physical days hauling rope bags and running through gnarly terrain protecting film crew. I cannot afford for my body to let me down and therefore I stopped listening to it.

So much so as on a job in the USA last year I ended up getting sent to hospital because I was nauseas and dizzy, a very rare condition for me. They diagnosed me with pain. My body was in a lot of pain as after a fall a few months earlier I had twisted my pelvis and my Sacroiliac joint was stuck against it. I had put the pain aside and refused to acknowledge it.

I have been seeing a brilliant physiotherapist when I have been back between jobs the past 6 months and I am finally getting break through. The reason I actually started seeing improvement was not due to physical reasons but because I am slowly bringing down the walls that I put up to stop me feeling pain and am reconnecting my mind with my body. I am re training my mind to feel every movement my body is making and to feel the difference between one side and the other, to feel where my movements are hindered and which parts are working harder to compensate. It is not easy and it would be so much simpler to put the walls back in place and just ignore the signals but I know that this will cause many more issues down the line if I don’t listen now and correct or manage what is wrong.

I put myself into stretched positions and rather than staying static I move my body around slightly in each stretch feeling where bits are pulling that they aren’t in the other side, where feels tender. I’ve also started doing 5 minute warmup and cool down walks before and after a run, during which I focus on the tight areas, for me this is around my hips and feel the impingement on my left side and relax into it rather than holding everything tight on that side. My body is feeling more balanced again and although I have work to do I feel so much better for taking the time to listen.

I’d totally recommend to anyone to see a Physio as soon as you have any niggling issues and correct it as early as possible and don’t ignore those niggles. Don’t put off getting them checked out, caught early it can be fixed much quicker.

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