I didn’t listen to my body last night. Although it was screaming for sleep, my body’s protestations were completely ignored as I stayed up way past midnight to watch my favorite basketball team, the Golden State Warriors, play the New Orleans Pelicans. (Only in sports can you have “warriors” battling “sea birds”!) This isn’t uncommon for me, of course, ignoring my body’s messages. For example, I’ll be out for a run and feel a bit of tightness in my left calf. The sensible thing would be to shut it down, right? Live to run another day. But do I do that? Of course not. I push on through – straining my calf and needing a week of rest afterwards. It’s a tricky balance, knowing when to stop and when to grit it out.
This is precisely the dilemma I’m facing as I navigate the brutal, 7-hour descent from Poon Hill to Tatopani on the Annapurna Circuit trail in western Nepal. We’re talking steep stone steps for hours and hours. Even as a spry 26-year-old, I’m fairly demolished by this hike. My back is wrenched. My knees are in agony. If there was ever a time to SHUT IT DOWN and take a break, this is that day. To make the choice even harder, Tatopani – at the bottom of the hill – is known for its lovely little natural hot spring. On the other hand, I’ve made some nice friends on the trail. If I stop in Tatopani for an extra day, my hiking buddies will continue on without me! Although I actually rather like trail running and hiking alone, it’s not necessarily the best strategy when “in the wilds” of the Himalayas, where you never know what’s going to happen. I mean, the bridges here have huge holes in them, “fixed” by covering the holes with rocks! You don’t want to twist an ankle while on the circuit in Nepal – who knows when the next hiker will come along?
So what do I do? In the end, I go for the hot spring! For a change, I listen to my body’s protestations and stay an extra day in Tatopani, and let me tell you, I have never had a better soak in my life! I must’ve sat in that hot pool for 8 hours that day, melting away the soreness and thinking, “You know, hiking in the Himalayas is a pretty Wow experience, but so is hot-springing in the Himalayas! I can catch up with my buddies tomorrow!
(As “successful,” goal-oriented people, we all tend to push through our discomfort from time to time, especially when we have a plan or an agenda. Although exercising one’s grit is important – especially when we’re young and in the process of exploring what we’re made of — as we get older, we really do need to listen to our bodies. Sometimes it’s not even our bones and muscles – it’s our mind that needs a break. This upcoming weekend, consider imposing a “sabbath” on yourself – a day to restore, recover and recuperate from the mental and physical grind. You’re not being a wimp folks – you’re just being smart!)