Weather Forecast


Listen to your body, not your ego

Listen to your body. This is common advice given by doctors, health advisors, coaches and trainers. It sounds simple -- your body has a voice -- listen to it. But that assumes a person has only one voice, the voice of the body.

There are more voices than one. I can relate a personal example. The recent hot weather on the 4th of July was a reminder. Years ago, on the 4th of July, I signed up for a five mile "Firecracker Road Race." My body told me I was in great shape and five miles would be like a walk in the park. My brother, Buck, and our friend, Dick, signed up for the same race and we all took off when the starter fired his pistol at 9:00 a.m. The sign on a bank at 8:30 had said it was 78°. We started in the shade so it didn't seem that warm.

My body didn't say it was hungry or thirsty that morning so I hadn't bothered to eat or drink anything -- no cereal, no banana, no juice, no water, nothing. No matter -- my body didn't utter one word of protest about not eating or drinking.

I immediately jumped ahead of Buck and Dick because another voice was speaking to me. It was the voice of my ego. My ego told me that if I really hustled, I could possibly get a trophy for the fastest time in my age category. That age category should have been labeled "old enough to know better," but it wasn't.

So I really hustled, but there were runners close behind me and my ego told me one or two of them were probably in my age category just waiting to pass me. Ego urged me to pour it on and my body didn't object.

There were several stations along the trail where water was available. All the runners had to do is slow down and grab a little paper cup and slug it down. By this time my body told me that a cup of cold water would hit the spot, but my ego spoke louder -- don't waste even a second or that whole herd behind you will pass you and you will never catch them. So, full speed, I grabbed a cup, took one sip then poured the rest over my head.

By mile four, with the last water stop behind me, my body was beginning to protest but my mind was getting fuzzy, so I wasn't listening. It seemed at that point that the temperature was about 95° in the shade, but there wasn't any shade. The humidity felt like it matched the temperature.

I'll shorten my story because for me the race was over at about 4.9 miles. What happened is that I had run out of fluids. I stopped sweating and my temperature shot up immediately -- heat exhaustion. My mind (the mind that should have been listening to my body) actually blacked out before my body stopped functioning. I was out on my feet. I staggered, fell once, got up and pushed on. I collapsed about 40 yards from the finish. Some Good Samaritans, including my brother, Buck, picked me up and threw me in the water to cool me off. At this time I was having some kind of dream or hallucination. La la land was speaking to me.

I was hauled to the emergency room. When I came to about an hour and a half later, they were taking my temperature (104.4° -- rectal temperature by the way is about 1° higher than oral), giving me oxygen through my nose and feeding me liquids, minerals and other goodies through a tube in my arm. Still groggy, I came to fear that I'd had a heart attack (I didn't) and began to feel the deep embarrassment of my profound stupidity. Since then, I listen to my body every day and only about once a week to my ego. I spent the night of the 4th of July in the hospital while my friends and family were enjoying a picnic and barbecue.

There are several morals to the story: Drink plenty of liquid before you go out to play on a hot day; anybody chasing trophies at my age has some growing up to do; be thankful if you have a brother named Buck who is his brother's keeper; medical people work hard, care and are kind on the 4th of July even to the stupid, including fish hook victims, firecracker victims, drunks and egomaniacs; a wife who greats her husband with a kiss when he deserves a bop on the head is a keeper; and, finally, listen to your body, not your ego.