“No pain, no gain” is a phrase I hear in the gym regularly, and it’s one that I don’t condone. When it comes to your body, pain is usually a sign that you are doing something wrong.
To clarify your typical workout will create muscle soreness, but this should be more of a mild discomfort instead of a pain. Exercise, and more specifically strength training creates a stress on the muscles, which in theory causes microscopic tears in the muscles. These tears then heal, creating a stronger muscle. The tears are what you feel as soreness or stiffness after a workout. This soreness usually reaches its apex on the third day, for example, if you did leg day on Monday, Wednesday should be your sorest day. This soreness is attributed to DOMS, or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. DOMS is your bodies natural response to your strength workouts, and is considered acceptable “pain”.
Many people do not understand that you can’t always work through the pain. Your body needs a chance to rest and heal. Say you have a hip that is in chronic pain, and say you are a avid walker, and overall you are on your feet all day. Your hip joint is not getting a chance to rest, so when you add the stress of a workout onto the hip hoping it will cure the problem, you may actually be making the problem worse. This is where we as trainers encourage you to cross-train, so if you are an avid walker, your trainer may place you not on a treadmill, but instead on a bike or elliptical. This allows you to minimize or completely eliminate any impact to your hip joint, which in turn gives a bit of rest from your regular repetitive movements.
That said, your body doesn’t achieve true rest until you actually REST. Take a load off, put your feet up, and most importantly sleep. Have you ever heard the saying “Muscles are worked in the gym, but built while you sleep?” As I mentioned, your body can not be expected to focus on healing when you haven’t ceased the assault. Sleep allows your body to rest, and focus mainly on repairing. No different then when you are sick and find you need more sleep. Sleep is your bodies way of making you slow down, so it can heal you.
Over-training and Overuse injuries are great spokespersons for rest. Over-training is defined as constant intense training that does not provide adequate time for recovery. Overuse injuries are defined as any type of muscle or joint injury that is caused by repetitive trauma. This isn’t something that only occurs in high level athletes or body builders. Repetitive trauma can be something as simple as tendinitis in the elbow “tennis elbow”, which can occur due to a desk jockey doing bicep curls every night at the gym. This person already has a tight, over used muscle that they are then forcing to stretch and contract continually.
As personal trainers we deal with a lot of clients who are rehabbing an old injury, or they deal with chronic (long term) pain issues. Many of them have the “no pain, no gain” mentality, and it’s our job as trainers to educate them as to what is considered too much pain. If any particular exercise increases pain in an already painful area of your body, then that exercise needs to be removed from your routine. There is something to be said for technique here as it could just be that an adjustment needs to be made to how you are executing the exercise. Even still, if it causes you increased pain then you need to cease the exercise until you can have a professional assess your movements.
Pain is that big red octagon that is yelling STOP! Pain is a sign you are doing something wrong. Whether you get a stiff neck from looking down at your phone or you inflame a chronic injury. If you are experiencing pain it is your duty to your body to take note and make a change. Yes that change may mean you’re not going to get the house cleaned today, or that you have to skip your workout, but you only have one body, you need to listen to it and respect that it can only do so much at one time.
-Candace and Cortney
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