No Pain, No Gain- An Outdated Fitness Concept

No Pain, No Gain

I remember being in high school sports and repeatedly hearing people laugh and say, “No pain, no gain” as we pushed ourselves to make gains in the weight room or in the pool. We worked out to exhaustion, more focused on completing the workout or the set in the weight room than on form or perfection. Coaches said things like, “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” We got strong, sure. We gained speed. We thought we were so cool as we showed off our bruises and iced down our shoulders.

The reality, though, is that we were injuring ourselves. We were building poorly coordinated neural pathways. We were altering our biomechanics and causing overuse injuries.

 

Now that I am years out of that scenario, I often work with athletes, like myself, who are driven to excel and want to improve in their sport. One of the biggest discussions we have is surrounding this concept of “No pain. No gain.”

A workout should build you up, not break you down.

It is important to work out in a way that pushes your capacity, but does not allow for the break down of your mechanics. For example, when I assign rehab exercises in my practice, we always discuss:

  • The goals of the exercise
  • What you should feel when you perform the exercise
  • What are the “fails” of the exercise (ie: what things let you know that you have completed as many exercises as your body can handle)

It all comes down to the neural edge. This is the limit to which the brain can control the exercise and where we can actively create new pathways. Here is where we can safely make gains in our training.

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Beyond rehab, think of it like this… If you are on a run and you have decided that you will run 6 miles today. However, at 4 miles you notice that your left foot is hurting in the arch with some knee pain as well. Do you decide to continue running? -OR-  Do you listen to your body and stop your run at 4 miles? Should you continue to run, you are risking causing damage in your body that may keep you from running later in the week or season. It is important to evaluate (or to be evaluated by a professional) why the pain is present? Are your supporting or stabilizing muscles doing their jobs? Are you wearing appropriate shoes for your feet and the surface you are running on? Do you have proper nutrition?

Running through pain or working out through pain can be extremely detrimental to training, overall. It can result in overuse injuries and in neural patterning that lends itself to future injuries. Instead, it is imperative to train intelligently. Work smart. Get evaluated to be sure that you are making safe gains and discuss your training with a coach and functional movement specialist.

Let’s forget No Pain, No Gain

Let’s shift our focus in training. Let’s teach our athletes, young and old, to listen to their bodies and find their edge.  Let’s lead by example and learn to work out smart- and hard.

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***This blog is intended to provide educational content and is not for diagnostic purposes nor to provide health care advice. Please speak with your health care professional prior to changing your workout routine.***

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