How many of us are familiar with the phrase “No Pain, No Gain”? Those 4 words have been around the fitness and sporting world for a long time and their meaning is self-explanatory: in order to make fitness or competitive gains, you need to feel pain. Right? Wrong. Or, it depends. In recent years, there has been more controversy and leniency with this phrase with many questioning its truth – and for good reason. The truth is that there is a difference between ‘good pain’ and ‘bad pain’ and we need to be able to distinguish the difference between the two in order to achieve our goals whether that it is to run a 5k race, complete an obstacle race, increase muscle strength or lose weight.
Make fitness gains by progressing your exercise plan slowly and above all else, listening to your body.
If you are new to an exercise program, it’s normal to feel some level of ‘pain’. By that I mean that your muscles and body is moving in new ways that you’ve never done before. If your only form of exercise was walking from the kitchen to the TV room, then of course riding a bike for 10 minutes or walking 2km is going to be a new challenge. Similarly, fitness regulars who typically frequent the gym or run outside a few times a week will also experience muscle soreness and increased fatigue if they increase the intensity or duration of their workouts. The key is to work within your capabilities but not be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone to challenge yourself. In order to do this, you must pace yourself. If you are starting interval training, keep intervals short and to a limited number of repetitions to see how you pull up after your workout. If you are still sore 24-48 hours later and it’s affecting your ability to function (i.e. walk or squat properly), chances are you may have done too much, too soon.
This type of pain should be avoided at all costs. It will not make you a better athlete or make fitness gains; rather, it will do just the opposite and set you backwards. Any type of joint pain (i.e. knee, hip, elbow, shoulder, ankle) is not good pain. Muscle soreness and aches are common after exercise; typically rest, ice, stretching and proper nutrition aid in repairing torn muscle fibers and you come back stronger. However, joint pain, as well as sharp, sudden pains and nerve-type pain that causes pins and needles or tingling sensations in parts of your body is not normal. Joint pain may be the result of overuse and/or incorrect technique and neural pain could indicate something serious such as a disc injury and/or pinched nerve. If you experience this type of pain, please see your Doctor and/or physical therapist for an assessment.
Rule of Thumb
Make fitness gains by progressing your exercise plan slowly and above all else, listening to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Back off of the exercise instead of pushing yourself to do something your body either isn’t ready or incapable of at this point. You run the risk of mild, moderate or serious injury, which will only further set you back on your fitness goals.