Probably the most quoted catchphrase in the fitness community is “No Pain, No Gain“, a one-liner most often yelled by trainers, engraved in motivation pics on Pinterest/Instagram and also written in metallic design for Men’s fitness magazines with pumped up dudes in the background. Another “Dark Knight” version of the same theme becoming popular is “Whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger“. Yeah, that may fit on Batman, but sadly none of us fits his profile.
Coming back to the topic, as long as these one-liners are only used as exaggerated rhetorics to motivate lazy people to push themselves, it is acceptable. However, many people and even trainers take it literally and that’s where the problems arise. So, the big question is how to identify the thin line between pushing yourself to perform better v/s real pain which can lead to chronic injuries.
A big disclaimer is that pain is something very subjective and if you are not sure of what it is, it is always safer to consult with a doctor. But here are some common pain types described for you:
Pathological/Physiological Pain: Common examples are stomach aches, kidney pain, etc. Obviously, this is not acceptable and you should see a doctor immediately.
Muscle Fatigue: This feels like a temporary burning sensation during those last few reps of exercise which goes away once you stop doing that exercise. This is due to lactic acid build-up in the cells and quite normal, especially if you’re doing high rep sets.
Muscle Soreness: Remember the first time you went to the gym and did leg exercises? Actually remember the day after that when you felt like a cripple while walking or climbing stairs and almost everyone laughed at your weird walking gait. That’s DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness). This is also highly acceptable, especially if you’re a beginner but never necessary. Strength athletes seldom get sore once they get accustomed to their training routine. Also, soreness doesn’t necessarily equal an effective workout too (a topic for a separate post).
Joint Pain/Musculoskeletal Inflammation: This will generally creep up in joints/tendons/ligaments. For the first few times, it may be temporary and will probably go away with rest but if you keep pushing your body, pain may persist even without movement in that body part and the injury can become chronic. Tendinosis, Tendinitis, Bursitis are some of the common medical terms used to describe musculoskeletal injuries around the joints depending upon what part is damaged/inflamed. Look out for these signals and always discuss these issues with your trainer (hopefully, an educated one) or a certified physiotherapist. Needless to say, “no pain, no gain” doesn’t apply here. You’ll make zero gains if you get injured.
To summarize everything, listening to your body’s different responses and performing accordingly is the key to safer workouts. Use the tips to differentiate and push yourself during the workouts but not at the cost of compromising form and injuries.
In Lucem Scientiam