I’m continually amazed by the number of people I see training when “it hurts”. The old adage “no pain, no gain” is definitely alive and well. Frankly, I’m amazed I don’t see more people walking around in slings and on crutches, but I guess that’s just a testament to the resilience of the human body.
Once they put on their workout clothes, people seem to forget that pain is the body’s way of telling us that something is wrong, and if we keep going, it’s going to get worse. This pain might be a sharp stabbing feeling or a dull, achy or burning feeling. It might be gone in a second or it might stick around all day. Regardless of the type, there is certainly a large portion of the training population that is willing to push through it. Of course, this is not helped by all the “motivational” quotes out there like “Pain is weakness leaving the body”. If that’s the case, maybe I should just go stick my hand on a hot stove. It would certainly be a lot less effort than the workout I had planned for today.
Yes, sometimes exercise is hard work, and sometimes it’s unpleasant. That lactic burn you get when sprinting is certainly not pleasant. Fatigue causes aches and stiffness, and it can be hard to complete a rep when all the muscles are screaming with effort and you’re tired and it’s heavy… but once it’s done, it’s done. There’s no lasting pain or damage (maybe you’re a little out of breath). When I’m finished working that hard, I’m usually pretty pleased, if for no other reason than I didn’t drop the bar on myself.
And sometimes exercise is unpleasant for all the wrong reasons. A few years back I had a biceps tendon impingement in my right shoulder. I started getting a sharp, stabbing pain when shoulder pressing. I dropped the load a little, which helped, and finished my sets. When I came back to pressing a few days later, the pain was immediate and worse. So I dropped the volume. Lifting my arm hurt for the rest of the day… and the three days after, until I finally went to the physio. It was a relatively minor fix – a release through the pecs and some stretching, plus instructions to lay off the overhead work for a while. This is nowhere near the world’s worst story, but even sometime as relatively small as that leaves me wondering how people get through months and years of workout with that sort of pain. It’s like deliberately closing your hand in the car door.
The great Mike Boyle asked simply “Does it hurt?” It’s a question that I’ve adopted both in my own training and that of my clients. If it does, get it fixed. Another old adage might be appropriate here: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.