For many years, the term “No Pain, No Gain” was the motto that gym-goers lived by. Some old school bodybuilders might still subscribe to this viewpoint, but we now know that training with pain could be a warning sign of bad things to come. If you listen closely enough, your body will tell you what’s happening with it. Ignoring it could spell trouble later.
Should you be Training with Pain?
Some Workouts do ‘Hurt so Good’
A little bit of soreness can tell you that you’ve challenged your muscles and used your body in a new way. Muscles grow when you create microscopic tears in the fibers; as they repair, you build incrementally. After a new workout, being sore can last for even a few days.
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Being Sore is Very Different from Pain
If you hurt immediately during a movement, that’s a pain, and it could indicate a tear, twist or sprain. Discomfort in your joints, such as your elbows, knees or wrists, is a dangerous pain. Spasms or the inability to complete everyday activities are pain warning signs.
Training with Pain will Impede your Fitness Gains
Continuing to push through workouts after you have experienced pain is self-defeating and even risky. Keep in mind how muscles grow—they have to repair those microscopic tears. You need to allow at least two to three days before training the same muscles again. That gives them time to heal and build, and it allows you to experience the bulk of the soreness that your workout might have caused before you inflict more injury.
Training with pain can deter you from getting to the gym—who wants to try to work out with a screaming back or searing neck aches? Training with pain can also set you up for injury: When one part hurts, you tend to overcompensate in other areas or compromise good form, increasing the chance that you’ll damage a ligament or tendon and be out of commission for weeks.
Training with Pain can also Interfere with Sleep
Sleep is vital to your health and fitness as it gives your body the rest it needs so that it can repair and revitalize itself. In the same way, pain can impair your concentration, work, parenting, driving and everything else you want to accomplish every day that much harder.
How to Ease Back Into Working Out Again
All this is not to say that you have to stay home and eat cookies on the sofa for days after a tough workout. No, you’re not getting off that easy. After just a week without training, you can lose up to 10 percent of your strength, according to American Fitness Professionals and Associates. Rather than training with pain, try some light cardio exercise, such as a moderate walk, a swim or some restorative yoga. The movement will help flush the lactic acid in your muscles that cause normal soreness. It will increase circulation, sending oxygen to those spots that hurt. Drink plenty of water to remove toxins and hydrate your system.
- Pay close attention to form. Seek the help of a trainer or instructor.
- Remember to engage your core—your balance and control originate there, and you’ll help to protect your back.
- Take the time for an active warm-up and cool down.
- Spend five minutes walking on the treadmill before and after to boost circulation and keep your joints mobile.
Training with pain can cause serious injury and sideline you for days, weeks or worse. Rather than speeding up progress to your goals, training with pain can put them on hold and erase the gains you’ve made. Listen to your body and care for it well. Nourish it, challenge it and allow it the rest necessary to repair so you can achieve even more the next time.