No Pain, No Gain?
Debunking this Exercise Myth, Once and for All.
Push yourself, but to a limit.
Wait a second..What does this limit mean? We’ve heard the phrase: “No Pain, No Gain.” We also hear: “Less is More.” And now there’s a new-ish kid on the block: “No Pain, More Gain.” Perhaps this can be the happy middle we all can strive for, but where do we even begin? Let’s start off with the story of the Weekend Warrior.
If you Google it, you’ll notice that it made it into Webster’s Dictionary and an article in the Canadian Journal of Surgery1. This tells us that, well, it’s a thing. The Weekend Warrior is described as one who engages in demanding recreational sporting activities on weekends with minimal physical activity during the week. Sound familiar? We’ve all experienced it. We have a hard couple of weeks at work and look forward to that ski trip or backpacking trip in Yosemite. We’ve earned this adventure, but it can come at a price.
Weekend Warriors are at risk of major injuries. One study using the Alberta Trauma Registry compared the number of injuries between weekends and weekdays among adults over 16 years of age. They also looked at varying categories of recreational sports from gymnastics to dancing, parachuting, skateboarding, water boating, and even the use of the backyard trampoline. That means, you too. In sum, more injuries were reported as a result of physical activity on weekends than on weekdays.
We can argue that most people have the time on weekends to engage and therefore explains the higher number of occurrences. Although this might be true, the reality is if you are inactive the majority of the time, then you’ll more than likely incur an injury if you suddenly attempt a new and physically demanding activity.
As a physical therapist, I see various examples that range from an immediate traumatic injury like a fracture or a sprain to a cumulative trauma experienced as low back pain or patellar tendonitis aka jumper’s knee. We can even take a few steps back and use the example of that moving day or the time you went to Costco and transported a case of water. Opportunities to injure ourselves are rampant, so we have to define and redefine what our limits are since our limits change day to day.
In order to define our limits, we have to have frequent check-in with our body and assess our level of activity day by day. We experience frequent pendulum swings between consistent exercise and physical activity to days of couch potato land. As a mindfulness practice, try not to judge. Just notice, with loving kindness and proceed.
Needless to say, if you’re generally consistent with your level of exercise ad physical activity, then your chances of injury on the court or on the field will be lower.
Mind your Pain. It Has a Story.
Our bodies are intended to withstand great amounts of stress, but we can miss a message or two if we don’t pay attention. Unfortunately, no one is immune to injuries. This is where paying attention can determine what our limit is right here, right now. Pain is a signal that something might be occurring. If you’re starting a new activity, that’s the time to pay extra attention. If you’re a runner, pay attention to that old knee injury or a new sensation in your back. It might not be present during the run, but are you noticing a new sensation in your back at work? Or are you having more difficulty bending forward to tie your shoes? Did you take an extra pain killer this week? This is where the beginning of chronic pain cycles may occur. Don’t turn a deaf ear. Stop, look and listen.
A good rule of thumb is if you can continue to be pain-free in your day-to-day life then you’re on the right track. If you experience pain with a new physical activity, then stop and assess the where and why’s. Could it be that you’ve added more weight or repetitions? Or increased your run time or changed your terrain? If you’re a runner, how is your arch support? Are your shoes wearing down? If you’re lifting weights, how is your form? If you’re playing tennis, have you been strengthening your glutes or shoulder muscles appropriately?
There can be an easy answer to your discomfort if you just stop to pay attention. So instead of subscribing to the notion of “No pain, no gain,” strive for the m iddle ground and be mindful of what your body’s telling you. Because no pain means, well, no injuries.
Got Questions? We’ve got answers! Contact me for a free consultation.
Please comment, email, or share. Let’s start a discussion and live our best life :)
Roberts DJ, Ouellet JF, McBeth PB, Kirkpatrick AW, Dixon E, Ball CG. The "weekend warrior": fact or fiction for major trauma?. Can J Surg. 2014;57(3):E62-E68. doi:10.1503/cjs.030812