No Pain No Gain?
Soreness… stiffness… a tweak…a twinge here or there…
All of these things are part of the deal when you work out regularly. For the most part, exercise enthusiasts have learned to just accept them and move on.
You push through the end of your 7 mile run even though your lungs are burning and your feet feel like dead weights strapped to your ankles. You go back for another lifting session even though the muscles in your arms are still tender from your session two days before. You tell yourself that you need to be tough because “pain is just weakness leaving the body.”
But sometimes, this isn’t the case. Sometimes that tweak or pull is actually a sign of a deeper problem or injury that needs rest and treatment. And – when this is the case – every bit of exercise you stubbornly perform risks making that injury worse with a longer recovery as a result.
The old adage “No pain, no gain” can sometimes do you a lot more harm than good. So, how do you know when to push through and when to pull back?
Well, you need to listen to your body. Some of us have a hard time understanding the signals we are receiving. Your body might be sending you signals you don’t recognize as an injury. So, you need to become a bit of a detective to understand the signs and symptoms of real injury.
It’s with smart exercising that we can truly become stronger and fine tune our bodies to reach our fitness goals. And smart athletes know the value of rest and recover when it’s warranted.
Pain – Okay, let’s be honest. There are different kinds of pain. As an athlete work to recognize the type of pain just caused by excessive effort or fatigue. Don’t confuse it with that sharp feeling of wrongness that means your body is crying in alarm.
Pain is often brushed off because people don’t know how to tell the difference. If in doubt, be cautious. Quite simply, pain is your body’s first response when something is wrong – a muscle or nerve or joint isn’t working as it should.
Dr. Jasmin Marcus, a physical therapist in New York, explains, “Pain is your body’s way of protecting itself and it most likely means you’re injuring yourself.”
This doesn’t mean you automatically need to assume the worst. A mild pain might mean you just need to adjust your form, buy new shoes, or lighten your load. A sharp serious pain means you should stop and take notice.
Feeling Weak – This category also includes feeling dizzy, but both of these things are bad news if they happen often or don’t go away. The good news is there is usually a good – and easily fixed – reason why you’re feeling weak or dizzy.
If you are changing positions during a cross-training session, or getting up from the floor after working your abs, it’s normal to feel a little woozy. This is because your body is re-adjusting its internal pressure.
When these adjustments happen, you can have a very temporary lack of blood flow to your brain, making you feel light-headed. Not to worry though, under normal circumstances this fixes itself quickly and you are ready to get back to it. Just take a beat and let yourself get there.
Not eating before you work out is another thing that may make you feel out of whack. Your body needs food to have calories to burn. If those aren’t there, you can feel very weak and out of sorts. Feed your body before you hit the gym to avoid this feeling.
And the number one reason you might be feeling dizzy or weak is because of DEHYDRATION. Many of us are chronically dehydrated and have no idea. So, drink up your water! Aim for a clear urine stream every day and make sure you’re well hydrated before a workout. Adding electrolytes to your water will also keep your body running in top form.
Can’t Seem To Kick That Cold – You may not realize it, but your immune system can actually work like an early warning system. Dr. Chelsea Axe, DC, CSCS and fitness expert says, “a weaker immune system is one of the first signs that you’re working out too much. We know that over training suppresses immune function and promotes upper respiratory infections.”
Save yourself the sore throat and sniffles by taking a day or two off from the gym.
Insomnia – Regular exercise can help you get the zz’s you need at night, but if you’re overtraining you may find yourself up all night.
When you exercise you are stimulating your sympathetic nervous system, especially when you are doing high-intensity exercise. Your sympathetic nervous system is tied to your “fight or flight” response. So, when it is over-stimulated, it can keep you from falling asleep
To avoid this, try working out earlier in the day or do a lower-intensity workout. This will allow your nervous system to regulate and get you back to your much-needed snoozes.
No Appetite – When you are working out a lot, you are burning a lot of calories. This may make you feel more hungry than usual, which is normal. If you’re suddenly feeling the opposite, this could indicate a problem.
As Megan Ostler, a registered dietician with iFit explains, “If you are working out at a high level, your appetite might actually be suppressed.” This can lead to you feeling weak and fatigued since you aren’t getting the fuel you need to keep going.
Depression / Irritability – As we already know, exercise can affect your mental and emotional health. We usually talk about this in terms of the positive effects, but when you work out too much those effects can quickly become negative.
An excessive amount of aerobic exercise can lead to fatigue, depression and decreased performance.
While fatigue and decreased performance may just sound like you’ve had a tough workout, this is not to be taken lightly. “A 2013 study found over trained individuals face an increased risk of depression symptoms and suicidal behaviors,” says Dr. Axe.
Sore Muscles – You’re probably thinking, “Hold on, sore muscles happen to everyone, it’s normal and not something to freak out about.” You aren’t wrong. What we’re talking about is the kind of soreness that sticks around and makes you incapacitated for days.
Normal muscle soreness is to be expected. With each workout, you are actually creating micro-tears in the fibers of your muscle. Once your session is complete, your body begins the process of rebuilding and creating new muscle fibers – which happen to be stronger than the old!
This is one reason why people eat protein after a workout. Protein is the main building block of muscle. Consuming a protein shake or a high protein meal can actually help your body recover.
If you do not give yourself enough time in-between intense workouts, your muscles will be in a continual state of being torn. They won’t ever get the chance to repair. And… as a result, you feel almost constant soreness that doesn’t go away. The solution? More rest! It’s easy.
There are a few, very simple things that you can do to help avoid these situations.
Healthy Diet – When you are eating a healthy diet you are providing your body with all of the calories and nutrients it needs to function properly. You have to be putting fuel in for your body to burn. Just like a car, you can’t run on an empty tank.
Know Your Ability – We all want to see progress and feel like we’re getting better. That’s not a bad thing. But Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither were you. Don’t push yourself to do things that your body simply can’t do. With consistent work and a steady pace, you’ll get there.
Listen To Your Body – What all of this really boils down to is that you need to listen to your body. You function as a complete package, so even things that may seem unrelated can still affect you.
If you don’t feel quite right, take a break. You will see far more progress and feel better in the long run. Just like the tortoise, slow and steady wins the fitness race!
10 signs your workout is actually hurting you: Arielle Tschinkel; 2019