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Musings: On Exercise & Pain…

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Exercise is done against one’s wishes and maintained only because the alternative is worse.”  George Sheehan

Musings: On Exercise & Pain… Listen to your body

On Exercise: Listen To Your Body & Monitor Your Pain. 
Do you exercise through pain? When do you know it is time to stop or avoid a routine? I’ve always loved to exercise and, participated in sports throughout my school years. I ran track, tried my hand at hurdles, threw the discus and javelin and was an all around tomboy/sports girl. In college, I ran 5 days a week and loved it. Yep. Over the years, I tried different forms of exercise to get my body in top shape; running, dancing, step, yoga, Pilates, spin, jazz, zumba, swimming, power walking and a bunch of other trendy/not so trendy routines. One thing I never cared for and still don’t believe in is that line: “No pain, no gain.” Sure, there is a certain amount of pain when we push our limits in exercising, but it should be tolerable not sharp. A certain amount of pain comes with doing strenuous exercise but, that nonsense of burning a hole through your muscles and bearing incredible amounts of pain for the sake of getting fit is not only dangerous it is, quite frankly, stupid.

There is no reason to torture our bodies in our bid to get in shape. If you’re a triathlete or an Olympian, then you have signed on to exert yourself beyond a certain point, hopefully, with the guidance of a sensible, well trained coach. Even Marathoners need guidance to minimize debilitating injuries. The rest of us need moderate exercise with a reasonable amount of exertion that doesn’t include extreme pain. Frankly, no one in their right mind needs to exercise through extreme pain. Yet, some athletes think it makes them appear macho/top-guns and what have you! It’s all empty ego and, over time, it will take a toll on the body … and maybe the mind.

For this post, I went looking for helpful articles on the subject of exercise and pain and I’ll add them at the end of each paragraph… All are quite enlightening.
Read: Making Sense of Exercise Pain
The Pain of Gain – Health: What causes exercise pain?

“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.” Hippocrates

Musings: On Exercise & Pain… Know and respect your limits

Why Is it Important to Listen to Our Pain Threshold & Bodies? Back in the days when I had fewer cares, I danced and exercised strenuously, almost daily. I participated in school sports too and enjoyed it but, over time, the strain and constant pressure of jumping up and down took its toll on my body; specifically on my feet and knees. The truth is that no matter how fit you are, over time, the natural wear and tear on the body will leave you with a certain amount of chronic pain and perhaps damaged ligaments. To avoid such damage from becoming permanent, requires vigilance and compassion for our body and its limits.  Doubt me? Ask any athlete! I remember pushing through some of the pain, reminding myself that my effort was a test of my metier, and believing that a massage and some rest would heal the soreness; what is often called delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. There were times it worked but … not always.

Why does this matter? Years later, as I write this post, I know the parts of my body that bore the brunt of a stubborn ego that refused to stop, to assess what was wise to do when pain came calling during an exercise routine, and to adjust my workouts. A car accident put me out of commission for many months and gave me time to think. With a severely injured back, I knew the road to recovery was going to be long, and that I would need to re-evaluate how I spent my time and exercise. I still exercise regularly, but I listen to my body vigilantly and monitor my exercise pain threshold. I don’t do certain types of exercises anymore, and jumping up and down is for the birds. I had to stop running and took up martial arts, focused on my yoga practice, and started walking because they demand precision and I can monitor my pain. I’ve increased my weight training routine to ensure my body stays strong. What about you and your routine?
Read: That Little Voice Inside Your Twinge
Muscle Pain and Soreness After Exercise

More Below!

“It is exercise alone that supports the spirits, and keeps the mind in vigor.” Marcus Tullius Cicero

Musings: On Exercise & Pain… Monitor your pain

Why Must We Pay Attention? Of course, a common danger with exercise is when we experience and ignore the type of pain that typically comes from over-training; sharp, incessant pain or swellings and muscle fatigue that won’t subside even after a hot bath and a massage. What the articles I read pointed out and, what I’ve come to appreciate over the many years that I’ve been involved in exercise, is that we must become acutely aware of our body and the message it transmits to us. Listen to your body, know and respect your limits, and monitor your pain. I know exercise teachers who routinely get hurt and teach through pain and it is not worth it. I know because I was there once. What are you trying to prove?  You will pay the piper sooner or later. Ease off. Rest. Monitor your workout.

Do We Need to Abuse Our Bodies To Stay In Shape? Absolutely Not. But it’s your body…  Recently, a friend invited me to join a bootcamp exercise class where the instructor puts her charges through some crazy exercise paces; screaming and shouting through it all. They are not allowed to stop or take a break, and if any complain of the pain, they are yelled at. I advised my friend to reflect on why she felt compelled to pay someone to torture and abuse her in that way. I don’t care if that tactic works for weight management or not…  so does walking. Enough said!
Read: Working Out Through Pain

What about you? Are you an exercise buff? What are your thoughts? Do you exercise through pain? When do you know it is time to stop a routine? What type of exercise would you not do? Do share!

This post was inspired by a prompt from WP DailyPost: Writing Honestly

Positive Motivation Tip: Exercise is good for you, pain isn’t. Monitor your efforts.

PHOTO CREDITS/ATTRIBUTIONS: All Photos Descartes Pain, Leg Extension, via Wikipedia Or  NOAA’a National Ocean Service via Flickr

Until Next Time…
Ask. Believe. Receive. ©
Elizabeth Obih-Frank
Mirth and Motivation
Positive Kismet

60 Comments leave one →
  1. 10/01/2012 9:49 pm

    I like your Positive Motivation Tip!

  2. 10/01/2012 10:15 pm

    If I don’t do my little 15 – 25 minute Kathy Smith low impact routine at least 4 or 5 mornings a week, I will be in pain. Walking, dancing, swimming, yoga, low impact aerobics…they are uplifting to the mind as well as to the body. No need for harsh torture, I agree!
    By the way…I couldn’t find a place where I could PressThis on yesterday’s post…perhaps you don’t want people to do that…so I will just tweet it and add it to Facebook. 🙂
    Enjoy the rest of your week, Eliz!

    • 11/01/2012 3:11 pm

      😆 I understand… the more we do it, the more the body craves it… TY for bringing up PressThis… I just activated it. TY for your generosity! 🙂

  3. 10/01/2012 10:30 pm

    I’m a big fan of walking, and a lapsed yoga practitioner, and definitely agree that we should listen to our bodies! Great post! 🙂

    • 11/01/2012 11:53 pm

      I love walking too and ti works miracles on the body… If we would dedicate the time to power walk , we’d see amazing results. 😉

  4. 11/01/2012 12:08 am

    What a great post Liz. As I struggle to get back in form before spring biking season (actually I should be extensively winter biking now but I am struggling with time management). Yes, I am concerned about injuries because of work and therefore cautious at times. Especially out on the trail, I feel the need to put safety first. It pays off. I can still enjoy my ride while challenging myself as well. I think this is the key.

    • 11/01/2012 11:54 pm

      I’m concerned about injury too and I wanted to remind people to pay attention to their bodies and do the wise and safe thing in the gym. 😉

  5. 11/01/2012 2:50 am

    I must confess that over-exercising has never been a problem for me… 🙂

  6. 11/01/2012 6:26 am

    The way you put things here is so logical and just flows so naturally from you. I have lapsed between periods of very good and faithful exercise (including intense games of squash from which I was in pain for a week barely able to rollover in bed while sleeping from muscle aches) to no exercise at all. Having just lost 34 lbs., I have not yet stepped up to a new “structured” routine of exercise – I’ll get there, again. I’m pacing myself. 😉

    And Lol – jumping up and down is for the birds! (and the 5 year olds!)

    • 11/01/2012 11:55 pm

      Do what you must and then get to it Karen… Start small and add on… Go do it! 🙂

  7. 11/01/2012 8:11 am

    Sometimes we skin our knees as we learn to ride a bike . . . but skinning our knees is not a necessary step in learning to ride a bike.

    Many are prone to saying . . . “No pain, no gain.”

    Like you, I tend to disagree with that statement. Pain can be a teacher. We often gain after dealing with pain . . . but pain is NOT a necessary step to changing who we are and how we CHOOSE to live.

    Moderation and balance in ALL things.

    • 11/01/2012 11:57 pm

      I’m with you on all counts and wish others would pay attention to the pain messages when they come flying by. “Moderation and balance in ALL things.”
      TY! 🙂

  8. 11/01/2012 8:17 am

    Ugh, I should start exercising more but I’m really just too lazy. I keep telling myself I’ll start running but I never do. Any tips on how to motivate myself?

    • 11/01/2012 11:59 pm

      I would suggest you start with walking. Take a leisurely walk around your area; even for 30 minutes. Then every day, add a new movement to your warm up for your walk… Don’t give up! 😉

  9. 11/01/2012 9:04 am

    After many physical therapy, massage therapy, and acupuncture sessions, they tell you NOT to do the exercises if you have pain as it will result in more pain and injury. They do not support “no pain no gain” and I totally agree with them. I’ve had times where I went a little too far with the exercises and paid dearly for it later. It frustrates me when I also hear things like “shake it off” “grin and bear it through the pain” etc.
    Also, as far as the article on ice, I’ve learned through my treatment sessions that ice is for injury to reduce swelling, but heat is best for tight tender muscles. Ice causes muscles to tighten more, whereas heat helps the muscles relax.

    • 12/01/2012 12:00 am

      “It frustrates me when I also hear things like “shake it off” “grin and bear it through the pain” etc.”
      I hear you and it bothers me too! I use warm compressions and they work est for me too… 😉

  10. 11/01/2012 12:42 pm

    I love George! So damn true!

    es, I exercise through pain, but gently – I have no choice if I am to strengthen my back. The alternative is worse. I don’t suscribe to the “No pain, no gain” theory, as that is not really true, especially in rehab type work.

    Swimming is good, but hard to organise at the moment.

  11. Bree permalink
    11/01/2012 1:10 pm

    Excellent advice and warning to all those jumping into exercise in the new year. Nothing kills a get in shape resolution like injury and chronic pain from overtraining. Been there!

    • 12/01/2012 12:04 am

      Thank you and those were my sentiments behind writing the post. You said it well. 🙂

  12. 11/01/2012 1:37 pm

    You are so right. There is pain—–and then, there is P-A-I-N! OUUUCCH!
    At the age of 65, I know by now what is a little pain safely ignored and what is a big enough pain (especially coming from old injured areas) to pay attention to and care for! Excellent reminders here, as we New Year’s Resolvers are still overly enthusiastic in January!

    • 11/01/2012 3:08 pm

      Yes, i was thinking of the New Year resolution to exercise more crowd… You can get fit without torturing yourself. I know it from experience. TY! 🙂

  13. 11/01/2012 2:01 pm

    I tried running until I couldn’t walk up and down the stairs without pain. I love Zumba–love all the music and moves. But I do like Boot Camp–my instructor is also a co-teacher, so while she is strict she’s not brutally so. My bones will thank me one day. I think people need to realize that when you’re body is sore or achy from a tough workout–your body is telling you to rest.

    • 11/01/2012 3:06 pm

      I hear you… there’s sore and then there is pain… Not always the same. Unfortunately, many get injured from not paying attention to the body and its signal to stop, pause, slow down, rest.
      Personally, I’m for moderation and I’ve been to that over the top zone in my workout life and have the injuries to show for them. It’s just not worth the pain. I’m glad your instructor knows where to draw the line… some don’t. TY! 😉

  14. 12/01/2012 4:32 am

    When do you know it is time to stop a routine?
    if it does not make happy anymore.
    we have to be creative.
    it’s necessary not to lose
    the power to CHANGE our routines …

    • 14/01/2012 11:38 pm

      That is correct… If it is not fun and we feel pain, it is time to move on. 😉

  15. 12/01/2012 6:38 am

    I don’t jump or run anymore. Spinning, walking, weight training and elliptical are part of my weekly routine. I’m getting older and I don’t like the stress on my joints.

    • 14/01/2012 11:39 pm

      I hear you and feel the same way too… Actually, we are doing the same things. 😎

  16. 12/01/2012 10:12 am

    I’m too much of a wimp to exercise through pain but I love the feeling of pushing myself past a little discomfort.

    Did you see this on yoga injuries?

    • 14/01/2012 11:40 pm

      Yes, i saw and read that article. I will add it as a link to the post… TY! Yes, i love to push myself too but I now know when to stop… many people don’t. TY! 😉

  17. 13/01/2012 1:56 am

    I would never go to bootcamp for that reason – can’t stand all that screaming – same reason I stopped going to pump classes at the gym – my blood pressure would be up, not down at the end of the class from all the yelling – just one type of exercise pain that’s not good for you! 🙂

    • 14/01/2012 11:41 pm

      I’m with you on all of the above and I can never understand why some people allow others to push them around like that… makes no sense to me too. TY! 😉

  18. Deborah @ Confessions of a Mother Runner permalink
    14/08/2015 3:06 pm

    I’ve made the mistake before of exercising through pain and ended up with a big injury. I hope I’ve learned my lesson.

  19. Artney @ My Pretty Brown permalink
    14/08/2015 3:21 pm

    What a very detailed and informative post! I did plyometric exercises in the past and my body didn’t agree with them too well. I now stick to modified versions while still working hard. I don’t like the idea of someone yelling at me in a class that I volunteer to take. I would not return that’s for sure.

  20. Kathryn @ Dancing to Running permalink
    14/08/2015 3:39 pm

    Its definitely important to recognize the difference between soreness and actual pain. Soreness is good – its your body’s indication that you’re getting a good workout in. But pain is an entirely different story, and usually a sign of something bad.

    • 15/08/2015 5:25 pm

      And many of us need to learn the difference. Even professional athletes have ended up with permanent injury from not halting when in pain.

  21. Debbie Woodruff permalink
    14/08/2015 3:41 pm

    Some people can’t tell the difference between discomfort and pain. In both directions! There are those that push too far ignoring pain, and those (I can think of a few clients), that stop at the first sign of discomfort. It’s a matter of learning your body and listening to its signals.

    • 15/08/2015 5:22 pm

      Exactly… we must learn to tune in to our body and its needs and its different for everyone. Some people can do X amount of Y and be fine. Others need lessor something quite different.

  22. priyadograurora permalink
    15/08/2015 4:30 am

    I walk to office everyday and i love it.

  23. Elle permalink
    15/08/2015 7:37 am

    I haven’t been to a bootcamp either as I am not really a fan of being yelled at. But I do love to workout and have experienced DOMS many times over the years and that’s okay!

  24. Nicole @ Fitful Focus permalink
    15/08/2015 7:38 am

    I think we have to push ourselves to see progress, but if you experience pain that causes you to alter your movement patterns, it’s time for a break. I’ve been trying to get better about proper recovery with stretching and fuel, as well as being true to my rest days 🙂

    • 15/08/2015 7:47 am

      Pushing for progress is key but there is that fine line that some of us cross sometimes. I’m all for rest days too. 🙂

  25. Sue @ This Mama Runs For Cupcakes permalink
    15/08/2015 10:47 am

    I used to work out even if I was having aches and pains. I’ve since learned my lesson, but I think it comes with experience and time to realize that it is OK to take a break!

  26. wendyistakingthelongwayhome permalink
    15/08/2015 11:54 am

    I think you have to gauge your pain…if I took a day off for every ache and pain that I had, I’d never run! But I was having some repetitive pain, which forced me to look at the way I was training. I’ve changed my approach, and it’s all been good.

    • 15/08/2015 5:19 pm

      That’s an important point. Gauge the pain. We need to learn enough about our body and its threshold to know when it’s time to change.

  27. natrunsfar permalink
    15/08/2015 1:53 pm

    Bootcamps are tough, but I don’t think they should yell or scream at you. At the end of the day, exercise should be fun. Yes, it’s hard work and a challenge, but if it’s not fun, then chances are you won’t stick with it. 🙂

  28. Becki S permalink
    16/08/2015 6:25 am

    These are some great tips. I need to share with my hubby 😉

  29. jillconyers permalink
    17/08/2015 1:50 am

    Great information! Bootcamps are my favorite type of workout to teach and I’m not a yeller. Listen to your body. You’ll know what you need to do even thought sometimes you might not want to.

  30. GinaB @ Mirror Watching permalink
    17/08/2015 3:13 am

    Thanks for this post. I’ve been in the midst of training for my first half and it has been riddled with issues of pain. Not one run has gone smoothly or without pain. Today was a long run and I decided to sit it out as my ankle is just now starting to let me walk on it without pain and limping. I have decided that after this race, if I decide to continue, I will be looking for exercise enjoyment of the more gentle variety.

    • 17/08/2015 10:35 am

      Please do Gina. It might also help to check with a sports doctor to make sure the area of pain is not infected or torn… {{hugs}}

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