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No Pain, No Gain:
Is it a good idea to exercise through the pain?
This catchphrase, originally coined by Jane Fonda, has been repeated by pretty much everyone. It is an expression of the belief that if you are not in complete agony while exercising, you are not producing any results; and furthermore, if you don’t have the guts to exercise through the pain, you are a wuss.
While your high school gym teacher, your soccer coach, and the bodybuilding guys at the gym all profess this credo as a near-religious belief, there is ample evidence to indicate that it is not actually true. In fact, if you push yourself to continue working out when it is causing you pain, you are almost certainly doing more harm than good.
Why does it hurt?
Chances are, when you first begin an exercise routine, your muscles have been taking it easy for a while and are not used to being asked to exert themselves. This generally results in soreness, at least for the first several days of your new program. This soreness is due to the perfectly natural process of tearing the muscle fibers and rebuilding them – this is how you gain muscle mass and tone. Muscle soreness is completely normal and will gradually disappear.
Joint pain, on the other hand, is not normal – it is your body’s way of letting you know that something is wrong. Some fitness experts recommend that you rate your pain on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being no pain, and 10 being more than you can tolerate. If the pain you are feeling at any given time rates more than 3 on the scale, you need to ease up on your activity. If the pain goes away, then good.
Pain that recurs or gets worse, however, is a signal that there is a real problem, and you need to seek treatment as soon as possible.
What happens if I keep pushing myself?
Many athletes find it admirable to keep exercising through the pain they feel, and most of us admire this attitude. However, pain is an indication that there is an injury, and if you ignore it, you are likely to exacerbate the injury until you end up in real trouble. Consider this example:
[ A young woman was training for a marathon, running ten miles or more every day. After several weeks, she began to notice pain in her hip. She continued her training, not wanting to lose the condition she had gained. However, the pain soon became so severe that she was unable to run more than a short distance. A physical exam revealed that she had a stress fracture; she was treated and made a full recovery. However, if she had continued to exercise and ignore the pain, the injury would have become so severe that she may have required a full hip replacement. ]
Pain is like the red light on your dashboard that goes on when the engine temperature is too high. If you ignore it and continue to drive, you are eventually going to blow the engine. Once you begin feeling pain, you need to stop your activity and look for the source of the problem.
If you get treatment right away, chances are you will be able to resume your exercise, or find another one that will not cause the same problem. If you ignore the pain and soldier on, you may end up with a permanent injury.
Always talk to your doctor before you begin any new exercise program; you should undergo a complete physical examination to make sure that the activity you have chosen is appropriate for you.
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