You have probably heard somebody utter the phrase “No Pain, No Gain” at some point throughout your life, and there are a few instances when this statement most certainly applies. It just so happens that these scenarios have nothing at all to do with running.
Let me first start by setting the tone for this post. There is a difference between “burning” and “hurting.” Most people certainly understand this; they just tend to use the phrase completely wrong. The burn that you get from doing an exercise the right way is totally normal. In fact, many people don’t feel like they’ve done enough until they feel that burn. Maybe they need to run a little further or sprint up that hill instead of jogging. Regardless, the “burn” you get from a good run is completely normal.
Now, back to the topic at hand: PAIN. If you are hurting or feeling pain there is generally one of three explanations as to why. You are either A) doing the exercise (running, stretching, etc.) incorrectly B) doing too much of it or C) suffering from an injury. Here is my very simple way to determine whether you are a victim of any of these:
*Doing the exercise incorrectly: You will be in pain for a couple of days AFTER your run or exercise. Even if you are an avid weight lifter, runner, etc., you will still be in pain after doing an exercise incorrectly. It could be something as simple as holding a stretch too long or something more serious like an issue with your landing/takeoff. Typically, something like this will go away after a few days (given it is not a major issue), but the pain will be very annoying while it’s around.
*Doing too much: This is one that applies to almost every runner I’ve ever met. It’s certainly true that in order to get in shape or prepare for an upcoming race you will have to put in the miles and work. There is no getting around that. But, there is also a fine line between preparing and going overboard. This is a subjective issue, as some people are better equipped to handle a high volume of training. If you start to feel sluggish during your training runs, or your performance starts to suffer for no apparent reason, then it might be because you are doing too much. Shut it down for a day or so. Let your body rest and recover. It’s more important than you think.
*Suffering from an injury: Injuries are usually a direct result of either one of or both of the two previous points. Doing and exercise incorrectly, or doing too much of something will almost always lead to injury. Injuries are usually easy to detect – they hurt both BEFORE and AFTER exercise. It will take much longer to get warmed up, if at all. You might also suffer from limited range of motion with this joint or muscle. This pain will last much longer than if you simply have a sore muscle.
So, back to this whole “No Pain, No Gain” thing. I’ll be honest with you; I’m not taking advice from some fool who tells me I need to push through pain. The only thing that leads to is, you guessed it, MORE PAIN. You don’t ride a bike with a broken chain. You don’t drive a car with a busted radiator. It just doesn’t work. So why would you do anything different with the most important piece of technology there is: YOUR BODY!!! Now, if it’s just that muscle burn, and you’re trying to push through it… Suck it up and keep going!!!! But, you must know your body, and know the difference between the pain and the burn.
So what’s the point of my rambling here???
If you’re feeling pain, take a moment to evaluate what you are actually doing. On the road: Am I striding too long? Should I switch my landing? Quicker steps to eliminate ground time? In the gym: Is my form good on my squats/lunges? Am I using the right weight? If you can modify your form and eliminate the pain, by all means do so. If it continues to hurt, it’s no longer simply a muscle burn. This is the point when you need to shut it down. The only thing that trying to push through it will get you is more pain. While this may go against the traditional “suck it up” type of mindset, it will keep you on the road and off the couch.
Be safe. Be smart. Be awesome.
Post contributed by Brock Jones. Brock is Co-Owner and Head Trainer with BodyFIT, Inc. in Lexington, KY. He holds a Masters of Science in Exercise Physiology from the University of Kentucky and is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. You can read more of Brock’s posts about fitness and exercise on the BodyFIT Punch Blog.