If you are an active person, it is almost certain you’ve heard someone say “No Pain – No Gain.” Today, I would like to shed some light on why this statement can get you into trouble and, at the end of this article, give you a new workout mantra to live by. I want to first describe the purpose of exercise and why it is important.
Exercise is a means of improving health. Health is the optimal function of all of your body’s systems. A few health benefits of exercise include improved cardiovascular function, increase in lean muscle mass, reduction of body fat, improved health markers (blood pressure, lipid profiles, etc), reduction of stress, and improved balance. In order for exercise to be beneficial, we must place a high enough demand on our body and it’s systems to invoke adaptation to the workload. This is best accomplished by slowly increasing exercise intensity over time. It is important to challenge yourself while working out, but stay within your physical limits. You should feel energized after your workout if you have chosen an appropriate workload. Pushing too hard can have the opposite effect and be detrimental to your health. Let me explain why.
Exercise, taken to the extreme, can adversely affect your health. This is where the “No Pain-No Gain” motto can get you into trouble. There is a big difference between temporary discomfort and pain. Temporary discomfort is breathing heavy after jogging up a steep hill. Pain is hobbling up that same hill regardless of how bad your knee hurts or insisting on doing the run even though you have the flu. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. If ignored, it can lead to serious injury. You should seek the guidance of a trained medical professional if you experience pain when exercising.
Also, repeatedly pushing yourself beyond your physical limitations can lead to overtraining. Overtraining is a state in which your body cannot recover between workouts. Classic signs of overtraining are feeling awful after you exercise, sleeplessness, irritability, loss of appetite, and compromised immune system. Overtraining can lead to overuse injuries and illnesses that can cause major setbacks. When you are feeling tired and lethargic, it is best to rest and recover rather than pushing onward.
Learn to be in tune with your body and listen to it. It will tell you when to go hard and when to back off. You only get one body, so treat it well. Exercise should be a positive experience that enables you to live life to the fullest. Be wise in knowing your limitations and gradually building your way up to more challenging tasks. That’s why I say “Work Smarter – Not Harder!”