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Fitness Falsehood #4: No Pain, No Gain

I like to think that most people understand by now that nothing you do in the realm of fitness should cause you pain – sharp, sudden, dull, aching, tearing, popping – no kind of pain is “good pain.” It can be difficult if you are new to exercise to separate “pain” from discomfort or physical stress, I get that. You’re on the treadmill, your heart pounds and you can barely breathe? Breathing heavy is not pain. You’re trying to hold a plank and your whole body shakes? A little shaking never killed anybody. You’re on the way up from a squat and you have serious doubts about whether you can get all the way up because your thighs are just refusing to move anymore? Not pain. Many of us (re)starting fitness have spent a lot of time tuning OUT our bodies and so tuning in and really noticing how things feel can be uncomfortable – but this is one key to being able to discern injury-pain from discomfort or stress, which are normal parts of exercise. I often tell clients – if it’s injury-pain, you’ll know it.

Where the “no pain, no gain” attitude tends to really rear its ugly head most often is the confusion of exhaustion with effective training. Finishing every training session in a heap on the floor, totally drained, barely able to move is not your ticket to effective fat loss, effective muscle gain, effective cardiovascular improvement, or effective anything. Well, maybe to an effective burnout. Just because you’re exhausted doesn’t mean that you trained in a way that will benefit or improve your fitness. Consistently working yourself to the point of extreme fatigue will eventually force you to lessen your training intensity and/or lead to injury (real pain). Does this mean you should *never* go all-out and finish in a heap? Not necessarily. Effective training balances different intensities to allow your body to adequately rest and repair itself from one effort to the next.

There’s also a misconception that if you don’t have any muscle soreness in the days following a training session that you didn’t work hard enough. Not true! Muscle soreness results from novelty – meaning that you did something different (exercise type, timing, load/weight, it could be lots of things). If you are new to fitness you might find that every training session leaves you sore the next day – that’s just because everything is new for your body. If you continue your training, that constant soreness will largely disappear – not because you aren’t working hard (you may be lifting heavier or doing more advanced forms of training than you did in the beginning) but because your body has adapted. This is a good thing.

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Here's an idea: instead of trying to re-write your entire life come January 1, how about you pick one thing to focus on improving and improve it? I know, I know, that sounds so not sexy. So not dramat