Wednesday, October 6, 2010

On pain, and when it isn't promoting gain.

As a personal trainer, I often walk a fine line with my clients. Particularly if they've got a recurring injury. This line I speak of divides pain into two areas: one that promotes gain, and the other that promotes injury. How to distinguish between the two? It can be tricky. But before we discuss, you must erase the infamous "no gain" quote from your mind. Pain isn't a necessity when it comes to gain. Especially as it relates to your efforts to live the fit life.

Pain is sharp, and often comes on quickly. It isn't right—sometimes the black and blue, the swelling or the blood proves it. Pain is the sensation your body uses to let you know that it cannot or should not continue, so learn to receive these messages. In other words, stop ignoring them! You'll help prevent new injuries from occurring, and you'll keep old injuries at bay. If your pain persists into the next day, even a few days after it started, admit that there could be an underlying issue that needs medical attention. Don't be afraid to seek the help of a professional. You could, after all, catch a problem before it gets worse. And if you're already in pain, you can imagine what "worse" might feel like.

Ever see the Wong Baker Pain Scale in a doctor's office?

Maybe not since you've been to the pediatrician, but still. It's a great representation of what I'm trying to communicate. When it comes to fitness, we generally want to keep everything below the "hurts little more" stage, as this is the type of pain that occurs when we push our muscles to their limit. Does the phrase "feel the burn" sound familiar? This is the second sensation I wish to speak of. It's acceptable, and it really does feel like something inside you is burning. That "something" is your muscle because it's working so hard. And if you don't feel the burn, might not be working hard enough.

But everyone deals with pain differently and that's where the gray area comes from. Yes, it's OK that your muscles are burning. Yes, it's OK that it "hurts" a little. But it's not OK if and when it starts to cause sharp, severe pain. That's when you know something bigger is happening, so be careful when you walk that fine line.

Listen to your body. Realize that it needs to be pushed, but not to its breaking point. And recognize, too that sometimes we just have to work out a few kinks before everything falls into place as it should. (Case and point: my IT band, which is completely fine now.) For example, if you have knee issues and you start your strength training session with some leg extensions—the first one or two might hurt a little bit, there might be some pain, but that pain should slowly subside as you progress in repetitions. If it doesn't, pull back and reassess your plan. Perhaps your weights are too heavy, or maybe your knee isn't ready for the leg extensions. Seek other options, and get help from a professional. Personal trainers are very good at making substitutions to accommodate injuries.

And finally, I need to say this one more time, please don't be afraid to get something checked out if it repeatedly bugs you. I know doctors are expensive, but is it really worth it to skip them at the expensive of your own health and well being? The only way you can keep living the fit life is if you practice living it.

On a completely unrelated note, my crazy week is going well! I even managed to pick up a new client. Tomorrow, Club Industry 2010. Can't wait! See you soon, Chicago! (Do try to keep your highway traffic at a minimum for me, mkay?) Oh, and—still making some tweaks to the blog. Not going so well. Yet.

Question: What's the worst injury you've ever had to work through? Is there an exercise you still avoid because of it?

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