For most of my years as a hardcore lifter there was only one acceptable conclusion to the phrase that began “no pain,”. I’m sorry to say that it took quite a while to realize how much damage that philosophy could (and eventually did) cause. I believed that I was bound and determined to push past any and all restrictions to be as strong as I could.
It was a nice thought, but that’s not how it played out.
The pain I caused in my body was not soreness (oh, there was plenty of that, of course), I’m talking about deep muscle tears, joints handling far too much stress, over-taxing and over-stressing every skeletal muscle I could find. I persisted nevertheless, in a vain effort to avoid the dreaded “no gain” in the misguided belief that this would provide incredible benefits.
Am I suggesting that working out hard and doing your utmost is a waste of time? Absolutely not. But I certainly will say that ignoring every signal your brain has given you that you are in danger is not doing your utmost – it’s a lot less than that – it’s at best one step forward and two, three, or more steps back. In the most serious cases, it’s not a step back at all, it’s sit your ass on the bench, because brother or sister, you are through.
Pain is not the fallen tree that blocks the path on your run, nor the drifts of snow that block your front door, nor is it a mountain to be heroically scaled, nor a river to be courageously forded. Pain is the STOP sign that keeps you from blindly crossing an intersection without thoughts of oncoming traffic, the strip of yellow and black tape that marks the end of a ramp. Pain is the siren that calls the fireman into action.
When pain talks, the wise listen, evaluate, and respond accordingly. As a fitness coach and trainer I often worked with people who were so deconditioned that they couldn’t initially differentiate muscle tension, muscle soreness or pain. I think this is where “no pain, no gain” begins. Pushing through that tension, through that discomfort does indeed make a difference and a good trainer or coach knows his or her client well enough to know when to push and when to back down.
If we’re talking the real deal here, not discomfort or soreness, then it’s time to act – although sometimes the action required is to do nothing more to aggravate the situation. This is hell on earth for most runners and virtually all competitive athletes I know. Yet dealing with pain correctly can prolong your playing years, allow your day to unfold without dreading re-injury, and in some cases – such as my own – learning about root causes and proper treatment to come back stronger than before.
So if you’re insistent about ignoring that flashing red light, clanging bell and big wooden arm that drops down in front of you, don’t tell me how surprised you were when that very big, very fast train came along.
By the way, we should talk about emotional pain one of these days…