Fitness Myth #6
No Pain, No Gain!

Welcome to Week 6 in “Debunking Fitness Myths.”  Last week we covered “If You Exercise You Can Eat Whatever You Want” where we debunked the idea that as long as you exercise, you can truly eat whatever you please!  Continuing with fitness myths, this week we will debunk the common belief, “No pain, no gain!”

“No pain, no gain.” Sound familiar?  I’m sure it does.  This common saying is quite the popular phrase in the fitness community as well as a permanent fixture when it comes to “motivational” messages and images depicted all over the Internet.  Maybe you’ve even jumped on this bandwagon yourself and live by this motto!  This week, we are taking about and debunking the fitness myth, “No pain, no gain!”

no pain no gain
Hmmm really

The motto, “no pain, no gain” refers to a few different ideas.  The first belief is that if you’re not maximally uncomfortable throughout your workout, you won’t experience any progress.  Another way to interpret the saying is that if you’re not really sore after a workout, you didn’t accomplish anything.  And lastly, if you don’t push through the pain, you’re not only a wimp but you will not become stronger, faster, leaner, etc.

Let’s address the first belief that if you’re not beyond uncomfortable throughout your workout, you’re not accomplishing anything.  I will say there is some truth to this idea.  To see both internal and external changes, you must push your body out of its comfort zone.  You must also continuously create a progressive overload regularly to make health and fitness progress.  However, you do not have to work out like a crazy person (unless you want to) for your workout to be effective.  You do not have to push so hard that you have to crawl out of the gym (ahem…crossfitters), unless this is your thing, which is totally fine by us!

fitness myth no pain no gain
Is this how you feel after a workout?

When it comes to soreness, many people like to judge the effectiveness of their workout by how sore they are the following few days.  I have to admit, I am one of those people.  Feeling sore makes me feel as though I’ve accomplished something.  I love being so sore that it hurts to sit down, hurts to walk up the stairs, hurts to laugh, etc.  Sick, right?  I know.  However, I will also be the first to tell you, soreness is not the determining factor of an effective workout and being too sore or in a constant state of soreness can be detrimental to your body.

Soreness is a direct result of starting a new exercise routine, trying a new exercise, creating a progressive overload with weight, reps, etc.  The feeling of soreness comes from muscle tears in your body.  As your body rebuilds the tears, your muscles become stronger.  While being sore from a workout is fine, being in a constant state of soreness can be mean that you’re not allowing your body enough recovery time between workouts.  If you’re consistently sore, you can also be in danger of overtraining your muscle groups, which can lead to injury.

Rest is crucial to becoming stronger as the body actually increases it’s strength during your rest days opposed to when you are in the gym.  So rest or active recovery days, such as foam rolling, stretching, light cardio, etc., are great to do as long as they are done appropriately.  The best way to judge an effective workout is not by soreness but by progressive overload.  Did you increase the weights, reps, time, speed, etc.?  If you’re unsure how to do this, check out this great article we wrote about how to progress your workouts.  Did you work hard and out of your comfort zone?  If so, chances are you’ll definitely benefit from your workout.

no pain no gain fitness myth
Foam rolling is great for recovery and for alleviating sore muscles

I think it’s safe to say that no one has ever “gained” anything but an injury from working through the “pain.”  It’s important to understand that when we reference “pain” we are referring to a sharp, acute pain and not a burning sensation in the muscles.  There is a huge difference between working through a tough exercise that burns and is uncomfortable and experiencing real pain that actually hurts.

It’s crucial that you never work through any real pain, as it is your body’s way of signaling to the brain that something is wrong.  Contrary to popular belief, pain is not “weakness leaving the body.” When it comes to exercise, if you’re experiencing pain, the best thing to do is stop what you’re doing and either adjust the exercise so that you’re pain free or try a new exercise.  Pushing through the pain will most likely leave you with an injury and a major setback.

Catch last week’s myth, “If You Exercise, You Can Eat Whatever You Want” and stay tuned for next week where we’ll be debunking, “There’s a Quick Fix for Everything!”

Written by Sophie DeHenzel
No Pain, No Gain!

Photos courtesy of: warrengoldswain/ (middle), wave break media ltd/ (bottom)

About DeHenzel Training Systems: DeHenzel Training Systems offers In Home Personal Training services throughout Northern Virginia and Washington DC.  Aside from in home, personal training is also available at the office gym or outdoors at a local park.

Within Northern Virginia, we service Loudoun, Fairfax and Prince William Counties including: Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Ashburn, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Fairfax, Falls Church, Great Falls, Herndon, Lansdowne, Leesburg, Lorton, McLean, Oakton, Reston, Springfield, Sterling, Tyson’s Corner, Vienna and Woodbridge.

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