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No Pain, No GAIN… or is it?

We all know by now you have to work hard to get good results. One of my favourite quotes is by the greatest of all time Muhammad Ali, “When I feel PAIN, that’s when I start counting, because that’s when it really counts!” Now as motivational as that may be from The Champ, what is pain? When do I know I’m working hard enough? Am I not working hard because it doesn’t hurt? What type of hurt should I be feeling? I hope by the time you’ve read this you’ll be able to answer those questions.

Now don’t get all upside down on me – I’m not saying you don’t need to work hard and you shouldn’t feel some pain when you’re training. All the most successful people will tell you that you’ve got to be able to endure a bit of hurt, suck it up and take it on the chin to be successful in pretty much anything, but what I want you to do is avoid getting injured while still working hard.

So let’s start with the types of pain you will feel when training that can cause injury that you probably want to avoid.

Pinching. If you’re in a session and you feel a sharp pinching pain this is likely to not be ideal. This type of pain will usually be in a joint e.g. shoulder impingement can cause a sharp pinching pain. As soon as you feel this sharp pinch stop what you’re doing and rest for a bit, tell your trainer and they may know how to alleviate it. If this type of pain stays you should seek advice from a physio or medical professional.

Tingling. This type of pain is uncommon and not to be confused with burning! There are many reasons why you may feel like this: nerve pressure, dehydration, inadequate circulation, compartment syndrome, and more. If you do get tingling feelings or pain when exercising you should also take this up with a medical professional or physio as they will be able to diagnose why you feel this, however sometimes it can be as simple as drinking more water and having a balanced diet as you may be deficient in certain vitamins and minerals. If you feel tingling during exercise its likely you may cramp up afterwards.

Loss of movement range or strength. This does not mean fatigue! For example if I’ve done 10 pull ups I’m probably going to be fatigued and not be able to do any more. I won’t then panic because I think I’ve lost strength in my upper body – Wahhh, I must be injured!! NO, that’s fatigue; it’s perfectly normal. What I mean by ‘loss of movement range or strength’ is if you can’t move a joint as much as normal or if it’s impossible to have movement of a muscle or joint. As an example when I tore my rotator cuff playing rugby I instantly knew I was injured because I couldn’t lift my arm past 90 degrees and I had the strength in my arm of a 90-year-old woman (no offence to 90-year-old ladies.) Other examples are pain around the knee and not being able to stand on one leg or sufficiently support your own bodyweight on both legs. When you have pain like this, you may have already guessed but… go seek advice from a medical professional to get it diagnosed and have a plan to rehab from this.

These aren’t the only types of bad pain you may experience that can cause injury; they’re just an overview. Now I’m going to explain how to avoid getting these types of pain or injuries while you’re exercising.

Stretching and mobility. Stability without mobility is a recipe for injury! This doesn’t mean you have to become a yoga addict and be able to put your foot behind your head whilst bending forward and grabbing your foot and turning into a human pretzel. I mean properly mobilising joints before your session to allow optimal movement and performance. With my sessions we will warm up joint-by-joint starting from the bottom upwards, for example first mobilising the ankle and then working our way up to the shoulders/neck. If you’re someone who ditches stretching for more lifting, in the long run you may regret this, as you’ll likely get injured.

Proper coaching. Any good coach will tell you technique comes before intensity! One of the main problems with some of the most popular home workout DVDs is that you will be doing very intense exercises with rubbish technique. When you do rubbish stuff really intensely you will just get very good at being rubbish! Take the time to learn how to do things properly – invest in a trainer/coach so that in the long run you’re less likely to get hurt.

So to finish this off I’m going to tell you another of my favourite quotes that I learnt from a great strength coach: “Train smart to train better and then train faster!” There is no substitute for hard work, but when hard work gets injured it sucks!

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