The mantra, ‘No pain, no gain’ has been around for decades. It’s almost seen as a positive if on you’re way to getting fit there are some bumps, bruises and a muscle pull or two. Why is it that we are trained to think that for us to be successful at weight loss, muscle building or any sort of body transformation it has to involve some sort of pain? I’m not really sure, but I do know that it certainly doesn’t have to be that way. When I speak of body transformation, I am not speaking of altering one’s appearance through artificial means like plastic surgery or with other forms of cosmetic enhancement. That stuff hurts for sure and while I have absolutely no judgments about it, it’s not what I am talking about here.
When we embark on any fitness journey and are looking to see results, it takes hard work. There is no way around that. Though if you work out smart you can get to where you need to go without any detrimental pain at all.
Don’t train too hard too soon
If you are going from a fairly sedentary lifestyle to a more active one, take it slow. Ease into your workouts gradually. If you can treat yourself to a few sessions with a trainer in the beginning, it will be well worth the cost. Pushing too hard right away won’t yield you the quick results you want. It will likely land you on your couch with an icepack. Groupon, Gilt City, Living Social and Amazon Local are always running specials so take advantage of those perks and if you do see a trainer, take notes. If you don’t end up sticking with them, they will be fountains of valuable information that you can refer back to as you train on your own.
Set realistic goals
1.5 pounds to lose per week is about average if you train at a moderate intensity and watch your calorie intake. Any more than that and your body is probably losing valuable nutrients. Always check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program as he/she may advise you that a goal of less than 1.5/lbs per week is better for your health.
If something doesn’t ‘feel’ right, stop doing it
So often our pride is our downfall in a lot of situations. Working out is no different. If you feel a pinch, twinge, numbness or stabbing feeling, stop what you are doing immediately. Pushing through pain is only going to give you more of it. Work on another muscle group for the remainder of your workout and give the area that bothered you a couple of days. If, when you go back to working it there is no pain, great. If not, have it checked out by the proper medical practitioner. Our bodies are amazing at healing, but sometimes they need a little assistance.
Don’t stretch or work out when you are cold
I can never stress this enough. Stretching muscles that haven’t been warmed up raises your chances of injury exponentially. If you start to work out at a medium to high intensity before you are warmed up and you feel a slight twinge, you may dismiss it but it can be the beginning of something more serious. If you plan to work out first thing in the morning or after a long day of sitting, make sure you do a light warm up (jogging in place, jumping jacks or mountain climbers are three examples) before starting. I am also a fan of stretching during or after your workout instead.
If you do get hurt, take the time to heal
Another common mistake I see is that people come back to exercising before their injury has healed. All you are doing is delaying the process and opening yourself up to further injury. You also risk overcompensation in other areas in order to avoid the pain of where you were injured in the first place. This doesn’t mean you don’t have to exercise. Just focus on other muscle groups.
Give your body a day to rest
To build muscle you need to tear it and then it needs to repair itself. If you are training at a medium to high intensity and you aren’t giving your body at least a day to rest between workouts, you aren’t giving it that time to build the muscle you are looking for. That said, if you are training at a low intensity, I personally don’t see anything wrong with doing a little something every day. I wouldn’t necessarily train the same muscle groups two days in a row though.
Overall, the ideal outcome is to reach our goals and stay safe and pain free in the process.
Jessica Kuiken is a Los Angeles based Certified Pilates Instructor. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter via her website Being In Balance Pilates.