I still hear people talking about exercising to the point of pain and trying to work through the pain. Ever since I was an undergraduate in college, I have always believed, based on what my professor said, that pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is getting damaged. He said you could exercise without experiencing pain. Was I relieved to hear that, since I am such a baby when it comes to pain.
Coaches still push their athletes to the point of pain and it is one way to develop more muscle fiber. But some damage does occur and it’s similar to taking 2 steps forward and 1 step backward. You make forward progress but you do have some suffering.
There is a way to push ahead 1 step forward, 1 step forward, without any backward motion. I tell my patients to listen to your body. Don’t look for pain signals, because that is an indication that you have already gone too far. If you have to use ice to calm the pain and swelling, then you have most certainly gone too far.
Instead, look for other signals from the body telling you the point of damage is near, such as breathing harder or feeling like more effort is needed. You may start to modify the movement by using more parts of your body. It can feel like you are straining. You feel fatigue coming on. These are signals that come before the pain and will give you a “heads up” that you should stop. Using these signals will prevent any damage or pain from occurring, making your progress proceed in a forward manner.
One incredible athlete I met in my life was Lynn Jennings, who won the Bronze Medal in the 1500 meters at the Barcelona Olympics. What made her so remarkable was the fact that she never had an injury in her running career at the time I met her. When I asked her how she was able to accomplish this, she said that she always listened to her body, taking it easy when she felt tired, taking a break when she felt her body needed a rest. What a contrast to other elite runners who usually feel compelled to continue to train despite pain and injuries to keep up with the other runners. She lived in the woods and trained with her dog, away from the running community, so she never got caught up in the competition of keeping up with the other runners. She listened instead to her body.
No matter what type of activity, exercise or class you are doing, listen to your body and stop before you experience any pain. Keep moving forward.
I focus on the topics you care about most.