This could be the most damaging maxim in the fitness/performance industry.
Not because it doesn't have merit, there is a certain amount of discomfort necessary when pushing past previous limits to progress with health and performance goals, the issue is in the distinguishing of different types of ‘pain’.
A highly unpleasant physical sensation caused by illness or injury.
This is the pain commonly experienced by gym goers, under the impression that this is normal, they continue to ‘push through’ the pain. In almost all cases, this leads to much more severe pain, often leading to the person being unable to train.
This is very confusing for many people, they thought pain was part of the process.
“maybe I’m not cut out for this exercise thing…” they think to themselves.
The large majority of people aren’t willing to wake up the morning after workouts with a sore back or aching knees, all in the name of looking better naked. And the sad thing is, for most people, it’s completely unnecessary.
It’s not supposed to hurt. Not that kind of hurt. That’s your body telling you something is wrong.
Movement should feel good, it should feel smooth, stable and strong. Not painful, sharp, tight, burning, tingling, or any of the other feelings that people would generally recognise as bad outside of the context of ‘exercise’
I believe this to be one of the biggest barriers that stops a large percentage of non-exercisers from getting hooked on the numerous benefits of movement.
The important distinction that needs to be made is between the DISCOMFORT of high levels of effort, and the PAIN of incorrect movement patterns. While this may seem like a simple concept, if more people really understood this, I would almost certainly be out of a job.
This is why the number one thing I say on a daily basis is: “How does that feel?”
My clients can attest to this, and sometimes it takes a bit of explaining for me to get all of the information I need from them, but it is hands-down the most important question any coach or trainer can ask, which is why I ask it on average 5-10 times per session.
The reason it’s so important is that, regardless of how a movement may look in a text-book, or how many times I’ve seen it performed, or how close to perfect it may appear, what really matters is how it FEELS to the client or athlete.
If I don’t get the response I’m looking for, it is often only a small tweak to position to fix it, but if I never ask, I will never be able to make the tweaks. I have lost count of the amount of times I have been able to refine and evolve the way i coach movement patterns and advance my skills purely by asking this one question over and over.
Movement patterns themselves should not cause pain or discomfort, they should feel smooth, strong and stable. It is worth investing the time and energy into achieving this level of movement competency, not only will you save the ‘pain’ for when it is actually necessary, but you will achieve much higher levels of performance by working with your body instead of against it.