No Pain, No Gain?


We’ve all heard the phrase, “No pain, no gain” in relation to exercise, but is it true? Honestly, this is a tricky one. One of the reasons being that, everyone has a different idea of what “pain” is and a different pain threshold to go with their ideals. Some people won’t claim to be in pain  until an appendage has been detached from the rest of their body. Others will  scream in excruciating pain if they get  a hangnail. With such vast and differing opinions of what “pain” is, there is bound to be some disagreement on whether the saying is true or not.

One thing is certain. If you are experiencing bodily pain, there is a  most likely a reason for it being there.When you feel pain, it is your body’s way of trying to get your attention. It is  trying to tell you that there is a problem, that needs to attention.

Quite often, especially in the weight room, I’ll hear someone advising a friend to “push through the pain”. To be brutally honest, it makes me want to go over and smack them upside the head.  Pushing through the pain, whether in your daily activities or in this case  during exercise, is definitely not the most brilliant thing you can do. If you are experiencing pain that can be described as shooting, stabbing, aching or throbbing, whether  it feels superficial (close to the surface) or deeper  inside, you should seek  the help of a medical professional who can properly diagnose and treat the cause of your pain.

That being said, pain is different than the burn that  you feel as your reps increase and your muscles begin to fatigue. To push through the burn is different than pushing through the pain. Let me give you an example to try and help you differentiate between the two. When  I was  working  on rehabilitating my torn rotator cuffs, there was a point in my range of motion (especially when bringing my arms above my head) that I would feel a shooting pain always turned into a deep ache that would last for a week or better. No getting around it, that was pain. Needless to say, I got really good at not letting myself get to that point in my range of motion until my rotator cuffs were ready to!  The burn that comes with muscle fatigue comes on slow and builds as you continue to push the weight. Eventually, you get to a point where  you can’t move the weight anymore. Does the burn feel “good”? It depends on who you talk to. Most people will tell you no. Others, myself included, don’t mind it. In fact, if my muscles are burning, I’m a happy gal.   It means I’m doing exactly what I’m  in the gym  to do,  make progress.

Okay, so back to finding an answer to whether or not there is any truth to our saying, let’s turn to the dictionary.   Webster’s Dictionary defines pain as, “localized physical suffering associated with bodily disorder (as a disease or an injury); plural : trouble, care, or effort taken to accomplish something.”

That certainly sheds a new light on things, doesn’t it?   Let’s break it down a little more. The first part of the definition reads, “Localized pain that is suffered” which it goes on  to specify as an injury or  illness. Well, nothing in that portion of the definition  refers to losing weight, cardiovascular exercise  or lifting weights. Living a  healthy and active  lifestyle is not a disease nor an injury, although it will help prevent both….Hmmm. What a coincidence!

The next portion reads, ” plural : trouble, care, or effort taken to accomplish something.” Does this apply to exercise? The answer to that question is a resounding YES!!! Did you notice that the  definition uses the words  trouble and effort?

Beginning and continuing a weight loss program isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination. For me, it took  a ton of effort to get to the gym everyday and that was (at the time) a whole lot of trouble! ~In fact, I still have days (though thankfully they are now few and far between) that I have to make myself get up, and get my butt to the  gym.~  It doesn’t matter if your goal is to lose  10, 50 or 100+ pounds, whether  you are just beginning, you’re half way to your goal or just trying to get rid of those last 5 pounds between you and your goal, it’s hard and it takes effort. Period.

Are you thinking what I am thinking?

I’m thinking that this particular portion of the definition of pain must be where our saying originated from!   Although I can’t prove that the saying originated with weight loss specifically, it most definitely applies! Think about it, situations that  take  motivation, goal setting, dedication, hard work, determination, persistence and tons of patience  to get through are what  help us grow into stronger, more knowledgeable, and ultimately more confident individuals. These types of situations, though difficult to get through, are  worth every ounce of “pain” experienced. Because in the end, take a step back and just look at what you have gained.

Pop Quiz

True or False. Circle the letter that indicates whether the statement below is (T) true or (F) false.

1.   No pain, no gain.                                   T   or   F

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