I discovered early on that I was never going to be the trainer that ran my people into the ground on day one. Actually I don’t really care to ever do that. Why? Well first, I want them to come back!! For heaven’s sake, if you can’t walk for the next 3 days, you sure as heck aren’t going to be working out. Then when you do come back, we have to start back at zero and this is just inefficient. Secondly, because ultimately I care more about what’s best for you than what you think is best for you.
See, most of us have come to think that we have to run ourselves into the ground and go at 110% intensity all the time or we aren’t doing anything. I used to think the same way.
And why wouldn’t we? Known for its incredibly brutal workouts, Crossfit is all the rage these days. We watch the Biggest Loser and see these morbidly obese folks getting run into the ground… and losing weight. We see motivational phrases like, “no pain, no gain” and “go hard or go home“ plastered all over the fitness world. So we pump ourselves up, hit the gym for the first time in 5 (or 10) years, run ourselves into the ground, are sore for a week, maybe try it again next week, get the same results, and we quit.
No wonder I get people all the time saying: “I wish I didn’t, but I just honestly hate exercise.”
Well friends, I come bearing great news: that “no pain, no gain” mentality is a load of shiz. The idea that you have to be sore after every workout or you didn’t accomplish anything?
What’s that you say?!?!? The fact is, if you’re working out at 110% every time, your productivity will stall or even digress because your body has not been given enough time to recover. Sure, some people can handle it for longer than others, but in the end the results will always be the same.
Now before I go any further, I would like to clarify that I am not saying that soreness or training at high intensity is always bad. On the contrary, I am saying you will get better results from high intensity work when you allow for proper recovery in between! SO, how do we make sure we are getting the most out of our workouts?
Gauging pain vs. discomfort
If you are just starting to workout, it probably won’t take much before you start feeling some discomfort. This discomfort is caused by exertion. Exertion usually takes the form of burning muscles or labored breathing or other things along that line. At first this is a very uncomfortable feeling. However, the longer you go the less uncomfortable it will become. Pain, on the other hand, should not be a regular part of your workouts. Pain usually presents itself in the form of sharp, stabbing, or pinching in the joints or muscles. Pain is your body telling you something is wrong. I do not believe pain should be pushed through.
Soreness is inevitable from time to time, but it doesn’t mean your workout was better than when you didn’t get sore. And it shouldn’t be your goal. Here’s what you need to know about soreness.
Beginners, you will probably get sore. It’s hard to introduce your body to something new and not experience at least a little of this. However if you are sore for more than 3 days, you went too hard. If you are sore on a regular basis, you need to back off. Ideally when you do get sore, it’s not extreme and it only lasts a day or two.
If you’re never sore and you’re not seeing improvements, you could probably stand to push yourself a little harder. If you’re never sore but you are improving-congratulations, you’ve found your sweet spot!!
This will be different for everybody.
Listening to your body
A good program or trainer will have progression built into your workouts. However, you are the only one who can gauge how your body is feeling.
-Are you new to the program? Don’t be afraid to ease yourself into it. Focus on form!
-Are you stressed out? Or just coming back from sickness or an injury? These workouts should be about getting your body re-acclimated or maintenance. This is when I would say you’re better off going too easy than too hard.
-Did you get a great night’s sleep? Are you feeling awake and energized? Been managing your stress well? Are the weights starting to feel easy? Now would be a good time to push harder. See if you can lift a little heavier or go for another set.
So I hope these tips help. A few final thoughts…
*This is gonna sound crazy, but exercise should leave you feeling refreshed and energized! For men, this usually means learning to leave some in the tank! You will get so much more out of your workouts when you don’t go to failure every set and focus more on your form. (It isn’t sexy but it will bring about some sexy muscles.) Women, learn to enjoy the temporary feeling of exertion and not fear it. You have no idea just how strong and capable you really are!
*Seriously, stop pushing through pain! Learn from my mistakes! Being active will inevitably lead to aches and pains here and there. When they come along, you might be surprised how quickly they resolve themselves if you just give the area of pain a rest for a day or two! (And no, that does not mean giving your knee a rest AFTER you finish 2 more sets of lunges!) Don’t be like the black knight….
** No matter how hard you push your body, you will not become fit in a week or a month. Fitness should be about consistent, enjoyable movement. There are so many amazing things to be done and seen but you need to be able to move to experience them. Don’t waste it in the gym running yourself into the ground until your body or your will gives out. 😉
***Interested in Colorado Springs kettlebell classes? Check out my in-home training studio, Springs Kettlebells!*