You've most likely heard of the saying "no pain, no gain." It refers to the intensity at which you need to exercise in order to make progress.
As clever as this saying is, you do not want this mindset during your workouts.
Workouts don't have to hurt to work. In fact, they are more effective long-term if they don't hurt. There are several reasons for this:
First, the chance of injury skyrockets if you are trying to produce pain. Think about how close you are teetering to the edge of the cliff. You don't want to be that close to the edge of the Grand Canyon, and you don't have to be to enjoy the beautiful views.
Secondly, your recovery suffers. Who wants to be sore for an entire week after exercise? Not me. Of course, as you get into the intermediate and advanced levels of fitness you will be able to push harder. But by that point you will already have adapted to more intense workouts.
Third, your rate of progression will be more consistent if you do not adopt a "no pain, no gain" mentality. When you are going for the "no pain, no gain" workouts, you will find that at times you are progressing rapidly, while at others you are at a standstill. You can't maintain that intensity all the time. Contrast that with the steady, step-by-step progression.
Your workout ability can be represented by this circle. Proponents of the "no pain, no gain" philosophy will tell you that you need to experience pain, such as doing workouts outside of your ability level. But these are not only dangerous, but they are too random to produce any kind of tangible effects.
Instead of that harmful method of fitness, try to make it your goal to do workouts that are inside of your ability. They produce no pain, and they are mildly challenging. Then the next time you go to the gym your ability level will be slightly better. In that case you will do a slightly harder workout.Over time you progress, so that you're doing very advanced workouts, yet still cause no pain.
So while "no pain, no gain" is clever (and of course it rhymes which makes it nice), it's not useful in developing our levels of fitness in a safe and sustainable way.
Instead, aim to get better at what you're already pretty good at. Your body will respond and give you more ability for next time, without all the negative side effects of pain.
Remember, workouts don't have to hurt to work. It's not about annihilating your muscles, it's about providing enough stimulation to get an adaptation from your body. Once your body adapts, you have a new frontier to explore. But don't explore that frontier until you are ready.
Hopefully I've conveyed generally my belief on the whole "no pain, no gain" philosophy. I did not arrive at this philosophy by accident, in fact over the last 14 years as a personal trainer I have tried many times to justify the need for pain during a workout. But it's just not necessary. Is there effort involved? Sure. But that effort doesn't have to blast you into oblivion.
Agree? Disagree? Any further questions or clarifications? Leave your comments below or feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have pain, especially in your lower back, check out my online program "Help! I Threw Out My Back." This program consists of four bodyweight workouts of 10 exercises each. They range in difficulty from easy to challenging. And they will get you building the right foundation to do workouts that don't hurt you.
Ultimately, I feel the best the reason to exercise is to feel better in our day-to-day lives. There's no point in wrecking our bodies so that they don't function. Exercise today for your 80th birthday (seriously, you are most likely going to live that long).