When To Say “Uncle!” by John Grace
“No pain, no gain!” Without a doubt, that phrase is something we have all heard at some point. This expression can be used in any aspect of life, and most of the time it is true. In fitness, it’s a different story. There are two kinds of pain in fitness, and it is important to be able to distinguish between the two. One kind of pain is the “Holy crap, my muscles are burning so much, I don’t think I can push out another rep” and the other is “Ouch, my joints and muscles hurt so bad and I feel like something is going to snap if I push anymore”. It is important you mentally and physically push through the first when appropriate and recognize when the latter is occurring.
To make any kind of progress in your workouts and personal best performances, you will sometimes need to push through the discomfort caused by fatigue (the people who don’t are known, in Athletic Lab, as ‘sandbaggers’). We don’t want people to become ‘sandbaggers’. Rather, we want our athletes to embrace this fatigue and be able to mentally and physically push past their “limitations” to become better athletes or fitter individuals.
Listen to what your body is telling you though. Your body is the best platform to relay these injury messages to you, so don’t ignore them. If they are telling you “I feel like I might seriously injure myself if I keep going”. Chances are, your body is right on point.
There is a fine line between these two types of pain and it is important for you to stay injury-free so you can continue to make progress to your ultimate fitness goals. Whether it is to do one pullup or to hit a 300lb back squat. It might take some time for you to figure out the differences between these two types of pain and what your body is trying to tell you, but, with anything, in due time, this will become more natural. Open communication between coaches and athletes is the key for the continuation of you on the road to your goals.