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No Pain, No Gain: Fact or Fiction

We have all heard it at one time or another during our lives. Perhaps it was a high school coach from years gone by, or more recently, one of these new "aerobic instructors from hell." Your legs are burning, your stomach is nauseated, and you are sweating from places you didn't even know could sweat. Despite your effort and pain, there is a raving maniac in your face hysterically spouting that tormenting rhyme: "No Pain, No Gain!"

Suddenly you are overwhelmed by a confusing guilt that leaves you ashamed that the pain you are currently experiencing isn't somehow worse. Can this be right? Is this what fitness is all about?

To answer these questions one must first determine what their fitness goals are. If the person is an aspiring athlete who hopes to dramatically improve within their sport or to compete among the elite, some "pain" will be necessary at specific times during their training. However, the pain they experience will be controlled and appropriate.

A person who exercises in the hope of having a favorable effect on their body composition or blood chemistry has no long-term need, nor reason for pain. Mild muscle soreness is to be expected for 2 or 3 days after the initial onset of an exercise program. The soreness is caused in part by the accumulation of lactic acid (by-product of muscular contraction) within the working muscle. Continued exercise will aid in the elimination of lactic acid and stretching may assist in the reduction of muscular soreness.

After the initial bout of soreness, pain has no part in the exercise routine. Additional pain should act as an indicator of potential problems. Either the person is doing something wrong (incorrect technique or improper intensity level) or they are flirting with an injury. In either case, pain is there for a reason and it is telling you to stop until the cause can be determined.

Your body is your best coach. Learn to listen to it and make adjustments within your exercise program. Remember - No Brain, No Gain!

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