no brain no gain

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I hear “no pain, no gain” almost daily. The mantra comes from the lips of the frail elderly and hulking construction workers, scholars and adolescents. I nod my head with mild approval to show that I appreciate the willing spirit.

But of course there are different types of pain. I stubbed my toe yesterday and gain eluded me, other than remembering not to try walking through my garage in the dark. At least it wasn't this painful:

Beyond accidental bumps and painful mistakes, sometimes the best intention and discipline of the will may actually work against the "gain" wanted in the first place. Pain is an extremely intricate, life-saving message. No pain, no gain - insane.

Beginning an exercise regimen when you’ve neglected your body for a while is a painful decision. Then comes sweat and breathlessness, not to mention the pain of walking away from the second doughnut and taking time to plan and prepare balanced meals. But "no pain, no gain" should be put on the shelf beside "listen to your heart" and other half-truths of the 1980's.

Case in point 1 - Just need to work it out

People say this as they place one hand on the painful area while rolling the involved joint in some kind of circular motion. Has that ever worked? For very long? When is it okay to take a few Advil and just get moving? Is a few weeks off all you need?

Advil and a few weeks off will get you better until you try doing some physical activity again, which usually translates into doing a lot of nothing. It's true that a few weeks off may do the trick when an injury or issue was caused by accidental trauma. But a few weeks off does nothing to address the biomechanical issues and other factors that cause most instances of tissue overload and injury.

If running has been hurting your knees, the best treatment may be a few weeks off and then some. That allows time to strengthen the core and hips and improve mobility of the ankles, hips, and spine. It's often necessary to address soft tissue restrictions and the subtleties of running mechanics. Finally, don't go back at it without a structured plan of resuming the desired distance and frequency of running.

And then see what happens! Just stay away from the bulls, won't ya?

The next installment will provide two more illustration of dealing with pain mindfully, through common occurrences in the areas of back pain and sports performance.

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