Anytime we are exercising and pushing our bodies, there will be some kind of “pain” – muscles tight, burning, fatigue and even failure. But how do you tell the difference between good pain that’s the result of a great workout vs. pain that could be signaling an injury? Those who have participated in sports their whole lives probably have a general understanding that most workouts don’t “feel good” and you just have to push through the suck. If you are new to the world of working out or haven’t in a long time, it is important to understand and know the difference. “Listening to your body” may make you think that you should never move off the couch and even for an experienced athlete it may not always be clear what your body is telling you.
Soreness or pain is a normal response to muscle exertion and often occurs after working out at high intensities. Muscle soreness is a typically a generalized pain that is felt in areas of your body. Just because your muscles may be tender to touch or it feels cruddy moving (like sitting on the toilet after a bazillion squats) does not mean that there is an injury—this could just be a result of working that particular group of muscles.
The general “burn” or pain that is common while exercising is typically symmetrical. For instance, if you are doing a bazillion (it is my word for the day) lunges then you should feel the burn in both (right and left) quads, hamstrings and glutes! If you are experiencing pain on only one side of your body, then you may need to take a closer look at what is going on, or at least ask your coach for an opinion.
Most of the time you are going to feel the burn in your muscles however, if you ever feel like something is happening in a joint or bone, then you should take a look at what is going on in that particular area. If you all of the sudden have limited range of motion that is not due to muscle fatigue and you are experiencing pain, then absolutely stop what you are doing, talk to your coach and modify the workout as needed. Swelling is definitely something to note (and I’m not talking about muscle pump), if you notice swelling (especially when accompanied with pain) then stop and ask your coach for assistance.
Huffing and puffing?? Yep, that is just part of it! Obviously if you have certain conditions (like asthma) that could affect this ability, take precaution as needed. Seriously, if you are working hard then it is going to be difficult to breathe!
There are so many phrases out there like “No pain, no gain” or “pain is weakness leaving the body” and as long as we understand the definition of “pain” in these particular sayings, then absolutely they ring true. Push through the pain and get to work!