No Pain No Gain – How to tell if your workout is working out


I hated him.  Maybe hated is a strong word.  Loathed?  Detested?  What word do you use to describe how you feel about a man who pushes you to a point that every fiber of your being is screaming for the end and you’re fairly certain death is imminent?  I’d say hate works pretty well.   

“Give me two more suicide runs.”  He said it calmly and without a single pant.  I was convinced he should be panting as heavily as I was if he was going to insist on pushing me over the edge.  I shot him a steely look.  “No pain, no gain.”  He said as he smiled smugly at me.  Yep.  I hated him.  But I ran two more suicide runs anyway. 

I've been athletic in some way most of my life.  Sports all the way from elementary school through college.  So I’m accustomed to the ‘no pain, no gain’ mentality...and the onslaught of sore muscles and Tylenol that follow the day after a tough workout.  What I've learned over the years is that you shouldn't feel this way after every workout. 

Pain isn’t an indicator that you’re whipping your body into shape. It’s not necessary to be so sore you can't raise your arms to wash your hair the next day (yes, it has happened).  However, if you’re actually getting results, then your body should be feeling some physiological changes it isn't used to.

Here are some ways to recognize if your workout is working for you:

  1. The "no pain, no gain" myth – This saying is, to put it simply, bull malarkey.  Granted, there are times when you need to put your body through the ringer a little, but it shouldn't be a gauge as to whether or not your workout is doing its job.  Most exercise should not hurt.  If it does, chances are you have an injury. (Of course, if you've never exercised at all you may think everything hurts – or that you’re dying – but that very likely just your body getting used to exercising.  If you feel fine a little while after you're done, the "hurt" didn't damage anything except possibly your ego.)
  2. Soreness – If you’re wondering how sore you should be, keep this in mind – a little soreness is okay, but you shouldn't be so sore that you can barely roll yourself out of the bed the next morning (yes, sadly that has happened too).  If you’re getting too sore, check the ego at the door and back off a little on your next few workouts.  Don't skip them, that will start the cycle over again, just go easier.  Ease your muscles into it so they can recover and then you'll be reenergized and ready to increase the intensity.  Also remember, soreness should decrease as you progresses. The longer you stick with your workout routine, the more used to it your body becomes.
  3. Energy level and appetite – Don’t freak out when you find yourself wanting to eat everything on the menu at Luigi’s when you first start working out.  It won't last long. You are consistently hungry because you've changed your diet and started working out.  It’s possible you will even feel rather tired for a week or two.  It won’t take your body long to adjust and you’ll have more energy than you’ll know what to do with.  Okay, you've probably already got a list waiting of what to do with the energy, so hang in there.
  4. Don’t sweat it – Seriously, how much you sweat is no indication of how well your workout went. Like pain, some people think if they didn't sweat they didn't get anything from their workout. Not necessarily true.  While sweating is healthy and if you never sweat at all then you probably aren't exercising hard enough, you don't always need to be dripping wet when you’re done. An example would be resistance training.  If you’re going light on the weight, you may not necessarily sweat much, but that doesn't mean you aren't getting benefits.  Keep at it.

Keep in mind, everybody is different and there are no set in stone rules about how you should feel all of the time and no two people are going to respond the same physically.  You have to learn how your body reacts, and – don’t get discouraged – it could take some time.  Concentrate on really listening to your body.  And remember, after a break-in period, you should start to feel good and have more energy!  If this isn't the case, ask your trainer – even if you hate him with a passion the first week or so – because isn't feeling better why you’re working out in the first place?


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