We've all heard the saying ‘no pain no gain’, but is this really a good motto to follow where your training regime is concerned? Kate Dorward, Personal Trainer at HA fitness advises on when it’s time to take notice of your aches and pains, and how to prevent them becoming a more serious problem that could jeopardise all the hard work you’ve put in to get fit.
When Is Discomfort Normal?
Most of us will have experienced some muscle soreness a day or two after a training session. This is perfectly normal and can give you a sense of satisfaction, knowing you've done a good workout. Known as DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Stiffness), not only is it OK to do a little light exercise, it’s actually a good idea to get the blood flowing to the sore areas as the oxygen and nutrients in the blood will help heal the affected muscles and relieve the symptoms.
And When It’s Not...
But what if your symptoms are more severe? Remember, pain is your body’s way of telling you that something isn't right, so it’s important to listen. It’s better to rest up for a couple of days than to risk an injury, which could force you to stop for an indefinite period.
Never push through the pain hoping that it'll go away. You’ll do more harm than good. Definitely never take pain killers to mask the pain, just so you can continue with a workout. It could lay you up for weeks with a much more serious injury.
If your symptoms arrive quickly and then wear off, then it could be a temporary glitch like cramp or a muscle spasm. Provided you have no further problems, then it’s OK to keep exercising with some caution.
If the aches and pains don’t abate, or cause a sharp intake of breath when you move in a specific way, then it’s vital not to ignore the message, as something more serious is going on. Cease training the painful area immediately, and once you’ve cooled down and stretched, head home to rest.
If things don’t improve by the next day, then seek a medical opinion. It may turn out to be minor, but it’s worth knowing what you’re dealing with; either to clear your mind or to put you on the fastest possible road to recovery.
Can I Exercise With An Injury?
Exercise is often an integral part of rehabilitation as you’ll need to strengthen the weakened/injured area to improve it. Provided your doctor has cleared you to exercise, then you should be able to keep fit, even if it means some changes to your usual workout.
Speak to your trainer who can suggest alternative exercises to keep you on track whilst you rehabilitate. For example, if you have back or knee problems, then power walking or swimming can be low-impact yet fat-burning alternaltives to running*. For those with shoulder injuries, whilst over the head excercises are a no no, there are still plenty of exercises which can help rehabilitation whilst sculpting the upper body*.
Injury-Proof Your Workout - 10 Golden Rules
Remember, prevention is always better than cure, so follow these 10 Golden Rules for the safest possible exercise programme:
- Always warm up and stretch before exercising and NEVER skip the stretches at the end
- Build rest days into your weekly programme to give your muscles time to rest and repair
- If training on consecutive days, focus your weights and toning on different body parts on each day, e.g. training the arms one day and the legs the next so you don’t overstress or over-train individual body parts
- Always work within your limits - push yourself but be realistic. It’s OK to be tired but not to be in pain
- If hurt, always get a proper diagnosis from a doctor or physiotherapist, and relay all details to your instructor to ensure everyone is working together for your safely
- Always chat to your trainer about injuries or concerns, old or new ones. Your trainer can then tailor your workout accordingly
- If an exercise is painful (not just tiring/difficult!) always stop. Get your instructor to assess your technique and posture, and if the if the exercise is still uncomfortable they should suggest an alternative
- Build up slowly. Increase your exercise intensity by no more than 10% each week to challenge, but not overstress your body
- Develop your core strength. A strong inner unit and good posture are vital in injury prevention
- Remember to do your physio exercises...simple as it sounds most patients who see a physio don’t follow their rehabilitation exercises diligently, and all too often old niggles will resurface!
Stay injury free,
*NB each case needs individual assessment