When Working Out Starts to Hurt

You can’t scroll through Pinterest or Instagram without seeing fitspo that reads, “The only workout you’ll regret is the one you didn’t do.” While I get the sentiment, I whole heartedly disagree. In a landscape where overtraining is as trendy as the workouts themselves, I’ll admit, I regret workouts all the time. When working out hurts it’s time to take a step back and evaluate what you’re doing and how to move forward.

A pinch in the shoulder. A pain in the knee. A sudden zing in the hamstring. We’ve all had workouts where we experience a sudden flash of pain and think, “Oh shit, what was that?!”

We’ve been conditioned to push through pain and dismiss all discomfort in favor of physical toughness. After all, it’s probably nothing. But what if you’re wrong? When working out hurts it’s hard to know the difference between the burn that comes with a killer sweat and that of a serious injury. Here are five tips to help determine when to grind and when to throw in the towel.

Five Tips to Evaluate Pain When Working Out Hurts:

  1. Stop what you’re doing, whether you’re running, lifting or stretching. Pain is a signal that our brains send our bodies to change whatever we’re doing. If that signal is ignored it’s intensified.
  2. Try the drill or movement again, if the pain is gone, phew!
  3. If pain persists try the same drill or movement with reduced speed or load. Evaluate the pain, if it’s decreased or manageable continue with your workout. If not further adjustments need to be made.
  4. Try the drill or movement again with reduced range of motion. Pain impacts how our muscles fire or engage during exercise. If you’re putting stress on an injured or inflamed muscle you won’t realize any gains and may further dig yourself into a hole.
  5. As a last resort, take a modification or a substitute drill. If the pain continues it’s time to call it a day. See a physical therapist or doctor for a formal diagnosis and recovery plan.

I always tell my clients, when working out hurts listen to your body. There is nothing worse than being out of the game with an injury that could have been prevented or a persisting injury as a result of a prolonged recovery.

REMEMBER: Workout smarter, not harder. Don’t chase pain. Be mindful. Move with a purpose.

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