ASK A TRAINER: How True is the Expression 'No Pain, No Gain?'
"I just joined a gym. I've never been a fitness person so I hired a trainer to show me a few things. I definitely want to be pushed but sometimes I feel like he's pushing me too hard. Am I just being a wimp? I almost called out of work the other day because I was so sore. When I told my trainer, he kind of laughed and said, "'no pain no gain.' How true is it when they say, 'no pain no gain?'" - Dennis C., Charlotte, NC
Thanks for the question, Dennis. First, congratulations on joining the gym and taking the initiative of hiring a trainer. I hope your trainer didn't try and claim that maxim as something he came up with as they have been saying, "No pain. No gain," since the inception of exercise. They talk a lot. Of course, a lot of clichés become cliché because they happen to be true.
Exercise releases endorphins, relieves stress, increases energy levels, aids sleep, enhances the ability to enjoy recreational activities. A solid workout can leave you feeling great all day long... after it's over. It's not supposed to feel like a warm bath or a soothing foot rub or like getting your hair washed at the hair salon (how good does that feel? Seriously.) Exercise works because you place your body under stress and it strengthens itself to prepare for the duress of your next workout(s). While you're doing it, it should feel uncomfortable. It's supposed to kind of suck. But it shouldn't be unbearable and it shouldn't feel painful.
I have a theory that the phrase, "No pain. No gain," exists because the phrase, "No discomfort. No gain," doesn't rhyme. I suspect the level intensity of your workouts might be inappropriate for someone just beginning to work out based on the degree of soreness you are describing. Post workout soreness is to be expected especially for someone new to exercise but it shouldn't be debilitating. A fitness program should be progressively more challenging. If you're starting at full speed right out of the gate, you aren't giving your body a chance to acclimate to your healthy, new lifestyle. If the reward for showing up and working hard to better yourself is losing one of your sick days at work, you are less likely to become an exerciser for life.