Common scenario: you want to do your best, but you’re in pain and hurting while training.
How can you tell if you should keep going till the end of the session or stop to avoid injury?
For all of us who like to exercise, there inevitably comes a time when we feel a bit of discomfort.
When you reach that point you’ll no doubt wonder whether you should keep going and push through it, or if doing so could cause an injury.
There is such a thing as ‘good pain’, which is the pain you feel during exercise but in the absence of an injury. Then there’s ‘bad pain’, which is the pain you feel when you have suffered an injury.
Signs that you’re actually hurting yourself
- The pain you’re feeling is ‘sharp’
- The pain you’re feeling is ‘shooting’, or accompanied by numbness, tingling or pins and needles
- There was a sudden onset of pain
- The pain developed in association with something ‘popping’, ‘clicking’, ‘snapping’ or ‘giving way’ underneath you
Also read: Top 10 Cardio Myths Busted
How to recognise good pain
What does good pain feel like? Think about when you climb a really tall set of stairs or a steep hill. As you start to breathe harder, you get less oxygen to your muscles.
When that happens you start to develop lactic acid. At the beginning you feel almost nothing, then it becomes slightly uncomfortable, then if you’re able to keep going, it becomes really uncomfortable. So we would say that one point of differentiation from bad pain is that good pain has more of a gradual build-up.
The location of the pain is also a clue. Good pain will be generalised to a region, whereas bad pain is quite specific. For example, if you’re ‘feeling the burn’ in your quads from climbing stairs (good pain), then most likely the entire front of your leg will feel it, all the way from your knees to your hips.
On the other hand, if you tear or strain your quadriceps (bad pain), the location of the pain will be a lot more specific – you’ll feel sharp pain right at the point of the tear and in a small area surrounding it.
How to reduce the risk of hurting yourself
The reality is that sometimes you may not see an injury coming. However there are definitely things you can do to reduce the risk of suffering an injury.
While there have been a few studies questioning the value of stretching alone, a number of studies in the past couple of years have shown that a progressive warm-up that includes a variety of exercises is very effective in reducing the number of injuries people experience.
All you need is a few minutes of light cardio, followed by a few stretches.
For instance, jog for five minutes then stretch your calves, hamstrings and quads if you’re doing a running/legs session, or do five to ten pushups then stretch your chest, shoulders, and neck if you’re doing upper body weights. Then do a bit more jogging at a higher intensity or another five to ten pushups.
This should at least wake up your nervous system and stimulate a bit of blood flow to your muscles prior to your session and will actually help you perform your workout at a higher intensity.