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Pain

If you are a runner or exerciser, you already know exactly what the old adage, “No Pain, No Gain” is all about. Face it, whenever you attempt any new fitness program, unless you are 10 years old or have a Gumby body, it’s going to hurt. But there is such a thing as good pain (although it sound oxymoronic) versus bad pain. And, it’s important to know which is which.

About 4 years after I started running, I started having pain in my right knee. According to the doctor, I’ve lost most of the cartilage in that knee. It happens to many runners. I’ve tried all sorts of therapies, infusions, tennis shoes and knee braces but, the pain has never really gone away. It is something I’ve learned to live with. It definitely hampers what I can and can’t do as far as distance and exercise. But I still work out and stay active. So there.

Moving Isn’t a Big Deal, Until You Can’t

Let’s start with bad pain. If you think you may have injured yourself, and are having consistent pain after exercising, ask yourself these four questions to know for sure.

1. Where am I hurting? If you are feeling the pain on only one side of your body that is a good indication that something is not right. Your muscles may not be balanced and this could lead to injury or be a sign that you have already injured yourself in some way.

2. Does the pain persist? If the pain is just more than “being sore” and lasts more than 24-48 hours, or if you only feel the pain after one type of exercise over another type, it is a good idea to seek medical help.

3. How bad does it hurt? If you have ever been in the hospital, you are familiar with a perky nurse coming in to ask you, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your pain level this morning?” After heavy exercising, you probably will have pain in your muscles less than a 4. If it is over a 4, something else is going on.

4. Does your pain force you to change the way you walk or move? Often, avid runners or exercisers will try to push through the pain by changing the way they walk or run to protect the painful area. This can lead to more injuries in other areas.

You know your body better than any coach or doctor. If you think you may have injured yourself, be honest with yourself. If you have an injury, don’t ignore it, and likewise, don’t panic. It doesn’t mean that you have to completely stop exercising. You may have to adjust the type of exercise that you do. I’ve gotten pretty dang good at speed walking, but every now and then I’ll do a sprint just to prove that I still can! Whew!

Sore Muscles = Happy Pain

Now, onto the “good” pain. Realizing that exercise is probably going to hurt some, here’s what the good kind of pain might feel like. It’s important to realize that “good” pain is really not pain, but rather soreness and muscle fatigue. The burning feeling that you get in your legs at the end of a run, or at the end of doing a set of reps on a weight machine, is good. It is supposed to feel like that. In fact, there is a thing called DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness) which can occur a day or two after you’ve done a tough workout.

The second day after a heavy workout is always the toughest for me. If it is the good kind of pain, it will resolve itself immediately after you stop working out, or within 2 days. If the soreness lasts more than 2 days, chances are you have overdone it and should maybe cut back a bit.

Good pain will also be felt on both sides of your body. For example, after a long run, your right leg should feel equally as tired as your left.

And most importantly, good pain should not restrict your ability to go about your normal tasks. Yes, you may have trouble sitting down after you’ve done heavy squats, or walking down stairs may be hard after you’ve run a marathon, but you can do it. If you can’t do this type of thing, you probably have some sort of injury.

For me, the best remedy for super soreness is to move. It seems like the older I get, the sorer I get by being still.

The main thing to always remember is to listen to your body, and then you can officially feel good about feeling sore! Go, Wimpy Girl, Go!

“Gin and tonic does not ease my knee pain.
But it sure gets my mind off it!” ~ Wimpy Girl

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This work by Anel “Pookie” Ryan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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