The best training day of the week as hitting the gym today sets you up for success for the rest of the week.
If like me, you grew up in the ’80s, it’s highly likely you would have heard this saying on a regular basis within the fitness world. 80’s fitness icon Jane Fonda loved wheeling this saying out along with “feel the burn” during her workout videos.
Now, whilst training options and methods have moved on since then, the usage of such sayings has not. My sport of choice (as a slightly more nimble young man) was rugby; the archetypal “man’s game”. One where popular perception expects you to run as fast on one leg as on two! To tackle with any part of your body if your arms aren’t working, and so on! It was firmly set in my mind that I had to turn out each week (twice whilst at university and playing club rugby) regardless of whatever discomfort I may have been in from the week before so as not to let my team down. This would often include having ankles/wrists/fingers strapped tightly to offset sprains or other injuries.
Now I’ve matured (at least I think I have) into a very novice exerciser, I see this for the folly it was.
There is discomfort and then there is pain.
Discomfort or soreness is our body’s way of telling us that we’ve stressed it somewhat, trained it a little harder than normal, or undertaken a movement or weight for the first time. A classic example of this are lunges. It is a unique feeling that comes following a workout including lunges if you haven’t performed them in some time! This is often called the DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and is the body’s way of saying “Hey, that worked me pretty hard and you might need to take it easy for a day or two!” DOMS can present within 6-8 hours and last for a sometimes uncomfortable 48 hours.
Pain, on the other hand, is a different animal. This is our body’s way of telling us something is wrong. It can manifest itself as a cramp or spasm when we perform a movement. Alternatively, it can be associated with bone or joint injury. In both cases, if the issues don’t subside, it is sensible to get to the doc’s (or ER in severe cases) to get checked out. Pain does not get better with warm-ups and mobility work. I had the misfortune of tearing an abductor a few years ago. There was little in the way of immediate pain but, as a little time passed, it became apparent that I had caused myself significant mischief. My body started to protect itself by limiting my movement patterns and coordination.
Following this, I was in some considerable discomfort and a trip to the physio was quickly arranged.
So how do I know if I should keep training?
Common sense is the key here. An element of discomfort is likely to be inherent with any exercise, especially if you are new to it or coming back after time away from training.
Listen to your body, and your coach, and ease your way into things.
If you get sore, see if a little mobility work reduces its effects. If it’s sore or uncomfortable, give it a little rest and see if it improves. If it hurts from the get-go, get it checked out before it gets any worse.