Philosophies in disciplines across the board have changed over the generations due experience, research, and media reach. The old adage of no pain no gain is still used in physical training settings and not necessarily in a tongue-in-each manner. I still see it appear on Facebook, hear it mentioned between friends at the gym. But is there really gain with pain?
I remember training as a kid, coaches and instructors would have us working even if we were injured. We would be bandaged up, sometimes looking like the walking wounded, and carrying on through what we could with the crutch of our bodies being supported externally. Looking back, I can not justify why I did that to myself. Although it is difficult to justify, that training discipline was engrained in me at such an early age, that I catch myself pushing to that point. Fortunately, the body can heal. Unfortunately, the body does not forget.
I am not advocating approaching your training where you stay in your comfort zone. I do think getting to the point of discomfort is how the body learns new things, builds new strength, and becomes better functioning. Discomfort is one thing and is a useful tool. Learning to gauge when that discomfort is pain, that is another useful tool. Many athletes, especially those who were high functioning athletes at a young age, often have different pain barometers and sensitivity than those who did a normal health maintenance level of activity. Because elite athletes endured so much pain as kids, it became normal to experience it regularly. Our ability to appear as functioning normally while in distressing pain was developed and it became part of our mental toughness. However, as adults, this can actually be counter-productive to our athletic careers as it results in pushing things to the point where the pain is intolerable which often signals damage that will be difficult for the body to repair.
Up until my thirties, I got away with abusing my body. Once I crossed that line into my thirties, it changed and progressively worsens with time. I have always had a team on my side throughout my career who have helped me to maintain my function. It has included a physiotherapist, massage therapist, chiropractor, acupunturist, and naturopath. I credit this team for keeping me at the athletic level that I am today. I can still compete in auditions with those a decade and more my junior and outrun many of them too. You are an athlete! Care for your body as it’s the only one you have. You want to be able to dance until you die, so invest in maintenance – it’s more than just for cars.