Train vs. Pain: How Do I Tell?


Did you ever wonder what that sensation you are feeling in your muscles (my hamstrings hurt!) or joint (my knee hurts!) is, and whether you should “train through the pain”?

I was meeting with Dr. Coapland over at Performance Health last week about this very thing, and he shared with me how his team communicates with their clients when someone reports “pain”. Based on our discussion our team at Get Fit NH developed an infographic that helps us communicate more clearly on what you are feeling and what the appropriate training is for you that day.

Right from the beginning when we perform your movement assessment (FMS) we are making training decisions. There are three basic choices we have when faced with a movement challenge:

1) Train It

2) Avoid It/Provide an alternative

3) Correct It

#1 is not going to happen.

#2 Could happen under some circumstances. For instance if a client has a knee challenge we are not going to hammer the knees, but perhaps offer a hip dominant exercise where indicated instead. There could be times when this is not appropriate, and it that case we would do stick with our correctives.

#3 is the option of choice. Work on clearing the movement restriction so you can get back to full strength. This usually goes hand in hand with option #2. Work on our correctives through the warmup/mobility part of training, and then give an alternative during strength training.

 But what about Pain?

First of all if there is pain during any of the screens or clearing tests we will refer you out for a clinical diagnosis. We then can work in collaboration with your medical team to support in the gym what they are doing outside the gym.

The big question beyond that seems to be “How do I know if should train (a particular movement pattern)?” Let’s say you feel “something” in your shoulder. Should you do shoulder work that day? The answer is “It depends”, and that is where you can give feedback to your coach so he or she can help you make the right training decision. If you can’t life your arm over your head, well I think we can figure that one out pretty easily. But if you are just not sure what you are feeling, stop and think for a minute. On a scale of 0-10, with “0” indicating “all systems go” and “10” meaning “I need a doctor” – how do I feel?

The infographic gives you and your coach a guide on what’s appropriate for you, but here is the bottom line:

NEVER Train Pain!

Be smart, be safe, and train hard – when and where you can.

Make It Happen!

Coach Dean




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