3 of the Most Damaging Fitness Myths: Part 1

There’s a lot of information out there about how to workout. Over the next three weeks, I’ll be sharing what I believe are three of the most damaging misconceptions in fitness (and what we can do to overcome them). Let’s begin:

Myth 1: “No pain, no gain.”

First, some semantics. When people use the word “pain” they’re often referring to muscle burn, feeling out of breath, feeling high levels of fatigue, and general feelings of physical discomfort. These feelings are often felt when people push themselves to the point where form breaks down and they’re unable to finish what they’re working on. You don’t want to feel actual pain during a workout. If you do, stop what you’re doing and change movements or do something to resolve it.

Problem: When you exercise to exhaustion or push past your comfort zone, you’re not necessarily improving the factors that are meaningful (i.e. strength, conditioning, mobility, control). When training, there’s a line that separates beneficial strain from harmful strain. When you push past beneficial strain, your form breaks down and the benefit to your overall health begins to go down.

You might feel like you’re getting a better workout because it’s harder, but that’s not necessarily better for you.

You might feel like you’re getting stronger if you’re pushing your muscles to exhaustion, but that’s not necessarily the case.

If you wanna keep doing push-ups past what you’re able to do with good form, you’re simply going to get better at doing push-ups without good form. While you may get stronger in some areas, you’re probably also risking your ability to get stronger in the future by putting your body in compromising positions.

The problem here is that your workouts can break you down both physically and mentally. More is more. More isn’t necessarily “better.” If you operate with a “no pain, no gain” mentality, pushing as hard as you can all the time, you’re probably going to feel actual pain, or get injured somewhere along the way.

Solution: You develop what you train. If you train to become more competent at a skill (i.e. push-up), over time you’ll get quite good at that skill. In a workout, this might look like doing far fewer push-ups than you think you’re able to do because you’re focusing on form and making each rep better. When you have a central focus for your training, you can evaluate if what you’re doing is getting you better in that area or simply making you exhausted. Once you’re confident in a skill, you can then consider adding intensity.

It doesn’t matter what you do. It matters how you do it. And if you do too much, too soon, an injury could set you back by limiting your ability to remain consistent. And if you can’t do it consistently, your body won’t be able to adapt to it. Period.

Consider this: Something you’re doing to improve your fitness isn’t necessarily improving your health at the same time. It’s not just what you do. It’s how you do it. Research shows that one of the biggest factors of someone’s long term health is their consistency. Other research has shown that consistent routines, even though they might seem less intense to some, produce a longer lasting outcome than those that are less consistent.

If you’re having trouble with consistency, instead of thinking there’s something wrong with you or that you’re lazy, consider how the routine you’re thinking of makes you feel. If it’s too boring, too uncomfortable, or feels like it’s not aligned with what you really care about and need, guess what? You’ll likely do it less frequently. When you find a routine you like, consider not just the movements themselves that you like, but other factors that are contributing to your whole training experience – like community, accountability, environment, etc.

Take aways:

  • There’s a difference between working out to exhaustion vs. working out to get better.
  • While working out to exhaustion might feel like the right thing to do, it’s not always the best option for getting stronger, more mobile, or whatever your goal might be.
  • Having a specific goal to focus your efforts can help guide your workouts.
  • Consistency is key to make continual progress.

Thanks for reading! In the next post, I’ll share Myth 2 with you.

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Chris Gaines

I help people discover the impact of athleticism in their everyday life. With that clarity, they navigate misconceptions around fitness. With that focus, they pursue movement skills with intention and a larger purpose. All so they can face life's everyday challenges and grow with confidence.

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