Pain for Gain?

If you’ve followed fitness trends over the last several years you will have noticed an interesting shift.  From the 1960’s into the 80’s, you heard about No Pain, No Gain.  Gym Rats talked about “feeling the burn” and how you HAD to be hurting if you wanted to get stronger.  From the 90’s until the early 2000’s, the No Pain, No Gain crowd has slowly been replaced by the more reasonable Gain Without Strain group.


Then something happened.  Namely… Crossfit happened!  In 2000, a new exercise style (and company) was founded that encouraged members to get back to basics, to get off of exercise machines and to work VERY hard.  Crossfit workouts are short and very intense.  While their popularity has skyrocketed, there are many critics that point to the inappropriate nature of the workouts for some and the high injury rate among participants.


Besides Crossfit, home exercise programs like P90X and “Insanity” also exploded in popularity on late night infomercials.


Based on basic, functional movements using minimal equipment, both of these programs are extremely high in intensity and not lacking in their critics.  Insanity, in particular has been criticized for it’s high risk vs. reward potential for many participants.  Simply put, if you have any joint problems, Insanity’s high impact, plyometric workouts will most likely inujure you at some point.

So, as an observer you might ask…. “Is THIS what I need to do to get in shape?”.

To that, I would answer… “It depends”.

In my daily work, I have had many, many people come to see me because they were injured doing Crossfit, or Insanity or some other high intensity boot camp style class.  The bottom line is, some exercise programs (and some exercises) have a higher risk associated with them.  Because of this, lots of people will get hurt doing them.  You’ve got to weigh the potential reward against the risk and determine whether it’s worth it for you.  If you’re training to become a linebacker, or a cage fighter, it’s probably worth the risk.  If you’re a stay at home mom looking after a couple of kids, the risk of herniating a disc in your back or tearing a rotator cuff in your shoulder probably isn’t worth it.

I believe that all types of training have their place and can bring about positive results.  The problem that I have with some of the super-high intensity programs is that they are NOT appropriate (or necessary) for most, average people.  You simply do not have to push super hard all the time, every time that you exercise.


In the end, Crossfit or Boot Camp or Insanity… or Zumba for that matter are simply tools that you can use to bring you to a desired physical outcome.  The key to long term success is to have a strategy that allows for you to make changes in your daily life and that you actually enjoy and will stick to.  All programs (intense or otherwise) are simply ways to add a “stimulus” to your body that will force you to adapt in positive ways, by adding lean muscle tissue, burning fat and improving strength and endurance.  If your exercise program pushes you past your body’s ability to recover, then progress will stop and you will backslide.

Do your homework and never believe the hype.  Consider your own exercise history, your injury profile and your experience with exercise programs.  Balance the risks involved with the possible payoff.  Is it worth it?  Are you going to actually follow through?  …and are you going to be safe doing it?

Any program that you do decide to get involved with MUST be appropriate for you.  It has to involve an initial conditioning period and then must change in a progressive way as your body changes.

Choose your “tools” wisely and then commit to do your best.


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