DOMS Pain: Myth or Magic

Discomfort in Relationship to Training

So, how many times have you heard the catch phrase “No Pain, No Gain” and wondered, is it true? The honest truth is the answer is in some ways yes, and in other ways no. Let me explain.

No Pain No GainPain is a part of training because it is necessary to push the body out of its comfort zone. I’m sure many of you have heard me say “A workout shouldn’t be all warm and fuzzy….you must train yourself to become comfortable with  feeling uncomfortable.” And when you get out of your comfort zone, discomfort or pain will be involved.

However, it is also true that pain is a warning sign that something is going wrong. For example, break a leg and the body sends an instant pain signal to take the pressure off the leg. Our bodies have built in systems to protect us from damage. Ignore it at your peril.

So to answer the question, it is vital for us to be able to distinguish the difference between good types of pain vs bad pain. Failing to do so can also mean making the mistake in your training of either not pushing yourself hard enough, or pushing yourself too hard when it is time to heal.

Bad Pain

Sharp pain, acute pain, pain that is all of a sudden, is frequently an alert that something is wrong. It is your body’s warning system to pull back from whatever is causing the hurt. It may be a muscle, joint, bone, tendon, ligament, etc. This pain is usually VERY noticeable.

Dull pain may be a warning that something is starting to develop and you should pay close attention as you proceed with your training in caution, accessing and reassessing what it is doing.

Good Pain

Contrast bad pain with examples of good pain.

Good Pain Example: When executing an intense training session, you will experience immediate pain and discomfort from the movement you are executing.

TKettlebell Swingsake the kettlebell swing as an example. When executing a kettlebell swing, you start to feel discomfort almost immediately. The load becomes sufficiently difficult, your heart rate continues to go up leaving you breathless, while you are grunting to eek out another rep.  Meanwhile burning sensations take place in the glutes, legs, arms, etc. But, what happens when you stop? The discomfort or pain goes away. Pushing oneself out of their comfort zone and feeling discomfort or pain in this case is placing demands on the body – in a good way.

Good Pain Example: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or “DOMS” is pretty self explanatory by name. Your muscles experience a second round of pain hours, 1-2 days after your training session. This soreness is a result of micro-tears in the muscle itself.

However, DOMS is not due to lactate acid – a major inaccuracy in the sports and fitness world. These micro-tears come in response to your training which take your muscles beyond their current level of conditioning. Which again, is a good thing. DOMS Pain is Good

The idea is to tear down that muscle, allow it time to recover and therefore rebuild, and strength gains and muscle growth will occur.

The actual strengthening of the muscles occurs in the recovery phase. In order to get results, the breakdown and recovery process is a must. Feeling that post training soreness or DOMS is sure fire proof that you did something right.

So, the old “No Pain No Gain” catch phrase is somewhat true, but there is a balance. Keep in tune with your body so that you are able to recognize a signal where the pain just isn’t right or is very severe. Perhaps there may be more going on than simple muscle discomfort or soreness such as in most cases.

And while DOMS can be intense at times, it does fade away. And as strength gains continue and the body adapts, you will find yourself getting into far better condition than ever before. Keep in mind that if you feel nothing as a result of your training, you’re most likely not pushing yourself hard enough to achieve results you are striving for.

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Consider joining us for the Catalina 20 miler or 50K Ultra. Training starts November 1st. Contact Amy today if you are ready for this incredible challenge and adventure.