Dad at 40

Fitness, Nutrition, Parenting, and Life

No Pain, No Gain – Dumb Choices and their Consequences


So, the other day, my cousin posted about not feeling it and laying off his run. It got me to thinking about the choices people make when it comes to health and fitness. It is an important topic that is not often discussed and very often misunderstood. Thus, I felt it was important to discuss it in a bit more detail.

For years, we have been conditioned to buy into this concept of no pain, no gain. If you are not feeling pain, then you are not working hard enough. Kids are force-fed this line of drivel and they buy into it lock, stock, and barrel. However, it has also led to a ton of injuries. This mostly comes from this insane need to prove something to someone.

There are two variations of this:

Parent pushing the kid –

You have seen these parents. My kid does this. My kid does that. My kid is a star. I live vicariously through my kid. And perhaps their child is a star. Perhaps their child loves sport. But, more often than not, it is a parent pushing a child into something. Why? What is the psychology behind this? Well, without looking at any studies, I think it is safe to say that people want to see children succeed on the field, court, diamond, track, etc. Coming from a small town, I can honestly say that there was the notion of hometown Friday night fame that permeated the culture. It was something parents lived for – my kid is on varsity and is the hero of the game! Sadly, in my hometown and surrounding towns, a very stark reality is faced when small town kids face big town schools.

Let me share a personal story on this one. Many moons ago, I fancied myself a great basketball player (which, in retrospect, is completely laughable). I got invited to a tournament in Houston where I did marginally well, which earned me an invitation to a tournament in Phoenix. So, off I go spending money galore and thinking myself great and getting to Phoenix and walking on the course and having the coach call me the point guard. Whoa…whoa…whoa….I am a center coach. I have no idea how to play the guard spot. Cue team laughter and coach telling me to quit joking (come on, I am 6’8”…guard!??). But no, I am a center coach. Fine. Have it your way center. Tip off. Walk on to court and the opposing center is 7’2” and 280 lbs. with a scholarship to UC Irvine (so the dude was good, but not top-tier). Yeah…tough lesson learned and I realized all those hours of killing myself and beating my body up and busting my ass might have been better spent on academics. But of course my ego got in the way and I shirked it off and went back to the relative safety of thinking I was the best player on a small town team. Sound familiar? Know any parents like that? My kid is the greatest. Will be the best. You’ll see. Blah blah blah.

And if you do not believe me, just look up the statistics for the number of teens and kids that get Tommy John surgery. This being the best mentality really hits home in baseball. One study shows that teens 15-19 accounted for 57% of this type of surgery.

Even more frightening, they may be doing it because it possibly gives them an edge of some type. Granted, I know little of baseball, but are you effing kidding me??

Person pushing themselves –

Next is the person pushing him or herself beyond the limits of what his or her body can do. But Rod, you show off these videos and you talk this smack about fitness…jackass. Yes, but it is a slow process and I have gained experience and knowledge and paced myself as I make this journey. I am talking about those people who try to do too much all at once. We have all seen them. Usually, it is younger people. But, you have moments where adults will make ridiculous choices and pay a heavy price physically.

A person hits that point where the body is subtly, or not so subtly, telling you that you it needs a break. It is saying stop right now please. I am hurting and I really need you to stop what you are doing. But instead of listening, you just push right on through it. No pain, no gain. And then boom, you are hurt. Now you have to lay off for 3 months. And all that progress and effort is lost. You just got age checked bro…enjoy it!

The Reality

I have been saying this pretty frequently. Healthy living and fitness is a journey a person undertakes on their own. It is not something forced on yourself or on your child. This leads to injury or to a lack of understanding of limits. And it has consequences. Let’s just say that for kids, living up to some parental or societal expectation can be damaging psychologically. But that is an entirely different topic. You push a kid too hard and he or she can hurt him or herself. ACL surgery, joint problems, neck injuries, and even death. They want to be the player that you want them to be and they will push themselves through the pain.

As an adult, it is dangerous too. You do not listen. You do not remember that your body is older. It heals more slowly. It takes longer to recover. Age is merciless. It does not care what you think. It keeps marching on with time. So, when you work hard for weeks or months to make gains and you finally get to a point where you think you have it covered and you feel that twinge, you decide to push through it. And pop goes the ligament. Or strain goes the muscle. Or out goes the back. And now you face weeks, or months, of recovery time. All your gains and your progress go right out the window. Ta-da….have fun with that. Age check bro!!!! Haha (in that Nelson from the Simpsons laughter)

A Smarter Approach

Well Rod, what are you saying then? I am suggesting you take a smarter approach to training. Listen, if you are one of those crazy parents who think your kid will be the next best thing, I cannot help you. I will not even try. I just hope you encourage your kids to be somewhat smart, since sports will not pay their bills. If you are one of those people who push yourself harder than you should, I suggest you take stock of your fitness level and honestly assess where you are. For those people, I offer these tips:

  • Assess your body weight and take a hard look at the impact it has on your joints, then use that to determine how much to push yourself on a daily basis
  • Test your cardiovascular fitness and work to make small, incremental improvements to it
  • Start with small challenges (50 push-ups a day for 15 days) to get tuned in to how your body feels so you can start gauging what it tells you
  • Be sure you get plenty of water and sleep on a daily basis
  • Do not mask the pain with pills because you will not know if you are going to hurt yourself (yes, you can take ibuprofen, but do not eat it like candy so you can work out)
  • Acknowledge your age and limitations and design a program, either yourself or professionally, that works within the limits of what you can do at your age and fitness level
  • Give your body the fuel it needs to heal – protein and amino acids
  • Maintain a healthy diet – watch your macros carefully

Doing this will not be the be all, end all, but it will help you on your journey.

Remember, pain is bad. Pain is an indicator that something is wrong. Discomfort is okay at times. But honestly, you should be going for measured workouts and some slight muscle soreness. If you feel pulling or tearing or your body is just resisting exercise, then lay off. Listen to your body. Do not give up or quit, but listen to it. It will make a huge difference.

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