No pain no gain? The Sweet Mo Guide to pain during exercise.

Hey Everybody!

Recently we’ve had a few great conversations in class about pain during exercise. We realized we’ve been asked a few similar questions in regards to how to approach pain during a workout.

Contrary to your high school gym coach or overly enthusiastic boot-camp instructor, fitness is not about beating yourself to a pulp, or forcing movement that doesn’t work for your body. That “no pain, no gain” thing? In most circumstances, you’re not going to get better results by performing exercises that elicit pain. Working through pain can lead to injury and it can cause us to ingrain poor movement patterns in compensation.

Pain is one method your body uses to communicate that something isn’t right. Instead of trying to ignore it, or being frustrated by it, you can use pain to guide yourself to better movement.

Check out the FAQ below and let me know if you have any questions or if you want to talk more about this topic!


Pain and working out FAQ

What kinds of pain are okay during an exercise?

  • Muscular burning. As long as you can stay in complete control of your form, burning muscles are part of the journey, my friend.
  • Being uncomfortable. Part of a fitness practice is learning to be in discomfort. Continuing to focus and stay engaged when you’d rather stop. Calling on your last bits of strength to get you through the hardest part of the session. Some days it’s the most intense stretch you’ll do.
  • And finally, existential distress. When the workout makes you ask questions like:  When will this be over? Why am I here? And, isn’t the gym just a human-size hamster wheel?

What kinds of pain are not okay?

  • Joint pain (for example, hips, knees, shoulders, elbow, neck)
  • Lower back irritation 
  • Pain that occurs every time you perform a specific movement
  • Acute or stabbing pain during or after a movement.

If you experience any of these kinds of pain, stop what you’re doing and flag down a coach. We will help you adjust your form, modify the exercise, or provide an alternative movement.

How do you know when you fatigued? What do you do?

If your muscles get so tired that you cannot longer be in control, of if you are unable to pace your breath, it’s time to regress the exercise. Depending on the move, you may drop any added resistance, perform fewer repetitions, stop completely, or do something to make the exercise a more appropriate challenge for that moment.

How do you know when you’re appropriately challenged?

You’re able to perform an exercise with control over your entire body. Your movement is purposeful. You can choose what is stable and what is mobile. If it doesn’t take effort to stay in this state, you’re likely ready to try a more challenging progression. 

A few more tips: 

  • Being successful in a small group training environment is all about balance. Be with everyone in the space, but don’t worry about what they’re doing. Focus on what feels right in your body, regardless of what everyone else is up to. Your workout is about YOU.
  • Ask for modifications when you need them, or if you’re curious about what that would look like (you may need to know how to adjust as you fatigue).
  • Tell your coach if you experience any pain, or if you are unsure of what you’re doing.
  • Don’t fake it ‘til you make it. Go slow before you go fast. Rest when you need to.