Personal Training Series: Ignoring pain

The human body has a pain sensing system. This system is designed to preserve the body and prevent long term damage. In training the body responds to stimuli and training pain needs to be overcome. However, there is a limit, and it is important to understand for your own body what that limit is.

I saw a documentary on television where a young boy had no pain sensing system. He would go to school and ask his friends to punch him in the stomach; he pretended he was superman because he felt no pain. One day his parents noticed bruising and swelling around his legs and abdomen, and took him to hospital. The doctors discovered he had severe internal haemorrhaging from being punched too much. This young boy’s lack of a pain sensing system could have led to his death.

Another documentary showed scientists trying to reproduce the pain sensing system in the body because it is so important for preserving life. With all the technology and advances in science today they were unable to replicate the system. It is highly complex and adapts to its changing environment. We need it to learn what not to do, what we can do, and what is dangerous.

In training, if we ignore pain completely then injuries often occur. It is important to put in perspective what you are doing, the experience you’ve had in training, and what you think your body can do – you must have realistic limitations as to how much pain you will withstand.

Be sensible and listen to your body. Focus on gradual increase in loading in training, and be happy with steady progress in your training goals. Aim long term rather than short term. Keep in touch with your physiotherapist and trainer to guide you through this process and avoid injury.

It is not much fun being injured and in the long run ignoring pain from an injury will make your training time longer. Get your body assessed by a physiotherapist and work with a personal trainer to prevent injury and to enjoy your training.

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