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Eight Habits for Long Term Fitness Success–#7 Don’t Train Through Pain

There are thousands of different workout programs and methods to use to become more fit.  These range from at home workout videos, to aerobic or yoga classes, to bootcamps and group functional training workouts.  Methods, benefits, and risks/drawbacks could be debated until our last breath and often are among fitness professionals.  One thing I’ve come to learn in my twenty years in this industry is that dogmatic approaches rarely pan out, and you are better off steering clear of anything or anyone who claims any one method of training is optimal and a cure all for everyone under every circumstance.  However, I do believe that there are some universal habits that will vastly improve someone’s fitness.  For the sake of this article, I will stick with habits which only involve movement, with an understanding that nutrition, rest, recovery, stress management, and body weight all impact fitness as well.

To know what habits will best improve long term fitness, we must first define the term.  There are three definitions of fitness. The first (and newest, brought on by the growth of the fitness industry) is “the condition of being physically fit and healthy.” This definition misses the mark as it uses the root of the word in it, and doesn’t really tell us anything.  The second definition is “the quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task.”  This definition is a little bit better.  We can see here that the fitness required to be an NFL offensive lineman and the fitness required to run the Ironman in Hawaii is much different.  This still doesn’t get to what most of us think of when we describe someone as being fit.  The third definition, and the one I find to be most relevant to the general population, is “an organism’s ability to survive and reproduce in a particular environment.”  Put differently, your ability to reproduce and pass your genes onto the next generation.  At first glance, this may seem like a poor definition.  If we go back 100-500 years to a time where modern technology and medicine couldn’t “fix” everything, this definition is ideal.  If someone is over or underweight, they struggle with fertility.  If someone has major health complications, injuries, etc. they would have a hard time attracting a mate, defending themselves/home, or feeding themselves.  Certain lifestyle choices will absolutely reduce fertility rates (smoking, drinking, stress) therefore decreasing one’s fitness.  Operating with the biological definition of fitness, I find that the following eight habits will set you up for a lifetime of greatness.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Don’t Train Through Pain

We’ve all heard the tough guy mantras of “No Pain, No Gain” or the Marine Corps mantra of “Pain is weakness leaving the body”.  The reality is that pain is a big red flag that something is wrong.  While there are a lot of reasons pain can be present (including mental health issues), training through pain typically only makes things worse, can lead to more serious injury, and may lead to a long-term time off from training.  When pain is present, we want to train around it, not through it.  This can be done by limiting range of motion, elimination or emphasizing certain muscle actions (Eccentric, Concentric, Isometric), or simply finding a different exercise that targets the same muscle groups.  Some individuals just seem to have problems with certain exercises.  As long as there are other exercises that they can train the same muscles with similar types of movements, then this is not a big deal.  If pain is chronically present and begins to impact day to day activities, then it’s best to see a skilled Physical Therapist to help troubleshoot and find a good solution.  Effort/challenge are good and often needed for progress.  Pain on the other hand, especially long term will lead to problems.