Equilibrium News masthead
21 August 2013

Good Pain Vs. Bad Pain

Just recently I have started running again. This is after about a two year lay off and I thought I could just get going again and it would be easy. You see, I have always run. This is something I have always done as long as I can remember. But the other day when my legs were burning and the post run cramping feeling was coming back to me, I understood what it was like to be a beginner runner. The last few years have been a big focus on cycling, but I am on a promise to client of mine that when I sign up to do a 10km run, she will sign up for her first triathlon. The things you do for your clients…

I was surprised in my little jaunt around the park just how many people are running in what looks like a lot of pain. Unfortunately in my job I find to hard to switch off when I see someone running in front on me. I am constantly analysing their gait pattern, looking at ways in which efficiency can be improved, looking at ways they could minimise the pain and maximise the effectiveness of what they are doing.

The painful expression on people’s faces was making my pain seem minimal. The amount of knee braces and nearly limping running styles made me wonder, is it all worth it? I mean, surely the amount of negative pain they must be going through to just get around the park must be huge? Is it really worth that amount of pain to what, to lose a couple of pounds?

This made me stop and think, yes it doesn’t happen too often. But I thought, how many of these people can recognise what is a beneficial pain on their body compared to a negative or detrimental pain on their body. Can people recognise when a pain is doing them good versus doing them harm?

But how can you understand and explain which is which? Well here is my checklist:
Bad Pain
- Is the pain in the joints? Any pain in the joints needs to be taken seriously
- Does the pain alter your running style?
- Is the pain so severe that you have to stop?
- Is it a sharp stabbing pain?
- Does it cause the muscle to go into cramp?
- Is it more than 8/10 on a scale where 10 is the most pain ever?

Good Pain is a strange term. But to help you to determine which is which, I think the following list may help.
Good pain is:
- General muscle fatigue
- The point where it hurts in the muscle, but doesn’t alter your running style at all
- It hurts now, you know it will hurt tomorrow, but in a couple of days you will be fine again

The above lists are very open to interpretation. An advanced athlete will regularly push themselves up to a 10/10 intensity, feel like their lungs are about to explode and their legs are about to collapse but may be absolutely fine with this. Also, some people have a higher pain thereshold so will naturally push themselves hard. And for other people a little bit of pain in the wrong area could cause a lot of problems.

Trying to recognise these different types of pain and whether it is doing harm or being beneficial for your training goals comes with a lot of experience. The more you train, in whatever form, the more you start to understand your body and recognise what is going on with it. The key is to listen to your body and not just get on with it and train through any sort of pain.

There is the famous saying ‘no pain, no gain’, and there is also the other saying ‘no pain, no brain’. So always think about the pain you are going through and work out if it will help you progress towards your training goals.

Take care and happy training,