Pain & Discomfort in Exercise – When to Push on and When to Stop – Part 1

 In Exercise and Health

Pain and Discomfort in Exercise

If you have ever exercised you will at some stage have experienced pain and/or discomfort! Some level of these two is okay. That way we know we are working and effecting change in our bodies. But sometimes we must listen to our bodies and to push through the pain may cause us more harm than good. So how do we distinguish when to continue and when to stop?

Gym woman with her trainer

If you are experiencing a slight burn or discomfort in the muscles while exercising, this is okay. That way we know the muscles are working. When you stop the exercise this feeling should subside after a few minutes. This is what we might call a ‘good pain’.

If it continues and becomes actual pain in the bones or joints then this is more serious and you should stop that exercise and seek the advice of a professional e.g. physiotherapist. Furthermore if this pain is affecting your ability to move freely then this is another sign that it is not a ‘good pain’ and you should consult a physician.

This ‘good pain’ is caused by a thing called lactic acid. If we want to get fitter, stronger or to progress we must push through this discomfort. We must push a little bit more each time. By doing so you raise the point at which lactic acid builds up to the point where you ‘feel the burn.’ This is called ‘increasing our lactic threshold.’ The fitter you are the higher this will be.

Lactic acid is a by-product of energy creation. Ordinarily the body uses oxygen to create energy and to remove lactic acid from the system. However as you increase your work rate (intensity) the body can’t take in enough oxygen to clear the lactic acid build up quick enough. As the lactic acid build up increases and becomes too great this is the point that you will see one of two things. Either the athlete will stop the exercise to take in more oxygen and hence reduce the lactic acid. Or in the extreme the person will continue and you may see them throw up. This is because the build-up has become so great that the body literally tries to eject it from the body.

The latter is an extreme situation and many people are not prepared to push themselves to this point. This is normally a reaction we see from either very unconditioned people or the extreme elite.

Author – Peter Ledwidge

Certified Pilates Instructor & Personal Trainer

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