Life is Pain, Anyone Who Says Different is Selling Something

Life is Pain

I know, I know, as the Pangolin Pandemic is starting to pass, I return more and more to my blogging roots, including the cheesy pop-culture references. Hey, at least The Princess Bride is no where near as obscure as some of the stuff I quote.

Anyway, I’m not telling you different, and I’m not selling you anything (at least not yet) but I am going to talk about exercise, fitness and pain.

When you’re exercising your way to, or back to, better health, you will encounter my old friend pain. Something very important to understand about pain is that there is good pain, and bad pain.

Good Pain?

Yes, good pain. Basically, I’m talking the Marine Corps, “Pain is weakness leaving the body” stuff. It hurts to push your body past its limits, but in pushing past our limits we get stronger. When we work a muscle to its limit, and then beyond, we harm it, but at the same time we strengthen it.

I’m not going to go into great detail here. Suffice it to say that the damage we inflict on our muscles and bones during exercise sends a signal to our brains that something needs fixing and our brains, being overachievers, fix the damage better than it was before. In short, by harming our muscles, by damaging our muscles, we make them stronger.

So, yes, good pain.

Bad Pain

On the other hand, there is bad pain. Red flag, screaming agony type pain. When you feel a muscle fatiguing you have the opportunity to push a little more, do a little more damage, feel a little more pain, and increase the benefits received from the repair.

Bad, red flag, screaming agony type pain ain’t that.

Lately I’ve been perusing Reddit/r/backpain, and the more I do, the more I think that the vast majority of the questions are people trying to determine if they have good or bad pain.

“I took a walk in crappy shoes and now my back hurts,” or “I waxed my car and now my back hurts” vs, “My leg is numb and I had to roll over to get out of bed.”

I can help you with the first two. For the third, get off the internet and got to your doctor. Lately I’ve seen a meme floating around, “Your Google search is not better than my MD degree,” or words to that effect. Sage advice.

But why have I been thinking about good and bad pain?

Because I’ve been busy as a one legged man in an ass kicking contest the last couple of weeks, and missed a couple of HIIT workouts. Last night I did one with my wife and youngest son and today two of us are Paying The Iron Price. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, pop culture references again.)

Pain, Age and Recovery

Which is one of the things about pain and aging. You recover slower. I’m sore from a workout that 20 years ago wouldn’t have bothered me a bit. 10 years ago, I’d have already recovered. Now, not so much.

Fortunately, after all the years, after all the work on my back and posture, after pinched lumbar nerves and serious migraine troubles, I know the difference between good and bad pain. Yes, I’m sore, and my six year old (the little creep) isn’t, but I know that’s all it is, soreness, not real pain.

I may not be 100% tomorrow, but I will be by Thursday.

So keep this in mind. The best time to get in shape was 20 years ago. The next best time is right bloody now, because the longer you put it off, the harder it will be, for many reasons. Today’s reason is recovery.

Recovery gets a little slower every year meaning:

  • the longer you put off getting in shape, the longer between workouts, meaning
  • fewer workouts, meaning
  • it takes longer to get in shape and
  • the longer recovery time give you more time to be “too busy to exercise” and quit