May 6, 2008 posted by

Good Pain vs Bad Pain

With new clients it’s generally a challenge teaching them to sort out good pain from bad. Good pain is the type associated with “no pain, no gain,” while bad pain is more associated with “no pain, no brain.” The former is the type that exercise induces that is your muscles and cardiovascular system working against the forces of your workout. The latter is bone, joint, connective tissue or other signs your body is giving you that you’re doing something harmful to it. It’s often not easy to sort out the difference. To max your body’s potential you need the ability to fight through pain, but if you fight through the wrong kind of pain you’ll never be able to reach your potential.

New clients often think that the standard soreness from a hard session is the sign of an injury. Conversly, seasoned athletes tend to feel that they can ignore and fight through anything with enough willpower. This often leads beginners to give up training altogether and athletes to be chronically injured or, only slightly better–to spend most of their careers in a state of being overtrained.

How hard is it to get right? Well, I’ve been around this block a bit and I often can’t tell. Part of it is from sheer manicness. If I can’t exercise I’m a bad person to be around. My doctor recognized this straight away, telling me “you’re going to f@$% this recovery up, aren’t you?” And in spite of his warning and my own knowledge, I’m probably bordering on pushing too far. I’ve regressed a bit in the last two days. It may be a normal part of the recovery but I had just inceased my exercise level as well, so I’ll blame myself. Today I’m back to icing and sitting in front of a computer.

There’s a saying amongst the endurance athletes that goes “it’s better to be 25% undertrained than 1% overtrained.” This is because 1% overtrained means injured, or at least a state of cumulative microtrauma. It means that you can’t train or can’t compete, productively. It means that racing someone 25% undertrained will be frustrating because they will have their emergency fibers ready for use while yours are extinguished. And then you’ll be racing someone that you know damn well hasn’t put the work in that you have, and they will beat you. This is a horrible feeling. It happens all the time.

I always tell myself that if I don’t feel like training then I shouldn’t. I try my best to stick to this rule; I still often fail. I just had a surgery. I hurt. But it’s beautiful out. My bikes are all clean and beggin me to ride them. And I want to. I want to bad. But I’m not going to. I’m going to sit here and ice and work and read and maybe watch a movie. I’m not going to ride. And making myself do that hurts a lot more than any pain I’d face on the bike.

pic: good pain: the only thing more painful than time trialing is not time trialing.


  • no brain, no pain; always my mantra. sorry to hear you’re doing less than well. rest is a miraculous thing though; you know this better than most.marc

  • You can have my pain. The one in the left lumbar region. It’s all yours. Come and take it, please.Hope you feel better quickly, but I’m not one little bit surprised. I’m surprised it took you this long to fuxor your recovery.~R

  • It’s not exactly fuxored. It’s just, um, uncomfortable. It’ll be fine… Ha!

  • Well, yea, that’s both what I would expect and what I would expect you to say. Keep training.~R

  • is the pain i’m still experiencing from chest, shoulders, triceps good pain? marc

  • Hey Marc, I think I got the same pain. I was really surprised to be hurting the day after and I still hurt today. Maybe back and biceps will make me feel better, but I kinda doubt it.~R

  • Hey snack cakes, thanks for the music. I feel way better now.Steve, I’m feeling better about all these workouts and I know my fitness is improving. I was just hoping for more change in my weight. I’ve lost about 6 pounds, but I wish it were more. But, I’m pretty sure that adding biking everyday of the Giro to the mix will help kick the weightloss into action.Any suggestions?~R

  • someone as athletic as you won’t drop weight as easily. the key is to keep going because it will eventually force body composition changes. currently you’re just sharping up your system. yeah, adding the biking will force it to happen quicker, especially if you keep on schedule with the X training.

  • I plan on doing both. So, starting tomorrow I will be looking at probably 2.5 hours of exercise or more each day. It should be good. And exhausting.~R

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