[Episode 52] Busting The Myth That Training Needs To Be Highly Uncomfortable To Be Beneficial

by | Feb 26, 2021

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In this episode we will be busting a pretty commonly believed training myth. This is that training needs to be highly uncomfortable/painful to be effective.

This is a common narrative and is visible in “motivational” training slogans like:

cis het white guy with mustache pointing and saying no pain no gain funny meme

“No pain no gain.”

“The pain you feel today will be the strength you feel tomorrow.”

“Use the pain as fuel and keep on going.”

“You push through the pain because results matter.”

It is a common misconception pushed by the fitness industry that training has to be uncomfortable to be effective.

This isn’t true. And it certainly isn’t motivating.

Now I’m not gonna lie, there are ways to train that are highly uncomfortable. But it should never be painful.

Pain during training means something is going wrong. And it’s dangerous to think that pain is an acceptable part of training.

It’s what leads to injury. Pain is your body telling you that something isn’t right.

So listen when this happens.

 

Different ways to train

As I said, there are certain ways that you can train that are highly uncomfortable.

Training to build mass is one of these ways. Because it requires a build up of lactic acid in the muscles to stimulate your growth hormones.

But this is just one way to train. And it’s often viewed as the only way to train. Even if people don’t realise specifically that what they think of as training is it’s style.

Now as I said just a moment ago, there are many ways to train and they don’t need to be highly uncomfortable to help you reach your goals at all.

I often have members of my crew say things like I’ve been doing these exercises but I don’t know if I really feel it.

And my first question will always be, what are you expecting to feel?

Because often their perceptions of training are based around the idea that you need to be highly uncomfortable during training. This is often what influences these questions.

When the truth is that you can move your body in an abundance of ways and it will be of benefit to you. And those ways definitely don’t have to feel really challenging or cause a lot of discomfort.

 

Choosing different ways to train

If you are new to training or have been training for a while slogging your way through HIIT sessions thinking this is the only way to train I’ve got some exciting news for you friend.

You don’t need to suffer in a session to gain strength, muscles or build endurance.

And I know this because it’s how I train and it’s how I train my crew.

I mean sure when folks first begin training a session they can feel like it’s a lot of work. But that is because the body requires a little time to adapt to new movements.

It’s really important to understand the difference here.

 

What makes a good training session

A good training session will leave you feeling used and even energised. But most importantly still able to do everything you usually would in your daily life without lasting discomfort in the days following.

Sure a bit of soreness in your muscles that eases within a couple days is totally ok.

But soreness that leaves you in pain and stiff for longer than that means you’ve probably done too much.

So the best thing that you can do is assess how you’re training. And ask yourself if it’s getting you where you want to go and if you enjoy it.

 

Training with a coach or fitness app

If you have a coach, check in with them. But if they are telling you that this is the only way to train, I’d be a little concerned.

This to me raises the question of what their knowledge around training is. Because there are in fact many ways to train that can help you achieve your training goals.

Now if you train following sessions from a training app (because there are a bunch of them around) take a look at the sessions you do.

If your sessions are set out in HIIT format, you can change that very easily. Simply slow down your movements and the speed you work through them.

Instead of trying to fit as many reps into each round, do each movement slow and with control.

I guarantee you that slow controlled movements will have you working in a way that a rushed movement never will.

Slowing things down will ask your body to work more muscles through the whole movement.

And it will limit you using gravity to help you get down into certain positions as well.

 

Practicing safer movement patterns

Another perk that comes with slower controlled movements is that you will be practicing safer movements as well.

It doesn’t matter how many reps you do in a session. If your movements aren’t done with as much control as you are able to apply, they are not going to be the best for you.

Now I get that there are folks out there who do like to train high intensity, heavy or just push themselves for fun and that’s totally ok. It is a valid way to train and I will never say otherwise.

My point today is that this is not the only way to train and more often than not it is pushed out as the only option.

 

Training at a moderate intensity

Something that I haven’t seen much of throughout my years as a coach is a consistent message when it comes to training that you don’t need to smash yourself when you train.

I know I’ve spoken about this before too. I strongly believe that low to medium intensity sessions are very effective with helping people reach their goals.

For myself, I tend to stick to medium intensity sessions, meaning a majority of my training sessions require 60-70% of my maximum effort.

Now I get that my training goals are not about gaining a huge amount of mass and for some folks this is important.

My training goals focus on strength, muscle endurance and cardio capacity because I train for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and I don’t need a huge amount of muscle mass for that.

And we all train for different reasons, whether it’s for a sport, self care or for the challenge. These are all amazing reasons to move your body.

Just remember that there are more ways to train then fitness trends may let on or have available.

 

Train for yourself not for your coach

If you want to slow your movements down in a session but happen to go to classes or have a coach that is trying to push you to go faster, there are a couple things you can do.

You can share with your coach/instructor your intentions to go slower and do it your way.

And that you are training for you and the most important thing is that you are enjoying yourself.

Your training session is not about your coach/instructor and they can’t force you to train a certain way.

And if your coach/instructor tries to “convince” you that their way is how it needs to be done, that’s disappointing.

Because this is them making your choice about themselves and not about you, the person exploring how they can enjoy their training and get the most from it.

And while it’s disappointing, if your coach/instructor only wants to or only has the ability to train you in one particular way, they may not be the right fit for you. Regardless of how great they may be as a human.

Bowie Stover Thinking Pose

Bowie Stover

Pronouns: they/them

My passion to help others through developing an active and healthy lifestyle, along with my desire to contribute as much as I can back to our queer community, has led me to co-found Fearless Movement Collective. To be a small part of your day that makes a HUGE impact on your life would be one of the most gratifying and rewarding experiences that I could hope to have.

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Bowie: @the.no.t.enbie
NGF: @non_gendered_fitness

 

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Non Binary Fitness Coach Bowie Stover kneeling with two kettlebells

Bowie Stover
(they/them)
Kettlebell and Movement Coach

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