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Get fit without the pain
Trying to exercise through pain can land you on the sidelines.

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Date published: 2/15/2009



At the Virginia Runner store in Central Park, manager Nate Brooks said he is seeing an increase in customers' knee and hip injuries, perhaps in part due to them taking the "no pain, no gain" adage a bit too far.

"It's really important that you listen to your body," said Brooks, a former high school track coach who logs about 30 miles of running a week.

Yet many new and experienced exercisers worsen an injury or put themselves out of the game by pushing through pain that's trying to tell them something.

The "no pain, no gain" motto took off in the early 1980s, when Jane Fonda's workout videos urged exercisers to "feel the burn." It might have been part of the fitness culture then, but as a generation of exercisers fell prey to preventable injuries, many in the industry started speaking out about the myth that links effective exercise with pain.

Ever see that T-shirt with the slogan, "Pain is weakness leaving the body"? Sounds cool, but it's not true.

So how do you know the difference between the good pain of a punishing but effective workout, and the kind of pain that might signal an injury?

That's tricky, says the American College of Foot & Ankle Orthopedics & Medicine, which published an online article on whether to train through pain or take a break. (Read it at acfaom.org/pain.shtml.)

Mild muscle soreness is supposed to improve with an over-the-counter pain reliever, a hot shower, stretching or massage, health experts say. Pain that signals an injury often is centered on a joint.

"There's a difference between my quads [thigh muscles] hurting and my knees hurting," said Garrett Green, a personal trainer and group fitness manager at the YMCA in Stafford County. "It's OK for my quads to hurt, but not for my knee to hurt."

Generally, Green said, if the pain is pinpointed on a joint, that's a sign of injury. And injuries, unlike muscle aches, are the things you shouldn't train through.

Shannon Wohler learned about injury pain--as opposed to more minor muscle aches--the hard way.

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