Friday, October 24, 2014

No Pain, No Gain

Way too many great athletes have used the famous expression “no pain, no gain”; and way too many great-athlete-wannabes are expressing that same line practically on a daily basis. However, based on the numerous conversations I’ve had with a fair number of sports folks, it seems like they don’t necessarily see those words to mean the same thing. I had another one of those conversations with a friend just a few days ago, and it suddenly occurred to me that the subject deserved an entry in this blog. 

Broadly speaking, it is possible to separate these people into two main groups. The first group—I suspect the vast majority of the sports folks fall within this group—understands “no pain, no gain” to mean the necessity of some sort of physical pain;during the sport activity in order to produce gains in terms of improved performance. In other words, they see “no pain, no gain” in the literal sense. They deem it absolutely necessary to train in such a way that when they had finished the workout, they’d experience some sort of muscular pains, some of which would take several days or even weeks to recover. They are convinced that without suffering such physical pains, they are bound to see no gains in their performance. They therefore go all out in each workout—they tend to run at their top speed; swim intervals perpetually; cycle at top speed; lift as heavy as their muscles can carry. And then, and only then, will they be satisfied with the workout. They shall not be happy if they are still not out of breath or feeling at least a bit of physical pain at the end of the workout! 

The second group—I’m one of those within this group—sees it slightly differently. They do agree with “no pain, no gain”, but that word “pain” doesn’t necessarily mean physical pain. “Pain” is not taken in the literal sense; rather, it has a subtle meaning. The “pain” in this case is the sacrifice that one makes in foregoing the movies or attending dinner parties and drinking sessions for the sake of working out; the discipline of dragging oneself out of bed in the wee hours of a public holiday or Sunday morning to go running or cycling; the torture of surviving the boredom of running for hours and hours, especially when running alone. Basically, the “pain” of going through a routine of physical activities, but these are not necessarily physically painful. 

Although I’m within the second group above, that is not to say that I only train within my comfort zones all the time. Of course there will be times in the training programme when I have to run, swim and cycle fast; in fact fast enough to the extent of raising my heart rate over the roof. Thankfully, however, I don’t do that all the time like so many people out there. 

No pain, no gain! 

There is a lot of truth in that expression, because the whole idea of training is to attempt to condition the body to perform a little faster and stronger the next time it does the same physical task. Training hard is a good idea indeed; in fact so good that it works most of the time. As I've said earlier, most people fall within the first group above, and I wouldn't dare to suggest that there is anything wrong with such an approach, for fear that all the big guns out there would be targeted on me! All I can say is don’t forget to train smart too, because you’d be surprised that training smart may sometimes produce a bigger gain than training hard!

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