“My therapist says you are a sadist!” – by Mark Carson

While it is always nice to get the opinion of a professional, there are some greetings that just leave you speechless. This is one of them. For those who missed that particular day in French history class, the Marquis de Sade took perverse pleasure in tormenting others. How do you respond to that?  



As a trainer, I’m used to clients swearing at me.  I’ve had a good number of 4-letter adjectives applied to me; “nice” was never one of them.  I’ve been called “evil”, “mean”, “jerk”, and “nuts”, but “sadist”?  Really?  I’ll admit to enjoying the faces that people make during some exercises, but that is just a fringe benefit of the job; it has nothing whatsoever to do with taking perverse pleasure in inflicting torment.  Really!  I swear!

But there are some strange opinions regarding pain that float around the gym.  We’ve all heard, “no pain, no gain” or “pain is weakness leaving the body.” And as someone who, at one time, was on a first name basis with the doctors at the local Emergency Room, I have developed something of a sophisticated palette when it comes to discomfort; a “connoisseur of suffering” as it were.  Not all pain is the same.  Through various breaks, dislocations, rips, tears, slides, grinds, subluxations, and paper cuts, I started differentiating various types of anguish.

For the uninitiated, or fearful who may feel intimidated by masochism (“love of pain”) in the gym, here are a few “flavors of affliction” that you may run into, some likely causes of each, and what to do when you DO feel each.  Think of it as a “how to hurt”…for dummies.

Burning pain- This is the “good” kind of pain that everyone talks about.  It is located in the muscle and stops when we stop pushing ourselves in the exercise.  This one likely comes from Lactate building up as we exercise.  It is usually followed in a day or two by the…

I-didn’t-even-know-I-had-a muscle-there pain- The trainers will call this DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness), but it really means that you can’t freaking MOVE two days after a hard workout.  Regardless of what YOU call it, it is caused by microscopic tears in the muscle as a result of working out.  It is normal, and it WILL go away.  One thing you can do to get rid of it faster is to work through Range Of Motion (ROM) exercises, or do a Restorative Exercise like some forms of Yoga (note: your first Hot Yoga class with Susan in the 9th Street Studio will more likely CAUSE this than HEAL it.  To work it through, you will want a Detox & Destress with K.C., or a stretch session with Cara).  A warm bath will help too.  Drink LOTS of water, and get blood flowing to the stiff muscles.

Sharp, stabbing pang- Often this is a pinched nerve.  It means STOP!  It is a sign that something is not aligned correctly, and the more you push now, the more you will pay later.  Often runners, who are landing too hard on their heel, will get this in their knees. And weigh lifters who overload a squat can get this in their back or knees.  If you are getting this, then get professional help with proper structure before it leads to…

Back-of-the-leg-weakness- say hello to Sciatica.  Pressure on the Sciatic nerve can cause pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling in the leg.  It can be caused by a slipped disc, inflammation of the Piriformis muscle, degenerative disk disease, pelvic injury or misalignment.  Get this one looked at by a medical professional to make sure that what you are doing is not more damage.  For the most part, heat or ice (according to what feels good) will help, and our trainers can show you a few stretches that may help.  But deal with this before it turns into…

The Omniscient Pain- With a break, dislocation, or tear, the brain literally overloads with pain signals. The effect is sometimes described as a moment where you cannot see, but know exactly where every person an object in the room is.  You cannot hear, but you know that you are screaming.  You cannot feel, but you know that things are no longer attached correctly.  When you DO finally come back into your body, it starts with a queasy, churning stomach.  If you get this one, just lay there.  The paramedics will be along shortly.  Do what the doctor and the physical therapist tell you, and get ready for…

The dull ache- When bones heal, there is a lump of scar tissue on what would otherwise be a smooth surface that delicate muscle slides over.  This causes inflammation.  The inflammation puts pressure on nerves which your brain interprets as pain.  When ligaments and tendons heal, the scar tissue responds to temperature and humidity differently than everything else.  There is typically nothing to actually be “fixed” here.  The more active you can be the more natural anti-inflammatory exercise response you will get.  Just be cautious and make sure that you get a proper warm-up, so that you can avoid…

“The Alien” ailment- This is when it feels like THE Alien is about to burst out of your chest, and you start looking around for Sigourney Weaver. Severe chest pains when doing cardio are a result of a lack of oxygen to the heart.  If you are feeling this, STOP IMMEDIATELY!!! This MAY be as simple as something you ate, or it may be the beginnings of a heart attack.  No matter what, it is something that you need a professional to look at before you see a white light and hear the voices of dead relatives beckoning.  Explanations range from high cholesterol and coronary artery disease, to gas or indigestion.  

The Cramp- This is one that just about everyone has had. When a muscle seizes and WILL NOT relax. Explanations for this range from improper warm up to electrolyte or calcium deficiency.  While this one is usually not dangerous, it WILL put a stop to your workout.  Stop and stretch.  Your body is telling you to back off; it isn’t getting some nutrient that it needs.

As a general rule, pain is a positive thing.  Your body is talking to you.  LISTEN TO IT!!! Most of these types of pain are your body’s way of asking, “are you SURE this is what you want to do?” If YOU aren’t sure about proper form, our trainers are more than happy to help. You CAN ignore it and push through with more machismo than intelligence.  Remember, what doesn’t kill you might make you stronger; or it may leave you broken and crippled for the rest of your unnaturally shortened life.  You just have to decide how much you enjoy pain.