Pain is Not Gain

Photo by John Arano on Unsplash

No, friend, pain is not gain.

This is going to take some undoing. And I get that. There is a deep rooted system built on punishment that wants to convince you to abuse your body. It’s simply not true.


  • No pain, no gain.
  • No torture, no strength
  • No sacrifice, no glory
  • And, of course, never show weakness.

Why are we taught this?

I think part of it is our corporal punishment history, and part of it is just confusion between two worlds:

Challenge vs. Pain

They are not the same thing.

When I challenge my muscles, it’s hard. It burns. It’s uncomfortable. All of these feelings lead to growth. They make me work hard. They make me improve.

When I hurt myself, it’s my body screaming “NO! Don’t do that!” That is different, distinct, and an important messaging system built in to us to know when to stop.

Pain leads to injury, which leads to being out of the game, sometimes for a really long time.

So when your body yells in pain, not challenge, believe her, and change what you’re doing. There is a better way to challenge yourself at that point without pain.

When I work with professionals in my space, many of them still have this disconnect and a misunderstanding of the two worlds. They might say things like “push through!” or “when it hurts, go in deeper!”

These are terrible, misguided statements.

Instead, a trainer can help with the form OR completely change the exercise for you.

Because sometimes, the exercise is not conducive to the body. It’s our role as trainers to see that and to be able to find an alternative on a dime.

The unfortunate truth is that many professionals haven’t been taught this, and they might be part of a culture that celebrates pain, and even injury.

As a client or consumer in the space, you have to know to be your own best advocate. This is true in fitness class, in activities, in life. It’s time to listen to your body. She doesn’t lie. She might hate the challenge, but she’ll tell you it’s uncomfortable. But if she calls out in pain, that’s your cue to stop and revisit what you’re doing, even if you’re not supported by the fitness professional in the room.

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