The old adage "no pain, no gain" has been around as long as fitness has. The idea being, if you're not getting the results you want from your fitness program, there can only be one reason: You're not training hard enough.
First of all, the notion that there's only one variable that affects physical adaptation is pure folly. The human body is complex. There are too many variables that contribute to fat loss, muscle growth and overall health and fitness to enumerate in a single blog post.
That would require a book.
Suffice it to say, this is where the vast majority of fitness enthusiasts and athletes go wrong. They fail to account for the dozens of factors that contribute to how their bodies adapt and respond to training. This thorough post from Joel Jamieson explores some of the more common obstacles: stress, overtraining and what is known as a "recovery debt."
In short: Your body's No. 1 priority is to keep you alive. It is not going to divert precious energy and resources away from vital functions like breathing and circulating blood in order to make your biceps bigger. Its No. 2 priority is to respond to stress. This is exactly where most fitness programs go off the rails.
Take a moment to think about your life. Job, career, kids, school, bills, sleep depravation and various emergencies that invoke a stress response and require substantial amounts of energy and nutrients to be mobilized. Now, how do you suppose your body will respond if you then trudge into the gym determined to kick your own ass and completely destroy yourself in the name of "stress relief?" If you're piling more stress upon all the stress you already have, and then wondering why you're not losing weight or building muscle, then you are probably stuck in the vicious cycle known as recovery debt.
Rather than forever seeking to max out your intensity and effort in your workouts, you would be better off learning and practicing some stress-management skills, moderating the intensity of your training sessions and incorporating some type of recovery activity into your fitness routine. If you need help with us, let us know in the comments or fill out one of the forms on our website and we'll be in touch right away.
And one more thing. Forget about the saying "no pain, no gain." Exercise and training should NEVER involve pain. Discomfort, yes. Muscle soreness, of course. But if your workout has you collapsing on the floor in a state of utter physical and mental destruction -- or worse, spending the rest of the day icing your joints -- you are most certainly doing more harm than good.