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Pain and Exercise: Take Time to Rest and Recover

Published on May 16, 2013 by in Fitness

One thing I am (almost) learning as I get older is to STOP working out every now and then. Chronic pain can happen with exercise the same (well, maybe not exactly the same) as it can with inactivity and sedentary living. I was once sidelined from working out for almost a year when I strained my body so hard from lifting weights. I’ve thrown my back out from doing repeated high-impact plyometric training which led to being sidelined for a month. If you do enough of something over and over and over again (chronically), your body tends to wear – whether it’s sitting (low-back pain), typing (carpal tunnel), or doing squats (knee inflammation).

I often get asked, “Can I do Insanity® (60 days of hardcore training) back to back?” And the same thing can be asked of P90X®, CrossFit®, TapOut®, lifting weights, your local bootcamp, or any exercise program. My answer is always “Yes, you can. If your body can take it. Don’t be afraid of taking a week or two off.” The way I see it is pro athletes do several months in a row of hardcore training. There is a flip-side though. At the end of 6 months or so of exerting all that energy (a typical football or basketball season) look how many injuries are stacked up on a pro team. Look how worn out they are. The body can only take so much.

I remember seeing a video segment on Jerome Bettis (long-time NFL running back) several years ago. It showed the process he went through to get out of bed in the morning: spending 10-15 minutes just getting out of bed, putting on knee braces, hot/cold therapy, a 5 minute trek down the stairs, all to get ready to meet team trainers for more therapy to get ready for practice. Now a NFL running back endures a lot more physically then most anyone, but still… think of chronic pain that runners or even golfers experience – hip replacements and the like. While your program might not be as intense as a pro athlete, just remember that all of these athletes have an off season. It makes one think of doing any type of exercise back to back to back to back for years on end.

So don’t be afraid, my fellow exercise nuts, to take an off season every now and then. Don’t sit on your butt for any length of time – or do if you have already overdone it – but let your muscles, joints, and ligaments rest every now and then – sometimes even longer than one “recovery week”. Switch things up to avoid any chronicness (that’s a word in my dictionary) of any activity. I know the benefits of exercise greatly outweigh any negative repercussions so I am not saying by any means to avoid exercise. Just take a break every so often.

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