‘No pain, no gain’ not always recipe for success

by Military Health System Communications Office
Health.mil

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — You may be telling yourself, “no pain, no gain,” as you hit your usual speed on the treadmill for the fourth day in a row. But more of the same is not always better. Whether sudden or gradual, injuries can often be prevented through moderation, proper form, and adequate rest.

Diana Settles, physical readiness and injury prevention manager at Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center in Portsmouth, Virginia, said overuse injuries can be a significant health and readiness threat among service members.

“The goal is for [physical activity] to establish a solid foundation of fitness and strength, building up over time, to allow for pain-free and injury-free participation,” said Settles. Doing too much too quickly or exercising for too long, especially after little to no physical activity, can lead to injuries. “Overuse injuries can be subtle, occurring gradually over time, so early recognition and prevention is important.”

An estimated 25 million limited-duty days, during which service members are unable to perform their full duties, are given out every year across all services, said Settles. These restrictions can result from too much physical activity, which usually occurs while off duty, and can directly affect readiness, she added.

Service members, veterans, and family members, regardless of age, are at risk for overuse injuries. Seeing a doctor before beginning any intense or new workout routine is recommended, especially if prior injuries exist. A physician can provide advice on what to avoid or exercises to try based on individual needs.

Avoiding any sudden increases in activity level, duration, load, and intensity can help prevent overuse injuries, said Settles. Injuries can also happen as a result of technique errors, such as poor form during strength training exercises.

Tim Kelly, head athletic trainer at the United States Military Academy in New York, said people should be realistic in their goals and not add too much intensity before building a base in strength and endurance. Some high-intensity training programs can be harmful if they’re not done correctly, he added.

“Some people kind of step into it and go from zero to 100 miles an hour in one to two days, and that’s really a recipe for injury,” said Kelly. “If you’re not used to doing some of those exercises or have a really good baseline for doing them, I think you’ll probably end up injured.”

Gradually starting a workout routine can help people get into shape without putting too much stress on muscles and joints. Workouts should involve a mix of movements and intensities in order to build power, strength, and endurance. Recovery time is essential for injury prevention when working out consistently. Without rest and recovery, the body eventually becomes overloaded and fatigued.

“If you don’t have good quality sleep, you’re probably not getting the recovery you need based on the workout you had that day,” said Kelly. “Those two are linked fairly close in my opinion.”

Paying attention to what the body is communicating is one of the best ways to avoid injuries, said Kelly. If a person experiences prolonged soreness or pain, especially joint pain, after workouts, that’s a good warning sign of overdoing workouts, added Kelly. Recovery, which can be done through rest, or less intensity and repetitions, is recommended.

“No one is immune to overuse injuries,” said Settles. “We want our warfighters and their families to be healthy and active, but it’s also important to be mindful and safe while doing just that.”

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