How to Approach Pain in Your Fitness Journey

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Now that you’re past the initial learning stages of CrossFit, you’ve probably got most of the terminology memorized. You’ve most likely created some 1 rep maxes and maybe even PRed a few movements. You have been exercising consistently for several months now, which means that you have had the opportunity to experience some sort of exercise related pain. The majority of your pain has hopefully been due to muscle soreness. Tiny tears or micro-traumas in your muscle fibers are created when new movements or more intense versions of old movements are introduced. These tears cause swelling and inflammation which create the sensitivity and tenderness we have come to know so well. Other possible types of pain could be caused by more serious issues and unfortunately, actual injuries. Here are some points to think about when it comes to pain and training.

  • Listen to your body. Only you know what you feel. Be honest with yourself about the level of severity. Communicate with your coach frequently and honestly so that they are aware of what you’re feeling and are able to properly instruct you. Play it safe, your health & wellbeing are at stake.
  • If you’re unable to come into the gym and properly scale or modify your work out, stay home.  We have all witnessed that athlete who feeds on the energy of the gym and gets so fired up before a wod that they bust out 5 ring muscle ups…one week after shoulder surgery. Or that athlete who is super competitive and can’t imagine doing something different from the rest of the class because of “a little pain”, but is then out for 2 weeks while their injury heals. Bottom line, if you’re unable to resist the temptation to complete movements that may hurt or further injure you, it’s best for you to stay away until you are completely healed. We LOVE having you here, but we value your overall health and wellbeing more than filling up classes.
  • “Pushing through the pain” is unnecessary and stubborn. Muscle and cardio fatigue are things that an athlete may be encouraged to “push through”, especially if they are trying to improve speed, endurance or strength. HOWEVER, pain from a (possible) injury is different. Know when to stop. Learning to listen to & respect your body is part of becoming a more seasoned, mature athlete.
  • Leave your ego at the door. Respect the fact that everyone has a different journey. When you walk through these doors, the competition begins against yourself and no one else. It’s fun to compare scores and motivate each other with a little healthy, sportsmanlike banter. We all love the camaraderie that comes along with working out in a group setting. But always remember that you’re here to better yourself, not to do better than someone else.
  • Don’t feel obligated to complete a movement just because its written into the day’s programming or because it’s considered “RX”. Remember your goals. Chances are, you’re here to live your best healthy life, not win the the CrossFit Games.
  • Skipping/modifying a few movements now = Being able to continue on your fitness journey longer. Think of your body like you think of your car. You take care of your car. You wash it, you give it the good fuel. In turn, it gets you where you need to be. You know that if you drive it hard and fast too often, it will probably not perform well for as long. If you know it has a suspension problem, you take speed bumps extra carefully, or avoid them completely. Be kind and respectful with your body. It does amazing things.

Always, always seek a professional opinion. Be cautious when researching symptoms online. If there is any question about whether or not to work out, review your situation with a coach. Don’t hesitate to speak to your doctor about any discomfort, sudden or recurring pain. In house Chiropractor Dr. Bobby Safranksi is another great resource for our athletes. Thanks for reading and be safe.






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About the author

Nicole Aucoin, MS, RD, LD/N

Founder, Healthy Steps Nutrition
Home of CrossFit HSN & HSN Mentoring

Author of Nourish & Healthy Kids Cookbook

Author of The Basics of Nutrition Coaching Course, CrossFit Preferred Nutrition Course

CrossFit Level 2 Trainer