When Exercise Hurts More Than Helps


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  59 comments   :  18,035 Views

For the past 9 years, I’ve called myself a runner.  It started because I moved to a new town with no access to the workout facilities I’d had before, so running became an easy substitute- no equipment needed.  Running quickly became an important part of my life, both physically and mentally.  There was a period of time when I wouldn’t bother with a run that was any shorter than 6 miles because I didn’t consider it to be much of a workout.  Because of kids and other life circumstances, those days are long gone…..
In the fall of 2010 I experienced my first serious running injury, Achilles tendonitis.  I made the problem worse by continuing to push through pain instead of listening to my body and resting.  I ended up in 6 weeks of physical therapy and had to stop running for a few months.  When the PT told me I couldn’t run, I panicked.  Running was such an important part of my life, and who would I be without it?  How would I relieve stress?  How would I get a good workout? 
My injury actually taught me a number of valuable lessons I wouldn’t have learned otherwise.  The first was that I’m not invincible and I shouldn’t just try to push through pain.  It’s important to take care of your body, and pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong.  I tell people that all the time, but just wasn’t willing to listen to my own advice.  The second thing I learned was that I’m not defined by a specific activity.  Although I love running, if I can’t log the miles I used to or can’t run anymore at all, it’s not the end of the world.  There are plenty of other activities I can do and still lead a happy and healthy life. 
I’ve learned this lesson, but I know others who have not.  There is someone in my life who I believe is being hurt more than helped by exercise.  He’s one of those crazy runners, just like me.  He loves it, and it’s a big part of who he is.  I get that.  But he continues to push through pain (his is a permanent problem that rest or doctors can’t fix) instead of listening to his body.  When I try to talk to him about it, I can see the walls of defensiveness going up.  I’m not sure what drives him to continue:  the love of the sport, the fear that he’ll never find another activity that gives him the kind of workout or feeling that running does, or the fear that if he stops running, he’s going to fall off the exercise wagon completely.  He doesn’t want to face the fact that he’s doing his body more harm than good.
So I struggle with what I can do to help him.  I’d love to see him try some other activities that don’t cause him so much pain or at least cut back significantly on the ones that do.  I’d be happy to do them with him.  “Want to go for a bike ride?  Let’s do it!  Could we try running just a few miles instead of training for another half marathon?  Great!”  But in the end I know that I can’t force him to change.  He has to come to that realization and decide for himself.   
I see members on SparkPeople’s Message Boards every day who are injured and want someone to tell them that it’s okay to just push through the pain.  Eventually it will get better, right?  Well, probably not.  You could be doing all kinds of permanent damage to your body by sacrificing rest and recovery for a few hundred calories burned.  Is it really worth the trade-off?  There’s a big difference between being sore because you pushed yourself to work hard, and pain because you’ve got a potential injury that needs to be addressed. 
Have you been one of those people who didn’t want to listen when your body told you something was wrong? Do you have someone in your life that’s doing their body more harm than good?  Do you think it’s a lesson they need to learn for themselves, or is there something you (we) can do to help?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
Got a story idea? Give us a shout!
NEXT ENTRY >   Do It Every Day


  • 9
    i fell off my bike and had to have major surgery on the left knee. I was forced back to work (to move furniture?) and had other issues after that. I've know left that job and I'm back in the gym. I tried to jump right back in there, and boy did that hurt the knee. so Im starting back slow... gotta build myself back up. Pushing too hard, past pain, never works. Just like working a job that you hate and hates you - doesnt work. be gentle with the body and let it heal. Good post! - 1/31/2012   10:57:59 AM
  • 8
    I broke my ankle during a 5k race in 2010, and in a way that type of injury was good because there was no question as to whether or not I could "push through the pain" and still run. I was shocked at how much it hurt mentally though, I did not realize how much I had allowed my running to define me. The forced down time gave me an opportunity to think and realize that injury was not the end of the world, and I learned how to pool run and bike, and eventually elliptical train to get some of the same results. After the break in May I did a half marathon in November and since then all has been well. - 1/31/2012   10:45:56 AM
  • 7
    Unfortunately, people have to learn this the hard way. - 1/31/2012   10:45:07 AM
  • 6
    I have been pushing thru the pain with a sciatic nerve problem. I have continued to exercise by walking and doing 20 min of Zumba but I am in constant pain now and I I can barely walk. Im going to the doctor today to see if I can get some relief. Thanks for the Blog! - 1/31/2012   10:39:14 AM
  • 5
    I was one of those people and because of that I am not able to run anymore... and to drop the pounds... and to maintain a healthy weight... I have picked up Karate and it has helped to keep me active and to get me out of depression, but it will never feel the same as running... [sighs] - 1/31/2012   10:32:56 AM
    I tend not to allow enough time between strength training when I get excited and then the sore muscles remind me, and my workout schedule is derailed until the soreness lifts. It would be much better if I had just alternated body parts on consecutive days. - 1/31/2012   10:21:00 AM
  • 3
    I have definitely been a person who has run through pain to the detriment of my health. I end up having to go back to ground zero. But each time that happens I think I am a little smarter and I embrace more fully the concept that mind over body doesn't always work, that my mind needs to listen to my body. Two slow easy steps forward is faster progress than one giant fast step followed by a crash into a brick wall. I am two months into my training for the Boston Marathon now and have given myself a year to qualify. So far I have done a great job of making a good plan yet being flexible when I realize I need to back off a little and recover fully before moving up a step. NOBODY can teach anyone else this lesson. It has to come from the inside of each of us. I pray each day that I have learned it but only time will tell . . . - 1/31/2012   10:19:09 AM
  • 2
    This is a lesson it has taken me years to learn - and one that I have to remind myself about regularly. - 1/31/2012   10:17:30 AM
  • 1
    This is a real eye-opener .... sadly :( - 1/31/2012   10:07:16 AM

Please Log In To Leave A Comment:    Log in now ›