Fitness

Pain Doesn’t Equal Productivity


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By Christina Sloyer

One of the biggest CrossFit lessons I’ve learned over the last year is that the “no pain, no gain” approach that most of us have is pretty ass-backwards. Sure, us CrossFitters love to put ourselves through grueling workouts like the Regionals’ “Hundreds” or Hero WODs for a whole host of reasons – ranging from the good-hearted to the pathological – but in terms of actually TRAINING to become a better ATHLETE, this is rather ridiculous.

You should never be in “pain.” Fatigue, sure. But you all know what I’m talking about. That familiar image of someone with their head thrown back, lumbar rounded, gritting their teeth to eek out each rep before the buzzer – and then crumpling into a mess on the ground as soon as time is called. Sure, they may look like they are working hard and are super badass (hell, they might very well be both of those things), but turning yourself into the disaster I just described does not correspond to any productive increase in work capacity or power output. You might fool some people, but in reality, all of those ugly reps that you gutted out just made you a worse athlete. Congratulations – you’ve further ingrained improper body positioning and movement patterns. Not to mention you made a rather unattractive “pain face” and will likely be sore for the rest of the week.

Get to know Christina Sloyer, newest member of Team Juggernaut!

I would argue that the point at which a workout becomes a real “grind” is the exact moment when your movement breaks down. Once you start overextending and losing your midline, it’s going to be a rough go after that. For the rest of that workout – and probably for the next days – you’re going to feel it! If you watch the elite athletes, yeah, they are working “hard”, but they are working to the point of full-body fatigue. They rest when/just before their form begins to break down or their movement is such that they can no longer stabilize their midline without some rest/recovery. As I’ve gotten more experienced as a CrossFitter, I’ve found that my rest mid-workout might feel longer than it used to, but when I am working, I aim to be mindful, quick, and efficient, rather than just painfully griiiinding out one ugly-ass rep at a time. And I’m not convinced it’s any slower over the course of the workout; I believe it’s more productive and efficient in the long run.

So next time you start to feel your ribcage tilting up and your hips tilting back as you struggle to complete each rep, be willing to pause and give yourself a little extra rest until your body (and mind, really) can find good positioning. Because pain doesn’t equal gain; pain equals ingraining bad habits. When you get to this point, take a few extra breaths, and attack again as efficiently and flawlessly as possible. Maybe your final time for that day will suffer a little (it might not though, in reality), but you are doing yourself a huge favor in the long run. Not only are you maintaining safer body positioning, and are thus less likely to get hurt, but you are also ingraining better motor patterns AND making yourself a better athlete. So be deliberate, and be patient with yourself; it’ll pay off in the long run.

Christina Sloyer is a pole vaulter, turned competitive Crossfit athlete based out of  San Diego, CA. After wrapping up a successful pole vaulting career for UC-San Diego and University of Oregon with a PR of 12’6.5″, Sloyer turned her sights to Crossfit where she competed in the Crossfit Games Team competition in 2012 finishing 14th and finished 10th in the 2013 SoCal Regionals as an individual. Christina is Crossfit Level 1 Certified and has her Mobility Certification from Kelly Starret.
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