We’ve all heard the mantra “no pain, no gain”. There are also such phrases as “Pain is weakness leaving the body”, “Push through the pain. On the other side is the reward.” and “Pain is temporary, quitting is forever”. Now ,these are supposed to be motivational. Which I am all for. The problem is so many people take this too literally. Pain while working out actually causes weight gain, further break down of the body, stalled or lost progress, and mental issues.


The production of cortisol is stimulated by inflammation, emotional, or physical stress. Its job is to help regulate inflammation, blood sugar, metabolism, and memory, among other things. Too much cortisol leads to weight gain (mostly around the belly), acne, muscle weakness, irritability, thinning skin, and many more issues.

Pain is super stressful to the body. It stimulates cortisol production way more than emotional/mental stress. Working out is actually a breaking down of the body on a small scale. When we recover, we adapt and get stronger. Working out while in pain is the equivalent to kicking your body when it’s down and expecting it to make gains. All we will gain is weight.


Let the injury heal! Rest and recover until pain free. If there are appendages that are not injured, and you can move without pain, do exercises that don’t hurt. Avoiding movement that causes pain will help avoid cortisol level elevation.

Getting more sleep is an amazing way to help normalize your cortisol levels. During sleep is also when you make the most human growth hormone, which aids in healing, muscle building, and staying young.


Our body’s only job is to survive. When it senses a painful muscle or joint it will try to protect it from further injury. The body does this by changing the way the muscles are used and how the joints bear weight. A good example of this is when one knee is busted, the body puts more weight on the other leg. “Pushing through the pain” can cause a future injury in this other leg.

Furthermore, after our painful area is no longer in pain, the body will continue to protect that area. We have to then retrain our movements. This is what physical therapy after an injury is all about.

Moving poorly keeps us fat. Just like a high performance vehicle, we will go slow if our alignment is off. If one wheel is working really well and one is broken and we keep trying to drive fast, we will drive in circles. The same thing happens to our goals and results when we workout in pain.


Your best bet is to find an awesome therapist or trainer that can perform an assessment, write you a program that is challenging, balanced, and designed to help you move better. If you cannot find this person, just don’t do stuff that hurts. Wait until you don’t have pain and start getting back at it with body weight exercises. An injured area will never be as strong or coordinated as it was, immediately after healing. We have to teach the area how to move well again before adding load.


How many people do you know that have an old injury and are hesitant to perform certain exercises even after an injury is healed? This is because we don’t actually like pain. Pain sucks and now we have the fear. Often times, with a proper assessment and a great physical therapist or trainer, we CAN do these exercises (or some variation of them) again, without pain.

I performed an assessment on a client that had previously trained somewhere else and tore rotator cuffs ON BOTH SIDES in ONE workout. EESH. She almost had a panic attack just coming to talk to me the first time. She gained 50 lbs and had avoided any gym since that happened, until she came to us.

Luckily we were able to get her going again but this is terrible. It also happens quite frequently. Lots of people are afraid of gyms or exercises because they got hurt at one point and would just rather be unhealthy and not in pain. Totally understandable but again, terrible. That’s why I feel like I need to mention the psychological part.


Once again, find a GOOD trainer or therapist. Our whole life is dedicated to helping people stay in the gym and feel good. Find someone who’s goal isn’t to kick everyones ass and laugh about it but someone who is knowledgable about the human body and who really really cares about your situation. A good coach will ease you back in to exercise and want you to be confident and comfortable with their exercise selections.

If you cannot find this person, find exercises that you like and can do without pain and turn it into a workout. There are literally thousands of exercises and variations of these exercises on the internet. I don’t normally recommend doing it this way because you can’t ask the YouTube questions about the exercises. Doing exercises that you picked and don’t cause pain, is definitely better than giving up on being healthy.


Pain is a four letter word in fitness. Muscle burn or fatigue during exercise is not the same as pain. I really wish the industry would help more people understand this instead of putting out ignorant memes for likes and follows. You are the only one that can look out for your body. Treat it well and let those injuries heal. Your results depend on it!

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