No Pain No Gain

No Pain No Gain …. It was at the bottom of the email … big letters … plain as day …


Sigh ….

I shook my head, wadded up the print out, and threw it in the trash.

I knew what I was dealing with now.

This was the welcome email I got for a weight loss challenge. Along with this email came an attachment for a meal plan which, to make it simple, consisted of meals that results in a calorie total PER DAY less than 1,000.

It went to meet his sister in the trash shortly there after.

It did get me thinking, however, about the amount of bad advice being given by certified coaches and dietitians in the fitness arena. Most of the time they mean well, and for the most part it is information that was probably correct when they went through training, but where I start having issues is with relatively young trainers and coaches, even with the amount of information available at their finger tips, who still cling to false ideas and outdated concepts that have since been proven not only untrue, but in some cases can result in a bad performance.

Case in point the idea of carb loading. A number of studies, most predominantly one conducted by the Journal of Sports Medicine and Nutrition, have shown that the act of carb loading, i.e. stuffing your face with a pre-race meal of pasta, not only does not load your carb stores for the race the next day, but can actually hinder your overall performance because your body can only hold so many carbs in reserve.

“But John,” you say. “I have signed up for a group half marathon and part of their program the night before states to “come out and top your carb reserves off with us!”.”

What can I tell you, Inquisitive Stranger?

I started thinking about all of the training advice I have been given in my life, dating back to high school football through most recently triathlon. Advice that I heeded as well through my Navy years and into this sport. The number one statement everyone gives when asked what the worst piece of advice they have ever received was what I stated at the beginning; No Pain No Gain. If not the single dumbest piece of advice ever given, it is certainly Top 5. Luckily you don’t hear it as much anymore (with the exception of the muscle heads yelling it at each other while banging free weights and carrying gallon jugs of water in the gym).

Our good friends at St. Pete Running Company asked the same question recently on Facebook, and the first answer given was “no pain no gain”.

So, as I am known to do, I started making a list of things I have been told, and/or currently being told, I should do for training that I have found to be total nonsense. They are:

No Pain No Gain

Ice Baths to relieve sore muscles

Sugar is the preferred source of fuel for endurance racing

In order to complete a race of XX miles, you must have a training session of the same miles

Calorie In / Calorie Out is the only way you can lose weight

If you want to lose belly, do sit ups

You can eat anything you want as long as you burn it off with exercise

This <insert supplement name> will help you achieve <insert goal here> and it’s just a coincidence that I happen to be a representative of the company

Eating fat with make you fat

Eating too much salt will give you high blood pressure

And now I can hear you out there … some of you reading this agree with some of these sayings. I know for a fact there are friends of mine that swear by ice baths, and there is a reason for it … it works … so let me say this about that … not everything a coach yells at you is bad … at least not for everyone. The problem arises for some of the things I listed when a coach assumes a “one size fit all” approach. Let’s take the ice bath issue as an example. An ice bath reduces swelling and aches, especially after a long run, and speeds recovery. So it works right? Yes, in that context it does … but … (you knew there was a “but” coming right??)…for the same reason it helps you it also hurts you, in that your muscles “growth”, needed for strengthening, is halted, so while you may not be as sore the next day, you also will not as strong. A few articles I have read specifically stated that ice baths should be used after long training runs, and or marathons, but are not needed for runs under 10 miles, and really should only be used if running long distances on back to back days. Some soreness is needed for muscle growth.

The whole nutrition thing I have written about on here many times, so I will not bore you once more with my views on it. Suffice to say that we all know now (whether you agree with, ya know, SCIENCE or not) that eating fat will not make you fat. I think most of us have figure that out already. Where the big debate still rages is the sugar issue. I just had an email from a coach, a well-respected one, that stated in the nutrition section that he carries 15+ gel packs with him on a marathon. Just the thought of that much sugar in my body made me gag. He also stated that “sugar is the preferred source of fuel the body wants”. Wrong. So many studies show that this is wrong I could not even begin to list them all, but it is an example of old thinking refusing to budge. Lactic Acid is fuel. Lactic Acid is caused by your body burning sugar (glucose). If you feed your body sugar your body will release insulin to combat the sugar spike. Insulin will cause your body to NOT produce lactic acid. Science Ya know … Science …

Science always gets in the way of a good belief system doesn’t it?

Salt is widely believed to cause high blood pressure. Go ahead, ask someone next to you right now if salt causes high blood pressure.

I’ll wait …

They answered “yes” right?

No study has shown this to be true. Are some more susceptible? Yes … just like some can lose weight by a pure calorie in/calorie out diet … but there has not been any studies linking high blood pressure to salt intake. Not one. In fact, there ARE studies right now (go to the Journal of American Medicine site and search for Salt and Sugar) that show sugar intake is worse for you than salt intake.

So, this post in its base form is to just tell you this … don’t take anyone’s word as gospel (especially if they happen to also be selling the supplements they are telling you will work). Find out what works for you and do that. Take in all the information you can and find the best course of action for your body. As someone who has gone from carrying a jersey full of gels, to carrying none, and now back to carrying one flask of honey and water mixed, it’s all a journey of discovery.

One thought on “No Pain No Gain

  • March 3, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    I will always believe that what works for one doesn’t work for the masses!!
    I’m rarely sore but it doesn’t mean I don’t work hard!! And, I HATE ice baths but always soak in a hot tub after my long runs.
    Kim recently posted…I’ll Love You ForeverMy Profile

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