We all have aches and pains. The goal is to have as few of them as possible and deal with them as quickly as possible, but they happen. Some pain is acute. This kind of pain may be from tripping on a root while in a trail run or from a tough workout the day before. Although it’s acute and likely as a direct result of a previous event, we still need to be conscious of it and do what we can to help it. Often however, we can work through this pain and not aggravate it further. In fact, sometimes working through these minor bumps and bruises, soreness, or tightness can lead to an increase in blood flow, range of motion, and lead to improvements in the issue.
Other pain is chronic. This pain could have been lingering for weeks, months, or even years. This is the pain we need to be careful of, take care of, and avoid movements that bother it.
Some of these chronic issues may be preventing us from doing things in our workouts. Regardless of the desire, we first need to rest, rehab, and see what we can do to progress the rehabilitation of the area and get rid of the issue altogether. If all goes well, we can progressively add back in exercises that previously caused issues.
Unfortunately, long term chronic damage may have occurred and a full recovery may not be possible. Now we ask: what movements bother you and how much do they affect your life. Let’s use the snatch and deadlift as our primary examples. The deadlift is a vital exercise for life - all it entails is picking something up and down from the ground, so you need to do this a lot! If a deadlift bothers you, we need to fix it as best as possible and occasionally work through the pain. We can take some time off of it, but eventually we need to return to it in some sort of capacity. You need this movement to live. The snatch however is another story. Unless you need to snatch in life for competitive reasons, pain during the movement might be an inevitable exclusion of this lift. Sure we can constantly try to improve the movement patterns that are not allowing us to achieve a safe, effective snatch. However, we may never be adding load in this movement – it’s just not necessary. We can achieve similar goals of the snatch in the clean, kettlebell swings, pressing movements and box jumps.
So ask yourself – what is this pain and what am I doing to fix it. We should not be in pain, especially during our exercise. Our workouts are supposed to be a time that we enjoy. When we push in a workout it should be because we are pushing our limits to failure, not pushing ourselves into injury.
Sean Spire is the Head Coach of ASL. He was a competitive swimmer who discovered CrossFit and Ironman Triathlons. He has his BS in Exercise Science from Florida State University.