Thursday, October 29, 2015

The 'No Pain No Gain' Bullshit in Training

Are you one of those poor souls who have joined a gym where the membership fee costs a bomb? And then unfortunately hired a personal trainer who beats his/her chest about torturing you with 50 jumps, 50 front kicks, 3 minutes on the treadmill, 50 burpees, 50 walking lunges, 50 crunches. And repeat till you finally wuss out in pain?

Whaaaaat? Your mind is screaming, body hurting and breathlessness is beginning to take over. Yet, you hold fast to your determination and chant to yourself, ‘No pain, no gain.’
You allow the torture to continue, beg to sip water, maybe catch a breath and finally kill that hour (not the trainer). You reassure yourself that it was all worth it because you achieved your fitness goal of the day. 

Well, I have been observing you and your trainer working out. While I appreciate the dedication, I do have some questions for you.
Why would you spend more than a lakh to do what you can do in a park? 

How has joining the gym and hiring the trainer added value to your fitness goals? 
Or, have you even figured out, what are your fitness goals?

Most people are clueless about their goals. So the question still stands. What do you want fitness to empower you to do?
Most people would want to look good and get added benefits of quality of life improving through their fitness routines to b the basic fitness goal. Now would a workout like the one previously described be optimum for losing fat, providing the best cardio output or making you pain free and strong?
The answer is unfortunately a resounding NO.

As the trend of fitness causes the number of gym-goers to rise, so does the number of innocents who are sold workouts packaged as the path to fitness but without any real benefits. Maybe, we don’t even know enough about fitness to set specific fitness goals. We delegate this understanding to our seemingly knowledgeable trainers. We are the same people who demand our money back from producers if a movie fails to entertain; yet, how is it that we leave fitness – a crucial part of the quality our lives –  without asking any questions or getting any answers? How is it that we allow someone to sell us something that gives us almost nothing? Ignorance does not justify or account for the money, time and effort blindly pumped into this farce sold to us in the name of fitness.

We believe in the value of purity. We strive to ensure that anything we buy is unadulterated. We do this by trying to understand the substance we plan to purchase. Fitness is no different. To understand fitness and fitness goals, we must begin by unpackaging these concepts to understand them in their pure forms.
We must first understand the components of fitness:

Musculoskeletal Strength: 

The ability of muscles and joints to generate power against resistance/load  to perform a movement in a given time frame.
You will be strong and painfree or weak depending on this component of fitness. To build your musculoskeletal structure, you must include activities that challenge this structure, such as free weights. How do you select the weights that are right for you to work with? The answer is simpler than you ever imagined! Any weight that allows you to perform more than 8-10 repetitions (while following the right form and technique of the exercise) is not challenging for you. You should transition to the weights that make these repetitions challenging, and thus beneficial in the long run. This is essential in achieving fat loss goals by increasing your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).

Cardiovascular Endurance:

The capacity of the heart to perform by transporting oxygenated blood for an activity for longer time ,without fatiguing. This is commonly referred to as stamina.
Activities like running, swimming, cycling and kickboxing performed for at least an hour a day build cardiovascular endurance.

Muscular endurance

The capacity of the group of muscles to perform at less effort
(sub maximally contract) to perform an activity for longer time  without fatiguing.
This component is always specific to the activity. One should pick a cardiovascular training activity according to the sport or activity one likes or plays due to this characteristic of this component.
Example: Priya swims for an hour, thrice a week. She achieves cardiovascular endurance regardless of which cardio activity she performs, but muscular endurance will be developed only of the muscles at work during swimming. 
So Priya will not be able to run as well as Jui, who practices running for an hour thrice a week. One more very important point to keep in mind is Musculoskeletal strength and Flexibility will not be achieved through this activity.
Since Priya does not include weight training in her routine , she may not be able to sustain swimming after a few months as she might experience aches and pains due to weak Musculoskeletal structure in her shoulders, knees, back etc.
Hence Strength training must be the base of your fitness routine so that you can follow the sport of your choice.


The ability of the muscles to maintain full range of motion around the joints. Activities like yoga and stretches help achieve flexibility. A lot of daily activities or parts of your fitness routine can become extremely uncomfortable,  painful and unachievable if this component is overlooked.

Ideal Body Composition

The ability of the body to maintain the correct ratio of fat to muscle. This is achieved when you strive to achieve the previous components and support your workout with good nutrition.

All these components can be achieved through constant and steady progression. For that you will have to constantly review and progress through changing the intensity of that activity. When you repeatedly perform certain movements, they become easier for you causing your effort levels to drop. To maintain the intensity of your workout, you should make your workout harder as you progress. This will maintain effort levels and increase the performance

Example:  If Jui performs 10 repetitions of squats with 20kgs and runs 4kms in an hour, she must now try to perform 10 repetitions of squats with 25kgs and run 4.5 kms in an hour and progress .

So, now that you are familiar with the components of fitness, let’s examine one of the movements in the previously mentioned workout.
50 walking Lunges:
Muscular StrengthNegative, as it is not sufficiently challenging because you can easily complete more than 10 repetitions .
Cardiovascular enduranceNegative, as it requires longer duration (at least an hour) of time to be developed.
Muscular enduranceNegative, as it  requires longer duration( at least an hour) of time to be developed.
Flexibility- Negative, as  this  does not explore the range of motion for a specific period of time to lengthen  the muscle.

Ideal body composition – the aesthetic, beautiful body of your dreams – also stays Negative as you have not tried to achieve any other component .

You  should set your goals according to what you want out of your fitness routine. Goals must be set, to progress each day and to achieve each of these components in their pure forms. Without such goals in mind, any activity becomes boring, giving you a reason to pay the trainer to make you do the things you don’t need training for! Now, equipped with a basic understanding of fitness, define your goals, set new records and emerge as the new you!
Pain, sweat and breathlessness is not a benchmark for how much you can gain from a workout. Knowing what you are doing it, doing it with purpose and in a way that will yield genuine results is what really counts in training. Pain is not always a measure of effort - most of the times its just proof of training with bad form and technique, over fatigue and over training, unnecessary cortisol buildup and even injuries. 

So focus on working out. Focus on Training. And don't get swayed by the zillions of morons online with relentless selfies screaming crap like 'no pain. no gain'. A real athlete focuses on performance, longevity and efficiency, not on pain. So no matter who you are in life, but when you train, train like an athlete if you want results like one.

Note : Definitions have been referenced from K11 Personal Training Manual. Page nos 1,2,3,4,5,6 .

Jui Inamdar
Pilates Master Trainer, Strength Training Coach,
K11 Master Trainer and Sports Nutritionist.
Jui is a faculty member at the reputed K11 Academy of Fitness Sciences and a personal trainer, coach and consultant by profession. An Avid cyclist, adventure travel fanatic femme who loves partying as much as she loves training, loves Bollywood but only on the dance floor and loves dogs no matter where they are.