“You have to know the difference between good pain and bad pain,” says Emily Schromm, the Denver personal trainer named Women’s Health Magazine’s Next Fitness Star last year.
Good pain involves the muscle fatigue resulting from a cyclist pushes herself on a ridiculously steep climb, or a runner forces himself to keep sprinting up the 56 floors of the Republic Plaza Building.
The good pain is generalized, the pain caused by an athlete working hard and muscles getting less oxygen while body develops lactic acid, and pain build up gradually. At the end of the effort, you are sore and shaky, experiencing first-hand what “feel the burn” really means.
Bad pain however, is specific and abrupt, sharp and fast, and sometimes associated with tingling or numbness. Bad pain follows a sensation of part of your body popping out, clicking, snapping, or giving way involuntarily.
“The other injury happens when you push yourself too hard: You’re trying something new, and the instructor doesn’t see that your form’s wrong, and you get injured. Or you’re feeling strong, at the top of your game, get lulled into false security and decide to go harder, and that’s when injuries happen. An injury is a point in time when something goes wrong. Over-training happens over the course of a long time,” says Connie Sciolino, owner and head coach of Alpine Training Center in Boulder.
For some ambitious athletes, training smarter might mean taking a rest day when they notice that their lower back, knee or elbow is hurting. Joint pain is never good pain, says Sciolino.