There are many athletes who work through nagging pain during their training. Is this a smart decision or a decision that will hold them back in the future? The answer isn’t as clear as you might think so let’s break it down!
As always, I created a video on this topic here:
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How do we define “nagging pain?”
A nagging pain for the sake of this article is a pain that is persistent over more than a week of training. That is it. One week…
So, if you tweaked your shoulder on Monday and you continued to train through the week only to feel it again the next week it is a nagging pain. I have seen athletes have lower back pain that continues to bother them for years!
Is it good or bad to train through nagging pains?
Here is where it can get complicated. First, I wouldn’t say it is ever “good” to train through nagging pains. I would say that there are times where you may choose to accept the risk of training through nagging pains. Here are a few of those times I’ve seen in my time as a coach.
- You’ve qualified for the Olympic games and you’re a couple months out from the competition. The roster is set and no one can be sent in your place.
- You have a big competition or qualifying competition coming up and the nagging pain is what you would classify as “minor.”
That is it.
The risk is having a nagging pain turn into a serious injury. An injury that gives you no choice and shuts down your training all together.
The majority of training through a nagging pain can be seen as a bad thing to do.
So, why do some people train through nagging pain? Why do some people continue to go into the gym to train or “exercise” even though their shoulder or hip or back aches often?
When we’re our own worst enemy
Why do some people choose to continue training through a nagging pain? It comes down to fear.
Fear of falling behind
Fear of being weak
Fear of becoming fat
Fear of not being enough
Yes, fear is keeping people from moving their best and becoming stronger. You may be thinking to move my best and get stronger I need to train. However, with a nagging pain you need to heal.
How do we heal?
If you’re always battling nagging pain we first must understand why we train. Answer this question: What am I training for?
Is your answer:
To get stronger – If it hurt to press weight overhead wouldn’t you be able to press more if the pain was gone?
To be my best – Would you say your best self always has back pain?
The logic is there, but we still train through the pain?! That is because the answer lies deeper. Find the fear and start to see the story you created and you’ll have a chance to change that story.
“I’ll fall behind if I stop training because of this shoulder” –> “I’ve put in great work and to keep it going I need my shoulder back to 100%”
“I’m weak if I submit to this back pain” –> “Doing the rest and recovery work is a feat of strength itself”
Create a story that supports you for a lifetime of strength and training. You only have one body, how can you make it last?
Drew is a co-owner or Project Lift and 14 year veteran of coaching athletes. As a coach, Drew has been a personal coach at the 2015 World Championship and has helped 2012 Olympian Holley Mangold through training from 2011 to 2016. He has also led multiple athletes to national competitions. As an athlete, Drew placed his highest of 4th at a national competition.