‘No pain, all gain’ workouts

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 22, 2002

The popular saying goes, &uot;No pain, no gain.&uot; In other words, if a person doesn’t push their body to the limit that it’s in physical discomfort, the body won’t increase in fitness and strength, right?

Wrong. Pain isn’t helpful. It’s the body’s way of telling it’s owner, &uot;I’ve had enough for now. It’s time to cut back.&uot;

Pain can severely hurt a person’s desire to work out. It’s a common problem of an ‘inactive’ person to do too much too soon.

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For example, it’s unrealistic to set a goal of running three miles per day, every day. A person who tries this will obviously have problems with his or her body, which isn’t used to being pushed so hard. When the body rebels, the person may quickly decide that working out isn’t worth the discomfort, and stop exercising before it has a chance to work its magic.

But there are certain exercises that rarely put the body in any danger, and still help us to tone ourselves into decent shape. While &uot;heavy&uot; exercises, such as bodybuilding and jogging, are well known for their ability to replace fat with muscle quickly, several other exercises can get the job done without us ending up in agony.

Here are a few examples of &uot;no pain, all gain,&uot; exercises:

Water workouts: One of the most joint-friendly forms of exercise is aquatic activity, since water helps support the body, placing less strain on the hips, knees and spine. Consider taking an aquatic exercise class in a warm pool (temperature between 83 and 90 degrees) in a depth that’s at least mid-chest, so that your weight is supported by the water. Or try deep water &uot;running&uot; wearing a floatation vest, or simply swim laps.

Walking: Find a flat, even surface such as a school track, sidewalk or mall. Avoid gravel roads or unplowed fields, since uneven and hard surfaces can be stressful on the leg joints. Be sure to wear good, supportive athletic shoes. Start slowly and progress gradually, beginning with as little as a five-minute walk, gradually increasing until you’re walking for at least 30 minutes.

Make sure you have good posture – avoid slouching or hunching your shoulders and instead think about elongating your spine. Look forward, not down in the gutter. Bend your elbows so that your hands swing in an arch from your waistband to chest height.

Stationary Cycling: This is a good choice for people who want to avoid putting too much stress on their hips, knees and feet, stationary bicycling should be started slowly, using minimal resistance, or none at all if you have knee problems. Adjust the seat height so it allows your knee to straighten comfortably on the downstroke. Consider riding a recumbent bike if back pain is a concern.

Yoga: Many doctors prescribe this ancient Indian discipline to people who suffer from back problems, since yoga’s ability to enhance flexibility and strength and improve posture can help eliminate pain. There are many forms of yoga (ranging from gentle to vigorous) so be sure to shop around for a qualified teacher whose style and app-roach suits your needs.

Group Fitness Class: In to-day’s varied exercise scene, many different options are offered – ranging from ethnic dance to &uot;core&uot; training. Consult YMCAs, wellness centers, recreation departments and gyms for uncrowded classes that will provide effective exercise under the guidance of an informed leader who can ensure that you’re using safe, proper technique.