[PAIN & CrossFit] 5 Types Of Pain That Are Not OK (ft. Coach Jess)

  April 18, 2016

Pain. Pain is a Crossfitter’s friend, right? From our indoctrination into the fine sport of CrossFit, we’re

told to learn to embrace pain. Learn to love the soreness and stiffness and all that comes with it.

Well that’s all true, to a point. We must as athletes discover our work capacity threshold and know how

to push our body to its limit every day. Only by pushing into places of discomfort can we really realize

true meaningful performance gain.



Think of it this way. You can probably walk a mile with ease, and do it pain free. Now, set a timer and

run it as hard as you can. Which exercise leaves you in more pain? Which exercise is better for your

body? I think we both know it’s the running mile. Why is that? I mean, it’s the same amount of work,

right? Yes it is, more or less. The difference in calories burned between running a mile and walking it

are quite small. The benefit stems from the accelerated heart rate you achieve running, which makes

your heart stronger. Your accelerated breathing actually helps strengthen your diaphragm and make

your lungs more efficient at processing oxygen. Your leg muscles have to contract harder on a running

step than on a walking one, thus strengthening them. And, your knees and bones actually get stronger

to absorb the shock of your body landing in a running stride.



So, in essence, yes pain is a good thing. Without enduring pain and discomfort you will not see much

increase in performance, whether it’s running, lifiting, swimming, biking, jumping, or anything else.

Now for the bad news… pain is bad. Pain is your body telling your brain that something is wrong. We

CrossFit athletes just have a tendency to say “shut up body and take it”, then proceed working as hard as

we can. That may be a bad idea sometimes. “But, but Coach Jess, you just spent 15 minutes of my time

telling me that pain is good! I’ve seen you in horrible pain curled up like a newborn baby after a




True, and hey, that’s not funny about the newborn baby comment! I prefer to consider it “manly

exhaustion coupled with borderline loss of consciousness”. But in all seriousness, you have to learn

what pain you should push through and what pain is a real injury that must be addressed. What’s the

best way to get in worse shape? Go hurt yourself to the point where you can’t keep coming to the gym.

What pain matters? What pain is pain we should pay attention to? I’m going to make a list that may be

imperfect but should be a good start.



1. Joint pain. Joints don’t get sore. Muscles do. If a joint hurts then stop the workout. If a joint

hurts before a workout and you can’t warm up enough to get rid of the pain, then modify the

workout to avoid that joint or just head home and try to ice it or head to a doctor to have it

looked at.



2. Burning pain in the muscles even when you’re not using them. This can be indicative of a pulled

or torn muscle. Just take it easy and warm up slowly. If the pain doesn’t subside, just take it




3. Severe headaches during or just after a workout. They can be the result of your blood pressure

getting too high.



4. Sudden pain during a workout. Anywhere. If that happens, just stop. Immediately.



5. Any time Mike Gentry is coaching, just declare yourself injured and go home.



This is far from a complete list, but it’s a list of examples that you need to kind of pay attention to. We

at River to River want you happy, healthy, and athletic for years to come. It’s not worth finishing that

set of back squats or dead lifts if it can cost you days, weeks, or months on the shelf from an injury.

-Coach Jess

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