Embracing different training methods and working just a little harder is how we get stronger, fitter and faster. Despite all the obvious benefits, this approach also has its risks. If you go too hard, you could go home… nursing a fresh, painful injury.
It’s important to know the difference between normal pain and risking a sprain, so we asked the experts for some pointers.
When you’re sweating it out and feeling the burn, it can be hard to tell when you’ve crossed the line or if you’re unknowingly putting yourself at risk of injury. Here are some indicators or risk factors to be mindful of:
1. You’re lacking ‘grunt power’
“The key thing is to look at your energy levels and your overall body fatigue, and whether you’re lacking stamina and motivation,” explains personal trainer to the stars, Cameron Byrnes.
“If you have the mindset that you can do this and you want to push yourself hard but you’re not getting that extra ‘grunt power’ you’re used to, it could be a sign your body’s not coping or recovering properly.”
In this case you won't necessarily feel physical pain, but there's an element of not being able to physically perform the way you think you should. And if you disregard this and keep going, you could do some damage.
2. You're not eating enough
Byrnes says in many cases, feelings of fatigue and overdoing it are actually symptomatic of your nutrition — more specifically, the nutrition your body is lacking to physically perform. Exercise more + eat less might seem like a logical equation for achieving fitness or weight goals, but it's kind of like driving for long distances on an empty petrol tank.
"If you're not eating enough calories, you won't be giving your body enough fuel so you'll be burning more calories than you have. This causes your metabolism to drop, and the your body goes into protective mode," he explains. (Post continues after gallery.)
3. You have lingering pain
Of course, a bit of muscle pain during exercise is to be expected — in fact, this is often an indication of the muscles being worked and challenged. Similarly, it's common to feel a bit sore for a day or two after a workout, which is often a result of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and will naturally decrease.
However, if the pain increases or persists past that, this could be a sign you've hurt yourself without realising. "If you're having to modify your activities, or it's restricting your normal range of movement, that's likely an injury and you should seek medical assistance," says Ali Cavill, health and fitness expert at Fit Fantastic.
This kind of injury commonly results from upping your intensity, weights, or the type of training you do. Cavill says people will sometimes keep pushing through the pain, without realising it's not normal, because they've been told a bit of soreness is to be expected.
4. Your technique isn't on point
A good way to tell if you're overdoing it is looking at whether you're able to perform that particular workout correctly, using the right technique — for instance, the recommended number of repetitions or weights.
"For example, if you can't do squats for the full range, then perhaps your weight is too heavy, so take it back. That will prevent injury," Cavill explains.
Byrnes adds that your range of motion can be a good indicator of whether you've taken things too far; especially if you're new to exercise in general or a particular workout. "Be aware of any tightness in your body and your range of motion. If you experience sharp pain or tightness, pull back and maybe take a break from that particular area," he says.