The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines pain as an “unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage.” It is more than data received from the body. The reason we perceive physical pain is not always simply due to tissue damage. Pain is complex. One thing is for sure, everybody hurts…sometimes. And it seems more of us are in pain more frequently.
When we are in pain, we don’t want to move. The more it hurts, the less you move. The less you move, the more things hurt. It's a vicious loop. Maintaining regular movement is absolutely critical to a healthy, functional body and a fulfilling life. Not only that but studies suggest that exercise can provide pain relief equal to medication in some cases.
Your body was meant to move but how do you do that when you are experiencing musculoskeletal pain? Of course, it's imperative to be checked out by a medical professional; pain can be a sign of underlying pathology. Second opinions are also a great idea. You want to be cleared for exercise so that you do not exacerbate any injuries or medical conditions. If your doctor or physical therapist tells you that you can proceed, you should!
I am asked about pain in some form every few weeks. A certified personal trainer (CPT) cannot diagnose or treat medical conditions. But a CPT can help you get moving if you are ready, able, willing (and cleared!) Here are a few important things to keep in mind.
Information on eating well and exercise has never been more complicated, convoluted, and overwhelming. But I have some great news! If you are asking, “where do I start?”, you have decided that what you are currently doing isn’t working for you anymore. Technically, one could argue that you have already started.
Questions I've heard more than once: How do I shrink my belly? How do I get rid of arm “flab”? How do I get six pack abs? How do I get toned? How do I get smaller legs? These questions are similar and quite familiar to personal trainers. Of course the answer is: it depends! Many factors will come into it AND honestly, sometimes the answer is...You don’t! You focus on other things instead. For the most part, you likely have a pretty good idea of what you need to do and may have attempted and even achieved your desired results previously …but it’s not that simple, right? I’m not gonna lay out a weight loss or six pack abs plan for you here. But I will present a few important areas of consideration. Before you lift a weight, break a sweat, or modify your caloric intake in an effort to change a specific body part, consider the following questions.
Why do you want to change that particular body part?
In order to sustain the effort needed to make these types of changes, it’s important to have a strong and defined why. Sometimes when we delve into the desire for change, we discover it is based on a previous negative experience, comparing our bodies to others or the bodies of our youth, or something deeper like improved health, self-confidence, strength or endurance. You may find that your desire isn't so much the arms or stomach or legs, it's what they represent to you.
Body image issues and negative focus on specific body parts is pretty much a universally-shared experience among women. It’s okay to seek change or "improvement" but at the same time it is necessary to practice self-acceptance, self-compassion, and the realization that perfect bodies, especially as seen on Instagram, don't exist.