“No Pain, No Gain”

The Law of Intention, vs. the Law of Attraction

I have a love/hate relationship with the slogan “No Pain, No Gain.”  I’ll tell you why.

A few days ago, on my Facebook page, I put up a slogan: “Pain is a Sign of Weakness Leaving the Body.”  I asked people to comment on what they thought about it.  The input I received was interesting, came from various perspectives, and – in my opinion – what each person contributed had at least some truth in it.

The range of the responses brought an important point out, however, and one of the respondents said it well: “Walk a mile in a person’s shoes before you claim to know what’s true for them.”

I’m a competitive powerlifter, and as I move closer towards my first competition this year (in June), I can tell you that my workouts will become less-and-less like fun, more-and-more like work.  It’s already started.  Lifting heavy weights is a chore, and it takes mental, emotional, physical and yes – even spiritual – fortitude.  It hurts.  It hurts to think about.  It’s scary climbing under a bar that has twice my body weight on it and telling myself I need to squat it 6 times.  It’s scary when I have to hold 1 ½ times my body weight over my chest and hope it doesn’t come crashing down and crush my esophagus.  It’s scary when I have to grab a bar that weighs 20% of what my wife’s car does and try to stand up with it.

Each workout is a grind.  Each workout is tough: tough to prepare for mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Why I do it is another subject (basically for the same reason the mountain climber climbs the mountain: because it’s there J).  But to do it HURTS.

In this case I agree for sure: NO PAIN, NO GAIN.  And yes, in this case as well, PAIN IS A SIGN OF WEAKNESS LEAVING THE BODY.  As I work through the pain, I know I am getting stronger.

But is it always “No Pain, No Gain?”  Is it always true that “Pain is a Sign of Weakness Leaving the Body?”  Based on my experience, I have to say no.  Pain can also mean something is wrong.

Pain can simply be a sign that something is wrong.  Everyone knows good pain after a workout (the stuff where your legs are killing 2 days after doing heavy leg press), versus bad pain during the workout where if I squat too low, my knees feel like daggers are being driven in to them.  The good pain means that there will be gains.  The bad pain means I NEED TO PROCEED WITH CAUTION.  I need to take care, take it easy.

This lesson goes for mental and emotional pain as well.  Far too often I’ve heard the “Positive Thinking” Pundits speak authoritatively about the “Law of Attraction” and such.  Some say things like this: “If you’re suffering, it’s your fault because of your thinking, your words and your actions.  You attracted it in to your life.”  To them I say that this may well not be the case.

The Law of Attraction basically states that the vibration/energy we put out in to the universe is what returns to us.  Simply put, if I’m thinking, acting and talking negatively all the time, then this is what I will get.

Now I’m the first one to admit that there is truth to this.  However there are people who are in enough pain – not of their own making or doing – who cannot break these negative patterns, and yet they desperately want to.  Does the universe return them bad things because of a state of mind and being that they simply don’t have the tools to escape from?  That doesn’t make sense to me, and in fact, in my experience, I have not seen this to be the case.

You see, the universe – as I see it – looks at what we intend to put out, not what we put out.  I have known many people caught in a trap they can’t get out of; a trap of negative thinking, depression, anxiety and worry.  Mental and Emotional Pain.  Is it their fault?  Is it the fault of the person I worked with a few months ago whose father drank alcoholically, beat her, raped her (along with her mother’s brother), all the while her mother knowing about it and yet not doing anything about it?  Is it her fault that she suffers so much mental torment today and requires so much professional care?  I dare anyone to tell me it is.

What about my mother, who has chronic shoulder pain and we can’t seem to work through it?  Good Chiros, doctors and Physiotherapists have worked on her.  I’m an excellent trainer, skilled in rehab training, and we haven’t nailed it yet.  The pain wakes her up at night when she turns over sometimes, and keeps her from doing what she wants.  She works hard to overcome it, but so far no luck.  Is this her fault?  Is it a “sign of weakness leaving her body?”

In both examples above, the pain these two are suffering have nothing to do with “gains” or with “weakness leaving the body.”  It is simply a marker saying loudly that SOMETHING IS WRONG, AND REQUIRES ATTENTION.

Certain religions have sanctified pain and suffering as something to be desired.  I don’t go with this way of thinking.  Pain is a part of life, and we all need to be given the tools in order to deal with it in a dignified fashion, but to distill it down in to a slogan or two does not do it justice.

Pain is really so much more than even what I’ve talked about here, but the point I want to make is this: walk a mile in another person’s shoes before you presume to know what their pain is about.  One of the respondents to my question said exactly that, and I think they’re right.  They themselves have suffered for a long time from chronic lower back issues, and have worked very diligently at eradicating them.  They have paid doctors, physios, chiros, osteos and trainers thousands of dollars, and have dedicated themselves to trying to find out what’s wrong.  Is it a sign of weakness leaving her body?

I can tell you it isn’t.  It leaves her frustrated, drained, and sometimes really challenges her ability to do the things her busy job and lifestyle require.

So “NO PAIN SOMETIMES IS GAIN,” and “NO PAIN IS SOMETIMES A SIGN OF WEAKNESS LEAVING THE BODY.”

The slogan I’ve posted that’s attached to this blog is this: “Visualize the person you want to be, then work for it.”  That I like better than slogans about the benefits of pain, because sometimes the only benefit of pain is to tell us there’s something wrong.  For some who are in chronic pain, slogans like the ones we’ve discussed can be shame-making.  I can’t get behind that.  This slogan, however, can motivate them to move beyond where they’re at, try something new, and hopefully discover something else that might alleviate their suffering.

For athletes who don’t suffer from chronic pain, it – along with slogans like “Pain is a sign of weakness leaving the body” – it can be a motivator to move beyond where they’re at.  To work hard in the gym.  To grow, to exceed goals and expectations.  This is how world records are set.

Those are my thoughts.  As always, take what you want, leave the rest, and feel free to comment as you see fit.  I’ll check in again with you all soon!