Embrace The Pain

We’ve all heard the phrase, “No pain, no gain.”

It’s currently out of vogue in part because some believe it urges people to train beyond what their body can take, to train injured, things like that, but I still kind of like it. Maybe it’s an artifact of my age, but I do.

Let’s be honest, training is painful in a lot of ways.

The thing is, I find it the lessons I’ve learned through training, through that pain, have applications to the rest of my life. It’s all about how to remove those weaknesses. The pain can almost be purifying, in a way.

First, let’s understand what is a weakness and what isn’t. You probably think you know, but I’m going to include some stuff in weaknesses that may piss more than a few people off.

When you look at the things that make you who you are, you can generally pile them into two categories. One is your strengths, the other are weaknesses.

A strength is anything that adds value to your life, like your love of cooking or your passion for the TV show Firefly. These are the things you so richly enjoy that are also not harmful to you. That’s an important distinction. A lot of people really enjoy doing things that are horrible for them, so we can’t call that a strength by any stretch of the imagination. Yet even if it doesn’t provide a tangible benefit, a strength isn’t actively harmful to you as a human.

Conversely, a weakness is anything that detracts value from your life. Obesity, alcoholism, that annoying habit of eating your toenails (seriously, knock that crap right the hell off), and even things like depression and anxiety fall into that camp.

So just how does training help on stuff like this and others? I’m glad you asked.

1. Focus on your weaknesses

Strength and conditioning training, when programmed properly, spends a fair bit of time looking at your weaknesses. If you have problems with your lock-out on your overhead press, you do things like pin presses to help with that. If you have problems off your chest when you bench, maybe you do pause bench presses to get through it.

On the same token, though, focusing on your weaknesses works anywhere else.

For example, I’ve never hidden my business failures. They are many and varied. One of my main problems, though, was not understanding the financial side well enough going in. I never really grasped any of it, in part because in the early days, there wasn’t enough to grasp and by the time there was, it was too late.

So now, I’m spending a lot of time studying accounting as best as I can. I’m not interested in going back to school for it, mind you. I’m not even interested in it. But it’s a skill that I desperately need going forward with my life, so I’m focusing on that weakness.

Yes, this applies mostly to skills, mind you, but weaknesses come in different varieties, and how you address them changes based on the source.

2. You don’t have to have all the answers.

For me, this is a big one.

You see, I read a lot. I’m a curious person by nature and so I come up with a lot of questions. Thanks to the glory that is the internet, I can look up those answers with a few strokes on the keyboard.

As a result, it’s very easy for me to think I know enough to solve most, if not all, the problems that come up.

Then I started training.

While there is a ton of information on the internet, you quickly learn how wrong some of it is. Sometimes, you have to ask questions of people who know more than you, and there are always people who know more than you.

3. There’s nothing wrong with professional assistance.

For almost three years, I’ve been trying to get to where I am right now. The problem? I kept getting hurt.

Because I didn’t have the equipment I do now, warmups weren’t particularly convenient. Plus, I didn’t used to have to warm up, so why bother?

Then I’d get hurt.


Yet because of my financial situations (business failures can put a hurt on you if you’re not careful), going to the doctor wasn’t really in the cards. But guess what happened?


Nothing at all.

By that, I mean I never got really better and I kept injuring myself. It wasn’t until this go-around when I finally stopped hurting myself bad enough that I stopped training.

Had I gone to the doctor–in other words, gotten expert help when I needed it–I wouldn’t have had these problems.

On the same token, had I engaged in outside help when my businesses started floundering, I might still have had them in the first place. Had my uncle gotten outside help earlier, he might not have drunk himself into an early grave.

Getting outside help is nothing to be ashamed of, regardless of the circumstances. If you need it, get it.

4. Stuff doesn’t just happen overnight.

I’m an impatient man. I know I am. It’s one of my biggest weaknesses, and I’m far from alone on that. We live in a world of instant gratification.

But when it comes to weight training, nothing is instant. Any goal easy enough to be instantly met is too easy to mean anything.

You start learning to develop patience, at least to some degree. You learn to work toward that goal and to keep steadily down that path, no matter how long it takes.

More than that, though, you really do come to understand that the journey is essential because of the fact that easy goals aren’t really worthwhile goals.

That’s great, but how in the hell is any of this “purifying,” anyway?

Alright, purifying might be overstating things just a bit, but only a bit. If you define purifying as removing impurities, and you decide to call a weakness and impurity, then sure.

And make no mistake, the pain of training in what makes this possible. If I were training light enough that there was no discomfort, none of this would be there. None of it would have been visible to my sweat-induced burning eyes.

So yeah, it’s purifying. The pain of training can be a…well…a pain, but there’s a certain glory to that pain. There’s a kind of magnificence in enduring it and learning from it in a way that takes you to great places.

Not everyone gets that. Why else do so many guys work out like crazy in prison, only to return to crime when they hit the streets?

But a lot of people do. The question is, are you one of them?

Author: Tom

Tom is a husband, father, novelist, opinion writer, and former Navy Corpsman currently living in Georgia. He's also someone who has lost almost 60 pounds in a safe, sustainable way, so he knows what he's talking about.

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