The Problem of Exercise as Pain and Suffering

I exercise a lot. Everyday. 1-2 hours, sometimes even 3-4 hours a day, 5 days a week.

And I have never felt pain.

Well, not really. You see, I've been injured while exercising—that's painful.

For some time, I was experiencing low-back pain, but I got to the bottom of that.

Oh, yeah, and when I was 18 years old, I dislocated my right shoulder playing basketball; it came completely out of it's socket. The story of this day is usually accompanied by an anecdote of how I became a hero, which, due to time constraints, I will not tell here, but I will leave you with the video bellow, which is pretty close to what happened that night in the hospital.

Alright, so I've definitely felt pain. But it has only been occasionally, and usually I get to the bottom of it. But, on a day to day basis, in the gym, during my workouts, I don't feel pain.

So why would I talk about the pain cave? Or refer to workouts as painful? Well, I don't. Or, I try not to at least.

When I was younger, I had the good fortune of running into some people who took the power of words seriously. 

These people used phrases like, "word sound." And, "Word, Sound and Power."

So, they wouldn't say "back" or "you," they would say "front" and "I." So, unity, became "I-nity," and "Go back," became "Forward on."

To them, there is no "you" and "me," but "I and I." Because if we are all one, then there is no separation, but if our language does not reflect our beliefs, then maybe they are not truly our beliefs. So, if we really believe that we are "one," then our language must reflect that. "You and me," implies separation, where "I and I" implies oneness. 

So, I learned that all aspects of language must be checked and challenged. How we speak to one another. How we refer to places and things. Sometimes this practice may seem trivial, but it is important.

People say things all the time that do not make sense, like, "I am starving."

No. If you are reading this, you are most likely not starving. You're just "hangry."

Lately, I've been thinking about the problem of referring to training and exercise as "pain and suffering." It bothers me. Exercise is not painful. To train hard is not to suffer. 

Listen, I know what it's like to push hard, but that feeling isn't pain—it's discomfort.

To refer to exercise as suffering would be a disservice to the word.

Suffering is losing a loved one. Suffering is living in a war-zone; bombs and drones flying over your head. Suffering is starving, for real. Suffering is living on the street. Suffering is disease and sickness. 

Exercise is not suffering.

Listen, all I'm saying is, let's call a spade, a spade.

Exercise is discomfort. What you call pain, I call, "uncomfortableness." (Yes, this word actually exists; it is a legit word that I did not make up).

And, no, you are not "dying." Let's get it straight. Let's tell the children (not your baby goats—your "kids"), what the truth is. You are not "dying," while you are working out, you are LIVING.

Listen, play all of the emo, heavy-metal you want. Loathe in your existence as a peasant in a million-dollar gym, but please, please, stop saying an exercise was painful, or worse yet, that doing a bunch of thrusters and toe-to-bars was "spicy." (Spicy, is actually a better descriptor for training than painful, it suggests discomfort and even mild pleasure, but its played out and I'm tired of hearing it. Find another word, please).

Okay, okay. So, maybe discomfort and pain are on a spectrum, but there's definitely a clear break, like right when you enter "Snap City." I've visited Snap City. That day when my shoulder came clearly and completely out of it's socket. It hurt so much I was crying. But, "Fran?" Fran just made me breathe, really, really hard, and put me in a drunken stupor for 5 minutes afterwards. Then, like 2 hours later, after I've showered and eaten. I feel like a new man. My body is recovering, I am enjoying my accomplishments for the day, and I am looking forward to the morrow. 

But that day that I felt the most serious physical pain of my life, I wasn't feeling like I had accomplished anything (except when I became the hero of the day, which I love to do and it happens all the time). I was feeling like someone who had just experienced a lot of pain. I had a sling around my arm, and I could not play basketball the next day. 

Generally, when you feel pain in your workout, you have just entered Snap City. It just so happens that Snap City charges a toll, so you know when you're there. 

I know what you are thinking: "Dude, why are you all uptight? It's just a simile, a comparison, a figure of speech."

Yeah, but it's reflecting your own attitude toward what you are doing. You actually believe you are in pain during "Fran," but you are not in pain. There is no pain. Your semantics are ossifying the world-view that, 1) a good workout is painful, 2) that pain is good (because training is good), and 3) that pain is necessary. Think about all of the people in your gym who work through real pain. Think about all of the people who think that pain is normal. Pain is not normal. You have made it your normal. 

Exercise is uncomfortable, but not painful. It is uncomfortableness, Exercise is uncomfortable comfortableness, or comfortable uncomfortableness (think about it). You are living your life and making it better and stronger for the next day.

Nobody wants to feel pain. But, discomfort? Discomfort is good. I'll let C.S. Lewis tell it:

"If fire comforts that body at a certain distance, it will destroy it when the distance is reduced….the evil of pain depends on degree, and pains below a certain intensity are not feared or resented at all. No one minds the process “warm—beautifully hot—too hot—it stings” which warns him to withdraw his hand from the fire: and, if I may trust my own feeling, a slight aching in the legs as we climb into bed after a good day’s walking is, in fact, pleasurable.” From, The Problem of Pain, by C.S. Lewis

Just as a side note, if you are a masocist, or a sadist, or both... Run it... Call it pain. If you love inflicting and receiving pain, as long as it is done with mutual understanding and between two consenting adults. That's all you, all day. But, me? I'm not about that life. #painlife #thissucks #thatworkoutsuckedballs #paincave #FML #FYL #FYF #SatanRules 

Okay, okay. So there are those of you who don't like to be uncomfortable from time to time. It's you folks I'm trying to reach. It is you who will benefit most from discovering that exercise is not pain and suffering. Or, maybe you like to test the limits of your discomfort. If that's the case, call me. I got you.

But, really though. Discomfort, applied in small, non-lethal doses is good. It builds character. It will build your body. It will build your resolve. Don't be one of those people who avoids a little discomfort and avoids exercise because they have equated it with pain and suffering.

Listen, at the end of the day. I really don't care what you call it, but I respectfully refuse the comparison. I like to watch what I say, and say what I mean. Like everyone else, I get caught up in my emotions and go on auto-pilot with my words. I curse like a sailor (working on it). If pain is your thing, run it, just know I have you pegged as a sado-masocist (you have been judged). It's nice to step back and question the words and comparisons we use on a day-to-day basis; it is a good practice to be critical of language. It involves listening closely to yourself, and listening closely to others. Try it some day. You'll be surprised what you find.