Rethinking no pain, no gain; the NY Times discusses the problem with this workout ethic.

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Rethinking no pain, no gain; the NY Times discusses the problem with this workout ethic.

Most athletes are familiar with the idea of no pain, no gain. Going for the burn, taking things to the limit and reaching to that new level of performance. Some great athletes were born out of this idea however, others have been injured or even developed medical problems as they worked beyond levels they should.

According to the NY Times, there are limits we should not cross, since there are often bad consequences when we do. Check out this NY Times article.

The Limits of ‘No Pain, No Gain’

Exercise makes us tired. A new study helps to elucidate why and also suggests that while it is possible to push through fatigue to reach new levels of physical performance, it is not necessarily wise.

On the surface, exercise-related fatigue seems simple and easy to understand. We exert ourselves and, eventually, grow weary, with leaden, sore muscles, at which point most of us slow or stop exercising. Rarely, if ever, do we push on to the point of total physical collapse.

But scientists have long been puzzled about just how muscles know that they’re about to run out of steam and need to convey that message to the brain, which has the job of actually telling the body that now would be a good time to drop off the pace and seek out a bench.

So, a few years ago, scientists at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City began studying nerve cells isolated from mouse muscle tissue. Other research had established that contracting muscles release a number of substances, including lactate, certain acids and adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, a chemical involved in the creation of energy. The levels of each of those substances were shown to rise substantially when muscles were working hard.

To determine whether and how these substances contributed to muscular fatigue, the Utah scientists began adding the substances one at a time to the isolated mouse nerve cells. Deflatingly, nothing happened when the scientists added the substances individually.

But when they exposed the cells to a combination of all three substances, many of the nerve cells responded. In living muscle tissue, these neurons presumably would send messages to the brain alerting it to growing muscular distress. Interestingly, the scientists found that different neurons responded differently, depending on how much of the combined substances the scientists added to the lab plates containing the mouse nerve cells.

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