Evlo Fitness/Education/Fitness Myths/Workout without pain: 4 tips for success
Shannon Ritchey
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Workout without pain: 4 tips for success

2021 can be your year to exercise without pain. 2020 was mine. 

This year, I exercised for fewer hours than I have in years. This year, I am physically stronger than I’ve ever been. This year is the first year I haven’t had to skip a single workout because of an injury. This year, I’ve finally been able to move past my daily chronic back pain. 

There have been many technical things I’ve changed about my workouts. I’ve learned more about exercise mechanics and force distribution, which has led me to prioritize certain exercises more frequently than others. I’ve chosen to leave some common exercises out of my routine completely. I’ve learned to program my workouts, so I challenge my muscles sufficiently for change without overusing them and causing inflammation. Although these technical changes have made a huge difference, I think the biggest differences come from the changes in my mindset. 

1. Gentle on my joints doesn’t have to mean ineffective. 

This is something I had to learn by proving it to myself. Conceptually, I’ve understood for a long time that I can strength train in ways that don’t harm my joints and still get great results. But I’ve had a hard time letting go of the idea that if I wasn’t sweating or peeling myself off the floor after a workout, that I had done “enough.” This year, I committed to this philosophy to work out in gentle ways and still get amazing results. 

Since starting Levo (almost ten months ago), my workouts are when I teach. I rarely do anything outside of my classes. Having a membership where everything is documented online means I could tally up how much time I spent exercising and what I was doing during that time. I was curious as to how much time I spent doing certain types of workouts. Here are the totals: 

In the last ten months, I spent:

103.75 total hours working out

Which is 4.3 days 

53.85 hours of that was strength training (yoga, lifting, Pilates)

13.9 hours of that was high-intensity power or cardio 


36 hours of that was mobility and meditation 

I know those numbers don’t mean much, but it’s powerful when you look at the percentages. 

About 52% of the time I was doing resistance training of some kind. 

About 35% of the time I was doing mobility. 

About 13% of the time I was doing higher intensity exercise.

My body is stronger than ever, and I have no chronic back pain. I was only doing intense exercise 13% of the time. How could that be? Doesn’t intensity drive results? 

It’s because I focused on strength training that didn’t hurt my joints. I listened to my body, I applied mechanics to every class I taught, and I did TONS of mobility (35% of the time was mobility work) to keep my joints supple and healthy and my nervous system balanced. Because of this, I was able to consistently train the entire year. I never had to miss a workout because of cranky joints. Slow and steady wins the race. 

Of course, I’m not saying intensity is bad or wrong. I know there is data that says HIIT workouts can be great for you. I’m just saying that you can have most of your workouts be slow, intentional strength training that’s gentle and sustainable on your joints, and still see amazing results. 

2. I don’t have to be uncomfortably sore after every workout. 

Soreness means something happened. You worked your muscles and damaged them to the point of causing a low level of pain. This isn’t always a bad thing – this is how muscles grow back stronger. However, we don’t have to be uncomfortably sore after every workout to know we are progressing. 

Constant soreness could mean you are never fully healing. When the tissues in your body aren’t able to fully recover, you can spin in chronic inflammation. This chronic inflammation can impede messages from our brain to our muscles, causing weakness and compensations. 

My recommendation is to not measure the effectiveness of your workout on your soreness but rather on how you feel immediately after. Notice if your body and muscles feel tired and fatigued, but your joints feel happy and supple. This is a sign that you applied slight damage to your muscles so they can grow back stronger, without potentially damaging joint structures that you want to keep preserved. 

3. I stopped worrying about how many calories I burn during my workouts and focused more on my nutrition. 

This was a big change for me this year. I stopped wearing my fitness watch. I stopped relying on my workouts to keep my body lean and shifted my goal to gaining muscle in my workouts. Muscle burns more calories per pound than any tissue in your body. This means when you have more muscle, your metabolism improves. 

However, when I was transitioning my workouts towards more consistent strength training, I gained weight. I was used to eating whatever I wanted because I would burn it off in my workouts. 

When I adjusted my nutrition, I started to lean down quickly. Because I’ve gained muscle, my metabolism is faster, and I can be more flexible with the number of calories I eat in a day. This was a transition for me, but I took the time to invest in healthy eating habits. I’ve worked on managing my mind, so I notice when I’m stress eating, planning my food, and only having healthy food in the house, and being reasonable when going out to eat. Now that my nutrition is more controlled, my body can stay lean, and I don’t have to beat myself up in my workouts to burn off my bad food decisions and risk hurting myself. 

4. Exercising longer or more frequently doesn’t mean faster results. 

I’ve found that programming is so much more important than the length of time working out. You can be efficient in your workouts in 30 minutes, 4x/week, and see amazing changes. Sometimes, the longer workouts can include more “fluff,” which might unnecessarily overdo it, causing inflammation. Sometimes the longer workouts include exercises that are not as effective or beneficial at creating change in your body. 

Don’t get me wrong; I love a long workout sometimes. I’m just saying that it’s more important to be intentional in your workouts than spend more time doing them. 

I’ll tell you exactly how we program in Levo: 

  1. We only work a muscle group 1-2x/week on non-consecutive days
  2. I choose exercises that place the most force through the targeted muscle while minimizing stress through surrounding joints 
  3. I focus at least 10 minutes of every workout on breathwork and mobility 
  4. Each exercise has a purpose and is mechanically the most advantageous. This means we aren’t wasting time with exercises/movements that aren’t going to move the needle. You’d be amazed at how this will boost the effectiveness of a workout 
  5. I prioritize at least 1-2 days of recovery each week, where I only walk or do mobility 

If you want to improve your mindset around exercise to develop a fit body that feels better, meet me in Levo! I help you practice these mindsets in each class, which truly re-wire your brain. You will develop habits that your body will thank you for. I create a customized schedule for each client, so you know you’re taking the right classes for your body to see results. Click here to learn more about the membership!