The Danger of “Push Through It”

Posted: January 26, 2016 in General Fitness
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

My first introduction to Jillian Michaels, before I really knew about the biggest loser or anything related to that, was looking at workout videos that were available for streaming on Netflix years back and I tried one of hers, and I didn’t finish it because her mentality pissed me off so much. Specifically what pissed me off was she stated at one point something along the lines of “I know you feel like you’re dying, but you aren’t, so don’t stop”.


Image of Jillian Michaels with a quote “I want you to feel like you’re going to die.”

Excuse me?

Are you in my living room with me? Do you know my health background? What makes you talking to people you don’t know and can’t see qualified to actually say that none of those people are actually in danger if they push through feeling like they are dying?

That attitude and disregard for the well being of people so disgusted me that I couldn’t stand to finish the video with her. I later learned more about her and discovered that her entire fame as a trainer is based around a total disregard for the well being of others

This is also an attitude that I see often put forth  in“fitspo”- encouragement to just push through no matter how awful you feel, and the insistence that feeling “bad” is always normal.

The truth is though, not all kinds of bad feelings during workouts are normal, ok, or safe! Pushing through some of that “I feel like I’m dying” can be dangerous! “I feel like I’m dying” sometimes is the precursor to death!

The thing is, not only can someone who doesn’t know us, what we are feeling, and what our health is, say for certain if we are really ok when we feel bad during a workout, sometimes we don’t know enough to make that judgment either!

I’m thinking about this now following my brand new diagnosis of asthma!

See, after a krav maga workout last week I started coughing, which is not very unusual for me. Though the coughing kept getting worse, was far worse than ever before. and lasted longer than usual. Maybe or maybe not related to me working out around others and feeling embarrassed to stop and take a breather when I felt like I couldn’t breath.

After this I started looking up info on coughing after workouts and talked with a few people about it, since like I said- it’s far from the first time I coughed following a workout. I’ve always before though just thought that was normal. One woman replied to me online telling me she was the same, until it was so bad she ended up in the ER and found out the coughing was not normal but rather asthma. Thankfully I got in to my pcp for the diagnosis and prescribed an inhaler before ending up in the ER.

It reminds me that sometimes feeling like you can’t breathe isn’t normal out of breath from a workout, sometimes it is a serious (if not treated) medical condition!

It is really dangerous that we have this mentality that workouts should make you feel like you are dying and the correct response is always just to “suck it up” and push through anything and everything no matter what. People absolutely can get hurt by this.

  1. G says:

    Yes yes yes! This is so important, and it’s a place where fitness culture is very dysfunctional. There’s a big difference between pushing yourself harder in a workout (usually ok) and pushing too hard, to injury (def not!) We have this all-or-nothing attitude, where a workout isn’t good enough unless you’ve beaten the crap out of yourself.

    I’ve been injured by careless instruction myself in a yoga class (yes A YOGA CLASS) where the teacher told us to “push through the pain”. I pushed through the pain right into strained hip flexors and was in a lot of pain and unable to stand up for several days, and it ruined the rest of my training plan as I had to recover from that. All for the sake of a “restorative” (lol) yoga class. Yes, I’m still bitter.

  2. I agree with you. Sadly it’s not just working out where people tell you to “push through”. It’s life in general and that can have even more devastating effects on our lives.
    I used to be a runner. I was diagnosed with exercise induced asthma after experiencing chest pain that I assumed was from running in extreme cold weather. The Respirologist who diagnosed me told me that he had lots of patients who ran marathons so I didn’t have anything to worry about as long as I used my inhalers as prescribed. I was able to continue running for a long time after my diagnosis but I did have to be mindful about not pushing myself to the point where my chest hurt.

  3. Sadie Vanna says:

    I’ll admit up-front, I love Jillian! Mainly because sometimes I need that kick-in-the-butt attitude to make sure that I’m reaching my full potential; and I’ve had great results from her workouts in the past! But I see where you are coming from. I had symptoms of a pulmonary embolism for nearly a year before I was diagnosed. Docs kept telling me it was anxiety, or asthma, or some other such nonsense causing me to be unable to breathe. I even had a cardiologist tell me to go on, keep exercising, no big deal! Now that I know the truth though, I’ve been much more careful. I’ve gotten the all-clear to start reconditioning my body again and I’m excited, but sometimes I overdo it. These past weeks have been learning that delicate balance between what my body WANTS to do and what it is ABLE to do. But I’m getting a little better every day and try to push myself a teenie bit more each time. 🙂 I enjoyed your post about krav maga, I had not heard of that before! I’m happy you found an activity you enjoy and hope that you can find an inhaler medication that works for you. I’ve been instructed to do breathing exercises to help my lung function, maybe they would be beneficial to you also? Be well! 🙂

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