Staying in the Pain Cave

We humans pretty much do everything we can to avoid pain. And typically in daily life, that's a pretty great feature-- touch a hot pan, hand retracts quickly. It's a primal response, meant to protect us.

The problem is that in order to continue to improve performance in running, in CrossFit or in the weight room, we have to be able to ignore that voice that screams at us to stop when things get uncomfortable.

**Please note** the pain I'm referring to here is more discomfort, technically, than true pain. STOP when you feel true pain-- sharp, stabbing pain where mobility is impaired and can be accompanied by visible change in the tissue (swelling, bruising, bleeding, etc.).

The pain that you have to learn to deal with so that you can improve is that burning of lactic acid and the fatigue that sets in after long or intense effort.

How do you learn not to back down? How to you learn to stay in the pain cave?

  1. Practice-- You have to train for the circumstances that you will be facing in competition (even if the competition is only against yourself). If you'll be running a hilly race, then your training should involve hills. Regularly. If you're aiming for a PR (new faster time) in a race, then do speed work. Regularly. If you are wanting to compete in CrossFit (even in a daily workout at your own gym), then you have to push yourself hard. Harder than you think you can go.  
  2. My Sis
    Have a Reason-- There absolutely has to be a WHY for you. And I mean a big why. If you're only competing or seeking to better yourself for superficial reasons (to win, to look better, etc.) then you might find yourself falling short. This year for me has been a year of dealing with the death of my sister. It's been hard. But losing her has given me a deeper perspective. It's a mile marker-- a moment in time that I never want to return to again, and I have no choice but to keep moving forward. She has made me a better runner. I know she was proud of me. And now when I run, I grieve with purpose. I often find myself able to dig deeper, fueled by thoughts of, "This doesn't hurt as bad as losing Andrea." And "She didn't have the strength to fight through the pain, but I do, and I can finish this race for her."
  3. Check Yourself-- When you're giving your all and begin to feel as if you've reached the end of yourself, do a check from toes to head (I like to start closer to the source of the discomfort). How are my feet? Good. Good. How about legs? Tired. Ok, but the legs are strong. Remember all that training? How about lungs? Breathing hard. Ok. Relax. That's it. Slow the heart rate. Keep running strong. (Yes, I've learned to turn that negative talk into positive. You really have to "hire" an inner coach.)
  4. Grit Your Teeth and Bear It-- And then when you've done all of the above, there is just an element of digging in and being too stubborn to quit. (Also reminding yourself that there's __insert yummy treat__ waiting for you at the finish line, and if you don't get there soon, it might all be gone.)


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