Sunday, December 12, 2010

What is "Pain" Anyway?

There is a distinct difference between the pain of an injury and the discomfort (pain) that comes from exerting yourself while exercising. In the athletic world these two are often lumped together - unfortunately. We hear phrases such as "play through the pain" and "you can heal in the off season" and it makes us cringe.

When you feel your body sending you a signal that you are injuring yourself you need to listen or you might not play again for quite a while.

Today we are interested in an athlete's reaction to the other kind of "pain", the one that comes from exercising, often strenuously, in an effort to improve her/his game.

You build your body's ability to do work by - well, working. Some folks say "you have to work hard" to get anywhere. We don't like the word "hard" since it often has negative connotations. We encourage you to look for a more accurate way to express what you are doing - perhaps "challenging" or "rigorously" would do the trick. The idea here is to get away from the negative when it comes to working out strenuously so as to improve your body's ability to deliver a higher level of output.

When you push yourself you either work aerobically or anaerobically, or both. When you do so vigorously, pushing to previous limits, or beyond, your body sends signals to your brain which in turn sends signals back to your body to "give me a break". This is the "pain" of exercise. If you are either an athlete getting better or an active person working to stay fit this "pain" is indeed a good thing to experience. It is the best verification you can get that you are making a difference right now! We encourage you to embrace it!

How do you do that? Well, if you change your "comfort zone" as regards "pain" tolerance you will end of welcoming this discomfort rather than dreading and or avoiding it. Superior athletes welcome the distress that comes from training. The "regular" person (what a misnomer, none of us is regular!) who simply enjoys working out likes the discomfort now and then as well. Both know this signal is a sign of good things happening...and good things won't happen without it!
So, figure out how to search for, embrace and relish the "pain" of exercise. It is a key ingredient to your athletic improvement and a long and healthy life as well (ultimately way more important!).

Learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Really good things happen when you do this.

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