How exertion pain affects performance is largely a matter of perception. Some athletes interpret pain as a sign of weakness, evidence of poor fitness, or a signal to slow down. They feel frustrated and discouraged, and berate themselves for not doing better. These negative thoughts and feelings only increase the perception of pain. For these athletes, pain is their enemy. On the other hand, some athletes interpret exertion pain as a sign that they are going hard, getting tougher, and coming closer to achieving their goals. They feel motivated and inspired by their persistence and tenacity. These positive thoughts and feelings not only diminish their perception of pain, they also increase confidence, motivation and focus. For these athletes, pain is their friend.
Changing your perception of pain can be learned, but it takes practice. During your next hard training block, be aware of what you say to yourself when you start to feel exertion pain. Practice changing negative thoughts to more positive ones, like "The pain means I'm getting stronger" or "Keep pushing; this is where my training pays off." Feel the pride and excitement of rising to the challenge. These positive thoughts and feelings will help you make friends with your pain, and help your pain make you better.
In the next few newsletters I’ll give you some tips on dealing with another type of pain – pain from injury. There are several mental skills that can help you minimize your chance of being injured as well as to speed your recovery when you’re hurt. Stay tuned!
Wed, April 1, 2009
by Dana Blackmer filed under