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I realized that the way I think about pain during a race or during an interval workout might be helpful.  It’s something I’ve had to work on. You’ve probably heard the quote “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”  Of course, that quote extends far past just the discomfort of exercise. So this weekend I did a 2 day mountain bike race in Squamish, BC.  I’ve been trying to stay more local and go to races I can drive to in order to prevent burnout from too much time on airplanes (and save money). That means that I’ve been doing races that are shorter than my normal 50-100 mile mountain bike races.  The races I’ve been doing have been under 3 hours.  I still prefer longer races and my true talent is in the longer races, but I’m proud of how I’ve been performing at shorter events.  The other caveat with shorter events is that you have to ride harder than you would at say a 5-8 hour race. The pacing is just different and it’s a different type of fitness.

That brings me to my point- talking about pain.  I mentioned this during my Cape Epic podcast because endurance racing is also painful, but just in a different way.  So you’re racing. You’re breathing hard, your legs are on fire, maybe your back hurts, your heart rate is pinned.  You just want to slow down.  But most of the time, our brain tells us to slow down before our body actually needs to.  If you want to learn more about this, check out my podcast episode with Walter Staiano and look up Samuel Marcora’s work who both talk about perception of effort and mental fatigue. Tim Noakes also has a slightly parallel theory called the Central Governor Theory.

So it hurts.  The climb is relentless and you want to just slow down.  It happens to everyone.  We all feel this way.  So how do you convince yourself to keep pushing? First, doing intervals in your training where you are going the same pace or harder helps.  The alarm bells that go off when there’s bright red pain may be less after some practice actually being in pain.  Next, I think it’s important to have a mantra that works for you. My husband likes to think about how when he is hurting, he is making other people around him hurt. I like to think of it as if I’m at my limit, so is everyone around me. I’m not alone.  A mantra I use in hard intervals is “I’m okay. You’re okay. Keep pushing. You got this.”  In the race over the weekend, I told myself, “It’s good that it hurts. I’m lucky I can push this hard.  I can push like this forever, I welcome the pain.”  Or a shorter version, “This is good pain.”  This brings me to another point- not all pain is created equal. If you are sick or injured, that is NOT good pain to push through.  Try to come up with a mantra that works for you and practice it.

My favorite mantra that not only applies to pain, but also to anything that is hard is, “Don’t Wish It Away.”  It’s easy to wish ” would this climb just end?  I wish the finish line was closer!”  Trust me, I especially start thinking this in really long races.  Being in the moment is hard sometimes, especially when it hurts, but trying to find gratitude in that moment can help.  “I signed up for this. I trained for this. I’m lucky to be here.  This is where I get to know myself best.  The views are beautiful.  Look at all these people who are pushing themselves too.” Anything you can tell yourself to stop the negative rumination of wishing it away is helpful…and again, it’s a practice. It won’t always work.  But just being aware when you are doing it can help you enjoy your event or your workout so much more and also help you embrace the pain.  I’m actually recording this on Saturday.  Tomorrow is going to hurt. I’m excited for the pain. I’m excited for the opportunity to push myself again.  Do I really mean that?  Just typing it helped.  Try it next time!

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