Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pain Tolerance

Today while sitting in the dentist chair (getting an old filling replaced) my doc was talking about pain tolerance.  He told me to raise my hand if it hurt then joked that he wouldn't trust my pain tolerance since I'm a runner.  Then chatted about a study he heard in dental school about pain tolerance and rugby players .... I don't really remember much else thanks to the laughing gas (p.s. I love that dentists can just chat without needing anyone else to comment - great quality).  

Anyway since I left the chair I've been thinking about pain tolerance.  I have always thought I have a fairly high pain tolerance.  It can be traced back to the Indian burns my older brother gave me daily - he would keep going if I cried but would stop if I acted like it didn't hurt.  Ha ha.  OK so maybe that's not where it comes from and who knows maybe I don't even have a high pain tolerance - I've never been tested.  :)

I found this article on how pain tolerance affects running performance.  Here are few parts of the article I really liked:
The reason is that, in endurance racing, nobody is able to use 100 percent of his or her physical capacity. Research has shown that athletes always finish races and time trials with some reserve capacity left over, and the thing that prevents them from using that reserve capacity is the feeling of suffering. Runners always reach a limit to their tolerance for suffering before they hit the limit of their physical capacity.
 But were the elite swimmers elite because they had a greater pain tolerance? Or did they have a greater pain tolerance because they trained as elite swimmers? Well, it just so happens that the authors of this study measured the pain tolerance of the elite swimmers several times over the course of a competitive season. As the weeks went by and their training became more intensive, their pain tolerance scores improved. So individual pain tolerance is clearly trainable to a certain degree.

And here is the part that I needed the most:

Ironically, you may find, as I have, that suffering in tough workouts is made a bit more tolerable just by embracing those feelings as part of the point.

I needed this today during my crossfit workout - it was a tough one.  30 wall balls, 30 box jumps, 400 m run - 5 rounds for time.  Kicked my trash since I can still barely walk after the squats workout on Monday.  But I dug deep and did it I'm not sure I "embraced" the way it felt but it was the point of the workout so I pushed past it.  I remember saying at mile 22 of the St. George marathon "of course it hurts it's mile 22" and that helped me get past the pain. 

 At least now I know working through the pain will make me stronger!!

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