Listen to Your Body
Many Endurance Athletes Don’t Listen to Their Bodies
There is this idea of “no pain, no gain” with endurance athletes. What we should really say is, “no discomfort, no gain”. Pain is a sign that something is wrong. Unfortunately, many athletes don’t know the difference between discomfort and pain. This is because their rate of perceived exertion doesn’t match their actual effort.
This is a survival mechanism and actually, a good thing is in many cases. Our brains are trying to keep us from killing ourselves. The problem is, how to teach the brain to maintain a level of healthy discomfort without harming the body?
The solution is, figuring out the difference between pain and healthy discomfort. What Steph H. would tell her clients it is good and normal to say, “this is uncomfortable”, it is not ok to say “ouch.” Once something becomes ouch, it is time to look into what else is going on. Mastering the perception of effort is the key to learning how to push to our limits without injury.
Sports Science and the Brain
The latest research in sports science tells us that it is our brains that determine if we hit the wall push ourselves to injury. The most important discovery in this science is that you cannot improve as an endurance athlete unless you change your relationship with perceived effort. When we train for an event, we train our body and mind in relation to this perceived effort. As a result, new athletes have a hard time distinguishing perceived effort. When a new athlete starts training, everything seems hard. With experience, we learn to push past discomfort. After that, it is easier to dig deeper and push harder.
Learning to Listen
At some point, we are also able to disconnect from a perceived effort and push to the point of pain. This is where many athletes get into trouble. They sometimes believe they need to push harder, but this leads to injury. A better solution is to address other factors, such as training volume, training intensity, and technique.
Endurance athletes believe they should suffer on some level. That the nature of the sport. If training and racing were not hard, there would be no reward in crossing the finish line. This mindset gets the athletes into trouble. There is a fine line between healthy and unhealthy suffering. For longevity in the sport, it is important to learn how to be uncomfortable without saying “ouch”.