It’s totally normal to want to shy away from pain and give in to your off-button when your muscles are screaming during that last rep, mile or second. But sometimes pushing through those moments is the only way to improve.
See if any of these habits are holding you back from reaching your performance goals:
You aren't channeling fear
Doubt is something that every athlete battles with. But what separates the elite performer from everyone else is how they use that fear. They see fear as a sign of progress because it means they are about to level up. If you've been training consistently and haven't felt that adrenaline or discomfort that comes from approaching a challenge, then you need to aim higher.
You’re shunning pain
No matter how you feel about fear, you're going to have to embrace pain in order to progress. Pain comes in many forms too: the burning sensation of an all out sprint, the shaky feeling you get under heavy weight and even the mental discomfort you feel when you're running a race. In fact, the ability to manage and even work towards pain is what separates the average joe from the truly successful athletes. Do what most people aren't willing to do – and you'll be able to build an exceptional physique as well as a rarely-seen level of strength and endurance.
You’re letting your brain dictate performance
When you feel as if you’ve reached the point of no return your body often has plenty more juice in the tank, and research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has pinpointed where that stop order comes from.
“Our brains turn on the pain before we actually run out of fuel,” says study author Dr. Tim Noakes.
This is your built-in safety net because your brain tells the body to shut down to protect it from injury. But champion performers have figured out how to fool the brain and drive their bodies into doing more, even after the brain says no.
Research in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences found that people’s expectations about the pain they’re about to receive reduced the pain ratings by 28%, which they equated to a shot of morphine. Expectations of decreased pain powerfully reduced both the subjective experience of pain and the activation of the pain hot spots in the subjects’ brains as seen via brain scans. This proves your brain allows expectations of pain to shape the processing of actual pain signals. So, if you’ve earmarked a gruesomely steep hill for an interval training workout or plan on doing a CrossFit-style circuit then taking the time to prepare yourself for pain will actually make your efforts feel easier.