The following is a future article I wrote for Bodybuidling.com. Whenever I write for another publication, you get the see the nicer, no-profanity version of me. It’s not my regular voice, but more my “professional” one. I don’t know when this piece will be published, but in the meantime, you all can have the first look to it:
How to Increase Your Pain Tolerance and Take Your Training to the Next Level
In order to get our physiques to the next level, we must increase the intensity in our workouts. The best ways to break plateaus is to learn how to train in the discomfort zone and beyond. Going easy is not an option. Whether it’s CrossFit, HIIT, sprints, 20 reps back squats or a double-drop set arm routine, the biggest obstacle you will face in a high intensity workout is when the awful muscle burning sensation starts to set in. When the pain comes, you either tough it out or quit. By having a low tolerance of pain, you will miss out on all the bodybuilding and anti-aging hormones that are generated when training near the red-line zone.
No wonder most people remain looking the same even after putting tons of hours in the gym. Their capacity for staying in the pain cave sucks.
Your body has the ability to withstand loads of hurt and extreme levels of fatigue. The problem is most gym goers don’t have a strategy on how to deal with the pain when it hits them. After reading this article, you’ll be more prepared to handle and manage the pain to your advantage. By elevating your skill to suffer, you will lift more weight, run faster and longer and get your name on top of your CrossFit white board. Not only will you perform better, but a little pain will help you look better the next time you’re wearing next to nothing at the beach.
Here are 3 mental tips to teach you how to deal with the discomforts in your upcoming battle in the gym. By managing your perception of pain, you will take your body to places you have never been before or thought you could never achieve.
Get ready to feel unstoppable.
Tip #1 – Understand the benefits of the pain. Before I go on, I want to state the difference between physical joint or muscle pain and the pain of the burning and breathlessness from a workout. If you are experiencing any sort of acute or sharp discomfort, STOP what you are doing immediately. You probably have an injury and you need to rest. Any sort of activity may aggravate the problem and make the situation worse. High-pain tolerance training is not about working through an injury. It is about working through the physical discomfort and stress from a challenging task. I hope this distinction is clear.
So having said that, understand when you are doing a workout and your legs are burning and your lungs are pounding, you are at the right place where good things will happen. Understanding the benefits from the suffering will help you stomach the agony.
When you work out this intensely, your body goes through a neuroendocrine adaptation or hormonal change. Your body begins to release human growth hormones, testosterone and other fat-burning hormones to enhance your body composition. In order to get these amazing physical benefits, you have to push your body as close to your limits as possible. Taking a slow jog or casually pumping up with pink dumbbells just won’t get you these hormonal advantages.
Knowing that the burning and gasping has fantastic benefits should make the misery less painful. You want to train yourself to get a positive association of the uneasiness. It won’t make the suffering go away, but it will at least help reassure yourself that if you feel awful, you are at the right place. I know this doesn’t sound fun but it is only through this physical discomfort that change is possible. You’ll realize that all the great things you’ll get from the pain will just outweigh the suffering. It will enable you to push a little further.
Most of the time that “little” push is all you need to motivate yourself to grind it out instead of quitting.
Tip #2 – Get Angry. Many scientific studies have shown that anger can raise your pain threshold. I’m not suggesting you to train in an anger state because that can lead to being out of control. When it comes to training, you never want your emotions to get the best out of you.
However, anger as a last resort can be a powerful coping skill when you find yourself quitting prematurely. Sometimes when I’m feeling unmotivated, I know I am very susceptible to giving up when I know I can go further. When I catch myself in this wimp mode and stop at the very first sign of discomfort, I get so upset at myself for almost wasting a training day. Instantly, I can transform myself from being a pansy to paint to being an unstoppable machine.
Being upset at myself fires me up to the point that I can bulldoze through a workout no matter how difficult it can be. The discomfort is still there, but training while being pissed off can override the negative sensation of your muscles hurting.
This is an example of how I used anger wisely. If you channel your rage to help you focus and finish a workout, it can be a powerful way to elevate your pain tolerance and defeat any thoughts of quitting.
So get mad to look better.
Tip #3 – Recall Your Past Painful Workouts. When you commit yourself to training with more intensity, pain will be inevitable. When the suffering comes, so will memories of workouts that were equally as difficult. Quickly go through your mental Rolodex of past training sessions that were just as uncomfortable.
By doing so, you will recall workouts that were not only just as painful, but way worse than the one you are currently battling against. Knowing that you got through bigger challenges will help make the current workout seem a lot easier.
Reflecting and comparing your past accomplishments in the gym will immediately uplift your energy level and lower your perception of pain during your current workout. Revisiting your past victories will give you the concrete proof that you have the ability to endure and outdo pain. Once you see that you are reminded of your superior skill to handle physical stress, it will motivate you to push through the WOD and finish in the strongest manner possible.
Welcome your memories of your past accomplishments in the gym. They’ll make you feel invincible so you’ll be able handle the anguish from any HIIT or CrossFit WOD. Once you remind yourself how strong you were in the past, you’ll bust your old personal records with more impressive ones.
Use the past to help you look more awesome in the present.
In summary, our bodies have the capacity to do amazing things. What hold us back are our mental barriers. By learning how to push through our perception of discomfort, we can get to the next level of athletic performance and body composition.