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Running is a Pain in The ...

June 15, 2018

Running is a Pain in The ...

Let's face it - running hurts. It's painful, it's mind-numbing, and, at times, it can seem like a chore. 

I know if I'm getting ready to do a treadmill workout, or getting on the line for a race, I'm going to be doing something that is uncomfortable. It's going to add undue stress to my body. It's going to reawaken painful joints and muscles, and it's just not going to be fun. In fact, in all my years of running, I can't think of a time when something didn't hurt when I ran.

Then why do we (because I know I'm not alone in this) keep going back to it over and over again? Why do we do something that takes us out of a restful state and puts into our own personal hell?

Because quite simply, that's what we do. It's what we know. It's our routine. And we enjoy getting to the other side of pain.

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Runners in general tend to understand and experience pain more than the average human. Because of this, we learn not only to associate some kinds of normal pain with training, but we also grow to distinguish between the pain that reflects working at our max and the pain that could signal injury.

Underestimating the pain in a race or running in the basement on our treadmill is a function of the way our brains work. We recall the highlights of a race or workout but not every little detail. We can remember the start, a certain point in the mileage or even passing someone on the road. These are considered events rather than sensations.

Pleasant emotions — our sense of accomplishment, self-satisfaction, or pride — can blunt our memory of the tough stuff. If a painful activity produces outcomes of value, positive emotions result, and these emotions seem to help ensure that pain does not prevent us from doing it again. 

However, these acknowledgements of pain can play havoc with us and block us from doing a race or a workout. We can't control what messages are coming in while we're running, but we can control how we interpret them. As we know, running is more about being mentally tough as being physically fit.

As runners, we draw confidence from a lot of places: past workouts, a full season of uninterrupted training, race times, training with those who have faster PRs than us, etc. A large part of being mentally tough is being confident that you can control the messages coming in to your brain, and override them to push through the pain.

So while running can be a pain in the ... stand your ground, know the good that will come from it, lean into it, kick that pain in the butt.

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