Continued from Part 2…
There is a level of grit – technically known as ’emotional resilience’ – that is good for each of us to develop, when the pain can’t be reduced further. It is really tough to train for this because one has to actually enter into painful situations in order to develop the skill and strength to deal with it. And that is the point – to become tougher through the practice of keeping an eye on the greater purpose in order keep going to the finish despite the pain. Maybe it doesn’t seem like those with lower athletic ambition need to impose painful training upon themselves. But consider the latent benefits of learning to handle pain better: it is very likely that life will present some physical and emotional difficulties where this kind of practiced grit comes in handy. So adding this to the training menu could be a beneficial thing.
But how much does the grit we develop from voluntary activities translate into grit for painful experiences that are imposed upon us? That’s a good question, that raises more questions for me.
Some people might use painful athletic lifestyle to avoid or hide from dealing with painful relational life. While others might use painful athletic lifestyle to prepare for dealing with painful situations in the rest of life. I suppose loved ones could tell which kind of athlete we are.
Traumas and past pain can drive us to avoid pain in athletics or to seek it out. Some people may view their exercise as a time to avoid pain, to reduce it. While others may find painful training to be therapeutic – exchanging one kind of pain for another. I can recall a few times in my life I’ve released deep anger while climbing up a brutal hill, or sobbed desperately while driving my body down the lap lane.
The social beings we are, many may find that striving with others in an athletic endeavor can increase tolerance for pain. Some may find that striving against others can increase tolerance for pain. Whether we prefer to be wıth others or alone, we can see that our experience of pain can be greatly affected by the presence of others.
More Questions About Pain
One of the questions of the book Endure is on the nature of pain: is it something physical or is it something ‘mental’?
Are pain signals the expression of the body telling us we’re reaching true limits or danger lines, or are we feeling the brain’s over-protective measures to try to get us to stop well short of those limits?
And, what makes one able to ignore and work far past those intense urges to stop?
All that discussion of pain and limits and pushing past provoked more questions in my mind…
Just because explorers, extreme athletes and scientific researchers are showing us how much farther past the limits humans might actually go, does this mean that we should try, on a regular basis? And, when might it be a good idea to heed the body’s urges to stop? In addition to the obvious benefits of pushing through pain, what are the costs involved in going farther and farther past? When and how might the costs outweigh the benefits?
For ones who seeks their accolades (right now) the answer may be quite different than for the ones who seek longevity – those who seek the accolade for having a functional body past 100 years, for example.
These are the kind of answers I am seeking in order to advise more mature athletes according to their primary value of getting that athletic reward now or or getting it later.
Summary Of Thoughts On Pain
Pain is a messenger. There are different kinds of pain with different messages behind them. We need to learn to discern the different kinds and response appropriately, according to our greater values.
There is some pain we need to detect early and respond to sufficiently, which should then make the pain signals go away. No pain (of this kind) = we’re doing things correctly.
There is some pain we actually expect to encounter as an indicator that we are, in fact, doing good and necessary training work. From experience and guidance from those who know, we learn what different kinds and different levels of pain mean in terms of what parts of the performance system are being stressed in the way that provoked growth.
Overall, we should look for ways to improve our relationship with pain so that we grow more and suffer less.
You may view Thinking About Pain Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.
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