No pain no gain?

I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about the impending Marathon which is now 20 days away – not that anyone’s counting.  How the heck I am actually going to run 26.2 miles is beyond me.  Some people say that it’s a lot easier if you think about it in increments (four 5 milers, and then a six-mile run with whatever you have left).  But regardless of how I think about the run,  I know that it’s going to hurt.  A lot.  And no matter how much you prepare yourself, you cannot prepare yourself for the pain that your body feels around mile 20 when you’ve run out of gas.

This morning I was perusing the health section of the New York Times when I chanced upon this SUPER interesting article on how professional athletes are so good because they are able to push past the pain (http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/18/pushing-past-pain-to-improve-performance/?ref=health).  Mary Wittenberg, president of New York Road Runners states, “Mental tenacity — and the ability to manage and even thrive on and push through pain — is a key segregator between the mortals and immortals in running.”  Granted, we aren’t elite athletes that are vying for medals, but the article goes on to argue that even mere mortals can benefit from training your brain to endure pain.

One of the most interesting takeaways from this article is that elite athletes focus on the activity that they are doing rather than trying to take their minds off of it.  Dr. Jeroen Swart, a sports medicine physician who has done research on this topic states, “Our hypothesis is that elite athletes are able to motivate themselves continuously and are able to run the gantlet between pushing too hard — and failing to finish — and underperforming.”

So whether you’re climbing a grueling hill in spinning class, swimming your 20th lap, or running intervals around a track, rather than trying to take your mind off of the discomfort of the activity, focusing on your form, your surroundings and your competitors may help you improve your performance.  Or at the very least, help you get through the end in one piece!

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