Pain is almost exclusively a negative feeling. We avoid it whenever possible. Runners know this. Running 5K pace is painful. So is kilometre 40 of the marathon, but how we perceive and frame the pain we experience has an important role in how long or how much of it we can tolerate.
A 2013 study published in the journal Pain (where else?) asked healthy participants to tolerate ischemic arm pain—circulation to the arm was cut off — for as long as possible.
Before the procedure began, participants were either told about the dangers, risks and generally aversive nature of the task or were told that the procedure was in fact beneficial to the muscles and useful in various ways.
Can you guess which group lasted longer? The second group, of course.
This study suggests that by changing our perception of pain from a negative or detrimental experience to one that is positive and productive may enable us to withstand a greater amount of pain.
What does this mean for you?
We all know that running a 5K all-out is not going to be a walk in the park. Nor will the last several kilometres of the marathon. Not only should we acknowledge that this pain is coming, but also accept and embrace the fact that this pain is both necessary and beneficial to our success.
Try framing your thinking in a positive way such as “the faster I go and the harder I push, the sooner it’ll be over” and “I worked so hard to get here and it will feel so good when I’m successful.”
And always remember: PBs are painful but totally worth it!