Digging into the Pain Cave- Part 2

cave

By USAC Level 1 ALP Coach Jennifer Sharp 

At the end of July, Alison and I attended the TrainingPeaks Endurance Coaching Summit held at Colorado University, Boulder.The Summit brought together over 150 coaches, physiologists, psychologists, business and thought leaders based in the field of endurance sports. During the break out sessions, attendees could choose between different lectures, depending on their interest. While there, I attended Carrie Cheadle’s The Psychology of Suffering. Carrie is a certified consultant through the Association for Applied Sports Psychology and is passionate about educating others on sports psychology. The following are my observations from her talk, broken into three parts. (Part 2 is below.)

As mentioned in my previous post about digging into the pain cave, pain is a complex and subjective experience. By using mental skills training, you can increase your pain threshold.

Sport, and more specifically cycling, is riddled with different degrees of pain. Hill climbing, time trials, and getting pushed to your limit can create physically painful experiences. Each person is unique in how they experience pain. Below are five tools you can use to grow your pain threshold.

  1. Accept the pain. Pushing your body to its limit is uncomfortable. You must embrace it. Enjoy what you’re doing and you’ll mitigate the pain. Ask yourself what it is that you love about the pain and what it is you don’t and be objective.
  1. Have a race goal.Get specific. You’re more likely to push yourself when you are at your limit if you set a goal that you can accomplish. Be sure to have both an outcome goal and a process goal.
  1. Relax, relax, relax!If you’re tense, you won’t preform to your full potential. Use music, practice breathing and use mental cues to relax your mind and body.
  1. Choose your focus. You can use association or disassociation. Association is when you are at your peak suffering and you can focus on technique (such as pedaling) and tune into your breathing. Disassociation happens at lower thresholds and usually longer distances. Using music or audiobooks help disassociate from what you are doing.
  1. Establish an end. Tell your brain there will be a finish to what you’re doing. To do this, pick a marker along the route as an end and once you reach it, pick another end. Distract your brain one goal at a time.

In the final installment of digging into the pain cave, we’ll talk about how changing your perception of pain can affect your tolerance of pain. I’ll provide you with a few more tips on how to grow your pain threshold by practicing it in training. Having a toolset of how to deal with pain can be part of your reward.

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ALP Cycles Coaching is located in the mountains of Colorado, and is a cycling coaching company with over 25 years of professional sports experience. ALP Cycles Coaching is unique in that it has 3 female coaches, Alison Powers, Jennifer Sharp, and Patricia Schwager. Each brings her own coaching strengths and personal experiences. We work together to create a training plan that works for each and every person.

As an athlete of ALP Cycles Coaching, you will receive monthly training plans, phone calls, e-mail updates, and “hands on coaching” with athlete training rides and/or workout sessions. You also receive discounts toward ALP Cycles training camps, skills clinics, clothing, and race/team tactics lessons.

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