At the first signs of pain, most people usually quit. It could be the pain associated with exercising. The pain of having to cook dinner instead of going out to eat to save money. Or, it could be the pain of finally tackling that project that you have been putting off.
Our ability to endure pain, physical or mental, could be the secret that leads to success or failure in accomplishing our goals.
Karel Gijsbers, a psychologist at the University of Stirling, in Scotland, published an influential paper in the British Journal of Medicine in 1981. Gijsbers along side one of his graduate students, put 30 elite swimmers from the Scotland National team through a series of pain tests and then compared those results to 30 Club Level swimmers and 26 non-athletes.
The protocol for this study involved cutting off the circulation to the subjects arms with a blood-pressure cuff, and then having them clench and unclench their fist once per second. The “Pain Threshold” was defined as the number of contractions needed to produce a sensation that registered as pain rather than merely discomfort. “Pain Tolerance” was quantified as the total number of contractions before the subject gave up.
The first finding was that the pain threshold was essentially the same in all three groups, starting around 50 contractions. The second time the test was conducted the results were different. The pain tolerance of the National Team swimmers endured an average of 132 contractions before calling it quits. Compared to the 89 in the club swimmers and 70 in the non-athletes.
Gijsbers remarked that because of the more systematic approach in which the National Team Swimmers exposed themselves to pain during training, that they had created or harnessed brain chemicals like endorphins, or perhaps simply thanks to psychological coping that allowed them to endure more pain. He also said that “pain” can be strangely motivating or even required to the highly motivated athlete.
Gijsbers conducted these studies three more times throughout the year and found that the National Team Swimmers scored highest in June, which is their peak racing season; lowest in October, which is their off-season, and somewhere in the middle during their regular training period in March.
These seasonal fluctuations suggest that pain tolerance is linked to the type of training that the swimmers were doing during each of these testing periods. During the season, they were pushing their limits every single day, which provided them more tolerance based on their daily training schedules.
Similar studies have been done since Gijsbers studies in 1981, and they have all concluded with similar results.
So if pain is required to have more success, how do I train myself to be able to endure more pain?
For the purposes of this writing, I will stick to the topic of just exposing yourself to more pain. To be able to endure more pain, you have to set a goal a reason for that goal. I have covered those topics extensively in other writings. Email me if you are interested in reading those firstname.lastname@example.org
In a recent book I read, it discussed the fact that when it comes to exercise that most of us will quit long before we ever run into any possibility of really hurting ourselves. Our body is hardwired to shut down well before we could possibly ever get in to serious trouble of actually dying. But if you have ever worked out before, really really hard, you may feel like you are about to die while you are in the moment.
At this peak of exhaustion and mental anguish is when most people quit. They don’t push themselves through the pain, because most of us are don’t want to feel this kind of pain. However, when you are feeling this pain it is when you are actually burning the most calories and optimizing the benefits from the actual exercise you are doing.
I’m not suggesting you go forever, I’m just suggesting you may want to push yourself during this pain for a certain amount of time, and then each workout after you continue to push yourself to stay in that zone longer and longer. This is where you will start to see more results and growth.
What about the pain associated with eating dinner at home versus going out to eat. I have been there before, I was in debt and spending close to thirty to thirty-five percent of my monthly income on going out to eat. If you are spending that much money on eating out and you add-on top of that twenty-five percent in housing costs, and then all of your other expenses, including the debts. You can see real quickly that you won’t make much progress on eliminating your debts.
My suggestion is to first figure out how much you are spending and on which days do you typically do this. I am sure you will see a pattern. Then decide which days or day you will pick to stop doing this. It could be on Mondays or Saturdays. It depends on your pattern. It could be on the days you attend class or your kid plays sports.
Now that you have the day picked out, decide what you will do instead. Will it be cooking at home that day. Or should you pick another day to make additional food, so you can eat leftovers on the day you pick? Seems like a lot of work doesn’t it? It is so much easier to just eat out instead.
Yes it sure does. But this isn’t getting you any closer to your goals of paying off debt. Your ability to endure the pain is what will either help or hurt you in achieving this goal.
I am quite sure that if you are reading this your goal is not to be an Olympic Swimmer. However, I do think you are like most people and want to find a way to get ahead and move you and your family closer to your ideal situation financially as well as lifestyle wise.
To do this, it is going to require you to do things that you haven’t been able to do before successfully. As my mentor told me, “To get what you have never had, you have to do something that you have never done.” Maybe this is you as well.
Enduring pain and making sacrifices is not a forever thing. It is only for a season, a period of time, it isn’t going to last forever. If you endure some pain during a workout for three months or so, each day enduring more and more. Eventually you will hit your goal. If you don’t eat out for a period of time, you will eventually get to a better financial position than you are currently. Believe me, I have lived this personally.
So the question is are you willing to endure some pain to accomplish your goals?
To your success and your future.
If you need some help with this contact me at email@example.com I am currently meeting with clients to help them achieve the things they want in their life and in their career.
Excerpts for this blog taken from the book Endure; Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance written by Alex Hutchinson.