How to Increase Your Tolerance for Pain
Developing a higher pain threshold comes through strategic and varied training. Put simply, some workouts are going to stress you physically and mentally more than others. It is important to utilize these workouts in order to prepare yourself for the challenges of race day—but not to go overboard, which can lead to burnout.
Jotautas says there are two main types of workouts that can help build an athlete's pain tolerance. "First, you have workouts where you're training at a high intensity, like interval training, where you have a higher output for short repeats," he explains. "Then there are the long endurance workouts where you're out there for hours on end experiencing things like sitting on a bike saddle in a certain position for a long period of time, which can involve a lot of discomfort."
It is through these types of sessions that you not only realize your physical limits, but you also train your brain to allow your body to push harder. Jotautas often sees this in action when he does performance testing with new triathletes.
"When we have them on a bike or treadmill and ask them to push to their maximum, they don't have a frame of reference, so they will sometimes finish and feel like they could have gone harder," he says. "But when they come back to retest, they miraculously are able to summon up more strength and push harder because they know that pain threshold."
Overcoming non-injury related pain and discomfort in workouts and races is a skill that is developed over time. "It's all about learning your physical limits, and your mind has a lot of control in terms of how much you can push yourself," he adds. "If you can control that, you will be able to tolerate higher levels of intensity."
Additionally, experience also offers the knowledge of what comes after a hard workout session or big race. That deep sense of satisfaction that many triathletes feel after pushing their bodies to the maximum is enough to get most to come back time and again. Knowing that you had the drive and discipline to keep moving forward even when it wasn't easy has a way of boosting the ego and making an athlete feel as though all that pain was well worth the effort.race.