Pain. No one likes it. Most people avoid it at all costs. But it can also sometimes be necessary. When it starts to hurt it is only too easy to start an internal dialogue with yourself. To rationalise why you should stop, turn back or give up. It takes a certain type of person to be able to understand it is going to hurt and then when it starts, go harder. The amazing thing for all of you in internet land is that this is something that every person can do! It isn’t some magical talent only a blessed few possess. Instead like with most other things, it is something that you need to practice.
When you think about it, the reason we train is to prepare ourselves for the conditions we will experience on race day. Newsflash! Racing, whatever your discipline, hurts. If it doesn’t hurt then you aren’t going hard enough. I don’t mean that it is actually painful in the sense of injury (unless you are a boxer or something. I imagine that would really hurt) but it is painful in the sense of discomfort. Lungs burning as you desperately try and breathe more oxygen, your muscles on fire as the lactic acid builds up to a point where you can barely take it. So how many people train to that level of discomfort? I’m sure there are many people reading this thinking that they do. But stop and realise you are talking to yourself here. Are you being honest? Do you really push yourself out of your comfort zone?
I see athletes who train a lot. They do countless hours and are frustrated by their lack of progress. I have seen some of their power files, their run data even their swim sessions. I look at it and wonder how they don’t see what the problem is. They stay in their comfort zone. When their 2-hour big gear efforts hurt they slow down or change the gears. When it becomes hard to lift their arms in the pool they call it a day. They are not willing to leave their comfort zone in training which limits their ability to perform when they race.
Any training program needs to have an element of the slower easier aerobic sessions. But there also needs to be some high-intensity painful work. Where you step put of your comfort zone and to quote Chris McCormack “embrace the suck.”
I think one of the biggest problems that people face which makes this more difficult is the fact that life is becoming easier and easier for us. Most things are only the press of a button away. Everything can be delivered or ordered online. You literally the entire collection of human knowledge contained in your pocket on a daily basis. Gone are the days of heading down to the library and flicking through the card catalogue to work out the answer to your question. Instead with minimal effort we can find pretty much anything we are looking for (unless you are trying to follow a friend who is racing a triathlon, those tracking pages are hopeless.) A trainer I know whom I have a lot of respect for laid it out for me and he is right. Life is too easy. We need to learn to suffer.
When you are training and you start to feel that little tinge of pain don’t slow down. Don’t listen to those voices in your head that tell you to give up. Instead accept the discomfort and listen to those voices. Work out what you say to yourself and how to deal with them. By stepping out of your comfort zone while you are training and learning how you suffer you are able to apply those lessons on race day. If you are used to training out of your comfort zone you will be able to race out of your comfort zone too. This will lead to faster results and more efficient use of your training time.
A great way to force yourself out of your comfort zone is to sign up for a training camp. If you train with a group of other people who may or may not be fitter or faster than you they are likely to push you further than you are capable of going by yourself. There are a number of training camps coming up at Thanyapura this year where you will not only get to train with other athletes who will push you. The excellent coaching staff will be on hand at all sessions to ensure that you push yourself as well.
If you are willing to spend hours every week training for an event, why not maximise the use of that time. Instead of simply going through the motions in your training reward your sacrifice for getting up early, or missing Friday night drinks by making the most of that time. Train outside of your comfort zone where it does sometimes hurt and enjoy the reward of faster results because of it.
Tim is completing a law degree in Sydney at the University of New South Wales and work as a PT focusing on weight loss and triathlon coach. He is a member of MaccaX Triathlon Team and truly believes that triathlon is the greatest sport on earth. Read more about his adventures on www.oztriathlete.com