Understanding the pain barrier!

2014May07_ExerciseGeneral_APain is subjective; each of us has a certain threshold at which point the intensity of a stimulus is at a level where we perceive pain. In fitness, people talk about pushing beyond the pain barrier and working out outside your comfort zone. Certainly to achieve results you need to challenge yourself physically and mentally. Understanding the pain barrier means you are better able to push yourself without pushing too far.

A pain barrier is natural and healthy

It’s important to understand that everybody is different when it comes to their individual pain threshold. If you are just starting out on your fitness journey the point at which the going gets tough is likely to be very different than that of a fit athlete who has been pushing toward new goals for longer.

Our bodies are programmed to react to pain and danger through the fight or flight response where adrenalin kicks in to help give us extra reserves of energy when they are needed most, as well as the fact that we have pain receptors. These act as a warning system, telling us when we need to be aware of potential harm, such as injuries and health problems.

Why exercise outside your comfort zone?

In many ways the pain barrier can be a mental barrier. When you hit what feels like a wall with no possible way over or around you may come to a natural halt. However, with the right motivation, commitment and expert training on hand, it can be amazing at how this seemingly immovable block can be overcome. The advantage of pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, or to the very edge of it, is that you can get nearer to your fitness goals and avoid a fitness plateau.

Push don’t punish

You might need to push to progress but it is vital that you do this in a methodical, progressive, and safe way. If not, then it will definitely be a case of one step forward and several steps back, especially if you have to contend with an injury. You can burn out or exacerbate health issues if you go over the top. You might have heard stories about athletes jumping into an ice bath before testing the powers of their endurance in extreme environments but be sensible.

How to push beyond your comfort zone

If  you feel you are not getting anywhere or perhaps that your fitness goals are far off, you might need some ideas on how to challenge your pain threshold or comfort zone. :

  • Believe that you can. A mental barrier can be just as strong as a physical one.

  • Practice. Build up your fitness levels progressively and push forward methodically.

  • Embrace challenge as part of your transformation. Psychologically see obstacles as a necessary and positive part of your fitness journey.

  • Understand the difference between pain threshold and pain tolerance. As your fitness levels increase you may not see a shift in your threshold but what studies have shown is that your tolerance increases.

  • Focus on right now. While it is great to have goals, sometimes you need to bring your attention to what you are doing right now or you may find you want to give up.

  • Focus on an unrelated ideas. What do you think about when you’re working out? Letting your mind wander to non-fitness related thoughts can take away the mental pressure and give you the space to push forward.

  • Remember past successes. Have you faced challenges before? If you succeeded then there’s no reason you cannot succeed this time.

  • Breakdown your challenges. Create mini-goals and concentrate on the next few stages rather than the bigger picture which may seem insurmountable at the present time.

  • Seek inspiration and motivation. Supportive people around you can really spur you on to find those extra reserves of energy and resolve. Make sure you have a good source of support.

If you are looking for expert guidance in facing fitness challenges then get in touch. We can take you on a challenging yet rewarding journey.

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