Imagine if you couldn’t feel pain. Would you reach beyond your self-imposed limits? Would you accomplish things in your life you only dream of and never imagine attempting?
This idea has been ruminating in my head ever since I started my rehab three and half months ago. Why are some athletes “comfortable” in the so called “pain cave,” and others aren’t? Is it that they simply do not acknowledge the pain signals sent by their body to the brain? Do they not feel pain as much as others?
My ski teammates have always told me that I like the pain cave. Is that because I “enjoy” feeling pain during incredibly challenging training sessions more than they do? I’ve always found it strange hearing my teammates say that because I don’t consciously think about “enjoying the hurt.”
I just like riding my bike, for example, and working hard; I always have. The saying “put in the work, and you’ll make the gains” has always been my motto as an athlete.
I don’t consciously think about that motto when I work out. I just do it.
After conversing with athletes and physiotherapists about this topic, I have come to agree that some people are just born with an innate will that pushes through pain and physically strenuous activity longer than others.
That’s not to say that we can’t train our brains to push through pain. I believe we can. Like anything in life, practice, effort and a strong work ethic will produce results in any field.
Maybe that’s part of the reason I found success in cycling in such a short period of time. I trained my heart out, and definitely pushed my physical limits. I had a goal, I had a vision, I believed in myself and I did what I needed to do. Enduring pain was just a part of that journey.
I believe there are many components of “pushing through pain” although I admit, I do not know the science behind how the brain manages these inputs but they matter. These are critical to my happiness and ability to cope:
I strongly believe you need to be mentally fit to have a healthy foundation for living a fulfilling life. It doesn’t matter what your life path is. Whether you are a stay-at-home mom working your absolute hardest every day for your child to flourish or whether you work 80 hours-a-week in a hospital or law firm. You cannot neglect your mental health.
I have recovered from countless painful injuries in record-fast time and the number one factor I stand by is the power of the mind and positive thoughts. I mediate throughout my rehabs – visualizing my bones and ligaments fusing together when they are injured. I have unwavering positivity that I simply WILL heal from my current state. And I do. But I put in the work and push through pain during rehab sessions because I know I will heal quicker than if I didn’t. You have to do the work.
For anyone mastering a craft, balance is a struggle. To begin to find your balance, even to start recognizing when the scales are tipping too far to one side, is a step in the right direction. Keep reminding yourself that as a stay at home mom, you need to find the time to put yourself first sometimes. Similarly, you can’t work 80 hours a week for years on end without feeling the mental and physical effects of that strain. You will inevitably end up neglecting many important facets of your life. Find your life’s balance.
We only have one body in this life. Like our mind, it needs to be healthy. Take care of it. Think about what you put in your body and ask yourself, “Is this serving me? Is this giving me energy?” If you don’t know, seek the knowledge you know you lack. Eating healthy and fitting in physical activity into your life is crucial and should be implemented as something essential.
Life is about choices. You choose what you put into your brain and your body. Emotionally, you choose to tell yourself “this hurts,” “I’m done” or “I quit.” I believe that after saying phrases like these to yourself just once or even twice, you can bounce back with a conflicting positive message to your mind and continue to fight. But when saying it over and over again, your mind will simply give up and your body will follow.
No one is perfect. We often play a never-ending game with ourselves. This is life. The happier we are, the easier it will be able to access these important aspects of our lives. The happier you are, the more you will want to take care of yourself, feed your brain with positive thoughts, push through challenging moments in your life and find your life’s balance.
Be open to improving your overall happiness, thought-process and support systems, and it will seamlessly happen. Find your tribe, and cultivate it. It takes work but the more support you have in your life, the bigger your artillery to withstand the storm and find your light.