Breaking Through the Pain Barrier

If you have ever been in a competitive race, fun run, or even a training run, then undoubtedly, you have probably felt the urge to stop or relax.

The big question on our mind, however, is what makes us keep going? What gioves us the motivation to push harder when all of our body is yelling for us to stop? In this blog, Mental Health Counsellor Alejandro Rivera is going to discuss some emotional strategies to break through that barrier. He will set out the strategies to overcome the obstacles that our mind and body put in our way to become the best we can be.

When racing there comes a point when your whole body screams for you to stop. It is not a subtle whisper. It is a scream that resonated through your whole body. At this stage we have the choice of slowing down, stopping, or pushing more. Trying to break the mental barrier we have just ahead of us is the goal. If you want to unleash the best in you, there are two questions that you need to ask yourself when you get to this point:

  1. Where in my body is the pain? Usually when the pain comes from one specific point, it means that we might need to slow down as this means that one part of our body is risking injury or may already be injured.
  2. Can I make this worse if I push harder? The more experienced we become as athletes, the more we get to know our body and the signals it sends us. We know when pushing through the pain can result in a very bad injury and when we are good to keep going. If the pain risks getting worse, then pushing harder is not the solution.

In order to learn how to push through the limit, we need to get comfortable with the pain and learn where our limit is too. Through training and communicating with your triathlon coach, we start to understand our bodies.  We learn where the limit of our comfort zone lies and how far we can go before our bodies yells at us to stop. The more we train, the more we understand our body and our limits and the more we are able to push that limit.

Once you have made that choice of going past the point of discomfort, it is necessary to address the how. We could start promoting all sorts of generic mental tricks to get you in the zone and race as fast as possible. In reality, however, what we need to appeal to is to your humanity and your life history. Most human beings come with a story, with a series of good and bad moments in life. These moments shape who we are in our day to day lives and also give us the tools to cope with the different challenges that come to us. Communicating often with your triathlon coach then also provides them with the keys to unlock your potential.

It has been proven that the same areas of the brain that are activated by physical pain do so with emotional pain. This process occurs in the area of the brain known as the anterior insula and anterior cingulate cortex. The big challenge that lies ahead is finding what motivates you. Every valuable moment in your life and every important person that you have crossed paths with moves you and can make you go faster and transcend the barriers of your comfort zone.

“If I could finish a PhD, I can push harder.”

“If I could work 18 hours per day at some point of my life, I can do this.”

“I can run this last 5 kms for my wife/son/husband/mom.”

Your fuel comes from your interior. There is no one phrase or one thought that is equally applicable for more than 1 person. To harness the power of emotions is to remind ourselves that we are capable of breaking the limits of our capabilities and recognising that we have done it before. Maybe we haven’t pushed to the limit in a race, but we have done it in many different other areas of our lives. Breaking our limits means considering that we are humans, not robots, and we are capable of the biggest feats.

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