No Pain No Gain?
No Pain No Gain?
Would you like to push harder at your chosen sport but finding that pain and discomfort is holding you back? Sports psychologist Evie Serventi explains how to tell when it’s time to push yourself or when to ease off
Evie Serventi
‘Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional’ says runner and renowned author of the book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami. His motto is an effective mantra for athletes. It reminds us that pain is part of our sport, yet performing well comes down to understanding pain and having an instinct about when to push harder or when you should back off a bit and reduce the intensity during exercise.

Murakami’s motto highlights two important facts about pain and exercise – pain doesn’t discriminate, yet everyone perceives (and feels) pain differently. We all have a choice in how we respond to pain (and how much we suffer), that is, we have an element of control around it. Knowing this can make all the difference in our approach to pain and the impact it has on our performance.

In terms of exertion, the more you understand how pain operates (physically and psychologically), the better you can manage it and even use it to your advantage. In fact, this understanding can shift your whole approach to exercise. Better understanding pain can improve aspects of wellbeing, such as motivation, confidence, and focus; and it can improve performance for those who are competitive.

Physical pain has distinct biological and psychological components that represent stimulus and response. The biology of pain is like an alarm system; a signal is transmitted through the central nervous system telling you that something is wrong. The psychology of pain is the interpretation or meaning we give to that pain signal – the internal self-talk and beliefs about it, which then drive our emotional reactions. This is true for those who experience immediate and acute pain, and those who deal with chronic pain.



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November 2019