Understanding the phenomenon of pain to help you pursue your human potential.

sprint finish

Ever get that random itch on your skin somewhere that makes you slap yourself and think “Wow what was that!”. Sometimes I get a mental image of a microscopic insect digging it’s hairy fangs into my skin. You rub the area of your skin thinking you must have killed something even though nothing is there.  I’m not here to talk about hygiene on a microscopic level. I’m here to talk about pain. The next time you feel a crazy itch laugh at it. Sound silly? “Ha!” out loud really helps as you tell yourself “This is just another feeling I am in no danger”.  See how long you can go before you have to attack that itch with your fingers. Once you get good at this you can often avoid the usually swift reaction. Athletes have a very interesting relationship with pain. Sometimes performing at their greatest effort levels when they should be the most fatigued and in the most pain. Athletes with sore, sprained, and even broken bones have persevered to beat their technically healthier opponents. Athletes who chemically have their pain blocked start out by performing at greater levels but quickly drop to a sub par performance. Even when they feel the same exact pain that everyone else does they are able to endure it for longer periods of time, and at higher levels. Knowing how much longer you have to go also affects how hard your effort FEELS, an effect known as teleoanticipation.

Ever rent a car and go for the upgrade to the Mustang or sports car just to have some fun and enjoy your vacation a little but more. Planning on keeping up with the fast drivers on the California freeway you leave the rental place and hit the road. You push the gas pedal and accelerate so quick and smoothly up to 75mph and then….nothing.  Just then you remember hearing that rental cars have a governor on them and you feel like you overpaid. Well our brains do the same thing to us and they are set to be very over dramatic and sensitive. They are set to slow us down to protect our heart, lungs, and vital organs. If tired muscles and depleted energy stores are what slow you down how are you often able to speed up so dramatically towards the finish line when you should be the most tired and depleted? It’s all in your brain function.

Increasing your tolerance to pain through repeated exposure is part of an athlete’s regular training. In your training, if you don’t understand you need to push through some level of discomfort, you may never be able to get much closer to your true physiological maximum.  So the next time you feel that horrible itch say “Ha! You are just another emotion”, and try to ignore it. When you are running up that never ending hill tell yourself “I’m okay, this is just what uphill feels like”. On race day you will reap the rewards of this mind over matter, the spirit is stronger than the brain is intelligent. Learn the art of deep breathing, and tap into your inner strength. Train smarter…..and harder.

-Pete Smith-

Smith Haus Wellness

Some interesting articles full of pain information and research:




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