One common factor that puts people off exercise is the discomfort that can be experienced during and after it. But rather than succumb to the sensation of pain and become a ‘victim’, it is possible to use your mind to reduce the feeling of pain and even eliminate it all together.
There are numerous examples throughout history and throughout different cultures where thinking mechanisms and mind control are used to influence physiological process in the body. Tibetan monks, for example, enter a deep meditative state and are able to control their blood pressure and body temperature as a result. When considering pain from exercise though, it’s essential to differentiate the different types of pain you might experience as a result.
Different types of pain
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). If you’re not used to exercise, or you put your body through a particularly gruelling work out, it’s likely that you’ll experience DOMS 24-72 hours after the work. This is a good pain to have; it is an inflammatory response as a result of muscle damage i.e. a sign that your muscles are adapting to new activity and getting stronger and building resistance to future bouts of similar work.
Stitch pain. Stitch pain is a result of stress on your peritoneal ligaments, and whilst this pain isn’t a sign of your body getting stronger or fitter, it isn’t dangerous; just a little unpleasant. Use your mind to change how you breathe in order to deal with stitch pain by taking deep breaths from your stomach instead of high up in your chest.
Muscle burn. Muscle burn occurs during exercise when you reach your lactate threshold (exercise intensity at which lactic acid starts to accumulate in the blood stream). It is an unpleasant burning sensation, but if you can cope with the sensation and push past it, then you’ll push your threshold to a higher level; enabling your body to work faster, for longer, and stronger, and also increasing the rate of fat burning.
Nausea. Nausea caused by excess exercise is not something to try and work through. It is sign that you are dehydrated, over-exerted, or have low blood sugar level.
And finally, if you experience acute, sharp and sudden onsets of pain during exercise, this is not something to work through either, but most likely a sign that body damage has occurred such as muscle strain or sprain. If you’re breathing heavily and quickly it’s likely that a small amount of discomfort in the chest area may be experienced, but if you experience severe, acute chest pain then this could be the sign of something much more serious.
Mind techniques to help get rid of pain
You don’t need to be a Tibetan monk to be able to use your mind to control your physical sensations. The following 5 thinking techniques can be used whilst you’re exercising to help minimise, or even offset completely, the sensation of pain or unpleasant physical feelings that you might experience:
Mind over matter is not a new concept. Using these techniques could make a real difference to how you exercise, what you achieve, and your future confidence and motivation. Pain can also be seen as a blockage to you benefiting from the natural endorphins and feel good hormones. Once the pain is gone, you’re more likely to experience these, which in turn will further reduce the sensation of pain.
The perception and tolerance of pain varies from individual to individual so why shouldn’t it vary for you personally depending on the circumstances and thought processes? They say ‘no pain no gain’, but nobody says you can’t fight the pain.
by Jessica Ward
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