I have long shunned this approach to training, but in training for performance in endurance sport the old saying may actually have something to it. If one thing is true about endurance sport it is that you will need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

As a competitive swimmer, I remember physically crying during a long hard set. The great thing about swimming is that you can really let it all out in the water. You can scream, grunt, cry, and it’s really only that’s you that needs to know about it. I wasn’t crying because I was injured, it was the physical pain that my body was pushing through to make the desired pace-time. Having specific goals in a training session will help improve your capacity to suffer as it gives your training more purpose. When there is more meaning in your training you will able to tolerate more suffering. This is why we are able to push harder in a race as you perceive it to be more important you increase your threshold to tolerating pain.

Tolerance to suffering is what may separate good athletes from great athletes. Without having any improvement in fitness, by increasing your tolerance to suffering you can get closer to your physiological limits thereby improving your race performance.

Pain is created in the brain. It is a protective mechanism put in place so that we do not take ourselves into physical limits. In the lab it has shown that a maximal stimulated contraction is far greater than what our brain can stimulate our muscles to do.

By improving your tolerance to suffering you will be able to get closer to your physiological limits.

Please use your discretion with this information. There is certainly a fine line on what kind of pain is acceptable. Through training your body should start to understand what this is. Certainly there are far too many endurance athletes that carry on with certain nagging pains that turn into chronic injury, that is different. The bouts of pain that I am referring are experienced during intense or prolonged activity. It is the accumulation of fatiguing factors in the muscles that cause your muscles to burn, feel heavy, and even cramp, it is the burning in your lungs due to respiratory stress you experience with increased need to supply your body with oxygen as the intensity of exercise increases.