Training to maximize suffering

The purpose of training is not to minimize suffering during races. In fact, just the opposite is true.

We train to maximize suffering.

We train our bodies to make them able to tolerate more stress on race day: higher heart rates, lower blood sugar, increased muscle damage, lower pH, greater oxygen uptake, dehydration, elevated core temperature, hyperventilation.

We also need to train our brains to allow (and even encourage) this bodily suffering without panic and without backing down.

Both brain and body learn to endure progressively greater levels of suffering with proper training accompanied by the right mindset. That’s why this is called an “endurance” sport.

This is obviously not to suggest that all training sessions need to cause extreme mental and physical suffering to be beneficial. True maximum suffering should occur only on race day…but whenever workouts become challenging in terms of effort or duration it’s a chance to train your grit by winning small mental battles.

Complaining (even to yourself) when workouts get difficult is not practicing suffering…it is strengthening the voices that want you to slow down and relent.  Practicing uncomplaining stoicism when faced with tough moments in training is what will make you relent less, and relentless.

A hard workout may still give you a physical boost, but if it also strengthens your inner complainer it may result in a net loss in terms of race fitness.

You need to learn to revel in this challenge to explore your physical limits and to welcome any suffering that results as a chance to get mentally stronger.

Racing at your limit never gets easier with training, you just go faster.

And if training has gone really well and increased your tolerance to suffering, racing will actually get “harder”…you'll suffer more and run even faster still!