Break Through the Pain Barrier
Exercise is all about mental control. The body and mind is wonderful and sends messages to the brain that muscles are sore or we are tired etc. When weight training or performing cardiovascular exercise sometimes one must push himself or herself through the pain barrier, especially during an ironman triathlon, cycling event, marathon, or race of any kind.
How is that possible?
When the body is tired through exercise exertion, lactic acid fills the muscles and acts as a force to help rather than slow down your workout. This means that only your mind and the electrical output it gives out is the enemy to let you down. There are ways to push your body through the mental pain and saying a positive mantra like only one more minute or no pain no gain is a way to push your body further. When the body is pushed to its limits, the heart starts to grow bigger and stronger and muscles flourish.
During exercise, electrical signals are involved in muscle contractions and when the body starts to feel fatigued, the electrical signals start to slow, and the body suffers through exhaustion. I am sure we have all felt it in one way or another, that feeling that you are not able to push yourself for one more rep. You must remember though that your mind has all the power. If you want to run a marathon, okay you need to be physically fit, but without your mind pushing you to the end, how would it be possible?
During moderate exercise, the body can carry on the workout for a long time because it is not as physically exerting as other training methods like weightlifting, boxing or Tai kwon do. These workouts physically work the muscles to their limits and therefore the mind kicks in by halting the electrical input to muscles, which then makes them feel like they want to give up. Tough exercises get the mind working against the muscles, even if you know yourself that you have more to give.
Great exercises that can push your mind through the pain barrier are ones like isometric training, tensing the muscles for a set amount of time in order to trick the mind into working harder. Some great isometric exercises are wall squats and hold for as long as you physically can before pain sets in, tensing the arms in a press-up for a set amount of time, the plank, or getting into a press-up position and walking the hands back and forth.
A fantastic way to trick the mind into going further is to perform an exercise over a set time and try to beat the number of reps or the kilometres covered. This is a wonderful motivator and can work to push the body that little bit further.
Where does that extra spurt of energy arise?
During a race of any kind, there is pain and muscles and metal strength is required to get through it, but why before near the finish line does the body finds a short spurt of energy that gives motivation and can make the body go quicker than ever? The brain gathers information from the muscles about how longer the body has to push itself and how much energy it has left. Before crossing the finish line the wondrous brain calculates your energy and then recognizes that, yes, it does have enough energy to be used, like in those quick spurts which you often see cyclists, runners, rowers, athletes use before the finish line. That extra spurt of energy is motivation in disguise.