We have to learn the difference between discomfort and injury. When something is uncomfortable it does not mean that you will hurt yourself. When you exercise your body needs more oxygen so the urge to take in more air and breath deeper is NATURAL. It does not indicate that you have exercised induced asthma and need an inhaler. When some folks get uncomfortable they panic and make excuses. If exercising was comfortable, no one would be overweight or out of shape. How do we make being uncomfortable okay? The only way we can train our bodies effectively is by first training our minds. My clients hear me say, "mind over matter," on a regular basis. I like to follow it up with "Remember, if you don't mind… it doesn't matter" and laugh really loud.
Last year, a wise 18 year old student athlete said to me,
"Your mind gives up before your body ever does."
I love that! She is the 800 Meter 2013 MSHSL Champion, so her insight is more than credible; she lives it. However, she is an elite athlete. Her brain has been trained to push her body beyond what most people would find reasonable. We have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable to get the results we want and need. Even elite athletes go through changes when their internal drive shifts a bit. They plateau or even find themselves struggling to locate their competitive edge. That same young track star is now in college and away from her family. She is dealing with a higher level of competition and has a new relationship. Her focus and drive has changed. She COULD use the excuse that everyone in college is just as fast as her OR she can find her edge... her "trigger," as I like to call it, and break through to a new level. She will need to do some soul searching, some visualization, examine her race strategies, and set higher goals. She will accomplish exactly what she trains her brain to do. She will accomplish what she WANTS to do, what she WILLS herself to do.
I have a few names for you: Mary Lou Retton, Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson, Steve Prefontaine, James Braddock. Yes, they are all athletes but all have overcome some ridiculous circumstances. Everyone thought that A.P. was done, no questions asked. Not only did he come back, he came back BETTER than he was, which seemed impossible. Mary Lou Retton barely landed that gold medal on that bum knee, but she did and she won the hearts of millions. Steve Prefontaine was an absolute head case. He was pissed off at everyone who thought he was not big enough, strong enough, or athletic enough. Yet he was amazing, incredible and inspiring. James Braddock was a mediocre fighter at best, "a one handed fighter." He fought hard to better the lives of his family. The Denver Broncos took a huge risk by giving Peyton Manning a starting QB job after several neck surgeries... Seems like the risk paid off... despite the Super Bowl loss. The list goes on. Story after story of fighting the odds. Athletes persevere because they WANT to. Everyone knows someone that has battled cancer, AIDS, chronic diseases, drug abuse, grew up in poverty, or just had some really crappy things happen to them. We persevere through these circumstances because we WANT to. We can push ourselves through discomfort during exercise because we WANT to. And again, as we WILL ourselves to.
“Overall, it seems that exercise performance is ultimately limited by perception of effort rather than cardiorespiratory and musculoenergetic factors.” Therefore, the brain gives up and subsequently sends signals to the body to also cease, even though the body shows no physical signs of complete exhaustion. - Mackenzie Lobby
Now you may be saying to yourself, "I don't really WANT to be uncomfortable." I understand that and as a trainer I deal with you every day. You WANT the results but you don't WANT to work for it. You have a million excuses, you always have an ailment that causes you to modify your workout and then you don't see the results that you desire. We have to work for what we want. There is no way around it. It is called perseverance and you have to develop it to succeed at anything in this life. You have to train your brain to be resilient. You need to accept discomfort. You have to visualize success.
As a side note, many of my clients are Minnesota RollerGirls. Here is an interesting article regarding visualization from Roller Derby Athletics: Can You Imagine Your Way to a Win?