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Training to live with pain

Rob's picture

By Rob - Posted on 06 February 2014

Have you ever noticed that since taking up riding, when you stub your toe, or bang your elbow... it really doesn't hurt as much as it used to? Are you so used to rocks smashing into your shins, skin being ripped off your arms and the burning in your legs that anything else seems passé?

... when physiologists at the University of Wisconsin used spinal injections of a powerful painkiller to block lower-body pain in a group of cyclists, the cyclists actually got slower. They initially felt great and started out faster than normal, but then faded. Without the feedback of pain, they couldn't pace themselves properly.

So bike riders must be mental, right? Eye-wink

For endurance athletes, pain at times seems like the central reality of their existence.

... a study on the pain tolerance of ultra-endurance runners ... asked 11 of the competitors to dunk their hands in ice water for three minutes; by the end, they rated the pain as about 6 out of 10 on average.

In contrast, the non-athlete control group gave up after an average of just 96 seconds when their pain maxed out at 10; only three of them even completed the test.

LOL... love it Laughing out loud

Full article here:

Barnsy's picture

Full article is an interesting read
He who hurts the most wins......... Someone pass me the panadol.

macca_chris's picture

as a rower and a mountain biker i know quite well that the burning in your quads is just your body telling you that you're working hard, not to stop

Lach's picture

Compare the quote in Rob's extract with the following from later in the article:

"Mauger has led a series of studies in which cyclists taking acetaminophen (i.e., Tylenol) are able to cycle farther or faster than those given a placebo. The difference in speed is most pronounced late in the trials, when the cyclists are in the most pain."

Maybe a mild painkiller (such as Tylenol, which is just paracetamol) helps push through the pain, but a "powerful" painkiller (not specified) has some other effect??

Flynny's picture

I'm sure there were studies a while ago the questioned the whole idea that lactic burn is bad and inhibits performance belief

Tests using a current to activate the muscles in dead frog legs (?) showed muscles responded better for longer when they were injected with lactic acid than they did without

Barnsy's picture

Your on the right track there Flinny. I read a study somewhere that in highly trained individuals their muscles have adapted to use lactic acid as a fuel. Somewhere between the ATP and glucose running out and before protein starts to be used as fuel.
The more you hurt the faster you go.
I'll have to dig the reference out.

hawkeye's picture

The ability to suffer separates the normal from the exceptional endurance athlete in a lot of cases.

Jens Voigt is famous for it and if Tyler Hamtilton's bio come expose on Armstrong is to be believed, he was good at it too. Being able to suffer and keep going is often the mark of a good climber.

In other sports (eg 400m hurdles) at elite level in the final build phases of their training, unless they're throwing up at the end of their intervals they're not going hard enough.

Not sure I want to go that far!

Rob's picture

Ah yes, Tyler Hamilton. There is a story... oh, it's succinctly put in the NY Times review of 'The Secret Race':

Mr. Hamilton was as famous for his ability to endure pain as for his race results. In 2002 he crashed near the start of the three-week Giro d’Italia and fractured his shoulder. Mr. Hamilton kept on riding, grinding his teeth as a distraction.

He finished second over all but needed 11 teeth recapped. A year later he further enriched his dentist by continuing to ride, and grind his teeth, after breaking his collar bone during the first stage of the Tour de France.

Yes, that's right: the guy wore his teeth down grinding them due to the pain of his broken bones!

hawkeye's picture

Ah yes. It's a great read. Well worth picking up.

I get the impression there was a lot more that could have gone in but didn't because of Dan Coyles insistence on bullet proof verification.

I love the quote about truth having an inner springiness that won't be suppressed.


Flynny's picture

The study I was referring too was more about the muscles retaining better response to electrical impulses when lactic acid was present

Can't find it now though

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