The Glamorization of Pain

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“It doesn’t get any easier; you just get faster,” is the famous phrase uttered by Greg LeMond.

Fausto Coppi was more to the point when he said, “Cycling is suffering.”

And Eddy Merckx was more precise: “Cyclists live with pain. If you can’t handle it you will win nothing.”

When a cycling brand is named The Sufferfest, and its logo is a guy squinting in pain, you know we’ve put pain on a pedestal.

Endurance athletes, cyclists especially, love to glamorize all the pain and agony we endure – or should I say relish.

I’m even guilty of it with my Tale of Pain segment in my weekly newsletter. And with my tip, Ignore the pain during your triathlon.

Maybe these cycling greats (LeMond, Coppi, and Merckx) were not trying to glamorize things – maybe they were just being honest, but the recognition, rather, adulation, of pain has been popularized and even commercialized.

Brands like The Sufferfest, terms like ‘pain cave,’ and metrics like Strava’s Suffer Score further reinforce this.

Strava’s Suffer Score rewards you for hard efforts. If I click on this, it says, “Nicely done. This was a stronger effort than usual.”

Athletes tend to push themselves in workouts to extremes with pride, again and again, always trying to outdo themselves and each other, workout after workout.

But this may be doing harm to many of us. Dr. Phil Maffetone highlights this in a recent podcast, “The over-reaching or overtraining?”

He recognizes athletes’ misplaced idea that we need to make every workout hard, painful, and as intense as possible, thinking that’s what’s needed to create adaptation.

We brag about it, share it online, and immortalize it with photos and screencaps of insane efforts and achievements.

And when our coaches give us easy workouts, we still push ourselves, trying for that PB, PR, KOM, or whatever you want to call it.

This podcast link was sent to me by my friend Mitch, who years ago, told me, “Make your hard workouts hard, and your easy workouts easy.”

And that’s exactly what Phil is saying, too.

So, while there’s nothing wrong with getting a super hard workout in, don’t do it everyday, and take your easys easy.


#31: Ignore the pain during your triathlon

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