How do you trick your mind to ignore the pain

I know there is a “self talk” thread and a “mantras” thread where people have their phrases that get them through.

However, I was wondering if anyone has any interesting physical tricks that work at distracting you from the pain.

For example, on long intervals, I will switch grips every 1 minute from the tops, to the hoods, to the drops and rotate until the interval is done.

I’ll divide the interval in half and convince myself only half to go and I’ll divide the workout in half. I’ll also note the final interval is the final interval.

I’ll also look down for as long as I can without looking at the time remaining. Typically that’s about 40 seconds so then I have to endure the final 20 seconds of a minute interval.

If I have zwift running in parallel, sometimes I’ll pretend I’m “catching” the riders in front of me or I’ll mentally calculate the gap between my current time and what it would take to average 20 miles per hour.

I’ll look at the time on the song counting up rather than the interval counting down

Counting pedal strokes doesn’t really work for me as I feel the need to say them out loud which messes with my breathing

I’m interested in other’s little tricks. Obviously almost everyone listens to some kind of music, so that’s that probably the most effective, but when you dig deeper than that, what does anyone else have any physical gestures they use to get through it. They all seem to work only for a bit before they stop working, so I’m willing to try anyone’s ideas.


Don’t. Learn to love the pain instead.


I would second the comment above. My personal spin is: “This isn’t going to kill me. Embrace it, and know it’s going to happen.”

Fighting it only makes it worse. Embracing it as part of the process is where it’s at.


I just think of all the KOMs I’m going to get, along with the charity group rides I can win, and it all passes fine.


I do these too although even a minute can seem too long and I’ll opt for 30s switches instead

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Not really a tip or trick but, I make a conscious effort to focus on the exhale during hard efforts. Keeps the mind busy and I convince myself I’m getting rid of more CO2 (less burn)…


I will look down for what seems like a minute only to look up and see that only 3 seconds have gone by.


I (try) to look foward to the pain and welcome it. When it comes I tell myself this is why I’m on the trainer and it’s where the “magic” happens to make me stornger.

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Swapping hand positions works for me.

I also do 10 seconds out of the saddle at each minute on hard sweet spot intervals, mentally breaks it down to a 50 second ‘interval’.

Finally for the really hard intervals I’ll count RPMs in 1 minute intervals.


I like to look at my RPM and count that many revolutions of the pedals in my head, whilst focusing on something other than my phone. Once I hit the number, I see if I have completed exactly 1 minute.


I will focus on keeping deep breath with strong exhales. To pass the time at the end of hard intervals I will look down and count the breaths. Each breath tends to be 2-3 seconds long so if I count up to 15-20 then that last minute or so goes faster. I usually save that for real hard parts like the last over or the end of a long VO2 interval.


This is interesting.
I’d not considered this approach.

I shall give it a try, my next scheduled workout is Mary Austen-1 :grin:

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Embrace the discomfort

Keep your form tight, follow the pedal drills and stay relaxed , wiggle your fingers on the bars

Focus on your breathing , slow and deep breathing really does help slow things down.

Above everything when it begins to hurt there is always something to focus on , I find my pedalling form deteriorates and a conscious effort to get this aspect back in shape gives me extra resilience to complete the workout.

There are number of small things you can do to provide you extra headroom to get to the end of the workout but equally successful completion of the harder workouts is down to increasing your ability to suffer on a bike. Like your fitness mental resilience is built over time


Realize that there’s skill in not showing the pain. One of the first steps is to always RELAX your face… This is why a lot of people never look like they’re in pain… they’ve just controlled the mind to tell the body… “it’s ok”…

One of the issues is your body kicking in the fight/flight response. When you convince the body… “Hey… we ain’t dying here… it’s ok”… you’ll be surprised how much you can change your relative rpe.


Think of having sex

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I am always trying to slow down my breathing and take some really deep breaths. It usually lowers my hr a couple beats and then I know everything is alright. Of course there is also “nothing box” - you know you are in pain and muscles ache, but nothing bad is going on with your body so you can relax and embrace this situation. When it really hurts I am thinking that I have paid a lot of money for all the stuff that allows me to train, so bailing out would be wasted money and I would not be worthy of my bike and trainer and I will have to sell everything if I not finish the workout;)


I quite often try to ignore the timer and just look at the green bit. As long as I’m keeping it green…

I certainly like trying to distract myself. So smiling to relax my jaw. Pushing my shoulders down. Adjusting grip is a good idea like you mentioned. Checking my knee alignment. Wiggle my toes. Deep breathing.

And then hopefully that’s another minute down, but it’s probably a few seconds :flushed:

Keep it green :sunglasses:


Just like entertainment, what works for me on this varies a lot and depends what type of work i’m doing. I’m very good though at breaking down workouts and segments and can always tell myself:

  • the first interval is always hard, deal with it
  • after halfway is pretty much downhill from here, only gets better now
  • 2nd to last interval I think of how great that last interval is going to feel
  • last interval, finish with a smile, and there’s absolutely no point in bailing if i made it that far

In my mind, I look at longer intervals the same as I would as an entire workout. On a 20-min sweet spot interval:

  • first 5 mins is hard
  • next two 5 min blocks are the “work”
  • final 5 minutes… well 5 minutes is nothing

When I have a bigger workout that looks daunting, honestly I just think to myself that “chad wouldn’t have put it in the plan right here if he thought I wasn’t capable of doing it” (yes, clearly the plans are just for me lol).


I always play cognitive tricks on myself.

1.) ‘I never quit a workout without starting the next interval’
2.) ‘If I start an interval I always go a least halfway through it to see how I feel.’
3.) ‘If I’m already halfway through an interval this is really just where the payoff starts. I don’t want to go through all that discomfort to get back to this point again. So make it count now.’

Also, I have about a half dozen race memories where I got dropped at a critical point, or a hated rival got the best of me, or I lost a time trial/podium spot by a couple seconds. Spots where it really mattered if I had just a little bit more. If things are really hard I’ll try to re-live those in my head knowing that if I could just push through those moments outcomes would skew heavily towards success.

It sounds screwy, but sometimes just making yourself smile and chuckle a little bit helps. YMMV on that one.


I love it as the first post suggests. Because I know it’s me getting better / fitter etc.
Also I imagine myself squeezing something out of me instead of banging to get something more out of. Does that make sense? There’s always a little bit more. just squeeze in slowly but firmly. Instead of trying to go up and down in effort frantically.
I dunno it helps. The more you do it over the years the more you get accustomed