Mentally managing intense suffering

On the whole, I tend to agree with you, though different strokes for different folks I guess. Maybe some folks find mythologizing their workouts to be encouraging. For me, though, keeping in mind that it’s purely voluntary (and maybe a little ridiculous) helps to keep things in perspective.

Well it could be “type 2” fun, where it’s not fun at the time but the satisfaction of completing it is what gives the pleasure/ happiness? I would’ve thought a lot of endurance sport is like this?

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This thread makes me really want to NOT do sustained power build lol…

Maybe I’ll give it a whirl still. Gearing up for CX in the fall hopefully, and am planning on a base-build-base-build-specialty during the ~9 month leadup to cross season. I am thinking that sustained power this far out might lend more long term benefits than doing short power this far out. Plus I think sustained power is a bit of a weakness for me.

But jeez 8 minutes at 108% looks terrifying if I’m being honest :grimacing:

These are my strategies:

  • Purpose - I need a purpose to smash out hard workouts, especially VO2max intervals, at 5am. Something big that is the foundation of my workout and interval specific motivation. Mine is I want to see how strong I can get. The process of self-improvement is the foundation for it all for me. I find it motivating that it is completely voluntary and up to me. No one if forcing me to do it, I don’t have to suffer through intervals. I do it because I want to do it and I choose to do it.

  • General mental outlook for difficult workouts - I make sure I am thinking about how I am going to crush it, not about how horrible its going to be. The discomfort, that is going to happen because I’m not only going to crush it, but I am going to obliterate each interval. The discomfort is my body telling me I’m going hard enough, its feedback. Thats all. If I’m going to obliterate intervals there will be discomfort and that is okay. But I’m not going to wallow in it.

  • Interval specific thinking - I think about smashing a X min climb and blowing people off my wheel. I don’t think about struggling to hang on someones wheel. I’m driving, I’m in control, I’m dishing out the pain. Not the other way around. The discomfort is a sign I’m going hard enough. You don’t blow people off your wheel by toodling around. And Do Not Freaking Stare at the Clock! I was going to joke in another thread about time dilation effects (like general relativity) during intervals, especially if you are staring at the countdown timer.

  • Focusing - I use zwift now and its immersive enough but not too immersive for me. I can smash intervals on climbs or in the flats or where ever. Or cyclocross videos or grand tour mountain states or classics. Smash the race along with the pros. I also have different music play lists for different types of workouts. Find the music that works for you.


One of my favorite sayings I learned in the Marine Corps.

And one of the few that doesn’t include 14 different cuss words and a dig at the Air Force.

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I get your point that it’s different perspectives. I’ve done Red Lake I believe.

Here’s one of the most difficult workouts I’ve completed. It took me three tries to get all the way to the end. My perspective is that I’d never call it “suffering”.

My comments after that ride are that it wore my legs out for two days. That’s a 65 minute workout with 107 TSS and a .99IF.

My point was that the OP is using a LOT of negative descriptors in his ride and perhaps a perspective shift might help, and gave them a couple of examples.

I didn’t do VO2 workouts as a kid either. But I rode all over my city in the search for sweet jumps. Me and my gang of Huffy bike riders would regularly ride a 18 mile round trip to Peone Creek to jump in the water and catch frogs. If I’m lucky, as I lay dying and my life flashes before my eyes I’ll see me and my friends back then at 12 with out all the stupid bullshit we’re affected with now just enjoying riding our bikes, chewing PAL 1 cent gum, on a summer day that’s seared into my mind like a cattle brand.

So my point was that instead of doom and gloom and “suffering” try to look at it from another perspective and make it an exercise in positivity.


I’ve mentioned on another old thread, “suffering” is the reason I get up early in a cold garage, it makes me physically and mentally stronger, I try to welcome the pain (in a good way) and sometimes even talk to it as a friend.

Getting up and doing Petit evey day wouldn’t have the same effect on my fitness.

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Fellow clock-watcher here. “One 15 second block down, 45 seconds to go!”


Might be time to re-test. :nerd_face:


The 8 min FTP test is 2x8’ @ 111% FTP. Easy :stuck_out_tongue:

I think it depends on the attitude you go into it with. I have a tougher workout tonight and I know it’s tough but not enough where I should fail, so I’ll keep reminding myself “you can do this” during each interval.

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I did notice that if its not super hard, say 90% its a lot better to watch the tv then the clock. Just makes you forget about the time.

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I often tell myself the penultimate interval is the last real interval because I know the last one will be mentally much easier, it being the last one.

I can also somewhat trick my brain into recursively applying this “logic”.

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A lot of great perspectives are shared in this thread.
Before getting into coping the pain: Look at the RPE of the workouts (you find it in "outside workout->RPE based). If it says 8 and it feels like constant 10, press this down key and lower the percentage until it matches the prescribed RPE! This is not Sufferfest. You don’t train to suffer, but to get faster.

When I did my IM preparation, I went through many dark places in training and race day.
These 3 things were the most important points:

  • Know why you want to finish the workout. I mean really know and feel why. This is very individual and it is not just one sentence. It may be achieving a dream goal (like for me 1. IM) or master a challenge or prove something to yourself or whatever. But know what it is and why you really want it in the depth of your heart. If you don’t find something, why you really want it, maybe don’t beat yourself that hard with this kind of workouts. :wink:

  • I read the Fitzgerald book “How bad do you want it”. One of my takeaways was, the difference between the first and the second is mostly mental. And training not only makes your body stronger, but it makes your mind more resilient. Like if you walk over glowing coals, training helps your mind to walk further over the coals. Sometimes I imagined, I’d walk with every second of the interval further over the coals towards a wall.

  • Then even more important, you can use your emotions.
    There is a dark side. I started with that one. Some insult themselves. I didn’t do that. But I used dark emotions like old guilt, anger, old pain in your heart, etc. to power hard efforts. That worked well in the beginning, but loosed its spike over time. Maybe because I developed a better and more loving relationship to myself, so this didn’t work for me anymore. And the dark sides burnes you even more over time. When the efforts become really hard (like during a Marathon at 40°C in an IM) you are too weak and these dark feelings loose their energy.
    What really helped me and still helps instead is positive energy. Be nice to yourself, even in hard effort. Celebrate every step you can run more or every second you can hold on like a victory (not over yourself but over the challenge. Don’t fight against yourself!). Fuel these hard efforts with joy, be positively proud for every second you get further and encourage yourself in a loving and nice way, like a mother would encourage her beloved child.

When you still have enough energy, maybe it helps some to development aggressivness like wanting to beat an opponent down. But when the tank is really empty and nothing is left, only the light side will keep you on your feet.


I’m honestly trying to understand why people think ‘suffering’ is necessary or beneficial. I mean the definition of the word is pretty negative. What do you get out of it? I’m not talking directly about the workout intensity but the perception of the discomfort and sensations that give rise to ‘suffering’.

I don’t think ‘suffering’ makes someone stronger, it is your perception of the discomfort and sensations you feel during a workout. Completing specific workouts that have specific intent makes someone stronger (assuming recovery and many other things.). What if you could get physically and mentally stronger without ‘suffering’? If you had the choice between the same physical / mental progression but with / without ‘suffering’, which would you choose? What if you could do the a workout and choose between perceiving your discomfort and sensations as ‘suffering’ vs not?

Erm, well I think it is an unavoidable nature of the beast. Cycling is an endurance sport. To be successful (read: fast) you must endure. And generally it is pain that is being endured, not rainbows and foot massages. Hence the suffering…

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I think it is avoidable and comes down to how one perceives and thinks about the discomfort and sensations that arise during endurance activities. I’ve done the whole thing of perceiving the discomfort as pain and suffering and it didn’t make me successful or fast. If I have the choice between completing a workout (VO2max / super-threshold / whatever) and viewing it through the lens of enduring pain and suffering vs. not, I will take the not.

Changing my frame of mind and perception of the discomfort and sensations that arise during endurance activities has improved my ability to be consistent, tolerate high volume and fatigue, and tolerate intense intervals and uncomfortable workouts. Consistency, volume, intensity and recovery are what made me fast not enduring pain and suffering.

And I think you should do Sustained Power Build. Those long 105% / 108% intervals are difficult, but I think if you go in with the mindset that it will be uncomfortable and your body will want to stop, but you don’t have to, you’ll be okay. Doing those intervals really recalibrated my RPE scale. lol. Threshold feels a lot easier after getting (mostly) through 5 x 8-9 min at 105%.

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I guess it depends on the personal defination of suffering, i don’t view it as negative in relation to the bike.

For me it’s working hard, sometimes harder than I think I can (that feeling when you complete the first effort and think, oh no, I’ve got 5 more :grimacing:) with the associated lung / leg discomfort.

I think this is important to experience this “suffering” in training (obviously not every day) as I believe when close to the limit the mind is more important than the body. The more you experience this feeling the more comfortable you will become with it and your limits will expand.

Maybe I should change my word from suffering to something else.


Leave it as is, it’s n=1. It’s training, not thesaurus club.


I prepare myself for the workout beforehand. Important lesson: never underestimate a workout, if I go into an easy 2-3 hour endurance ride at 65-75% thinking it’s going to be easy, I will suffer so badly during it. Experienced it many times and just the way I think about it helps.

I break the workout up into smaller chunks; the intense ones are usually broken up already into intervals; i take the longer ones set by set.
For the intervals, I always have the same approach and it works every time. 5 intervals? 1st = easy, 2nd = not so easy, but you can manage this, right? 3rd = complete this one and you already broke the back of the workout 4th = just complete this one and you won. Last one = allright, finish the job, bring it home.
For the sets, I apply the same principle.

I stare at the clock. I can’t bare distractions of any kind - video, music, anything. I stare that MF down till the very last second. When things get really hard, I apply the “you can do ANYTHING for a minute/2 minutes mantra”. Works, it really works.