Mentally managing intense suffering

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.

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Spending time suffering (being cold for example) or being in the mental pain cave (during a workout) is seriously enjoyable for me. One of the best possible ways to clear my mind, life stresses and feel energised.

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Life is suffering.

If you use some other word for the pain your enduring good on ya. But suffering hurts, it makes you want to quit. Overcoming that pain is awesome and I bet a reason we might do this. I am reminded of the suffering a few times a year, that one race when your in a break and you don’t think you can go any harder, but you do and the next time your in that spot the suffering is not as bad, think about how this pain is making you better and how your going to grow from it. That can help.

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Noone ever won a race that mattered without suffering (except that one time when Mathieu Van Der Poel sandbagged that D race in Zwift :rofl: j/k).

Suffering is part of racing, only I also think it is more helpful to frame it as “working hard”. I believe that is the state of mind Coach Chad tries to put us in when he says something along the line of “Lordy, this sure feels like work now” in the Ramp test. I am sure he weighed his words very carefully since this has to be one of the most attempted workouts on TR. To me the connotation is: “yes, this hurts but this is how hard work is supposed to feel. Don’t hide from it, embrace it. You have been here before, and you can do this again.”

Suffering is also part of training, because “working hard” is a skill we have to acquire. We all have to “go to the well” every now and then, to learn that we can push right up to that limit, and then push some more. More often than not we realize that that limit was no limit at all, and that brick wall is just an illusion, just a story we tell ourselves.

The point raised about the voluntary nature of the suffering resonates with me a lot. I can deal with the pain better when I watch old stage races where a super domestique is bossing the peloton up a climb. It helps me visualise a key point: we both chose to be where we are. He is hurting more than I can imagine, but stays composed because he choses to hurt. He sets his tempo (or rather threshold :grinning:) and rides it. Same for me: I chose my pace and I am riding it.

When I get in the “I can’t do this anymore, this is too hard” state of mind I know I am mirroring the guys going off the back. I may be able to hold 2% below target, but when I have broken mentally I can’t even put out sweet spot watts. It’s all in the brain.

I view this as a conversation/negotiation with my autonomous nervous system. As long as I can convince it that the pain is of my chosing, it knows I am not in mortal danger and lets me push on. As soon as I am overwhelmed my ANS system stops me. “Executive decision”, as Coach Chad calls it in the Ramp Test text. You are done!

Every time you face your ANS, you push that limit a little bit further and it lets you go a little bit harder. But there is no denying the suffering when it really matters, if you are not feeling it you are either wired differently than those who do, or you are not pushing hard enough.

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You can’t get past the 40% while being in mild discomfort (or so I believe). We are all capable of much, much more than we allow ourself to do. But it is not easy to push our limits by any stretch of the imagination, that’s why we think they are limits!

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Most of the mental skills development books I’ve read have something in there about changing perception of experiences and sensations to reduce negative self-talk as well as frame those experiences in a positive way (within reason of course.). If you don’t have a negative association with ‘suffering’ thats fine, a lot of people do.

To me it is not a ‘thesaurus club’ effort. Everyone has built in positive / neutral / negative associations with certain words and how we frame our experience and the words we use can have a positive or negative impact. Saying that makes me feel all ‘new age’ or ‘hippy-dippy.’ :joy:

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I sometimes did the exact things you have done here, listen to the expected time of the playlist and knowing when I will finish the workout…another thing I sometimes do is watching some Youtube videos that others recorded of intense group ride and staring at the wheels in front of the recorder and just imaging you are trying to hang on your dear life to stay in the group.

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I typically do the following when doing indoor training:

  • watch a bike race
  • listen to music
  • fuel properly
  • focus on my cycling objectives and goals

other not so obvious, but effective distractions to help me mentally to sustain long and hard intervals are:

  • use a towel to wipe my sweat at intervals - every 1’30’’/2’ etc…this is another distraction (I always use an additional towel that covers the stem and the top tube)
  • blow my nose at intervals (same as above)
  • sip my intra workout drink at intervals

This is one of the best posts I read in a while!
I completely agree with your points.
Especially your thoughts about the purpose.

I myself started riding again last spring after a break of 17 years (I am 34 now).
Of course I know I will never become a pro (nor want to) my purpose is to see what is still in me and constant improvement.

This is my „why“.
In my opinion when you have found your „why“ (or purpose as you said it) everything will be easier.