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How to Push Through Pain and Intensity

Imagine this: You are in the final moments of a five-round, 20-chest-press-per-round workout, and you can barely hang on.  (It probably doesn’t take much imagination!) You’ve made it through the first five presses ok and then somehow managed to make it through the next five. You struggle through reps 10-15 and then, gasping for breath, you count down backwards from five to get through the last few. The dumbbells hit the floor as you let out a loud curse and your arms collapse like Jello. You’ve made it!


We’ve all been there.  Matter of fact, I was there Sunday afternoon when I did this very type of workout. I lifted heavier dumbbells than I was used to and was really struggling on almost every set. I had to count down every set 5 reps at a time in order to manage the weight mentally. When we are able to push through intensity and pain using these types of mental tactics, we can make gains in performance, get more out of our workouts, and create a more potent stimulus.


No surprise -- there is research out there that supports the best way(s) to push through this type of pain. A recent study identified the top three techniques that are the most effective in enabling us to overcome the discomfort we experience when we work at high intensity. The study measured brain wave output and tracked Alpha-Theta brain wave stimulation - which is associated with focus, productivity and “flow state” (being fully energized, fully involved and completely enjoying the process of an activity


According to the study, these top three techniques are:



Luckily, at FlyFeet, we’ve gotchu when it comes to great music! The research shows that listening to music at 180 BPM (beats per minute) stimulates Alpha-Theta brain waves and increases focus, productivity, and flow state. While we certainly don’t choose music based solely on speed and cadence, we try to play music that offers a beneficial experience for you all the time! So, next time you’re running your quarter-mile repeats, tune in and let the music take you away. It’s there for a reason! 



The mental games that we play when we are in the throes of the final rounds or the last 200 meters of a workout are proven to be effective. What works particularly well are counting techniques. Like I had to do with that chest press on Sunday, counting down reps or time intervals backwards is a way to distract from the pain we feel during the tough parts of a workout. The distraction allows us to bypass the pain.



I hesitate to list this one, but I have to be true to the study results. Believe it or not, swearing and profanity helps push through pain.  You fu@#ing got that right!  The use of swear words helps buffer pain and allows us to tolerate more reps, greater loads and be able to run faster for longer periods of time. Although we try to keep it PG in the studio, we do recommend that you use this one when you really need it. Just ask Kristin – this really works! ;)


It wouldn’t be like us to read a study and then not offer you a chance to test the results! So next week we’ve created a scenario in which we’ve used ladders to provide a platform for you to understand and implement these mental games in particular. In a ladder workout you will have to push, and push, and push, then once you reach the peak you know you’ll have some mental “breathing room” as you come back down. This type of training brings a level of predictability with it. As you come down the far side of the ladder you’ll see performance increase and your energy level start to come back up.


So come on in this weekend and see how these work for you. Saturday and Sunday will be a special treat – find a partner (or we’ll find one for you when you arrive – no worries!!) and come in both days. The ladder will climb up on Saturday and come back down on Sunday. As always, we’ve got the workouts and music all queued up for you. The profanity on the other hand is optional and provided by you! See you in the studio!

Fly Feet Running