So it’s time for one of my occasional updates on my Etape training. It has been an interesting time recently. I have managed to stay on track in terms of mileage and regularity the whole time.
The interesting part for me though is not mileage, regularity, consistency or anything of those things. It is how to push into the pain zone. How to make the hard sessions count. You see, turning up and riding is do-able. That’s the easy part. Pushing hard is OK. That still pretty easy. But when the plan says go to 85% or greater effort and hold it for 5 minutes, then it starts hurting. Really hurting. What happens to me? Well I find it easy to back off a little and not quite go there. To not push to the really hard place and hold it there all the way. So I’m training, for sure, but not always going to those hard places.
So what? What’s the cost to me? What’s the cost of holding back a little?
Actually it’s potentially huge and I recognised I needed to address it as soon as I realised what was happening. Why? Because if I do that in one session, then there is no real cost in the bigger picture. However if I do that all the time I am teaching myself that it is OK to not be with the pain. I am allowing myself to not give my best to serve my goal. And if I am doing that in my training, sure as eggs is eggs I won’t go to that hard place on the day when it matters. And then I won’t finish the ride the way I had wanted to in the time I would have liked to. And if that happens, I feel a failure.
So I had to address this somehow. How do you make yourself stay in the place of pain for the purpose of the gain? The interesting thing is that is isn’t that your body won’t allow it. Your body is more than capable of staying in that place. No, it is your mind that won’t allow it. Your body is capable of being in that place, but your brain tells you to back off.
So how did I overcome this? Well, let me start by saying it is an ongoing piece of work for me. Every time I need to go into that red zone I have to prepare myself mentally.
So – first trick is to think differently about the pain. Rather than thinking of it negatively, think of it positively. Embrace it and welcome it (trust me this actually helps!)
Have a goal – it helps endure the pain. If you want to win then focus on the goal of winning, if you just want to finish, then you are more likely to give way to the pain. Focusing on the goal helps to push to achieve the goal.
Break the duration of the pain down into sizeable chunks. Either distance or time. Such as endure the pain for the next 10 seconds and then the next 10 seconds. Or just to the next road sign. Or 20 pedal strokes. Or to the next corner. And then the next corner – you get the idea. A series of small chunks rather than one big pain-fest!
And relax. Breathe into the pain. This actually does help a lot. By letting the tension go the pain is more manageable.
So I tried these out and guess what I went into the red zone like I needed to and I could stay there as long as I needed to. It still hurts but I could be with it.
So it’s not all fixed and ok now because I have to keep focusing on this but it is helping me to push harder when I need to and not back off.
Try it yourself and see.