Runners generally need to face and overcome pain during training or competing. This is not to say that you should be training when in pain or injured, we’re talking about the typical discomforts and pains you encounter when running and which are within acceptable tolerances. Ultimately you want to increase your pain tolerance to get the best results.
In almost any sport you will encounter some pain or discomfort as you push through your workout and the limits of your capacity; it’s normal and as you get better, that threshold and tolerance increases more and more. The object here is that if you want to run faster, you have to train yourself to endure the acceptable pains experienced when pushing your pace harder. There are three great ways to do this, which we cover below.
One way to increase your pain threshold is to use progression workouts. In this instance you would run at a relaxed and comfortable pace to start with and gradually you would increase your pace until you get to a fairly fast pace for the last stretch. You can run for 30min to 2hours (5-15km) – it’s really up to you and where you are in your training. Try increasing your speed by running 10 seconds faster per km, for example. The idea is that you gradually get to a point of discomfort, and by doing so you will ease into it in terms of your body warming up and your mind taking on more and more relative stress.
Shock intervals are also a great way to increase your pain tolerance. With this method, instead of regulating your energy throughout the workout so that you can maintain a good pace throughout, you would instead push yourself hard in intervals and force yourself you regroup and regain that comfortable pace to continue running normally. A very easy way to do this is to also use interval training. You can run, for example, ten 800m sprints; at each interval aiming to maintain the same time, except for every third or so interval where you run and max pace. Between each interval, you take anywhere from 30-90 seconds break, obviously decreasing that rest time as your get better at these interval sessions.
Another way to get better with dealing with pain is to consider that when you run long distances it’s better to break the total distance into small sections which you aim to overcome. It’s a sound strategy which allows you to maintain your pace goals and mentally it works very well. A great way to get your mind-set right for this is to do multiple short distance intervals which together accumulate to make up a long run. For example, run 25 200m intervals and aim to get the same pace for each 200m run until the last interval. After each interval, jog back to the start and do it again until you complete all the intervals.