experiencing improved cardio through dedicated exercise. Unfortunately most athletes and individuals looking improve ignore the psychological approach to suffering.
A lot of club level, high school, and collegiate athletes have experienced “a 10” on the suffering scale this past preseason. Sensations experienced at a 10 include difficulty catching one’s breath, lightheadedness, burning or even cramping muscles, intense sweating, possible nausea, and/or a pounding head. It is experienced after a preseason fitness test, after a 15thsprint, pushing the bench press bar to the point of failure, or the longest run one has ever gone on. As a sport psychologist and current coach I encourage athletes to reach a 10 as often as possible. Yes, there are obvious physical benefits. But I focus on the psychological benefits. When exposed to this type of agony, a greater level of comfort emerges over time. The person is able to push themselves a little further on the suffering scale and reach an 11 so to say. Another way to look at this concept called the mere exposure effect is through music. Think about a popular song that you couldn’t stand when you first heard it. Then you begin to tolerate and possibly enjoy, after repeatedly listening of this once hated song because radio stations have it on a constant loop. The same is true with fear and anxiety. If a person gradually exposes him/herself to their fear, that fear decreases. Just like your body acclimates to high intensity workouts, so does your mind.
My advice to serious athletes and exercisers is to push yourself to a 10, and in doing so, recognize the pride and sense of accomplishment in these moments rather than focusing all of your attention on the pain. This will permit you to push harder and remain motivated to get more fit, stronger, and faster. Thus elite athletes can run faster/longer, fend off fatigue, and outperform the competition.