Triathlon pain


If you accept the pain, it cannot hurt you.” – Hugh Macleod

Who are these people? Hundreds in the Triathlon World Championships today torturing their bodies for hours on end.

MSNBC looked at triathlete pain in their piece “It’s true! Triathletes are tougher than the rest of us”. The researchers tested pain tolerance in a laboratory and found triathletes (not surprisingly) exhibited a very high tolerance. But correlation is not causation and whether pain tolerance attracted triathlon running or triathlon running enhanced pain tolerance is undetermined. One thing researchers do know is that fear of pain does intensify that pain (think visit to the dentists).

  • “You push through the pain of racing — which is much different than chronic pain, but it’s pain nonetheless. I thought the more I could deal with chronic pain, that the more I could use that as my tool to become a better athlete. When I realized that, it made it so much easier to deal with my (rheumatoid arthritis). Like, this is just mental toughness training. When you’re doing a race, you’re neck and neck – it boils down to, who can endure the most pain. So the more I can deal with the chronic pain of my disease, the better athlete I’m going to become.”

The piece also shared the anecdote of Angela Durazo who suffered debilitating rheumatoid arthritis (“feels like you’re taking a hot knife and scratching against the bone”). Durazo had to learn to distinguish between ‘useful pain’ (which alerts the athlete to a potential injury so getting one to stop), and ‘distracting pain’ (which can be ‘pushed though’). This distinction is something I am always assessing as a (aging

and more fragile) athlete and as a coach. Some training pain eg. sharp pains indicating tears and ruptures) is very useful indicated lamp to get you to stop before serious problems, while other pain is a vestigial artefact of a body not used to such treatment (eg. stomach pain as your digestive system rebels).