Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Pain Garden

The other day I was doing some reading about tri training (yes, I am obsessive, but you should have already known that by now if you've read much of anything I've written!). I googled my Tri 201 coach, Eric Doehrman of E3 Multisport. Naturally he had a few Ezine articles out there. One of which was particularly interesting to me about the "Pain Cave".

I've heard about the "pain cave" before, but I can honestly say I don't think I've ever found mine. The truth is, I don't like pain. I avoid it like vampires avoid crosses or garlic. My philosophy has always been, "no pain, no pain" or "if it hurts, you're doing something wrong so stop." I used to think it was an effort to avoid injury, but the truth is, it's been an effort to avoid pain. However, I've come to realize if I want to seriously improve (and I do), I am going to have to get over my aversion to being uncomfortable.

Everything I've ever read in the past has basically said, in a nutshell, "HURT". So when I saw the title to Coach Eric's article, "Refine Your Mental Flexibility by Making the Most of Your Pain Cave", I was more than a little intrigued. I've read and re-read it several times since then in an attempt squeeze every drop of wisdom out of it as possible.

((Warning...for the rest of this post to make much sense, you should read the article--it's worth the click over, I promise!))

The same day I found the article, we had a group bike/run brick training session. As we were riding I kept trying to tell myself I was sitting on my pain cave couch watching Survivor. I remembered Rob's efforts in one particular challenge, obviously giving all he had to eek out a victory over much younger competitors. I thought of all my other favorite Survivor challengers (Stephanie, Matt, Colby...even Russell) and how they all gave ALL they had. (Stephanie even dislocated her shoulder in one battle, popped it back into place and then got right back into the fight.)

What was so ironic about it all (what I didn't realize until after the fact) was the fact I was imagining myself sitting on my comfy pain cave couch watching TV!!! I had skipped down to step five without an understanding of what he was trying to say. Was I uncomfortable?? Well, yes, a little bit. Was I even close to hurting? Not really. It's going to be hard for me to believe pain is a cross I can even get close to much less carry and bear.

The thing I think I "like" most about the article is the idea that I'm in control of my pain cave. I can leave it anytime I want. It seems silly because you might think I've exercised that option (leaving) pretty much my whole life. But, I think the option I've actually taken is the one not to find the address in the first place. To go on a recon mission to find willingly drive up the set up house make it my home--not options I've explored.

Until now.

I've started wearing my heart rate monitor again. I'm in so much better shape now than I used to be. I will have to work considerably harder now than I did a year ago to get my heart rate up to the optimal training zone. It's time to stop cheating myself. It's time to make my workouts count toward my goals. I feel like up until now I've been liking the idea of being in a pain cave more than the idea of doing the work to get there.

One of my favorite books of all time is "The Secret Garden". I used to dream about having a garden like that. I have bought more magazines and books than I care to admit to in an effort to learn how to keep plants alive (I have a black thumb). I've done "research" on what to plant and where. I've gone so far as to plan out my ideal green space. The most forward progress I've made toward that end is to purchase sacrificial plants that have given their lives over to my dream but have not actually been released from their plastic containers to do what they do best-grow. To plant that garden will take WAY MORE work than any amount of planning or dreaming. It would require sweat and dirt and time. Not only that...I would have to devote countless hours pulling weeds, deadheading flowers, pruning...and all that work still might result in dead plants.

I might not ever be willing to invest my sweat and time into planting a "secret garden" of my own...but I AM willing to invest in my body. I want to know where my limits are...and I want to find ways to push past them. I want to find my pain cave...but I think I'll call it my pain garden. That sounds so much more inviting!!

I'm off to the pool to begin my journey.

Thanks for stopping in...come again soon!


  1. Love this! Thanks for being so encouraging!

  2. Good post... I like to build experiences, so I can tell myself I have been here before. It gives me the confidence to push past... My training is based on building on past experience. I can tell myself during trying times "I have been here before". The cave picture looks eerily similar to the cave of the Killer Rabbit in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.


Don't hold back, tell it like it is....