Beyond the Finish Line:

Running and Living with Purpose

The NC500 Guide to Life

Pain is a real Anchor Point for Life

Day 4

Pain is a real Anchor Point for Life

They say that we learn much more from defeat than we do from victory.

I believe the same goes for pain.

I believe that pain is an important currency in our lives for many reasons.

There not many lessons to learn from pleasure, but in pain, there are many.

As much as we may want to avoid it, pain is an inevitable companion throughout life. Whether its physical pain in the form of toothache or a cold, or the mental pain of dreading going to work on a Monday morning.

We all experience it.

We all long for moments of pleasure, or happiness as they are often called, laying on a beach, sipping cocktails, in the sun, who wouldn’t enjoy that?

But these moments of bliss are not real, they are our own perceptions of happiness, and they are blinkered.

For a few days a year these visions serve us, but in reality, if you were to lay on that beach for 10 hours a day for 6 months that pleasure would become uncomfortable and then painful.

Boredom, weight gain, loss of fitness, feeling of stagnation would all play their part in turning that pleasure into pain.

So, if pleasure is not the answer, what should we be striving for, well the answer to that is purpose, but that’s another matter altogether.

Pain, however, plays a profound role as an essential element of human existence.

As a result, we should learn to embrace it more rather than avoid it altogether.

Pain acts as a formidable teacher, when we encounter pain, whether physical or emotional, we are forced to confront our vulnerabilities and limitations.

These moments demand periods of introspection, it forces you back to the present, back into yourself and the battle between ending the pain and fighting against it.

This was certainly the case on days 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, and 13 of my run.

Day 6 was the worst with the constant pain of blisters, on both feet, a hugely swollen left ankle, and the weakened mental state from the previous 5 days.

As much as I tried to take myself out of the epicentre of pain, my blisters and ankle, and try to embrace and enjoy the stunning scenery that I was immersed in, it was almost impossible to not be drawn back into the relentless repetition of

Ouch, Ouch, Ouch, Ouch, Ouch, Ouch, Ouch !

It was brutally tough.

In this situation you try everything, changing your running style, running on the other side of the road where the camber is reversed, using the Galloway method (running a little while and walking a little while), but ultimately, it’s about callusing your mind to the continuous physical and mental intrusion.

From then on, I forced myself to look beyond the pain and instead, really look at where I was, surrounded by mountains where the clouds hung so low sometimes, it almost looks unreal. I’d also look up and see the road in the distance and focussed on getting to a specific point.

So, yes, I was still in agony but now I was looking up and really appreciating where I was and what I was doing. From then on, I refused to let my screaming feet and ankle distract me and turn my thoughts negative.

Pain and suffering are all part of endurance events, but when you learn to control your mindset and stop negativity, you’ll discover new limits that you thought impossible.

In periods, this is a good exercise.

Pain improves resilience, a key ingredient lacking in modern day ‘woke’ life

Adversity often uncovers hidden strengths within us, showing us what we are truly capable of. Pain pushes us towards personal development, allowing us to become a better version of ourselves.

Like everything it requires practice.

That doesn’t mean that you have to run around with drawing pains in your trainers or inflict high levels of pain just for the sake of it, but life is geared towards us having to do far less, at the click of a button we can now order something can have it delivered even on the same day, I can’t remember the last time I actually went into a bank, everything is done online, and with the development of driverless cars we soon won’t even be required to do that.

On the face of it you would think that these are all great advances to technology and to our lives.

These remove the mini stressors and stresses of life and keep us within a zone of comfort that I don’t believe is very good for us, I don’t believe it’s healthy for us. We live in a world of systems that control temperature in every environment, home, office, car, making sure we are comfortable every moment of the day, we have an abundance of food from every region of the world that we can access instantly.

This is a problem because when we actually do need to take ourselves out of a comfort zone, to do something like learn a new skill, begin a fitness regime, or even take on the huge challenge of parenting, we are not prepared to do so. We are living in an ever-developing world where mini stressors, mini stresses, which result in safely increased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone and adrenaline (epinephrine) are no longer being subjected upon us at regular intervals, as a result we find it difficult to cope, and when they do, we are less able to cope and as a result of increasing number of people are suffering from stress, increased anxiety, and depression.

There is no doubt about it that high levels of stress, especially cortisol over long periods is not good for us and can lead to poor health, high blood pressure and depression, but the same can be said for having two little stress which can lead to similar issues.

All stress is not created equal, too much or too little is not good for us.

The benefits of something like cold water exposure isn’t so we can tolerate cold water or learn to get in an ice bath and enjoy it, it is so we can learn to manage levels of stress in our daily lives, so we’re going to get that email that we weren’t expecting that ignites our frustration when that tax bill says that we owe more than we thought we did, we can deal with it without wanting to react in a way that will later regret.

When we subject ourselves to these stresses, we increase our neural pathways to be able to deal with them and we change the way we think about stress.

There are lots of ways that you can increase controlled stress, whether it is an extreme sport, cold water exposure, ice bath or cold showers, or using breathwork like the Wim Hof breathing method, all of which, if done in a safe and controlled manner will exert the desired amount of stress response on the body.

Pain may not be a part of life that we seek or celebrate, but it is a vital anchor point that grounds our existence.

So, don’t always think of pain, or discomfort as bad, it shapes our character, strengthens our resolve, and teaches us invaluable lessons.

Ultimately, it is through practice that we can find the strength to cope with the unpredictability of life and emerge stronger, wiser, and more compassionate beings.

Be the best version of you

Your journey to a brighter future starts here

Let’s do it!

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