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Athletes and Pain

Tonight I was walking home and all I could think was holy cow these shoes are giving me some serious blisters. I knew they were going to hurt before I put them on to go out but I wore them anyway. I can handle a little pain. 🙂

Earlier today I read an article about how athletes can tolerate more pain (hence the reason behind my shoe selection). I think that’s kind of a given, but it was still interesting to read.

Laura Scwecheri:

A recent review in the (appropriately-named) journal Pain revealed what many have already guessed: Athletes can tolerate high levels of pain. Researchers looked at 15 studies that examined pain threshold and tolerance in athletes and non-athletes. While both groups had similar pain thresholds (the point when pain is felt), athletes consistently tolerated more pain (the maximum amount one can handle before it becomes unbearable — fun!). Interestingly, many “game” sport athletes showed a higher pain tolerance than endurance athletes, although this varied by type of sport. (We’re guessing there was a different pain tolerance between wrestlers and bowlers.) Another study looked at gender and found male athletes tolerated pain better than women. But don’t fret ladies: That study sized maxed out at 48 people, so more research is probably needed before any conclusions can be drawn!

Growing up, I never really played sports. I did like to play basketball and pretend I was the female version of Bobby Hurley, but other than that, I stuck to dance. However, over the years, I have come to appreciate just how amazing all athletes are, no matter the sport. Four hours of football on a Saturday afternoon isn’t my ideal day, but I am always so amazed at how determined and unaffected by 250 pound linebackers, football players can be. Last Saturday while watching the Ironman World Championships, I was so excited to be able to witness athletes accomplishing feats that would make us normal people sweat just thinking about. There was a lot of pain out there over those 140.6 miles, but yet the athletes crossed that finished line.

Researchers don’t know why exactly athletes can tolerate more pain, but perhaps it is because they train their bodies to deal with it (a little stoicism?). Athletes put themselves through pain, become familiar with the feeling, deal with it, and then know what to do when it really matters. On top of that, perhaps athletes are just incredibly motivated to be amazing and achieve their best. Clearly there’s a reason the saying “No pain, no gain” exists.

Here’s to an amazing Friday and to an awesome 15 miler on Saturday. I’m hoping to do the last 7 miles at race pace – running shoes crossed.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


Our condo building on my walk home tonight… Love the fall weather!

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. i wonder if being an athlete makes you feel less pain, or if… people who feel less pain tend to be athletes? the classic chicken-egg story. anyways, interesting find! thanks for sharing

    October 19, 2012
    • Thanks Mary! I think it’s more that athletes feel the same pain as other people and they have learned how to tolerate the pain more. I think about that in training all the time – if I can train my body to deal with the pain now, then I’ll be better off when it really matters. Athletes all amaze me with what they can push through 🙂

      October 19, 2012

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