Categories: Train

When love for sports hurts | Two inspiring athlete stories of pushing through the pain

February 7, 2018

Like true love in relationships, love for sports also takes work and commitment. Without a doubt, in both of them, you have and will continue to go through plenty of painful moments. You know, those moments when you want to throw in the towel, feeling like you’ve tried everything, given your all and can’t push any harder or longer.

You know, those moments when you want to throw in the towel, feeling like you’ve tried everything, given your all and can’t push any harder or longer.

Those are the moments when we all have to remind ourselves: it’s hard, but that’s one of the reasons I love it. For many athletes, overcoming challenges and exceeding their own limits are in the core of their love for sports. At times, it hurts like h… a lot, but feeling that true, fulfilling love is worth the pain.

By pain we don’t mean the kind of excruciating, damaging pain that will lead to severe injury. We mean pushing through the pain of discomfort and hardships to be better.

By pain we don’t mean the kind of excruciating, damaging pain that will lead to severe injury. We mean pushing through the pain of discomfort and hardships to be better.

It’s ok to feel like quitting when the going gets rough, even professional athletes have those moments – but they don’t necessarily act on those feelings. If you want to achieve anything, you need to learn to enjoy, or at least cope with, being out of your comfort zone – in life, love, and sports, and especially when you feel true love for your sport.

These two professional athletes have been there, felt like walking away… but they didn’t – they stuck with it! Here are some of the key takeaways from their inspiring stories of how they pushed through the pain of discomfort.

Find or remind yourself of “the why”

Professional triathlete and Polar athlete Angela Naeth has been through times of doubt and felt like walking away. Like the time she was 27 years old with no money and living with her parents or the time when she was going through a divorce while recovering from a surgery infection.

Angela Naeth came so close to giving up her dream but what kept her from quitting? One of the most important questions Angela asked herself was “Why?” and advises fellow athletes who feel like they’re losing faith and focus to do the same:

“Ask yourself why you’re doing this. Start with that, and action will come,” Angela says. “Never squash a dream. Your inner voice is what matters, and if you have drive and passion for something in life, you need to go for it.”

“Ask yourself why you’re doing this. Start with that, and action will come.”

So during the painful moments when you feel like the sacrifices and compromises you have to make are just too much to bare, go back to the beginning and remind yourself of why you started and hold on to that thought.

Reach out to those around you

Another important thing that helped Angela Naeth through her rough patches was the support from her family, coach and manager. If you have people around you, don’t be afraid to share your pain and ask for help. The people around you are there for you, but they’re not psychic, so yes, sometimes you need to ask and you will most likely receive.

Ask and you will most likely receive.

It doesn’t have to be anything massive. Sometimes something as simple as a training buddy can help you revive your love for your sport.

If you don’t have a support network, reach out and get involved. Join a community, like a running club on Strava, where you can find like-minded athletes, understanding and encouragement.

Become a master of discomfort

Polar athlete and Olympian Kate Grace survival kit for painful moments includes a no-fail trick for overcoming fear and discomfort. She uses a mental tactic to “trick” her brain into thinking: “This is not fear, it’s excitement!”

Indeed, our bodies react to fear and excitement in the same way: heart pounding, butterflies in the stomach, palms sweating. Both of these emotions take us to a hyperactive state where we’re awake and alert, ready to “fight or flight”.

The difference is that fear paralyzes you and excitement gets you going. The best thing is that you can trick your brain into believing that what you’re feeling isn’t fear but excitement.

You can trick your brain into believing that what you’re feeling isn’t fear but excitement.

Instead of just telling herself to think differently, Kate Grace uses physical and mental cues to change perspective, cues that help her to reach a state where she feels calm and ready. For Kate, these cues are listening to certain songs, thinking about someone she loves or focusing her thoughts on something she is grateful for.

And she doesn’t save this mental practice only for race days. “I’m constantly working on becoming a discomfort master,” Kate Grace says. “I tell myself that everything I need to succeed is within me, and it’s here to stay.”

She’s right. It is within you and up to you. So, if you’ve found your passion and feel the love, why not share it?