I recall in the 1980’s – due to the emergence of the aerobic-dance movement – the term ‘No pain, no gain’ was successfully promoted and promulgated by actress-activist, Jane Fonda. Her mantra included ‘feel the burn’, which referred to the lactic acid searing cause by repetitive resistance work. Through time, even bodybuilders sang the song of ‘no pain, no gain’ as a means to an end. It was not funny when some muscle-heads collapsed under the sheer weight of their egos and weight-stacks.
Pain is a major indicator that something may have gone wrong within our body. Pain is detected through nerve endings and our central nervous system (brain and peripheral nervous system). Pain is detected on our skins and deep within our organs. It can be described as acute or chronic – is it sudden and short-lived, or long and debilitating?
As endurance athletes, we learn to cope with varying levels of pain and discomfort. We can build some tolerance to lower levels of pain, or by directing our focus elsewhere. Pain may indicate that we are alive, yet prolonged pain suggests a forewarning. Western medicine treats the symptoms of pain, but fails to address the organic causes of it. If we attend to the cause of the pain, we can reduce its impact on our well-being. Being pain-less and pain-free can be a precursor of a blissful state.
Deliberately creating pain for pain-sake may not be useful. There are other useful ways of inducing pain to draw upon abject lessons. Pain from physical fatigue can teach us discipline, determination, patience and tolerance. Inflicting pain on others can reflect on our poor leadership, character and lack of humaneness. Emotional pain needs to be dealt with early, for it can be crippling to almost anybody. Part of the grieving process involves managing our pain through denial and resistance; subsequently, we progress to exploration and commitment. The pain becomes distributed and diminished through time.
Leadership Lessons: Be aware of signs of pain. Pain signals possible trouble, and a need to slow down and inspect. Pain within a team can multiply, and accelerate so it has to be moderated and monitored. If this pain is due to hard work, and then the sense of achievement and accomplishment sets in then this pain is perfectly normal and acceptable. Pain that leads to relief is useful. That is why we need to resolve the conflict, or the pain nags us.