Nice article from the Quest Blog.
The pace at which we run is certainly determined–to a large degree–on our fitness. But over the past 5 years or so, there has been a growing movement that regulating the “pain” of running a faster pace is a significant factor. Tim Noakes (author of countless articles and books, including the very popular Lore of Running) has been a huge proponent of modifying what he terms the central governor, or limiter, of our true running potential.
An article published in the Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine in 2014 looks at just this topic. Among other conclusions, the author states:
. . . exercise-induced pain is one of several determinants of endurance performance, primarily because it facilitates awareness of the physiological state of muscle and consequently helps to regulate pace during moderate to long self-paced exercise . . . As pain is ultimately a physiological warning to remove the body from a potentially damaging situation or activity, the pain that arises as a result of intense exercise must convey a powerful drive to either stop the exercise or reduce its intensity so that pain decreases. As such, the ability to overcome this drive, or use it to refine pace, must be an important factor in endurance performance.
–Alexis R Mauger (Endurance Research Group, School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Kent, Chatham, UK
Most athletes and coaches focus on other determinants of pacing (e.g., maximizing one’s ability to produce speed or power while limiting fatigue), this article would suggest–and we agree–that understanding and “training pain” is important when the goal is improved endurance performance.