I read an article in the NY Times the other day that was pretty insightful about the mind’s ability to push past incredible physical pain.  Since that is a constant theme in wrestling, I thought I’d pass it along to you.  Here is an excerpt:

My son, Stefan, was running in a half marathon in Philadelphia last month when he heard someone coming up behind him, breathing hard.

To his surprise, it was an elite runner, Kim Smith, a blond waif from New Zealand. She has broken her country’s records in shorter distances and now she’s running half marathons. She ran the London marathon last spring and will run the New York marathon next month.

One legged wrestler Anthony Robles of Arizona State, currently top ranked at the D1 college level. Talkin' about persevering!

That day, Ms. Smith seemed to be struggling. Her breathing was labored and she had saliva all over her face. But somehow she kept up, finishing just behind Stefan and coming in fifth with a time of 1:08:39.

And that is one of the secrets of elite athletes, said Mary Wittenberg, president and chief executive of the New York Road Runners, the group that puts on the ING New York City Marathon. They can keep going at a level of effort that seems impossible to maintain.

“Mental tenacity — and the ability to manage and even thrive on and push through pain — is a key segregator between the mortals and immortals in running,” Ms. Wittenberg said.

You can see it in the saliva-coated faces of the top runners in the New York marathon, Ms. Wittenberg added.

“We have towels at marathon finish to wipe away the spit on the winners’ faces,” she said. “Our creative team sometimes has to airbrush it off race photos that we want to use for ad campaigns.”

But the question is, how do they do it? Can you train yourself to run, cycle, swim or do another sport at the edge of your body’s limits, or is that something that a few are born with, part of what makes them elites?

Sports doctors who have looked into the question say that, at the very least, most people could do a lot better if they knew what it took to do their best.

“Absolutely,” said Dr. Jeroen Swart, a sports medicine physician, exercise physiologist and champion cross-country mountain biker who works at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa.

“Some think elite athletes have an easy time of it,” Dr. Swart said in a telephone interview. Nothing could be further from the truth.

And as athletes improve — getting faster and beating their own records — “it never gets any easier,” Dr. Swart said. “You hurt just as much.”

But, he added, “Knowing how to accept that allows people to improve their performance.”

Read the whole thing here.  (HT: Justin Flynn)

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