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The psychology of suffering...(18 posts)

The psychology of suffering...BikeViking at home
Nov 24, 2002 11:02 AM
Most of us at one time or another have endured great discomfort while riding because of extreme exertion. I just got back from my Sunday group ride and I began wondering why do I like it (suffering) so much? What makes a person ride near the edge of nausea, yet attack again when another opportunity shows itself?

I am not a masochist in any other area of my life, but I will repeatedly put my mind and body through difficulty while riding. Most animals tend to avoid this at all costs, but some humans seek it out.

My inital theory (I may have others as my brain works on it) is that we love the challenge and discpline required of the sport and will endure almost anything to try and beat those your're riding with (or in my case, keep from getting dropped!)


re: The psychology of suffering...cogmaster
Nov 24, 2002 12:44 PM
Sounds somewhat twisted, but what I find exhilerating and relaxing about a "full out" ride, comes from the focus and pain associatedd with it. You may feel physically drained, but pschologically elevated. Just a perspective.
my 2 cents...eyebob
Nov 24, 2002 1:33 PM
I've always thought that during group rides (and races) that my best efforts come out because in some ways I'm afraid of looking bad. It's some sort of self-esteem thing. I think that for many (I think this because I've asked a lot of people and researched it a bit) on some level there is a bit of this fear in most competitors. How big it is varies, but I know for myself that I'll push myself much harder when I'm in a group where I don't know anyone just so that I don't get dropped (and thus look bad).
This accounts for why I don't train as hard as I race (for the most part).

Nov 24, 2002 1:58 PM
Suffering is enjoyable to me because the effort and associated pain is all consuming, no other thoughts or concerns are even allowed a chance to develop. Peaceful almost...
Nov 25, 2002 8:39 AM
Exactly - all petty troubles and thoughts are tossed out
and my field of focus narrows to just me, the bike, the
road and keeping it upright and moving steadily and holding
the line.

In a way, the pain is like a hard and gem like flame that
is ... curiously cleansing.

I read once that the SR71 spyplane that flew above Mach 3
at altitudes of 80,000 feet and higher got so hot on every
flight (due to air friction) that each flight heat treated
the airframe so that it was actually stronger than when
delivered from the factory and each subsequent flight made
it stronger yet.

I'll use that analogy with cycling since I'm definetely more
suited to riding now than when "first delivered" and also
that each subsequent flight hones the skills I've developed
as well as makes me faster.

Maybe I'm just a masochist too but the pain feelings and
the subsequent endorphin release go hand in hand.

Plus, the relaxed feeling I have once off the bike is
There comes a point...merckx56
Nov 24, 2002 3:24 PM
when you just have to suffer. I have ridden for a long time and nevere realized that I wasn't TRULY suffering until I was without a car for a while. I had gotten in an accident and the bodyshop had my Jetta for 4 months. My (now) wife left for work after me and got home after (TV reporter), so no chance to car pool.
I had to commute to work, 14 miles each way on my bike. I left at 7:30am and came home at @ 6:30pm. BTW, this was in the winter, so darkness was my constant companion! I had to drag my ass onto the bike in all types of weather, temperatures and whether I really felt like it or not! It made me physically stronger but it also turned me into a bit of a hard-man of the north, mentally! I had zero choice in the matter. I just HAD to do it. Suffering in 35 degrees and piss rain to go to work, only to turn around and do it again to get home will make you hard! I went 97 straight work days without copping out.
I discovered that it had made me more willing to suffer when the group ride got hard or the race really picked up!
It also made me realize that commuting is a joy. After I got my car back, I probably only drove one or two days a week to work and commuted the rest.
From Chilly Toledo OH, You Da Man !!! (nm)Citius
Nov 24, 2002 3:52 PM
for meThe Human G-Nome
Nov 24, 2002 3:55 PM
when i'm suffering and pushing myself seemingly beyond my limits, i'm always telling myself that i'm improving my heart, my legs, my back. somehow i'm always convinced they'll be better off for the wear (although i know this isn't always true). the biggest reward for me comes weeks later when i can attack the same hill at the same pace and suffer much less. if i could reach my maximum potential and NOT suffer, i would not miss it although since this is impossible, i must embrace the pain.
Well said, and..REPO42
Nov 24, 2002 3:59 PM
Our body also releases natural endomorphs during excersise. I'm not sure if the body releases more or less depending on the intensity of the excersise, but this gives the euphoric feeling we all get at the end of a long hard ride...Like an addiction we begin the crave the relaxed state we are in after an intense day of cycling.
Well said, and..DINOSAUR
Nov 24, 2002 4:29 PM
One reason I cycle is so I can get my daily fix of endorphines. Actually what we feel is discomfort, real pain is when you can't get on your bike. What helped me is when I crashed a couple of years ago and fractured a bunch of ribs. You learn what really pain is like. Any endurance sport requires a high degree of tolerance for pain. This is one reason Lance Armstrong came back so strong after his battle with cancer, the man knows what real pain is and what the body is capable of. I think it must have something to do about body chemistry for people to go out and enjoy suffering. We are exercise junkies.....
the true masochists are runnersgtx
Nov 24, 2002 6:13 PM
In 17 years of riding and racing I've never experienced the pure pain and suffering I did running x-country in high school. I think I may have raised my pain tolerence a bit during that time. Cycling is hard but it just isn't that hard--riders recover enough during stage races to get up and do it again day after day. It takes marathon runners weeks and sometimes months to recover from one 2+ hour race. I've had some bad bonks, suffered during road and mtb races, but it just never seemed that bad after running. Riding to me has always seemed fun, even when it was somewhat painful.
You're kidding, right!!!cyclequip
Nov 25, 2002 12:46 AM
You are obviously not doing it right. Runners take a long time to recover from the impact damage. Cyclists (at the elite level) might take most of the season to recover from a 3-week tour. As Ralph Hurne pointed out, most of us never ride at more than eight tenths, where ten tenths is what you'd do to avoid diembowelment, or to save your kids. Most people pass out at nine and a half tenths. What impressed me was watching up close the faces of Tour riders on the big cols - the appearance of suffering shocked me and impressed me and told me how far you could actually go. Anyone can run/ride till failure occurs - but suffer? My ride mate has run 12 competitive 100km running races and after a 100km bike race last week - albeit in 35 degrees (Celsius) heat, said he was more exhausted than any of his runs.
Ran X-C in High school also..JS
Nov 25, 2002 10:04 AM
and was very good, I also played soccer for more than 10 years but I have NEVER suffered in any sport like I have on the bike in races, ever. I race MTB's and Road bikes at a fairly high level and the suffering endured is tough to convey to most people.
A world sucked dry of physical challenges by technology...Djudd
Nov 24, 2002 7:29 PM
riding my bike is one of the last ways to test myself. I look at most of my friends and co-workers and hear them wonder why i ride as much as I do. They would not dream of riding a bike in the cold and the rain. To me it is not suffering it's a challenge and at the end of the day it's actually fun!!! A bonus: I'm 40 and have a 32 inch waist.
re: The psychology of suffering...jagreenwald
Nov 24, 2002 8:06 PM
Pain is weakness leaving the body.
One of my favorites...biknben
Nov 25, 2002 8:40 AM
I have that quote printed on my dog tags.
From Lance's article in Forbes....EricBH
Nov 25, 2002 4:40 AM
"People ask me why I ride my bike for six hours a day: what is the pleasure? The answer is that I don't do it for the pleasure. I do it for the pain. In my most painful moments on the bike, I am at my most self-aware and self-defining. There is a point in every race when a rider encounters the real opponent and realizes that it's ....... himself. You might say pain is my chosen way of exploring the human heart."

Back in the Saddle
Lance Armstrong, Forbes ASAP, 12.03.01
Thanks, I was looking for that quote! LA sums it up well. -nmTig
Nov 25, 2002 8:00 AM