Ability to Suffer

Viewing 7 posts - 1 through 7 (of 7 total)
  • Author
  • #16651

    I’m an older runner/cyclist (50) and I’ve been at these endurance sports now for 12+ years and I’ve seen my performance decline over that period, also coinciding with a decline in motivation as well. The two are related I am quite sure, but I continue to ponder the reasons why the fire is not quite where it was before.

    Some of it is surely the natural aging process causing slowdown, and therefore it feeds the cycle of “if I can’t hit new PRs, what’s the point” but there is definitely more to it than that. Alot of it is “been there, done that” too – when I’ve hit the milestones I wanted to (whether that’s a Boston Qualifier, or a certain Ultramarathon) then eventually you run out of goals to shoot for, or at least you have to get creative with it.

    Anyway, all that is just a preface to say one thing I have definitely noticed about myself is I have lost some of my ability to suffer. Or maybe I should say, the ability is definitely there as it was in the past, but the willingness is not. In fact, I would say some of my earlier running efforts I was definitely not as fit as I am now, but I was a lot more willing to “light my hair on fire” in a race than I currently am. That sounds kinda sad and depressing, but in a certain context it’s not…I’m a different person than I was those 10+ years ago, more self-assured and less insecure and therefore needing to prove myself. But still it would be nice to turn the switch back on a few times, especially for an A race and I’m wondering if it’s possible to work towards that. I’ve had several lackluster race results now in a row so it’s a timely question.

    Clearly one way is to do more intensity in training – and I do that, but I wonder if I do enough. Anyone following what I’m saying and have any suggestions?


    Hey Brian – great topic for a post. Motivation is such a tricky subject, given all the variables that can influence it and thus performance. My personal take on this is that there may not always be a positive correlation between suffering and great performances. Certainly you have to push yourself, but I find that is largely defined by the amount of training that you have put in and your overall fitness at the start line. I’m an “old geezer” at 49 now, and cannot run the half marathons or 10k that I used to. However, my half Ironmans are still getting quicker. I put this down to: 1.) a good training plan (80/20), 2.) adequate recovery and 3.) having fun and enjoying it.

    It sounds like your number 3 is rather low at the moment, and perhaps refinding your enjoyment for running, or taking a break from running and doing something else for a bit may help re-ignite it? For me I actually enjoy the training process as much as the race, discovering things about myself that I didn’t know or didn’t think I could do.



    Good feedback, thanks.

    Definitely having issues with #3. I’ve tried changing focus (from longer to shorter) and differing training styles (such as MAF and now an extended run with 80/20)…currently I’m taking a short term shift onto more cycling with a big event coming up.

    Yeah motivation is tricky. You don’t go to a coach for help with motivation, you go to a coach because you’re already motivated.

    It’s the suffering that I’ve targeted recently though, I just don’t have that will to keep the effort up like I did previously. So I think I know the answer…to practice suffering more in training…I’m figuring it’s a component to train just like power, endurance, vo2max, etc…it needs to be regularly worked in order to get better.


    Who wants to suffer?

    We’re not who we were yesterday, and we are not who we will be tomorrow…

    I tend to the cautious about injury, older athletes take longer to recover, and the elite/pros tend to risks greater than might be appropriate for recreational runners. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4739041/

    From the article, recreational athletes are less prone to injury, and the referenced study included recreational athletes into their late 40s. But when I look at the biometrics of the recreational runners it appears they are somewhat out of shape and engaged in less intense training than we aspire for. So… do you want to suffer? I’m not sure intensity is the answer.

    My attitude mirrors Gareth’s. Experiment; find what works for you. You probably have room to improve. Share what you learn, you are in unexplored territory.

    Leyla Porteous

    Hey Brian,
    I think your post on fatigue is most likely the reason you are feeling this way about “pushing” yourself in your workouts and racing. I would shift the narrative from “suffering” to being “strong”.
    When you are strong in your sport, you can do pretty amazing things with your body and not be “suffering” per se. It’s for sure very uncomfortable – maybe even painful – but you are in control of it. When you are deeply fatigued and in a chronic over-trained state – your mind and body just don’t want to feel this way – kind of a protection mechanism to slow you down.
    I think if you sort out the underlying fatigue and malaise you may well find the “drive” to race and train strong when appropriate will return.
    You just can’t race in training all the time, or over race in a season – it ends up giving you diminishing returns.


    Thanks, yes language is important. I’m not a big proponent of the “suffer” term myself but it’s used pretty commonly in the cycling community (i.e. “sufferfest”).

    I think what I was trying to convey is feeding that ability to suffer/be-strong when the moment calls for it in an endurance event.


    I know I’ve had phases of my life where I find enjoyment in the ability to dig deep and pull out an amazing PR while grinding through a race. I’ve also had phases where I do more volunteering at races or running races that are purely for fun and the post-race party. If you’re finding enjoyment, then I’m a huge proponent of drastically changing things up, even if that means taking a few weeks or months off and doing a completely new activity. I spent most of 2019 playing around with rock climbing and it was great. When I returned to trail running in 2020, I had a different appreciation for trails and outdoor spaces because of being part of a different community that used them. Maybe that change will help.

Viewing 7 posts - 1 through 7 (of 7 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
Posted in


You must be logged in to create new topics and to reply to topics.