Cycling sprints, endurance runs, and heavy lifts hurt physically because the strain of the activity activates nerves. That said, pain is more a psychological and emotional experience than it is a physical one, explains Eddie O’Connor, Ph.D., a clinical sports psychologist at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Once those pain signals reach the brain, several mental factors help determine how severe that discomfort is, including whether it’s expected, worthwhile (like if you’re sprinting to a finish line), or a sign of injury.
Assuming you're in pain because you're pushing yourself rather than injured, the most effective way to minimize the aches is by giving them purpose, O’Connor says. Tell yourself the discomfort will pay off (by making you stronger, faster, more flexible, and so on), and your brain is less likely to exaggerate it.
Many times the easier thing is to distract from pain and often that is all we can do. Whether the pain is physical or emotional, chronic or acute, by bringing physical awareness and stimulating the body’s calming response you can experience relief.