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How to Increase Pain Tolerance – Practice Suffering

By Jiri Kaloc

Pushing hard on a bike is a lot about the amount of pain you are able to take. If you want to get better at pain tolerance, you need to practice it like any other skill. Let’s take a look at few ways to implement pain training for both your mind and body into your training schedule.

Sign up for a lot of practice races

The most pain you will experience on your bike will likely be in a race. That’s when the fans, your competitors, and the atmosphere of a race will push you way harder than you can push yourself in training. If you want your body to get used to the race-day levels of pain, you simply have to do some practice races. Select several smaller races in a lead-up to your main race of the season and you will get more comfortable with the sensations of pushing hard on the big day.

Prepare to do some practice races. © WAYHOME.studio / DPphoto / Profimedia

Do hard intervals

You can reach pretty high pain levels in training too, of course, with interval training. You will mainly do them to build your VO2 max and max power but a nice side effect is that your pain tolerance will increase too. Just keep in mind that you have to be sufficiently fresh for these sessions. You can only increase your pain tolerance when you’re emotionally and physically rested enough. If you are tired and without any reserves before you start an interval session, you will see that your pain tolerance is actually lower than usual. So, keep a balance between pushing hard and resting, train smart.

Ride in a group

Another great way to push yourself pain-wise and simulate race day conditions is to go join regular group rides. Riding in a group motivates you to push through the pain. That’s because you’re not only judging your fatigue and pain levels when keeping a tempo, you are also thinking about the risk of getting dropped. So, when another rider raises the tempo, you’re much more likely to match it even if you’re already hurting than if you were alone trying the same.

Riding in a group motivates you to push the pain. © PCN Photography / Alamy / Profimedia

Expect pain

Pain is not only about physical feelings – there’s a huge mental component too. The way you approach pain can make a big difference in how well you handle it. Science shows, and many riders will confirm, that it’s better to get ready for the worst-case scenario rather than going into a race or a training session pretending it won’t hurt as much. It helps to intentionally think of the pain ahead, maybe even have a ritual in which you mentally accept the worst possible suffering, your pain tolerance will be positively affected by this seemingly simple thing.


All of this practice helps but when the pain comes, your brain will quickly start rebelling. Thoughts of quitting or slowing down, lack of motivation, and negativity are all very common. That’s when it helps to have your mind well-trained too. Meditation is a great tool for this. It teaches you how to be a passive observer of your thoughts and bodily sensations, which applies even to pain. Try a meditation app like HeadSpace or Calm to get started if you’ve never done it.

The following article will be focused on more strategies to trick your brain that should help you deal with pain when it arrives. We will go over reframing, visualization, and a few other simple tricks.

Next up in How to Increase Pain Tolerance series