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Derek S. How do you overcome conditioning associated with exercise?

Discussion in 'Ask a TMS Therapist' started by Guest, Jul 26, 2015.

  1. Guest

    Guest Guest

    This question was submitted via our Ask a TMS Therapist program. To submit your question, click here.

    How do you beat the conditioning associated with exercise?

    I know that I'm not supposed to focus on pain, but it is hard not to when you're doing an activity that forces you to feel your body. Some people have suggested affirming I am structurally sound, or visualizing myself free of pain, but that doesn't work.

    I believe that I understand the underlying root of my TMS, which is associated with competitive running (or at least I think). I've tried to work through this and I have come to peace and understanding about myself and the reason i have received pain signals.

    I feel like I understand myself and the process, but I still can't figure out how to overcome pain during exercise. Any suggestion?
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 5, 2015
  2. Derek Sapico MFT

    Derek Sapico MFT TMS Therapist

    Thanks for your question.

    It sounds like you're doing a lot of things right so don't get discouraged.

    You mention that this is a conditioned response related to competitive running and that some of the reasons that your symptoms started in the first place may be related to a competitive type of environment.

    If I were to have to isolate a few factors that I feel might be missing from your approach it would be genuine outcome independence and self-compassion. In other words, I am guessing that there is a great deal of conscious and/or unconscious pressure that you put on yourself to exercise without pain and every time you exercise and the pain is still there, it terrifies and deflates you. The important thing to remember is that pain is not the thing that reinforces the conditioned response. The thing that reinforces the conditioned response is the fear/hopelessness/disempowerment that you feel every time you exercise and the pain comes back.

    Since you come from a competitive environment, you are probably very familiar with the concept of pushing through the pain. Sometimes people take the concept of "ignore the pain" and use it to justify repeatedly doing something even though it is excruciating. I don't want you to push through the pain anymore. That is not a kind way of treating yourself. I would suggest backing off of the whole thing a bit. I'm not suggesting that you give up exercise or running but rather that you alter some of the thoughts and behaviors around it. Be flexible with your workout regimen and just go easy on yourself. Consider how much pressure you put on yourself around these activities and how much you scare yourself about never being able to exercise without pain again.

    Don't just reaffirm that your pain is not structural but also reassure yourself that you will not have to give up exercise. There may be days when the symptoms are strong and you take a day (or more) off. That's ok. This is a process and you are playing the long game. Soothe yourself by re-stating your belief that your pain is not structural and tell yourself "I am doing everything within my power to recover and even though the symptoms were there today, their days are numbered and they will not take something that I love away from me." Then try again when the pain recedes, ensuring that you are there for yourself in a kind and compassionate way regardless of what the symptoms do.


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    Caroline, Cara, clairem and 2 others like this.
  3. SunnyinFL

    SunnyinFL Well known member

    Dear Guest,

    What a great question! I can relate to the fears associated with exercise - fears that I will hurt myself, fears my pain will increase, etc., etc.
    I have succeeded in diminishing those fears about 90% by using the following techniques:

    1. Build up your exercise slowly so that you will succeed in exercising without your fears coming true. If you can just gradually and patiently do just a little, then a little more, then a little more without pain or without making your pain worse, then you will see your confidence grow and your fears subside. (Alternatively, if you jump in too strong and hurt yourself, you are validating your fears, which then fuels the pain cycle).

    2. Try using affirmations while you work out. I have found this surprisingly powerful, though I thought it was silly at first. What I do is, instead of counting my reps, I figured out the right number of affirmations, for example, for 12 reps. i.e. Rep 1 "I am" Rep 2 "healthy" Rep 3 "I am" Rep 4 "strong". For example, for 12 reps you can do this same affirmation 3 times. This distracts you from fear and worry; creates new, beneficial pathways; and uses your conscious mind to override your unconscious/subconscious.

    Please let me know if this helps! Sunny
    Grateful17 likes this.
  4. Grateful17

    Grateful17 Well known member

    Using those affirmations while working out is PERFECT !!!!!! I love that idea. And I also agree with your theory of working up slowly with your exercise. I have done this and it really helped. That is also the method I am using to overcome numerous conditioned responses with my food allergies.
  5. SunnyinFL

    SunnyinFL Well known member

    Thanks, Grateful! Sunny
  6. mg83

    mg83 New Member

    Thank you for your answer!
    I do agree that fear/hopelessness/disempowerment are reasons that bring back the pain. I guess I've never looked at it from this angle.
    I am very familiar with the term "pushing through the pain", and that's exactly what I've done!
    I know I've to back off or take some days off if the pain is influencing my performance. Since pro sports is a business where you always have to worry about someone else taking your job/position it is not always easy to take time off.


    Thank you as well.
    Your first point is something I am doing as well and I know it works. Sometimes it is hard to built up exercise slowly when there is a lot of pressure on yourself to become painfree again and get back to performing.
    Your seconed point is something I will try to use as well from now on.

  7. Sean

    Sean New Member

    Those two recommendations are very encouraging!!! Thanks!
  8. TJuerg

    TJuerg New Member

    Thank you, Sunny and Derek for your answers. I know I am dealing with a great deal of conditioning, and I am looking towards getting through that, but not trying TOO hard, haha. I too am having quite a bit of pain running, and this makes me fearful and anxious as well. But if I think a out this, it is really silly because just four short weeks ago, I was bedridden with back pain, and now I am running at least two miles a day! So I will try to give myself a break, use affirmations, and just let my healing happen without any pressure from me.

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