Smile, it’ll hurt less

Smile, it’ll hurt less

We’ve all seen it and we’ve all done it.

When we work hard or experience pain, we grit our teeth, close our eyes and tighten up our face to grind through some reps and keep pushing.

We think it’s helping and making us stronger, but what if I told you that it’s actually making it worse.

What if I told you that by doing this you’re actually amplifying the pain and making it hurt MORE?

Well, while reading How Bad Do You Want It? by Matt Fitzgerald I learned this is EXACTLY the way it works.

If you’re into reading medical journals, you can read all the details here: The effects of smiling and frowning on perceived affect and exertion while physically active or you can just take my word for it…


The gist of it goes like this…

Every exercise or workout elicits some level of perceived exertion (you can think of perceived exertion as pain).

This pain (perceived exertion) can be rated on a 1-10 scale, aka Ratings of Perceived Exertion (RPE).

1 being no pain and 10 being extreme pain, just like at the doctor’s office.

Now, while exercising, everyone has their limit for pain tolerance and it’s the point at which your brain is no longer willing to experience additional pain for the reward of increased fitness.

Keeping in mind that your brain will ALWAYS give up (at least when performing any endurance activity) before your body is incapable of performing additional work.

So, where am I going with this?

If you’ve read How Bad Do You Want it? or the medical journal piece I linked above, you already know, but if not, the title of this blog post might give you a hint.

There is a secret to keeping your RPE lower while doing very little physically.

And a lower RPE means you’ll be able to perform any “endurance” activity longer because you’ll prevent your brain from giving your body the red light until much later.

What’s the secret? Smile!

I know it sounds stupid, who the hell wants to smile when they’re entire body is screaming at them, “THIS FUCKING HURTS!!!”?

Well, no one wants to smile, but that’s the trick, learning to control your facial expressions and relax those muscles will allow you to experience less pain and to breath better.

And by breathing better, you are able to reduce tension in your muscles, supply them with additional oxygen and therefore work better and longer.

Soooooo, give it a try!

Next time you’re in the middle of a 1,000m row and your everything hurts and you feel your face tightening up and you start closing your eyes, fight it.

Open your eyes, relax your face, put on a big smile and see what happens.

What’s the worst that could happen? It hurts the same as it already does?

I promise it won’t…