military member enduring pain during physical training


Four ways to handle pain

Pain and military life often go hand in hand. Basic training, selection courses, injuries, and field operations often mean putting your body into situations where hurt is unavoidable. In many military situations, fitness is not the decisive factor, but your ability to keep on keeping on despite discomfort and pain is. 

Because pain is all-but unavoidable, you need to find ways to deal with it. After all, in all-too-many situations, it's just part of the job. Here are four strategies for handling pain. 

  1. Remind yourself of your “why”

Unless you are some kind of masochist, you’d probably be happier if you weren’t in pain. After all, pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. Unfortunately, sometimes, you may need to ignore that message. 

The next time you are in pain, remind yourself of why you are suffering the way you are. Maybe you are trying to qualify for special forces, or pass a test for promotion, or carry a brother-in-arms out of a danger zone. Remember the point of your pain. 

Pain for pain’s sake is very few people’s idea of fun. However, if you know why you are suffering, and that there is a purpose behind the pain, it’s usually easier to tolerate. 

  1. Reframe the situation 

We usually view pain as a negative sensation. After all, it's your body's way of telling you that something may be amiss. However, if you reframe pain and view it from a different perspective, it can become a positive. That doesn't mean it hurts any less, just that it becomes a motivating factor and not a limiting one. 

For example, if you are in pain during a workout, that pain signifies that your training is making you stronger and fitter. Without that pain, you’d be wasting your time. Pain, after all, is weakness leaving your body! 

Consider the pain of a long run – you are hurting because you are doing something that you maybe have not done before, or you are nearing the end of your workout. Push on through; you’re nearly done. 

Finally, remember that pain is a privilege. A lot of people go through life without pain. It makes them weak and soft. Pain hardens the body and toughens the mind. Pain today will make you a better, more resilient person tomorrow. 

  1. Use positive self-talk 

You can use your mind to power through pain by using positive self-talk. Pain often feels worse when you think it’s going to beat you into submission. Your mind will try and quit a thousand times before your body does. As soon as that whispering internal voice says, "I can't do this," your goose is almost cooked! 

Use positive self-talk to change your mindset and keep going. Replace negative thoughts with positive, empowering phrases such as: 

  • I CAN do this 


  • I will NOT be beaten 

  • This is EASY

  • I can do this ALL DAY! (Thanks to Capt. America for that one) 

  • I will NOT quit

  • I CANNOT stop 

  • I’ll NEVER quit 

Positive self-talk is nothing without the appropriate feelings to back it up. Don’t just recite the words – make sure you mean them. And try getting angry; anger is an excellent antidote to pain.  

  1. 10 more seconds 

When pain strikes, don’t let it overpower you. Thoughts like “I’ll never be able to keep this up” are self-defeating. Instead, just focus on the next ten seconds. Even if you are deep in the hurt locker, you can bear it for ten more seconds, right? At the end of that ten seconds, double down and take it for another ten seconds, and then another. Breaking your pain down into bite-sized chunks makes it much more tolerable.