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Embracing the Journey: Pain vs. Discomfort in Fencing Training

Success is the result of consistent, persistent effort, journeying forward through the inconsistent ups and downs, embracing both the wins and losses along the way. Also embrace the pain. Pain is unavoidable, but suffering is optional. But what does that mean?

pushing past pain

As a coach, my priority is always my student’s health and well-being. I never want you to fence while truly injured. It’s not worth it to struggle through a genuine injury to compete, risking further long-term damage. Your long-term health is far more important than any single bout.

In life, pain is inevitable, but remember: “hurt” doesn’t always mean “harm.” As fencers, we only grow stronger when we push through pain. These moments of pain are what give us strength. Pushing for a faster advance, adding an extra lunge, lifting heavier weights, or spending more time perfecting your footwork are all exercises that can be painful. However, this pain is part of the growth process, making us stronger, more resilient, and better fencers.

Most of what you will experience as a fencer is not true pain, but rather discomfort. Persistent aches often signal to us, “This is uncomfortable. I need to stop.” But these moments are precisely when we should keep pushing forward. In life, school, work, and fencing, our brain adapts to this discomfort. As athletes, we learn to crave this discomfort because it is the training that helps our bodies adapt and grow stronger. This training is non-negotiable. Suffering through it would only perpetuate the discomfort. Instead, embracing the pain allows us to relish in the strength it creates. Our mind, our heart, and our willpower become stronger and more capable of achieving more.

So, how do we simply ignore the pain? We don’t. While we can’t go through life without experiencing pain or pretending that it’s not there, we do have a choice about how we respond to it. First, understand that pain is unavoidable but temporary. It has a lifecycle. Like the crest of a wave, it rises but then it also falls.

Suffering, on the other hand, can continue for as long as we give it attention. If we react to our pain with resistance — if we focus on how bad it is, fear that it will never end, or worry that it will overwhelm us — we just prolong our suffering. If we quit to avoid the suffering, we do not grow, mature, or become stronger. This is the part that is optional. Both quitting to avoid the pain and embracing the pain to move forward are hard choices, but they are YOUR choices. Choose your hard. Make the suffering optional. Embrace the pain to move forward and grow.

Remember, “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” Choose your hard, and let’s continue to grow stronger together.

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