Pushing Past the Pain Cave in Training, Business, and Life

Pushing Past the Pain Cave in Training, Business, and Life

Think about your ultimate goal in life? Do you dream of running a marathon? Hitting a specific sales goal? Writing a novel? Now think about what is stopping you from achieving those goals. Have you never run before? Are you afraid of rejection? Unable to get inspired? We all have limits that affect our ability to reach our goals.

Those limits that you have placed on yourself are just that – things you have placed on yourself. No matter what your goal is, going a little further than you think you can will increase your confidence in yourself, making it easier to hit your target. By bringing the idea of the Pain Cave to your daily life, you can train your mind to go beyond these limits. 

What is the Pain Cave?

The Pain Cave sounds, well, painful. But what is it? Personal trainer and running instructor Meghan Takacs puts it in the simplest terms possible: “The pain cave is such a horribly special place. It’s the place you go to right when you hit ‘the wall’ when you’re running. Your body feels incapable, everything is cemented to the ground, and mentally, almost every inch of you wants to quit.”

Sound scary? Don’t shy away too soon. In my interview with Don Mann, a retired member of SEAL Team Six, we touch on the idea of testing your mind. Don is an ultra-endurance athlete who pushes his body and mind to the ultimate limit. In his eyes, if he didn’t get to the point of passing out or hallucinating in a race, he wasn’t really testing his limit. Although his body and mind started to break down, he always survived and came back stronger. 

While the Pain Cave is often reserved for endurance athletes, pushing yourself beyond what you ever thought possible can have a multitude of benefits in every phase of your life. After all, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Training at your absolute limit may seem terrifying, but going as far as you can takes you to a new physical and mental level. By going hard in training, “race day” will seem much easier by comparison.  

The Pain Cave in Action

An example of the Pain Cave in action is Courtney Dauwalter. Courtney is an ultra-endurance runner who has competed in numerous races, including the 2017 Moab 240, a 240 mile race. During her interview on the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast, she talks about experiencing hallucinations and running throughout the night, basically falling asleep with each step. 

Courtney won the race in 2 days, 9 hours, and 59 minutes, beating the second place finisher by more than 10 hours. During the race, she slept a total of 21 minutes. Courtney has also won countless other races, including the 2017 Run Rabbit Run 100 mile race. This victory came about despite experiencing a gradual blindness the last 12 miles of the race which caused her to fall numerous times, leaving a bleeding gash on her head

Taking the Pain Cave Beyond the Race World

You don’t need to be an elite athlete (or even an armchair quarterback) to see the benefits of adding the Pain Cave to your life. There is a popular quote that says, “if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” Think about the next big goal you want to accomplish, and then think about how you can push yourself a little further to get there, even when you think you’re too tired or burnt out to continue. Whether that means adding 10 minutes to your run, writing another page of your book, or making just a few more phone calls to prospects, by taking those extra steps, you’ll be that much closer to your goals. 

Battling the Pain Cave in Business

The Pain Cave is a mindset that many endurance athletes practice. When you think of pushing yourself to the limit, you probably aren’t thinking of doing it in your office. However, testing your limits can give you serious benefits in the business world. 

In his book, Rejection Proof, Jia Jang writes about spending 100 days deliberately seeking out situations where he would be rejected. He throws himself into scenarios where he would expect to be denied his request. For someone who fears the word “no,” forcing yourself to face the mental pain of rejection can make you stronger. Next time you hear a “no” from a prospect, you’ll have already faced the painful feeling, and you’ll know how to handle it. 


Now is the time to put the Pain Cave to action for you. What is your big goal in life? How can you test your limits to get there? Next time you hit the trails, the office, or somewhere in between, push yourself to go a little further than you think you can. You’ll thank yourself for the challenge.



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