Mastering Pain

It’s uncomfortable to discuss the reality of pain as it applies to attaining success. This is because from an early age most of us grew up on the Hollywood created notion that life is all rainbows and unicorns and if you just put in some effort for a while, like maybe the length of time it takes to watch an inspirational feature film, you’ll be entitled (if not destined) to succeed in all your hopes and dreams. Yeah, good luck with that.  The truth is reality doesn’t care about your narrative. The path to success in anything, including business success in the fitness industry, is fraught with pain and even failure. As a matter of fact on the road to mastery and/or great success, you’re likely to experience more pain and failure than you are comfort and success.  

The key factor then becomes learning how to convert pain into success by not giving up right before you hit pay dirt. 

So with that in mind it’s important to remember two things in training, in business and in life:

1: Strength comes in many forms, staying power, the ability to accept, endure and ultimately overcome hardship and adversity. The strength to do what has to be done for the good of others even if it comes at the expense of what’s important to you is quite possibly the finest form of strength that can be displayed by a human being.

2: If we can find the strength to bear what we think we can not bear today, tomorrow ALL things will be easier to bear than they ever were before. 

In the picture above I’m in the middle of completing my RKC Level 1 Graduation workout. This was over a decade ago, back when the RKC certification (now known as StrongFirst) was as much a brutal test of character as it was a KB certification. 

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It was one of the toughest weekends of my life up to that point and by this stage I was having to dig quite deep. At the time I couldn’t imagine something like that ever being easy. 

But as it turns out, it was just another brick in the wall, and now, more than 10 years down the line, because of this day and many other days since, I could use the same workout as a warm-up. 

We ALL have the ability to get through what we think we cannot, and when we do, our reward is always worth our effort. Life is like the KB Rack Position. Once optimally developed, you can bear the weight of almost any load in the KB rack position, for almost any length of time. 

With a solid rack position ‘one more’ is almost always possible if you are willing to pay its price. Namely, standing tall and bearing the load while staying as calm and relaxed as possible under the weight and breathing deeply until the pain goes away just enough to let you succeed again. 

Giving up from here is almost never a necessity…it’s a choice.

Below is a picture of me from 13 years ago with my head coach at the time, UFC world champion Matt Hughes, right after beating the whole gym over a 2 mile race in searing heat and humidity that was never meant to be experienced by an Irish Celt like me. 

I remember running a very tactical race, staying at the back of the lead group the whole way, before breaking free and reeling in Clay French of Pride FC down the home straight. 

The thing was I had just separated my AC in my right shoulder less than 2 weeks beforehand and I was still in a sling (which I took off for the photo). 

When lined up for the race one of the fighters, with genuine concern, said…”what are you doing, you’ve only got 1 arm” I said “don’t worry, I’ve still got two legs”. 

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No matter how you are hurting or why (i.e. mentally, physically, emotionally etc.), the first step towards optimally getting through the situation is to put the pain itself into perspective. 

The key to conquering pain starts with acceptance and ends with a decision. First, you must accept one simple fact…you can’t control if it hurts! You might not even be able to control how much it hurts or for how long it’s going to hurt. But you can control whether or not you care. You can control whether or not you’re gonna let that stop you. That’s a decision. 

This applies to more than just training, kettlebells, running races, MMA or succeeding in the fitness industry. 

Life is a fight we can all decide to win.

Stay strong,


(Paul McIlroy is the founder and creator of the globally successful Amazing 12 Body Transformation Business, a sports scientist and a strength & conditioning specialist who has developed national and world champions in various sports and disciplines, all from a square one starting point, in only 8 to 18 months in every instance. Leading from the front, Paul is also a lifelong athlete himself, competing against world class competition in 3 different sports).

Click here to watch FREE TRAINING from Paul McIlroy on how to create world class success in the fitness industry.