Why It Matters How You Think About Pain | Outside OnlineBut the most interesting data deals with the difference between “adaptive” and “maladaptive” pain coping strategies. Adaptive strategies are things like ignoring pain, deciding that you won’t let it bother you, or overriding it with the urge to keep going. Maladaptive strategies are things like catastrophizing (“I’m going to have to drop out!”), fear (“It’s going to keep getting worse!”), and despondence (“This is awful!”). Each athlete was assigned daily composite scores of zero to six for adaptive and maladaptive coping, with zero corresponding to “never” and six corresponding to “always,” Alschuler says, reflecting “the extent to which the person is having thoughts that exemplify being willing to coexist with their pain versus the extent to which they are viewing their pain as a barrier that is difficult to overcome.” Overall, the ultrarunners were remarkably good at relying on adaptive coping (3.04 out of six, on average) rather than maladaptive coping (1.31 out of six). If that wasn’t the case, they probably would never have made it to one of these grueling races. Still, there were some interesting findings. For example, when runners used more than their usual level of maladaptive coping, they reported a greater perception that pain was interfering with their performance—even when the actual level of reported pain was held constant. They also spent more time thinking about their pain, which should be a reminder that sometimes it’s best not to dwell on it. The other interesting finding was a link between the use the maladaptive coping and the probability that a runner would finish the race. For every one-point increase in the maladaptive score, a runner’s likelihood of finishing the race dropped by a factor of three.