row2k Features
Pain is Forever (and that's a good thing)
January 15, 2015
Ed Hewitt

Ambrose Puttmann of the USA Men's Sweep camp during the last 500 of VO2 Max 2k test on the erg.

Pain is your friend; and helps you make friends to boot.  

Rowing teams can be made up of large numbers of tremendously diverse folks - people from different backgrounds, with different pasts and dramatically different futures; people with tremendously varied senses of humor, both in degree and type; art historians and math majors; folks from way up and well down the economic ladder; folks from all over the political spectrum; extroverts and introverts (this one for sure, whew), and more.

In many respects, there is no way all these people should get along; but somehow the sport makes it possible.  In fact, when many rowers think back on their rowing days, or get together again with their rowing friends, they remark on how easily they fall back into familiar routines, how well they get along despite having almost nothing in common but having rowed together for a bit when they were young.  It can be a bond that lasts forever.

What makes them stick together despite there being no apparent reason for them to do so?

It turns out it might be the one thing they truly shared in common during those rowing outings, and one that many of us already suspected was at the root of the miracle that is a rowing team:

Pain.

According to Pain Really Does Make Us Gain by New Yorker writer Maria Konnikova, the experience of pain, and especially the shared experience of pain, does draw us closer together.  "Pain, (social psychologist Brock Bastian) found, seems to play a central role in a group experience in a way that a pleasurable or neutral bonding experience simply doesn't."  

Not only does it draw people closer together, but the article states that pain can make "us focus, to the exclusion of everything else, in a way that no other experience quite does."  

And it makes everything else better, too, Bastian found: "a painful experience enhanced the enjoyment of a subsequent activity, on both an emotional and a physiological level."

Well worth a read for connoisseurs of pain, which certainly describes many of us in the rowing community.

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