I woke up today with what felt like two grapefruit-sized knots in my back, sitting betwixt my shoulder blades (otherwise known as the trapezius muscles, for you kinesiology/anatomy nerds). This in and of itself isn’t strange. The strange thing is that I liked it.
Though I wrote about cracking a ball on the sweet spot of a bat, and though I was sore this morning from old school gymnastics exercises I foolishly decided to try, I no longer consider myself an athlete. I exist on the periphery of that world nowadays with what I’d call ‘athletic tendencies’, but I still think it’s incredibly interesting to consider how athletes vs. non-athletes view pain.
These are personal musings; I’m not backing this up with research studies or what have you, but here’s my perspective. From my experiences on and off the field, I have found that a large number of athletes (present and former) seek out and subsequently thrive on pain of some kind. Or at least they willingly accept that pain is a necessary constant in their lives. It’s just something else to battle through. Let’s take a look at some quotes you’re likely to find on the walls of locker rooms across the country:
“Pain is nothing compared to what it feels like to quit. ”
“Pain is temporary, pride is forever.”
“Suffer now and live the rest of your life a champion.”
Does the end justify the pain? Does the end even matter? I’m not sure it does. There is indeed a goal, but the process is what counts. The fight, the grind – the fact that it sucked and you still persevered – that is what athletes thrive on. I know I do.
This is not to say that all athletes feel this way, and I’m not lumping every human who didn’t happen to play an organized sport into one clump either. There is just a gap between the psyche of athletes and non-athletes when it comes to facing pain. Sometimes I think pain is taken too lightly in the athletic arena – there is generally a reason you feel pain, pain is there to tell you something, like maybe stop, you just tore your ACL. There are so many moments in sports history where an athlete has pushed through a legitimate injury just to finish, just to say that he or she did it. Therein lies the glory, and the feeling of being a champion.
All I know is I can’t shake the feeling that if I go home and do push-ups until my arms collapse, I’m going to enjoy every second of it.