‘I’m hurting but I’m buzzing’: The lived experience of ‘positive pain’ in competitive swimming

McNarry, Gareth, Evans, Adam and Allen-Collinson, Jacquelyn (2021) ‘I’m hurting but I’m buzzing’: The lived experience of ‘positive pain’ in competitive swimming. In: Creative Non-fiction in Sport and Exercise Research. Qualitative Research in Sport and Physical ctivity . Routledge, London. ISBN 9780367482664

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'I'm Hurting but I'm Buzzing: The Lived Experience of 'Positive Pain in Competitive Swimming

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In recent years, a growing corpus of sociological work has developed, drawing influence from existential phenomenology, and seeking to challenge taken-for-granted assumptions regarding the often underexplored, and ‘mundane’ elements of sporting experience. Pain is, all-too-often, one of those mundane elements of sports and ‘serious’ exercise participation. The ability to endure, ignore or play through pain is commonplace in many physical and sporting cultures (Allen-Collinson, 2017), including competitive swimming (McNarry, Allen-Collinson, & Evans, 2020a, 2020b), distance running (Hockey & Allen-Collinson, 2016), triathlon (Bridel, 2010), and mountaineering (Allen-Collinson, Crust, & Swann, 2018), to give just some examples. Indeed, participants are often subjected to bodily pain that would not be acceptable or tolerated in other social situations (Bridel, 2010). Not only is pain tolerated, but certain types of pain have become normalised, even valorised, within certain physical cultures, so that an athlete’s ability to endure pain and hardship is celebrated and worn as a badge of honour. Swimming is one such physical culture, and experiences of pain, along with other ‘intense embodiment’ (Allen-Collinson & Owton, 2015) experiences of training and competition, are core elements of participation. In this chapter, we focus more specifically on experiences of ‘positive pain’, drawing on data collected as part of a wider doctoral study conducted by Gareth. This ethnographic study employed a sociological-phenomenological theoretical approach to generate novel insights, and a richer and deeper understanding of the competitive swimming lifeworld, including how competitive swimmers must learn over time how to distinguish and interpret different types of pain. Furthermore, swimmers must develop specific coping strategies in order to make the pain ‘actively absent’, allowing them to ‘shut it out’ and continue to push their bodies to, and often beyond, their limits.

Keywords:Creative non-fiction, Sociology, Sociological phenomenology, Competitive swimming, Embodiment, Sport, Positive pain
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C600 Sports Science
L Social studies > L300 Sociology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Sport and Exercise Science
ID Code:46989
Deposited On:22 Oct 2021 09:19

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