“You Always Wanna Be Sore, Because Then You Are Seeing Results”: Exploring Positive Pain in Competitive Swimming

in Sociology of Sport Journal
Restricted access

Purchase article

USD  $24.95

Student 1 year subscription

USD  $64.00

1 year subscription

USD  $85.00

Student 2 year subscription

USD  $121.00

2 year subscription

USD  $158.00

Pain has long been associated with sports participation, being analyzed variously as a physical phenomenon, as well as a sociocultural construct in sport sociological literature. In this article, the authors employ a sociological–phenomenological approach to generate novel insights into the underresearched domain of “lived” pain in competitive swimming. Analytic attention is paid to specific aspects of pain, including “discomfort” and “good pain,” and how these sensations can be positively experienced and understood by the swimmers, as well as forming an integral part of the everyday routines of competitive swimming. Here, training is seen as “work” in the pursuit of athletic improvement. Discomfort and good pain thus become perceived as by-products of training, providing swimmers with important embodied information on pace, energy levels, and other bodily indicators of performance.

McNarry and Allen-Collinson are with the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, United Kingdom. McNarry and Evans are with the University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Address author correspondence to Gareth McNarry at G.McNarry2@lboro.ac.uk.
  • Aalten, A. (2007). Listening to the dancer’s body. Sociological Review, 55(Suppl. 1), 109125. doi:

  • Allen-Collinson, J. (2003). Running into injury time: Distance running and temporality. Sociology of Sport Journal, 20(4), 331350. doi:

  • Allen-Collinson, J. (2005). Emotions, interaction and the injured sporting body. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 40(2), 221240. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Allen-Collinson, J. (2009). Sporting embodiment: Sports studies and the (continuing) promise of phenomenology. Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise, 1(3), 279296. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Allen-Collinson, J. (2011). Intention and epochē in tension: Autophenomenography, bracketing and a novel approach to researching sporting embodiment. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise & Health, 3(1), 4862. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Allen-Collinson, J. (2017). Injured, pained and disrupted bodies. In M.L. Silk, D.L. Andrews, & H. Thorpe (Eds.), Routledge handbook of physical cultural studies (pp. 267276). London, UK: Routledge.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Allen-Collinson, J., Crust, L., & Swann, C. (2018). ‘Endurance work’: Embodiment and the mind-body nexus in the physical culture of high-altitude mountaineering. Sociology, 52(6), 13241341. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Allen-Collinson, J., Jennings, G., Vaittinen, A., & Owton, H. (2019). Weather-wise? Sporting embodiment, weather work and weather learning in running and triathlon. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 54(7), 777792. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Allen-Collinson, J., & Owton, H. (2014). Take a deep breath: Asthma, sporting embodiment, the senses, and ‘auditory work’. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 49(5), 592608. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Allen-Collinson, J., Owton, H., & Crust, L. (2016). Opening up dialogues and airways: Using vignettes to enrich asthma understandings in sport and exercise. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise & Health, 8(4), 352364. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bastian, B., Jetten, J., Hornsey, M.J., & Leknes, S. (2014). The positive consequences of pain: A biopsychosocial approach. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 18(3), 256279. PubMed ID: 24727972 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bendelow, G. (2000). Pain and gender. London, UK: Prentice Hall.

  • Bendelow, G.A., & Williams, S.J. (1995). Transcending the dualisms: Towards a sociology of pain. Sociology of Health & Illness, 17(2), 139165. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bourke, J. (2014). The story of pain: From prayer to painkillers. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

  • Brady, M.S. (2019). Suffering in sport: Why people willingly embrace negative emotional experiences. Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, 46(2), 115128. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2013). Successful qualitative research: A practical guide for beginners. London, UK: Sage.

  • Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2019). Reflecting on reflexive thematic analysis. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 11, 589597. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bridel, W.F. (2010). “Finish…whatever it take” considering pain and pleasure in the ironman triathlon: A socio-cultural analysis (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Carmichael, K. (1988). The creative use of pain in society. In R. Teddington (Ed.), Towards a whole society. London, UK: Fellowship Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Clegg, J.L., & Butryn, T.M. (2012). An existential phenomenological examination of parkour and freerunning. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 4(3), 320340. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Crossley, N. (2004). The circuit trainer’s habitus: Reflexive body techniques and the sociality of the workout. Body & Society, 10(1), 3770. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Downey, G. (2007). Producing pain: Techniques and technologies in no-holds barred fighting. Social Studies of Science, 37(2), 201226. doi:

  • Dwyer, S.C., & Buckle, J.L. (2009). The space between: On being an insider-outsider in qualitative research. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 8(1), 5463. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Evers, C. (2006). How to surf. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 30(3), 229243. doi:

  • Fordyce, T. (2017). Chris Froome: Tour de France & the secret world of climbing. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cycling/40436886

    • Export Citation
  • Giorgi, A. (1997). The theory, practice and evaluation of the phenomenological method as a qualitative research procedure. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, 28(2), 235260. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hanold, M.T. (2010). Beyond the marathon: (De)Construction of female ultrarunning bodies. Sociology of Sport Journal, 27(2), 160177. doi:

  • Hockey, J., & Allen-Collinson, J. (2016). Digging in: The sociological phenomenology of ‘doing endurance’ in distance-running. In W. Bridel, P. Markula, & J. Denison (Eds.), Endurance running: A socio-cultural examination (pp. 227242). London, UK: Routledge.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Howe, P.D. (2004). Sport, professionalism and pain: Ethnographies of injury and risk. London, UK: Routledge.

  • Hughes, R., & Coakley, J. (1991). Positive deviance among athletes: The implications of overconformity to the sport ethic. Sociology of Sport Journal, 8(4), 307325. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Husserl, E. (1970). The crisis of European sciences and transcendental phenomenology. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

  • Kvale, S., & Brinkmann, S. (2009). InterViews: Learning the craft of qualitative research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

  • Leder, D. (1984–1985). Toward a phenomenology of pain. Review of Existential Psychology and Psychiatry, 19(2–3), 255266.

  • Leder, D. (1990). The absent body. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

  • Leknes, S., Berna, C., Lee, M.C., Snyder, G.D., Biele, G., & Tracey, I. (2013). The importance of context: When relative relief renders pain pleasant. Pain, 154(3), 402410. PubMed ID: 23352758 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mauss, M. (1979). Sociology and psychology (B. Brewster, Trans.). London, UK: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

  • McNarry, G., Allen-Collinson, J., & Evans, A.B. (2019). Reflexivity and bracketing in sociological phenomenological research: Researching the competitive swimming lifeworld. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise & Health, 11(1), 3851. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Merchant, S. (2011). Negotiating underwater space: The sensorium, the body and the practice of scuba-diving. Tourist Studies, 11(3), 215234. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Merleau-Ponty, M. (2002). Phenomenology of perception (C. Smith, Trans.). London, UK: Routledge.

  • Monaghan, L. (2001). Bodybuilding, drugs and risk. London, UK: Routledge.

  • Paterson, M. (2019). On pain as a distinct sensation: Mapping intensities, affects, and difference in ‘interior states’. Body & Society, 25(3), 100135. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Petrie, T.A. (1993). Coping skills, competitive trait anxiety, and playing states: Moderating effects and the life stress-injury relationship. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 15(3), 261274. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pike, E.C.J. (2005). ‘Doctors just say “rest and take ibuprofen’”: A critical examination of the role of ‘non-orthodox’ health care in women’s sport. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 40(2), 201219. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pringle, R. (2016). Disrupting identity: An affective, embodied reading of Runner’s World. In W. Bridel, P. Markula, & J. Denison (Eds.), Endurance running: A socio-cultural examination (pp. 95110). London, UK: Routledge.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Purser, A. (2018). ‘Getting it into the body’: Understanding skill acquisition through Merleau-Ponty and the embodied practice of dance. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 10(3), 318332. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Roessler, K.K. (2006). Sport and the psychology of pain. In S. Loland, B. Skirstad, & I. Waddington (Eds.), Pain and injury in sport: Social and ethical analysis (pp. 3448). Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schütz, A. (1967). The phenomenology of the social world (G. Walsh & F. Lehnert, Trans.). Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

  • Shilling, C. (2017). Body pedagogics: Embodiment, cognition and cultural transmission. Sociology, 51(6), 12051221. doi:

  • Shilling, C., & Bunsell, T. (2009). The female bodybuilder as a gender outlaw. Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise, 1(2), 141159. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Smith, K. (2016). A qualitative exploration of pain among mixed martial artists (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Toronto, Toronto.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Smith, K. (2019). Suffering in sport. In K. Young (Ed.), The suffering body in sport: Shifting thresholds of pain, risk and injury (pp. 121140). Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing Limited.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Spencer, D.C. (2012). Narratives of despair and loss: Pain, injury and masculinity in the sport of mixed martial arts. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 4(1), 117137. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Strawson, G. (1994). Mental reality. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  • Telegraph Sport. (2019). Adam Peaty ‘addicted to the pain’ of training for record-breaking performances. The Telegraph. Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/swimming/2019/07/31/adam-peaty-addicted-pain-training-record-breaking-performances/

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Throsby, K. (2016). Immersion: Marathon swimming, embodiment and identity. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.

  • Tracy, S.J. (2010). Qualitative quality: Eight ‘big-tent’ criteria for excellent qualitative research. Qualitative Inquiry, 16(10), 837851. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Vaittinen, A. (2014). Varieteis of embodied knowing: An ethnographic study of mixed martial arts. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Newcastle University, Newcastle.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wacquant, L. (2004). Body and soul. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

  • Wheaton, B. (2002). Just do it: Consumption, commitment, and identity in the windsurfing subculture. Sociology of Sport Journal, 17(3), 254274. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wiese-Bjornstal, D.M., Smith, A.M., Shaffer, S.M., & Morrey, M.A. (1998). An integrated model of response to sport injury: Psychological and sociological dynamics. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 10(1), 4669. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Young, K. (2004). Sporting bodies, damaged selves: Sociological studies of sports-related injury. Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Zeiler, K. (2010). A phenomenological analysis of bodily self-awareness in the experience of pain and pleasure: On dys-appearance and eu-appearance. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, 13(4), 333342. PubMed ID: 20162369 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 589 589 34
Full Text Views 7 7 2
PDF Downloads 5 5 2