Rowing: It’s All About the Pain

To be a competitive rower means to work against the grain of our natural inclinations. Every choice we make is for the team, not the individual, and every practice is spent in a continual, throbbing pain.

In a race, from end to end, every fiber in our bodies urges us to stop rowing and instead listen to the physical warnings we’re being provided, namely, the taste of blood in the back of our throats, the sensation of the oar digging away at the blisters on our hands, the blurring vision, and the dull ache of lactic acid that rushes through our muscles and seems to tear them apart.

Each of us undergoes the release of endorphins into our blood and brains, creating a disorienting blend of joy and anger. We all feel, individually, that we’re one second from quitting, one second from defining our limits, accepting defeat, and allowing the race to slip away.