I Whinge When I’m Tired; Do Athletes Have A Right To Whine?

This post was published on March 31 2010 while on my journey to South African Olympic Trials and the 2012 Olympic team.

This week I have gone back to full time training again… And I’m sore. It’s not the swimming that is making my body hurt. It’s the lifting, but it my body hurts!

Yes, I’m whining about my self inflicted discomfort.

Through my years of training I have been labeled as a “whiner”.

My father may have been the first to bestow this title upon me. Caroline, my Malawian coach gave me a look when I whined. Ryan Skinner, my South African coach, too. Steve, my current coach tells me to quit my whining, as do some of my teammates.

Before you jump on the bandwagon, let’s correctly define whining.

I’m not talking about “down in the dumps”, “life sucks”, “I don’t want to do this any more”, “God, take me now” type whine.

This is a tongue n’ cheek vocalization of my suffering. Not to be confused with the “give up” type whine.

I will very very seldom whine or complain about a practice being too hard. I trust my coaches entirly. I’ll do any workout that gets handed to me by coach, even if I think it’s the wrong thing to do at the time. I have trusted the coaches enough to know what needs to be done on that day, and it always gets done to the best of my ability.

So why do I whine?

I don’t whine to get out of any hard work. I understand “what you put in you get out”. So short cutting the training process is only going to hurt me in the end.

I don’t think of myself as a big attention seeker, maybe I am wrong here… But I don’t whine for the attention or the pity. I may sometimes I look for a little pity from Carla, because she is the best! (If you didn’t read my post on support, read it here and find out why). So why? I know that I am not the only one that does this, so why do we whine?

Here is my simple, self justified answer… Whining makes me feel better.

Swimming is a sport with delay gratification. You wait to reap the rewards of your hard work for month. Only at the end of a season when you shave and taper for the big meet do you get to see your effort rewarded.

Some swimmers can hold out until that point. I get impatient. I want reassurance that my hard work is going to help me achieve my goals. That it will make me as fast as I need to be when I stand up on the blocks to race.

Whining helps me to verbalize the pain I am feeling. Which in turn reassures me that I am heading in the right direction. In some twisted way it helps build confidence in my training and my ability. It verbally and sometimes loudly reminds me that it is all worth it.

Most of the swimmers that hear me whine will jump on the whining bandwagon with me and let me know where they hurt too… When this happens the reassures grows. It’s like group therapy “Hi my name is Rory, and my lats really hurt, what’s wrong with you”!

This is all completely self justified and self rationalized though.

right to whine

“If you have to rationalize or justify your words or your behaviors, question those words and behaviors hard!”

So this is a public attempt at questioning my whiney behavior… I have told you why I whine, why I think most athletes whine.

Now I want to know if you think I am full of bull?

I’m asking you to judge whether you think it is ok for an athlete to have a bit of a whining session when everything hurts. Be serious, or entertain me with your answers, just comment at the bottom of the post. I’ll let you know by Sunday if I like your answer.

Can I have a whine when I wake up at 4.35 am tomorrow morning and have a hard time getting out of bed because my legs hurt?

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10 thoughts on “I Whinge When I’m Tired; Do Athletes Have A Right To Whine?”

  1. I believe it is imperative for an athlete to whine. I don’t usually whine during practice, but when Gary asks me how I’m feeling after to during a damn hard set I let him know with a lot of whining of how much I hurt. I know people call that complaining, but honestly, who cares if I’m complaining. I like your version better Rory, “whining,” it sounds much more professional.

    If I never whine about my body hurting then I know I’m not getting put through a hard enough workout, or I’m just not trying hard enough. I would rather have a few weeks of terrible days of practice during the swim year than not have any at all. It builds character to whine like a fool every so often. It also lets other know how “well” you’re doing.

    Keep up the whining Rory, every athlete deserves to whine every now and then.

  2. haha dude, considering every other top athlete has been charged with DUIs, multiple infidelities or smoking illegal substances….I think the LEAST you can do is whine!

  3. The swimmers right to say, “I hurt!” is less then, or equal to the coaches right to say, “Grab a straw and suck it up!”

  4. I like it when you whine about your swim workouts on the way home from swim practice… it gives me ‘perspective’ on my piss ass swim workouts in comparison. I wanna hear your duck-footed ass whine after going for a ride and run with me. THAT would be the best whining of all…hahaha.

  5. Take the h out of whining, add a n and you get winning. 2 easy steps from whining to winning. Simple – you whine then you win. Yes please!

  6. Mommy Buck wins for sure! I LOVE her comment!

    Take it from someone who won “Biggest Whiner” in high school: having a good whine is fine! In fact, I rather enjoy some wine with my whine from time to time!

    Like you said, I think it is best shared with someone who is in the same boat as you. Sometimes it’s nice to know you’re not the only one who is in serious pain – self inflicted or not!

    I will also remember everything you wrote here the next time you are coaching me (which just happens to be tomorrow)! I’m so excited for you to justify my whining when you are trying to kill me rather than telling me to suck it up!

  7. Hahaha! I notice all comments have come from those who don’t swim with you. I will lead with the fact that I whine. Elite swimmers are allowed to. (I do not think all athletes have that right.) However, where you whine is very important. Out of the water is always acceptable (until girls get mad you). When you whine in the water, you are fair game to be called a little girl. D0n’t let that discourage you, but be prepared. 😉

  8. Freedom of speech in the United States is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. I am pretty sure this covers athletes that whine too. However, I am not too sure if it covers athletes form foreign countries…you may not be allowed to whine in the US while visiting here. Check with your coach.

  9. Pingback: The Sorry Sob Story | Jess Churchill

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