Learning to Suffer

If you've been searching for the best source of information and stimulating discussion related to Spring/Summer/Fall backpacking, hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada...look no further!
User avatar
sekihiker
Founding Member
Posts: 713
Joined: Sun Dec 18, 2005 2:47 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer
Location: Fresno
Contact:

Learning to Suffer

Post by sekihiker » Sun Jan 17, 2021 10:07 am

I think this is an interesting article on the BackpackingLight website that could spark some comments during this slow time of year.

LEARNING CURVE: LEARNING TO SUFFER
BY Maggie Slepian
JANUARY 12, 2021

Every backpacker, thru-hiker, or endurance athlete knows how to suffer. It’s an intrinsic part of what we do, and it sets the people who reach their goals apart from the people who quit from the discomfort.

https://tinyurl.com/y2bjzh9o

What do you think about the premise she sets forth?








User avatar
rlown
Topix Docent
Posts: 7784
Joined: Thu Oct 25, 2007 5:00 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer
Location: Wilton, CA

Re: Learning to Suffer

Post by rlown » Sun Jan 17, 2021 10:14 am

If you're not having fun, get out! There is always a little pain, be it acclimatizing or a friggn broken ankle or possible UTI infection.
Guess everyone makes choices..

If you don't have to suffer, don't..

User avatar
Wandering Daisy
Topix Docent
Posts: 5273
Joined: Sun Jan 24, 2010 8:19 pm
Experience: N/A
Location: Fair Oaks CA (Sacramento area)
Contact:

Re: Learning to Suffer

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sun Jan 17, 2021 10:46 am

The line drawn between discomfort and suffering varies widely. Just watch little children. I have one grandchild who at 2 years old was very sensitive and cried at every pebble under his little bare foot, whereas another grandchild was impervious to pain (and the child who regularly ended up in the emergency room).

There is that suffer/discomfort line you draw and how you define your backpacking. If you define your activity as "endurance athletics" you will put up with more "suffering". But a lot of the "suffering" can be mitigated with proper planning and a different attitude. Ignoring pain, also, can lead to serious injury and safety issues. All fine and dandy to "suffer" on a thru-hike where you regularly drop into civilization and medical help. Thru-hikers, whether they want to admit it or not, cut corners and then depend on others coming by to help and getting into town often. Another thing entirely, if on a serious high-altitude climbing expedition far from civilization for weeks at a time, and you become a big burden on the expedition and its safety.

I prefer the NOLS philosophy; "if you are regularly suffering, you are doing something wrong". Short bouts of suffering do happen, but I really question the need for a lot of suffering. You nip the "pain" (problem) in the bud before it turns into "suffering". You regularly stop to drink, eat, fix hot spots before they become blisters, and end the day before absolutely exhausted (because it is not safe to use up all your reserves if an emergency pops up unexpectedly). You pay attention to your body's signals and adjust as necessary. You do not go over a high pass in a raging storm, just because you insist on a set number of miles per day. You start slowly and work up to longer days. "Suffering" also leads to anxiety and depression. When suffering you cannot take in the small marvels of nature, which are needed to remain positive and mentally well.

User avatar
Silky Smooth
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 73
Joined: Thu Oct 09, 2014 3:06 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer
Location: Eastern Sierra

Re: Learning to Suffer

Post by Silky Smooth » Sun Jan 17, 2021 10:48 am

I really don't like the term suffering in outdoor sports, it's a choice and yes sometimes things happen that lead to unexpected circumstances and situations, e.g. epics and all that bs, but I like to save that term for real suffering of the people. It's also relative your level of performance and what you've been training for and what you are trying to do. A lot of my ultra friends push their bodies in terms of endurance, nutrition and recovery. Same for big wall. It's hurting not suffering, just high on endorphins and the adventure. As we say in mountaineering, a little fear is a good thing. How many of us have gone days without food? Or clean water? Exposed to the elements for days? I would be interested to hear some of people's wild adventures as they push themselves to achieve their "goals". You share one, i'll share one.

User avatar
Kmowelk
Topix Novice
Posts: 5
Joined: Wed May 22, 2013 1:44 pm
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker
Location: SoCal

Re: Learning to Suffer

Post by Kmowelk » Sun Jan 17, 2021 11:37 am

I don’t think that what most go through when backpacking rises to the level of “suffering.” Yes, there is discomfort, pain, and sometimes blood, but I would never considered a voluntary activity in some of the most pristine and magnificent parts of the world to equate to suffering. This is coming from someone who can refer to the “crying spot” and my spouse knows exactly where in the Sierra Nevada I’m referring to because it involved blood, duct tape, and more than a few tears.

User avatar
sekihiker
Founding Member
Posts: 713
Joined: Sun Dec 18, 2005 2:47 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer
Location: Fresno
Contact:

Re: Learning to Suffer

Post by sekihiker » Sun Jan 17, 2021 11:51 am

To me, "suffer" is a loaded word.

When completing a 50 miler, you don't feel good for the last 25 miles of the run. Is that suffering?
The last few miles of a 20+ mile hiking day are usually uncomfortable. Is that suffering?
An unexpected blister that you have to walk on for miles really hurts. Is that suffering?
The climb up a set of switchbacks on a hot day of your first hike of the year seems like it will never end. Are you suffering?
You have dozens of mosquito bites and they are still biting you even though you have on 100% Deet. Are you suffering.

My wife says yes to all of the above.

Many of us have done these things but have chosen to experience them again and again. Why? The rewards outweigh the "suffering".

"Suffering, or pain in a broad sense, may be an experience of unpleasantness and aversion associated with the perception of harm or threat of harm in an individual. Suffering is the basic element that makes up the negative valence of affective phenomena. The opposite of suffering is pleasure or happiness." [Wikipedia]

Isn't it fascinating that we engage in an activity that simultaneously causes suffering and its opposite, happiness. Mostly it's for mature audiences but often the young among us think it it's pretty cool too.

User avatar
balzaccom
Topix Addict
Posts: 2283
Joined: Wed Dec 17, 2008 9:22 pm
Experience: N/A

Re: Learning to Suffer

Post by balzaccom » Sun Jan 17, 2021 12:46 pm

I agree with most of the posts here. If you are suffering, find a way to make that suffering stop, then keep hiking. And if the only way to stop the suffering is to stop hiking, do that. Then figure out a way to do it without suffering. I enjoy "working" when I am on the trail. I am not afraid to sweat. But if something hurts, it's time to fix that. You don't need to get anywhere, or climb anything.

As I like to say to my wife and hiking partner: "We're on vacation; we can do anything we want."
Balzaccom

check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

User avatar
SSSdave
Topix Addict
Posts: 3085
Joined: Thu Nov 17, 2005 11:18 pm
Experience: N/A
Location: Silicon Valley
Contact:

Re: Learning to Suffer

Post by SSSdave » Sun Jan 17, 2021 3:10 pm

Terminology "suffer" is too broad, implying more than the article addresses. Otherwise the essay has merit especially when focused on endurance sports which normal backpacking need not be. One of the key goals in my own style is to pragmatically reduce discomforts and especially bodily injury while acknowledging some level of discomfort is certain, especially when carrying heavy loads as I do. That noted, it is also true hiking without carrying loads can be discomfort free even hiking uphill if fit.

To be clear, discomfort, distress, unpleasantness includes pain. One learns to tolerate bodily physical discomfort especially strenuous exertion over enduring periods for the sake of goals. I felt the same way this morning while jogging around my urban block. As I ran around each street, I knew unlike running a few miles, the exerting discomfort would end in just a few minutes so was easy to endure. There was no lasting pain after stopping. Much exercise with a goal of improved fitness should be like that. Likewise in the backcountry, each day that we jump momentarily into cold water, we endure the brief unpleasantness because we know in balance, a few minutes later we will be so glad we did feeling clean and refreshed, so much better.

Different is when one over-stresses body parts like feet causing injuries like blisters, that we then with purpose continue using painfully. That is where the author's suffering comes in though as noted that is not inherent. A goal ought to be to reduce such as much as practical instead of accepting such as inevitable. The latter attitude is not likely to result in an enduring enthusiast. In any case if one backpacks long enough over decades, there will be times when one does injure their body and then needs to endure effort and pain returning to a trailhead. As one becomes older, the consequences of stubbornly pushing after injuries arise to complete challenging goals also may result in increasing permanent impairments. Consider all those middle aged with knee and back problems, each with stories of youthful abuse.

User avatar
Lumbergh21
Topix Expert
Posts: 467
Joined: Mon Oct 31, 2016 10:11 pm
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

Re: Learning to Suffer

Post by Lumbergh21 » Sun Jan 17, 2021 10:55 pm

I don't think suffering is a part of hiking, not even thru hiking. It's not a sport. Distance running, ultramarathons, cycling, those are all endurance sports and suffering is necessary to win. But, what is winning when backpacking?

Discomfort is typically a part of backpacking, but true suffering is not necessary. I had participated in highschool atheletics and continued playing organized and pick-up basketball through college; I was somewhat driven. I took that attitude with me when I started backpacking. However, the first day after picking up my resupply at MTR and continuing south on the JMT, I had a talk with myself about what I was doing. That is when suffering stopped being a necessary component of hiking for me. I still push myself from time to time to see where my limits are, and I have nights and days where I would say I may even be suffering. But, I don't accept that suffering is a part of hiking, and I look to reduce or even eliminate discomfort as I am able.

By the way, listening to the Jocko Podcast (Jocko Willink) and Cleared Hot Podcast (Andy Stumpf), the guys who they saw making it through Navy Seal BUDS training weren't the stud atheletes, they were the mentally tough people who wouldn't quit and could suffer. If you've ever seen or heard the stuff that they do in BUDS or the injuries that people get while in BUDS, that is suffering.

User avatar
Teresa Gergen
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 93
Joined: Thu Jan 20, 2011 12:47 pm
Experience: N/A
Location: Boulder, CO

Re: Learning to Suffer

Post by Teresa Gergen » Mon Jan 18, 2021 8:11 am

I'm not sure most of the responses here even understand the point of the article. A better word than "suffer" is "grit." You cannot achieve great goals that require intense physical activity without having a ton of grit, and, if you have grit, you can achieve great physical goals even if you are not an elite athlete - that's her point. And it's spot-on. People do whatever they do outdoors for any number of reasons. The vast majority of those people are not doing those things to achieve goals that mean everything to them. Those people are not going to want to suffer, and are going to want to stop if they're not having fun. That's totally fine. But if you are very goal-oriented and your goals involve intense physical activity, you will develop grit or you will give up.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google Adsense [Bot] and 11 guests