No Pain No Gain (by Claire Sykes)

12 October 2017

At the age of nineteen I discovered the sport of rowing. It was a harsh way into the world of fitness and “getting into” a competitive sport, to keep oneself out of mischief.

Three times a day, running, rowing plus hours at the gym, I was actually thriving on the experience and I seemed to have a natural affinity for trying to squeeze as much as possible into my life, I was young and I was bullet proof and I wanted loads of gain, and it didn’t matter about the pain. This mantra was on the changing room wall of our changing rooms. So why, in my new found life full of vitality and strength would I have wanted to think any different.

I wanted to wear that badge of honour!

I took it and ran…

This set me up for a year or so and then led me straight into a fantastic world of endurance racing, which I guess for me now, meant anything from 5hrs to 5 days! This included both team and individual races. Running, cycling, kayaking adventures with elements of travel and survival added in for the challenge. Living, working and training hard in the outdoors was a great lifestyle of which was both satisfying and rewarding.

Reflecting back over many years of multisport, and on many questions and discussions around fitness levels, being female, diet, dealing with pain, hallucinations, sleep deprivation, fatigue…. How much exercise is too much…and the big question…”why do you put your body through this stuff!!??”

Recent research suggests the spiritual aspect of the athletes during endurance competing, plays an important role in successful management of themselves and finding a balance to cope with the ongoing challenges of the above.

This is indeed a very valid on-going discussion, and much of this balance comes with experience and age. There are also many other ways to achieve the success of enjoying the challenging aspects of adventure racing.

For me a healthy body that connects with the mind and the spirit, is an ongoing theme in my life and probably should be for us all. The results of this learning come into fruition especially when times are challenging.

Endurance events… however long they are, or whoever is competing, at what level, there nearly always, comes usually at the end is retrospective satisfaction, plus the excitement and enjoyment. This is a clear indication of body and mind tied together and working in unison.

I can now look back inside the concrete changing rooms of my old rowing club with fondness, and I think to myself  “I certainly got the gains but did I need all the pain?”…

Claire Sykes lives in Motueka, where she runs a small and busy gym based from home. Adventure racing, Waka paddling, working and playing in the outdoors mainly in the top of the South Islands’s National Parks has been the best part of 20 years. When she is home she practices health and natural healing, coupled with eating as organically as possible from the garden and creating food from scratch. Enthusiastic on the subject of Health and Fitness she believes we need to strive to be the best we can be!  Contact author:

Back to Articles