I was never really an athlete in my younger days. Sure, I played some flag football, played some pickup games, and the rest. But dedicated, hard-going, competitive and cooperative training? Not so much.
The shame is that I missed something most athletes know: the bond of friendship that comes from shared action.* Acquaintances who sweat together become friends, and friends who sweat together grow closer.
As I’ve picked up more physical workouts (primarily running) this year, I’ve gotten to experience this profound connection firsthand.
There are few filters when you’re working so hard and going so fast. It’s almost intimate. You share your weakness and your strength with your fellow athlete.
You receive encouragement and guidance, or you give it, or you do both. You come to see your success as tied to theirs – you really (for a moment there) “love your neighbor as yourself”. There’s no way you’re stopping this run before you finish, and there’s no way you’re finishing this run without your running partner.
Then there’s the feeling of shared exhaustion and shared (earned) rest. And maybe it’s because you get to share your exhaustion with someone else – someone who feels how you feel – that the rest after a hard workout session with a friend feels so good.
If you want to rekindle an old friendship, start a new one, or go deeper into one you have, go for a long, hard run. Spend an hour sparring. Or take a grueling hike. Just work hard with someone else.
*I’ve found this in my latter days through very hard business situations.