Enduring the Suck on the Road to Success

Mountain Running

Anyone who has spent time training with me has experienced their share of steep, mountainous runs. I’ve been taking athletes out to run mountains and hills for as long as I can remember. Such runs are both physically and mentally taxing. I can learn a lot about an athlete by just observing how they respond to the challenge. For example, I’ll quickly see what kind of shape they are in and how they deal with adversity. As a coach, that’s priceless feedback.

There’s one particular road that my athletes know as The Mountain. I’ve never seen anyone get excited about running it. It’s a long, steep road that’s filled with suck. There’s nothing enjoyable about running the mountain. It’s one of those runs where you just can’t wait to be finished. And when you do finally reach the top, profanities usually pour from the mouth. It’s a good thing that the mountain doesn’t have ears as it’s been called every word in the book.

Embrace the Suck

Last week I jokingly shared my post-workout feelings on Twitter after running the mountain.

RossTraining Tweet

Afterward, I received a few messages from people who were surprised to see me utter such words. For instance, one person wrote the following:

“Ross, I thought you enjoyed working out? What’s changed?”

For starters, nothing has changed. Even though I despise every step of the mountain run, I also love it in twisted way. I suppose you could say that there’s a love-hate relationship between me and the mountain. And I believe that relationship is worthy of a discussion.

In recent years, the fitness industry has really shifted its attention towards marketing an easier and faster way. Whatever it is that you want to achieve, there’s always going to be someone who promises an easier way to get there. That’s a mistake.

Personally, I’d rather preach the truth. As I’ve said before, there is no fast or easy way to achieve anything worthwhile. Pushing yourself to the next level often requires that you become comfortable with the uncomfortable. In other words, you’ve got to eventually embrace the suck. You can’t always turn your back on things that are difficult or uncomfortable.

Accomplishment Requires Sacrifice

Over the years, I’ve often stated that I enjoy working out. Certain readers have taken that statement too literally however. The fact that I enjoy training doesn’t mean that each session is filled with smiles and bliss. It doesn’t work that way.

I enjoy working out not because of how I feel during the session. The real joy comes after the fact. That feeling of accomplishment is the ultimate reward. Thus, even though I might loathe every step of the mountain run, there’s a tremendous sense of accomplishment that’s experienced when we reach the top. That feeling is worth all of the pain and discomfort that comes before.

Unfortunately, the fitness powers that be have fooled many people today into believing that they should enjoy every second of every session. Not only are those expectations unrealistic, they are also counterproductive. And I don’t say this to suggest that you shouldn’t enjoy certain aspects of your training. Speaking for myself, there are exercises and activities that I genuinely enjoy. I don’t limit myself to those activities however. I accept that there will be times when I must push myself though uncomfortable places to achieve what I want to achieve.

Don’t expect an easy road if you aspire to excel beyond the norm.

Final Thoughts

Whoever said life is supposed to be easy was wrong. You don’t need a life coach to recognize that life is everything but easy. Every adult in this world has experienced their share of hardship. With that in mind, I believe it’s important to change our perception of adversity. Life’s tough so the best way to deal with it is by making ourselves tougher.

One way to do that is by embracing the suck that arises during certain challenges. Not only will you come out a better person, but you’ll also have a chance to revel in the accomplishments that come after the fact.

Taking the road less traveled won’t always be fun, but it’s often the shortest path towards success. It’s won’t be easy and you’ll pay plenty of tolls along the way, but the journey and results that follow will make it more than worthwhile.

Embrace the suck and keep on grinding.

Related Entry:

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“Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals.” – Jim Rohn

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11 comments:

  1. Hey Ross,
    I’ve been following you for many years but never really post anything. However, when I saw the photo of that hill it blew my mind and I had to respond. That looks exactly like the street I live on and where the photo begins at the top is right about where my driveway is. Looking down the hill my street has the same exact curves…it’s uncanny! I run that hill and totally understand the suck.
    Continuing up the hill from my driveway to the corner of the street is about 60 yards and that is where I do my hill sprints.

    Tommy

  2. I have a very steep hill close to my house where I do hill sprints. When I first started doing them the end of the workout would have me throwing up but now that I am in better shape I am able to do it without feeling sick to my stomach. By pushing myself and improving my mental strength I was finally able to conquer it in under 5 minutes!

  3. I am glad you posted this. Embracing the suck is a big tool for life. Just to share, what helps me is when things get tough think “do not suffer”. What I mean is that it could be a tough workout, or a tough problem at work, or a coworker is causing problems, or you didn’t meet a deadline, or you disappointed someone you care about, or…

    BUT you can choose to think:
    “this will last forever, I suck, I am going to feel bad forever, I will suffer”
    or
    “this is a struggle, struggles are part of being human, I have had other struggles before, this is just a struggle and it will pass, I am lucky to even be alive to experience this, this is not something that can cause me to suffer”

    Something like that.

  4. Words that need to be said. It’s not all transcendental feelings of joy, epiphanies, and self-satisfaction. The pain needs to be acknowledged without self-censorship. It is there, and when you reach a high level of fitness, it doesn’t go away. In fact, it sometimes gets worse–because you can endure it for a longer period of time.

  5. Nice to see some real thoughts and opinions on exercise and fitness, especially from a fitness blog. I think just knowing that its not just you that hits a wall and doesn’t always enjoy exercise, has a more positive effect than you’d think.

  6. Mountain runs seem to be insurmountable but with that kind of “SUCKING” principle, (that’s how you put it and that’s COOL!) I think not only you but also those who will be inspired by your work can do it!

    It’s more fulfilling to achieve more difficult challenges as always!

  7. Pain-pleasure, joy-sadness, hunger-sated – I see it as two ends of the same pole. When you isolate, you ignore the other. You can’t ignore because you’ll forget. You’ll forget and become addicted.

    It’s a wierd feeling – being sad when happy, hungry when full etc. Yin and yanh. What I’ve found when I realised this is that I’ve started to become more disciplined and “feel” experiences in a different way. I don’t believe in “positive” or “negative” so I’m not sure how to describe it.

    A challenging activity is still challenging but I focus on “itself” (the experience itself) and not so much on how it feels.

  8. Hi Ross,

    I’ve been following your training and blog for years nows and would like to contribute my little bit of “suck”. Was diagnosed with sinus cancer in June this year and have been undergoing radiation therapy since early September. I promised myself that no matter what I would train during treatment. So every M/W/F, I put on training clothes, go downstairs to the “gym” and do martial arts and calisthenics for 30-40′ minutes. Does it suck? You bet ya. But at the same time the training keeps me going. It adds fresh air, life and normalcy to otherwise tough days when all I want to do is lay in bed. Still more, training for me is not just about constant stress. In fact, it is the opposite. Training calms the nerves and relaxes the spirit amidst stress — allowing the mind to settle and the body with it. This has helped me more than anything as I pull through a difficult time.

    There is a spiritual dimension to training which reaps benefits beyond anything the physical side of it could ever give.

    Best,

    Jason

    1. Wow, much respect Jason! Awesome that you’re still kicking ass, even in these rough circumstances. That’s very admirable. Good luck with your recovery and all the best to you!

      And for Ross, fantastic and inspiring insights as always!

      Greetings Erik

  9. ‘accomplishment requires sacrifice’ that is certainly what I’m struggling with at the moment. Apart from cycling to work, I’m finding it quite difficult to find the time to exercise, even though I know if i sacrificed some less important things in my schedule, I could do it.

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