It Never Gets Easier

Never Gets Easier

Earlier this month, I wrote an article about the suck that is felt when pushing yourself through a challenging workout. There is no other way to describe the feeling that’s experienced when pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone. To put it bluntly, it sucks. There is no joy, just an ample dose of physical and mental anguish.

Following my recent article about the suck, one reader left a comment that warrants more attention. It’s packed full of truth and is certainly worthy of a follow up discussion. First, you can read the comment below and then I’ll share my own thoughts.

“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.”

Accept Reality

Speaking as a coach, I’ve never been one to mince words. I don’t sugarcoat anything in the gym. If I’m training you, you will know exactly how I feel. You’re going to get the truth whether you want it or not. And one of the first truths I tell my athletes is that no matter how bad it is on day one, it never gets any easier. It will always be tough. Whatever sucks today will probably suck tomorrow, next month, next year, and forever.

Training to become the best isn’t supposed to be easy or enjoyable. The joy comes after the fact. You are welcome to take pride in your work and celebrate your success, but never be fooled to believe that the process itself is supposed to be fun. Hard work is supposed to be hard. That’s it. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

A Recent Example

Earlier this week, I took an Olympic athlete out for a steep, mountainous run. I don’t think either one of us enjoyed a single step of the session. It’s one of those workouts that is difficult from start to finish, or as we would say, it just plain sucks. There’s no other way to describe it.

Ironically, I took another Olympic athlete out to run the exact same course over 15 years ago. It sucked that day just as much as it sucked yesterday. Nothing has changed in that regard. It was difficult then, it’s difficult now, and it will continue to be for as long we run it.

It doesn’t matter when I run the mountain, it will always be tough. And it’s not just difficult because it is steep. More importantly, it’s difficult because I’m always going to push myself to do the best that I can.

Therefore, even though I might run faster today than I did 15 years ago, I’m still pushing myself to the best of my ability. That doesn’t change whether I’ve become a better runner or not. As long as I do the best that I can, I’ll always be challenged.

When you give everything you have, it doesn’t matter what you started with. You still have nothing left when you’re finished. That holds true whether you are a beginner or a seasoned professional. If never feels easy to give everything you’ve got.

Final Thoughts

I’m not writing this article to suggest that we don’t have fun in the gym. As hard as we work, there’s certainly times when we joke around and have fun. I hope that this entry doesn’t suggest otherwise.

The real point that I’d like to convey is that hard work will always be hard. It’s not supposed to be easy. And while that might sound like common sense, I’m always amazed at how many athletes have been fooled to believe otherwise. They actually believe the work is supposed to get easier. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

The goal isn’t for the work to become easier, but rather for you to become better. That only happens when you continue to work. Just because what was hard last year is easier today doesn’t mean that the work has gotten easier. It simply highlights the fact that you’ve improved, thus need to work harder.

The sooner you recognize this simple fact, the sooner you’ll stop chasing a fantasy. Hard work will always be hard. Don’t be turned off by this simple truth. Instead, you should learn to embrace it. Know that by continuing to push yourself, you’ll continue to push yourself beyond mediocrity.

That’s all I need to know to keep enduring the suck.

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“You have come into a hard world. I know of only one easy place in it, and that is the grave.” – Henry Ward Beecher

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12 comments:

  1. HI ROSS, AT 65 I TRAIN AS HARD AS EVER AS I DO NOT KNOW ANY OTHER WAY. WHAT HAS HAPPENED OVER THE YEARS IS I LOOK FORWARD TO AND EMBRACE THE DISCOMFORT AS A MEASURE OF THE EFFORT PUT FORTH.

    1. Peter if you read this (and Ross I believe his would be an interesting future topic to discuss and address)-
      How do you deal with the science behind the decay of the human body? What I mean is modern medicine shows that the maximum heart rate capacity declines every 10 years or so- at 23 I would train hard anaerobic boxing sessions with a heart rate of 170 or even 180 at times. Now, in my mid 30s I do cycling and 150s and 160s feel about maximal for me. It’s kind of depressing as I can’t go as hard as I used to or recover as fast. I try not to let ego dictate but it pisses me off and makes me feel bad about myself that I can’t do what I could do at 23. Realistically, I doubt there’s guys in their 50s or 60s training like they did (and I mean exactly like they did or even more volume) than they were in their teens and 20s. I’m not trying to be disrespectful or negative to the aging as we will all age in time, I’m just saying (for me at least) it sucks that I can’t perform like I used to. I used to harbor a little bit of contempt for my old boxing coach as a teen because at times he would just sit around the gym when he could’ve been hitting the bags too but he was mid 40s and a decent amateur fighter in his youth and I’m pretty sure hitting the bags all out like he did in his youth as a middle aged man wouldve depressed him somewhat as probably would’ve known he wasn’t as high a performing of an athlete as he used to be.

      So, I guess the main idea here for consideration here is-how do we take ego out of the equation and remain positive while training in the face of our own mortality via the aging process? Tony Robbins types say you’re limitless and can do anything at anytime but how many 60 year old UFC or pro boxing champs are there? There’s plenty of 24 year olds and not even hardly any guys in their 40s fighting let alone dominating global ranks as champions. Some of that positive thinking stuff (while good in many ways) is too Pollyanna at times.

  2. It doesn’t get easier, but it does get a lot more fun. I mean maybe it’s just me but bench pressing 2 plates is a lot more fun than bench pressing 1 plate ever was!

  3. Recently I’ve found my workouts draining. Not mentally, but physically.. I despise the last few reps. To get around this, I have started alternating excercises and even muscle groups. So I will do bench press 1 set, 1 set of rows.. and repeat until I’ve done 3 sets of each. It feels like it makes the time go a bit faster!

  4. I just turned 49 and started working out when I was 15. It never gets easier. My son is a collegiate level basketball player and the level of training from high school to college was a major jump which he has expressed to me. My reply to him is “embrace the suck”. When others fear it, or are beaten by it, you embrace it. Great article Ross, of course, that is what I have come to expect from your website. Thank you.

  5. That Perfection is unobtainable is no excuse not to strive for it.

    It is so good to read your posts, Ross. I for one am always grateful for your shared experience and knowledge AND the shared thoughts and comments of your followers. It’s good to know all of you exist.

    I for one am somewhat exhausted with the ‘privileged’, ‘victim’, ‘I have a disorder’, ‘offended’ characteristic traits. It brings a degree of peace knowing there are those out there who believe personal success is earned through hard work.

  6. I’m a 57 year old female. I was a gymnast and hurdler in high school. But, I can honestly say I’m in so much better shape now than I was then. It’s an attitude. I took my athleticism for granted when I was young. Now, I find I love to work out because it makes me feel strong and good(after the workout). I do a lot of bodyweight exercises and it does suck during the workout. But I’m at a point where pain is not gain for me. My first rule of exercise is, don’t hurt youself. Second rule is, have fun. The feeling of giving each rep my all is what makes my workout fun.

  7. Great advice. I think far to many of us forget just how much you have to sweat to get where you want to be. To much of the fitness industry is about ‘inspiration’ and trying to make people feel good about themselves. But at the end of the day, you are right. Hard work means persistent and grueling work.

  8. I completely agree that the training doesn’t get easier physically, for me it’s definitely getting harder as my fitness and training methods evolve. However my attitude and mental toughness has drastically improved (over years) which makes it seem easier to do the hard work. Just a point for beginners – if you persist with training you will adapt to it, increase mental toughness, and in this way it does get easier.

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