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