embrace the suck


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Resurrecting this old post as my New Year’s resolution reminder:

“Embrace the suck”: Translation: The situation is bad, but deal with it.

“Embrace the Suck” is a term used by soldiers to describe how they deal with difficult situations. You put your head down and drive on. There is a lot to be said for that mindset. Many people have perished or failed because they simply didn’t drive on that one extra second that their opponent did. The ability to do this is physical and mental. Anybody who reads this blog knows that I believe that fitness is an important aspect of what can be called “the warrior lifestyle” and not just for the improvements it makes in your body. As Mark Rippetoe said “Strong people are harder to kill than weak people and more useful in general” and I agree 100%. Where I may or may not agree with Mr. Rippetoe is why this is so.

I’ve always believed that the real benefit of exercise is in the persons mental development rather than the physical results. Size, genetics and other issues outside ones immediate control will limit the physical advantages you can gain over an opponent through training. Where we all start out on a level playing field is between our ears. Intense exercise, the type that makes your internal dialogue start telling you “this sucks, I cant go on anymore, just slow down, just stop, just quit”…but you don’t…that type of exercise sows seeds that you will reap later when you are fighting for your life and are approaching exhaustion. When your opponent is approaching that same threshold the person who quits is going to loose and reaching that quitting point almost always originates from the mind. Hard exercise, the type that approximates the exertion of a fight will give you a “stress inoculation” that makes all your training effort worth the time.

Military trainers learned this long ago. The point of basic training is part “whipping recruits into shape” but a larger part still is showing them that they can push beyond their self-imposed limitations. A lot of “kids” joining the military have never really been pushed to the point where they have to keep going when their mind is telling them that they cant make it.

I am by no means belittling the “bottom line” importance of measurable improvements in physical strength, endurance or stamina. The body and the mind are a unit and the mental/physical benefits of training cannot be separated and measured. But, if you are pushing yourself to the mental breaking point and following proper exercise and diet protocol, the physical improvement will naturally follow. What I am saying is train hard, but focus on that mental toughness aspect of your training rather than the cosmetic improvements.

Push yourself. REALLY push yourself on occasion. I don’t mean just get sweaty or breathing hard. I mean a “I cant do one more rep, lungs burning, gonna die, mommy I wanna quit” push. You don’t have to do it every workout, but if you are coasting you are cheating yourself. Its not only your body that will benefit, it builds mental toughness that translates directly to fighting.

Change things up. If you are happy and comfortable with your current program, you are likely not getting much out of it anymore. If you hate running, run. If you hate lifting, lift. Change up what you do once you get into autopilot with your exercise.

This opinion of mine is what first attracted me to CrossFit. Instead of the familiar 3 sets of 10 three times a week in the “same old, same old gym”, CrossFit throws some intense GPP style workouts at you mixed in with maximum effort lifts like squats, overhead presses and deadlifts. While I am by no means at the level of people you will find on the CrossFit website, I have noticed measurable improvements in my fitness and I am in my 40’s when improvements begin getting harder to come by, so that’s saying something. Another “embrace the suck” workout is the 100 burpee workout. Even just deciding to do it once you know what you are in for is a mental effort.

So get out there and “embrace the suck”. Next to sparring, its the best thing you can do to improve your martial arts training. It can change your whole outlook on life and your opinion of yourself.  It could be the best decision of your life.

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8 thoughts on “embrace the suck”

  1. Another great post. You’ve inspired me to work through how sick I’m feeling. (From the neck up, I’m not-so-good. From neck down, I’m fine.) So, I guess how lousy I feel “in the head” is just an excuse that I need to work through. Thanks for the kick in the butt I needed! My self imposed 4 week boot camp is back on!

  2. You make a good point about spacing out the ‘gut check’ workouts. People break if they pound themselves against the rock too much.

    Along with mental toughness, I think another benefit is clearing away the false confidence. You know exactly how you size up in a particular fitness/performance realm if you push yourself hard. Without that in your training, you’re probably working with some kind of false assumption that will either undermine your true potential.

  3. Good point, and a true one. Some people who are stuck in the same old, same old workout rut may be under the false impression that they are fitter than they really are. That can come as a nasty surprise at an inopportune time.

  4. MAMom. Good for you. There are varying opinions on working while sick. Most say that “neck up” sick is fine to workout through.

    In a bit of a contradiction…The thing I have found is that when you are doing intense exercise that you have to take a break from it every now and then. When you go back at it off of a short rest cycle it seems like your battery is charged up to really go at it again. You have to be sensitive to what your body is telling you without confusing it with laziness.

  5. We must be operating on the same wavelength Tgace. I just bought a new hat with this very phrase on it. Great post. Back to that warm embrace…

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