Over the years, I’ve met a great many people who understand the “how to” of losing fat and building muscle. But they’re still out of shape and unfit.
That’s because they lack, in military parlance, a willingness to embrace the suck.
Knowing how to do whatever it is that you want to do is one thing. Actually doing it is something else entirely. Without a willingness to embrace the suck, knowledge by itself won’t get you very far.
So what does embracing the suck mean exactly?
What Does Embrace the Suck Mean?
To “embrace the suck” means accepting or even appreciating something that is extremely unpleasant but unavoidable.
Building muscle and losing fat will often require doing things that aren’t fun, easy or comfortable. Embracing the suck means accepting that fact.
It means getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. You acknowledge that what you’re doing is hard, but you do it anyway.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
A while back, I decided to go mountain biking in the Sierra Nevada, a mountain range in southern Spain.
It involved six days of cycling slowly up a number of very steep mountains, then going down the other side considerably more quickly.
On day one, I began to wonder what the **** I’d gotten myself into.
After several hours of cycling, the climb got so steep and technical that I had to get off my bike and walk. It was hot as well – somewhere around 35 degrees C (95 degrees F). Some of the climbs were so steep and narrow that you had to pick the bike up, put it across your shoulders and walk.
Then I got cramp. Every step I took, my quads cramped up. I kept thinking:
“What on earth am I doing here? This is supposed to be enjoyable. We’re only half way through day one, and already I want to throw in the towel.”
The Day I Failed to Embrace the Suck
When I got back to the hotel room, I immediately started looking for flights home.
I had completely failed to embrace the suck. I was expecting it to be easy. And when it wasn’t, I started looking for a way out.
It wasn’t until I decided to accept the fact it was going to be hard, that I was able to rid my mind of any thoughts of jumping on the next plane home.
It was a tough six days of mountain biking. Which is why making it to the end of the week felt so satisfying. The journey was hard, but the payoff was worth it.
Embracing the suck also means accepting that the path to physical greatness will be filled with obstacles. Things are going to go wrong.
There’ll be times when you’d planned to go to the gym, but work gets in the way. Times when you’re driving home from work tired, frazzled, and hungry, and you end up taking an unplanned detour to McDonald’s.
When the inevitable happens, it’s a good idea to have a “plan B” up your sleeve, ready and waiting. The idea is that you detail every obstacle you might confront, and come up with a solution ahead of time.
What are you going to do if there’s some kind of crisis at work, and you don’t have time to follow your regular training program?
How are you going to deal with an attack of the late-night munchies?
Make sure you have it all written down and planned out in advance. The more options you have up your sleeve the better.
Getting (and staying) in shape is hard work.
It will involve doing things that you find hard, boring, or uncomfortable. Many of those things will need to be done on a regular basis, whether you like it or not.
There will be challenges. Obstacles. Times when you feel like throwing in the towel.
The process isn’t always going to be enjoyable, but the end result will be worth it.
So be prepared for things to get difficult. Plan for them. When they do, just get your head down, put one foot in front of the other, and keep on moving.
Very few people get where they want to be without a lot of hard work, and a willingness to embrace the suck.
SEE ALSO: THE MUSCLE BUILDING CHEAT SHEET
If you're fed up spending hours in the gym with nothing to show for it, then check out The Muscle Building Cheat Sheet.
It's a "cut the waffle and just tell me what to do” PDF that tells you exactly how to go about building muscle. To get a copy of the cheat sheet sent to you, please click or tap here to enter your email address.
ABOUT THE AUTHORChristian Finn is the nation’s leading authority on science-based, joint-friendly ways to build muscle. A former "trainer to the trainers," he holds a masters degree in exercise science, and has been featured in or contributed to major media on two continents, including the BBC and Sunday Times in the U.K. and Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness in the U.S.