There is a point during any given CrossFit workout that I (somewhat) affectionately refer to as “The Suck.” The Suck is that place in which body parts are screaming at you to stop, and you’re certain you will never take a full breath again. Your legs are burning. Your grip is failing. Your shoulders have seemingly stopped working. The Suck is a dark place.
The Suck tends to happen around the midway point – that third round out of five or sixth minute out of twelve. You start the WOD off strong. The timer counts down, your hands wrap around the barbell, and you GO. Even when you’re pacing yourself – 12 minutes in CrossFit time feels like an hour – you still GO. Your adrenaline is pumping and you’re trying to beat – something. Your previous score on the workout, the person beside you, your own mind games.
But then The Suck happens. You consider quitting. Letting the barbell fall to the ground and sprawling on the gym floor until the burning goes away and your breath comes back. But, you don’t quit and by the last round or the last minute, it becomes a matter of finishing. Some other neurological factor kicks in and you start to think “one more round” “just 10 more cleans and a 400m run to go” “only sixty seconds left.” Your cleans may have lost some of their integrity and the 400m time has decreased over the first round, but you finish.
The Suck isn’t a fun place. You find your dark place during The Suck. You fight the burn, the fatigue, the will to quit. Some days, it might even be easier to quit than to keep pushing through The Suck with the promise of relief just a few more minutes or rounds or reps ahead.
I realized something about The Suck the other day, though.
It’s not contained to CrossFit.
The Suck seeps into our day-to-day lives and tries really hard to take up residence there.
Most days, I’m sure opening a barre studio is what I’m meant to be doing in this season of life. Even while putting together IKEA furniture and unwrapping 100+ dumbbells – each one individually wrapped in its own plastic bag and complete with a sticker wrapped around the middle – the studio just feels right.
But then there are days when the brand new, barely walked on hardwood floor is popping up, the door hinge breaks, and you learn the contractor lost the key to the toilet paper holder that’s bolted to the bathroom wall so you can’t actually put toilet paper on the spindle. Already frustrated, you go on Instagram and start comparing yourself to other businesses. You look at your sales and wonder why you aren’t already a millionaire. You think of one more thing to do, one more thing you need to buy, one more thing you somehow need to fit into the day.
You get sucked into The Suck.
But they fix the floor and the door the next day. The maintenance manager is a saint of a man and shows up with a key to the toilet paper holder he pilfered from an empty unit down the way. A client calls to ask about your Grand Opening packages. People sign up for your very first class. It’s not a full class, but there is more than one person in it, and while your desk won’t be in place and the audio won’t be mounted, there will be people in the studio and the desk will be in place and the speakers on the walls by Grand Opening.
The sun starts to peek through the clouds and The Suck retreats.
The Suck can show up when it’s least expected. At least in CrossFit, you somewhat expect The Suck. You look at the WOD and know if it plays to your strengths or if it’s going to be one you have to dig deep to push through. In life, we don’t know the midpoint. We don’t know when our routine drive to work will end in a car crash, when our annual check-up might reveal news we don’t want to hear, when our once incredible relationship no longer adds value to our lives.
In the midst of recovering from car accident injuries, deciding on treatment options, or wrestling with whether or not to let a relationship go, we find ourselves in those dark places. Where pain and worry and sadness take over. Days feel long, nights longer. We hurt, we fret, we cry.
The Suck doesn’t last forever though. It might feel like it. 5 rounds of Nancy truly is a lifetime. 8 minutes of push presses and burpees-over-the-barbell lasts forever. But, the last round or the last minute happens, and you’re done. Your injuries heal, your doctor’s treatment plan begins to work, your broken heart begins to heal.
There’s a secret about The Suck.
The Suck is where the magic happens.
Days when you’re sitting on your studio floor ugly crying because you just. cannot. get. the. shelf. together. (you weren’t actually crying over the shelf) are the days when growth happens. When you feel like you can’t breathe and your legs feel like jello, but you’ve still got another 400m run and 15 overhead squats to go (looking at you, Nancy), that’s where change is happening. Physical change, to be sure, but I’ll spare you the science of what’s happening in your body during The Suck. It’s the mental change – that learning to persevere, to push through, to get comfortable with the uncomfortable – that we find the most growth in.
Embracing The Suck is hard. It’s easier to quit during The Suck. To throw our hands up rather than run another lap around the building or tighten still another screw. Ignore the recommended rehab exercises after that car accident (because they hurt) or stay in a pseudo version of a relationship (because endings hurt). Quitting is easier than putting your arms around The Suck and making friends with it.
The Suck sucks. But it changes us for the better.
If you’re in the middle of The Suck right now, embrace it. Know there’s a lesson to be had, and brighter days to come.
When you find yourself in the midst of The Suck down the road, take a deep breath, welcome it in, and move through it.
When you’re on the other side of it – whether that’s sprawled on the floor post-WOD or walking out of the doctor’s office post cast – pause for a moment and realize you’re on the other side of it and appreciate what you learned.
And if you see me whining about running another 400m (because I will, pot, meet kettle), remind me that it’s just The Suck and on the other side of it, I’ll be in a little better shape, a little more aerobically capable, and even a little teeny tiny infinitely small bit better at running.
You don’t have to like The Suck. But we all have to go through The Suck, in some shape or form, from time to time. May as well breathe through it, learn from it, and come out better for it.