Whether you’re racing Cross or enjoying the “off-season,” you have to embrace the suck.
Embrace the suck, verb
To continue activity regardless of mental or physical taxation.
The other day I was doing lactate threshold work with five minutes at VO2 Max sprinkled in. In other words, doing a challenging workout at 5:00 AM.
I woke up at 4:30 AM to get this 90-minute session in before going to work. Gulping coffee as I filled out my High Performance Planner and marking goals for the day, I worked on amping myself up for the upcoming challenge.
My legs didn’t feel ready, or was that just my mind playing with me? I definitely didn’t have enough coffee for this.
Zwift loading, I busted out ten-minutes of core.
Two minutes at FTP followed by 30 seconds at VO2 Max. Repeat four times.
Okay, this sucks but it’s doable.
Five-minute recovery. Go again.
Focus on something else. Try to catch the next Zwifter.
Ten-minute recovery. Next: five minutes at VO2 Max.
I can do this right? Nope, no. Thirty seconds is hard enough. Stay close to the number at least. Only three more minutes left.
This is the longest two minutes of my life. Is my power meter off? Surely, I’m pushing harder than it shows. Thank Bob, a break.
Embracing the suck is doing something that’s hard. It’s not quitting when it gets tough. It’s pushing even harder when your mind wants to give up.
Convince your mind you can do the thing and your body will follow.
When I want to stop, I tell myself my competitors are likely making it through their intervals. Beating my competition is my biggest motivator to embrace the suck.
I race against some hardcore cyclists so I know their off-season isn’t a time to kick their feet up until December 31st. If I’ve learned anything about them this past season, they’re probably doing even harder sessions than mine.
Embracing the suck is telling your mind to shut up, or if you’re Jens Voigt, you’re telling your legs to shut up. Or, if you’re Chloé Dygert-Owen, you’re turning off your mind-body connection and annihilating anything that comes across your path.
To be the best, you have to act like it. You can’t develop a new version of you if you always stay in your comfort zone. Embracing the suck is peeling back the layers to the raw you and improving that.
It means waking up before the sun, squeezing in workouts in your free time, or staying up when everyone’s fallen asleep. It means honoring your goals and doing the work – no matter how hard – to reach them.
Embracing the suck means failing. Again and again. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll want to give up. You’ll choose something less important to avoid hard work. You’ll second-guess your goals and choices. You’ll make excuses.
But then you’ll hit numbers you haven’t hit before. You’ll PR segments. You’ll lift heavier. Swim faster. Your FTP will increase. You’ll be faster, stronger.
When you embrace the suck, you’ll stop making excuses. Your mind will be resilient. Your body will be tough.
Embracing the suck is hard. Not everyone can or will do it. But those that do, rise above the rest.