Embracing the ‘Suck’
By Luis Leonardo
Roth, Germany – Saturday, July 9th, 2,000, I am at mile 68 of the bike portion of Ironman Europe, my very first Ironman race. I am twenty years old and life is giving me my very first real dose of “Embracing the Suck” type of reality.
What was supposed to be a beautiful summer day of racing, has turned into a very cold, rainy, windy survival of the toughest, type of race. The best part of it, is that I am wearing a two piece triathlon outfit that is made for hot conditions; no extra layers, no gloves, and my body temp is quickly dropping. I struggle feeling my fingers, and can no longer squeeze my bottle of nutrition to get more calories in my failing body.
Everything in my mind is giving me excuses and reasons to stop racing, drop out, and I am starting to believe this will be a great choice to do at this point. I pull to the side of the road, slap my face hard a few times, and I quickly tell myself, you are not going to quit today, Luis. Go, focus on getting to the next mile, embrace the conditions as there is nothing else you can do. Stop hating the cold, and make amends with it and keep moving. Quitting today is not a phrase I am allowed to tell myself anymore today.
I’ve had just signed a mental contract with myself, in that very moment, that took care of the rest of the day for me. I choose to stay positive no matter what and I was not going to stop moving until I get to the finish line. Fast forward 44 more miles on the bike and 26.2 miles of running, and I proved to myself in that day, that the mind is the strongest muscle we have in our body. We have the capacity to let our mind push us over any obstacle we encounter in life.
Fast forward 19 years to today
I like to look back and realize the experience I endured during my first ironman triathlon back in Germany, set the foundation to how I see life today. Life has been full of ups and downs and I am not expecting this cycle to stop until I die. I continue to see the challenges lining up in front of me today and I can see clearly how it always boils down to two simple choices: You either sit and complain at the next challenge that comes your way, or you embrace whatever it is in front of you. No matter what, you continue giving it your very best with a positive attitude. It is that simple, the two choices are always in front of us.
It is that simple approach to understand that I only need to make a real personal commitment to myself to go after challenges in life. Like opening my own business, riding a single speed bicycle for 2,700 miles in 27 days across the US to fight human trafficking, developing my own line of fitness inventions, holding a 30 minute plank to raise money for victims of sex trafficking, or opening a new website to offer my workouts to the world! I’ve made a choice with every one of those items to go for it! I vowed not quit if/when things turn ugly. I am currently in the heart of the journey with some of those items, but regardless of how hard or how easy some of them might be, I’ve made a choice back at the start of each one of them to simply go and do it. As long as I believe in myself, I don’t need the approval of others to follow my heart and continue to embrace life as it comes. We all are racing our own race regardless of where we are in life, and we all have the choice to either embrace it or not. With all of my heart I believe that whatever it might be that we face, if we stay positive and if we have hope, that we will endure the challenge, we will do just that. Life just tastes far better when we give ourselves permission to embrace the good, and the bad, with a positive attitude.
You can even boil it down into a simple workout. Picture yourself in the heat of a tough workout. Everything in your mind and body is telling you to stop. It’s too painful, I am out of breath, I feel weak, my heart and lungs are going to explode! In that very moment, instead of focusing on the bad, and quitting, embrace that pain – know the benefit that will come from it – and embrace the ‘Suck’. That very moment might suck, but if you embrace it, and get through it, you will feel on top of the world. There are other ways to help build your ability to better Embrace the ‘Suck’ too. I have outlined mine below.
Ways I embrace the ‘Suck’ of what life throws at me
Here is a list of things I try to do on the daily basis that I believe keep me healthy and looking forward to the next challenge. Most importantly, these items help me taste real life a little bit better each day. They are simple, free and full of power:
-I am a Christian, and like to start and end my day connecting with God. I try to always put “the load of my life” in God’s hands and I choose to trust him by taking things off my shoulders and giving them to him. Even if you are not religious or spiritual, you can find ways to meditate, speak with friends, or anything to help ‘lift the load’ before it gets too heavy.
-I take only one day at a time. I can die at any given moment and I just don’t know when that moment will reach me. With that said, life is simple, we all only get one day at a time. So focus on today, the now. Each day is a gift, and as long as you are here, you have a purpose – live it to the very best!
-I take cold showers. Yes, I know! You might think I am delusional. But this simple practice allows my body to experience something that is not pleasant. Right after I am done with the shower, everything else is way better in life. Even if you had a bad day, if you can get through a cold shower, you just won. Plus, I believe this simple practice, has helped me not get sick very often. I’ve only had one cold in the last 4 years!
-I do intermittent fasting. I have discovered how much better I feel, how much more energy I get, and how simple nutrition can be. I don’t have to think 24/7 about when is the next meal is, one less thing to worry or stress over. Most days of my week, I only eat during a 3 hour window of time at night and I am so in love with how simple and powerful this style of eating is. Intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone, but it works for me. Find what works for you with nutrition, and it will pay huge dividends.
-Similarly to cold showers, I let myself get cold. I am from Guatemala and living in Minnesota is a very hard contrast from where I grew up. I have learned that I don’t need to be fighting with the cold winters here in MN, I embrace that ‘Suck’. Getting a dose of cold to my body is very good for my health and makes me appreciate having warmth even more. I simply walk in and out of my car without extra layers and I keep my jacket in the car for whenever I will be facing the cold for longer periods of time. I don’t fight or say I hate the cold anymore, I simply like to tango with it, and we have become very good friends. I do respect the cold and I know how powerful it can be, but small doses of it during each day, actually makes me taste life even more!
-I like to focus on helping others. I am a personal trainer, so I get to do this via fitness, but I also like to focus on other people aside from fitness, and how I can help them. The reality of this simple approach: Every time I can focus on helping someone else, I get to stop focusing on my own needs, and often times I get to see all the different changes we all face in life. If we can compare our problems with different problems of the world, we get to see how small or insignificant our problems can be. If we can all focus more on the others, and less in ourselves, the world will be a better place.
-Perhaps the biggest way and test of Embracing the ‘Suck’ – I try to exercise often. If I have time and energy, I like to do a longer type of a workout. If I am too busy, and I know I need to get a workout, I do something short and simple. I dislike when people make the excuse that they don’t have time to workout. You don’t need a gym and you don’t need equipment; if you just start moving and putting some thought and effort to moving your body, you quickly will feel how simple exercise can be. That’s one of the principles Tr3s Method was founded upon! Just like a dog that needs to go for a walk, we all need to move, it does not need to be a full hour each day. It can be 5, 10, or 15 minutes in one day, or several short mini workouts during the day. Just move! We are all made to move and these days everything around us make is us too comfortable. If you work in a building, walk up and down the stairs. When you go to the store, park further away in the parking lot. Always seek more opportunities to move your body and quit making excuses. It all adds up at the very end of each day.
Consistency and living out of my own comfort zone is the way I have learned to “embrace the suck” and take life as it comes. Life tastes better with this approach!