I love to train. Yes, I am one of those people who could and does spend hours training inside and outside of the gym. It could be skill and technique work, strength and power development, or building endurance, it all depends on what my focus is at any given time. I don’t need a specific goal to train hard. However, when I have something to train for, I’m able to focus my training and justify all the suffering that goes along with it. Right now my focus is Denali.
Saying that I Iove to suffer may be a bit extreme, but it’s kind of fitting. Suffering is in the eyes of the beholder, right? Maybe that’s why I find it so fascinating. One person’s idea of suffering is much different than another’s, just like pain tolerance. One person’s 5 is another person’s 9. It’s all relative, which is pretty damn interesting if you think about it. No matter where we fit on the spectrum, we can all learn from one another. We can all learn the art of suffering.
So, how do you learn to embrace the suffering and make the uncomfortable comfortable? Dedication and perseverance. When I say “embrace the suffering” I mean accepting that pushing yourself – physically and mentally – is difficult and not whining about it. I hate whining. Getting stronger, faster, or fitter is hard work for everyone. Whether you’re a National Champion or play recreational Ultimate Frisbee, rock climber or mountaineer, pushing yourself toward a new goal is grueling work. All that being said, accepting that there will be suffering will allow us to focus our energy on training rather than getting stuck in a suffering loop!
I may sound like a bit of a hard-ass, which is kind of true. (Just ask Meredith, she’s climbed with me enough to know that I’m very matter-of-fact, which can come across as being a little gruff at times.) However, I believe everyone has the capability to accomplish great things. I really do! The issue is that some people lack the courage and fortitude to accomplish amazing things with grace (aka, not whining or bragging).
The world of mountaineering requires a little humility and a lot of perseverance. Once you’ve trained your body to carry heavy loads up and down thousands of vertical feet and you’re technical skills are second nature, success in the mountains is determined by your mental and emotional ability to endure. Some people are naturally tough and some people have to work diligently and continuously to manage the mental side of climbing. Not matter what, it’s an art that takes practice.
Choose a goal, work your ass off to accomplish that goal, enjoy the journey (including the suffering), be positive, and surround yourself with supportive people who are also working hard on their own project. We can all learn the art of suffering.