Learning to Suffer

By Will Kuenzel

In the past, I had this quote, “pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” I would swear that there was no need to suffer. Suffering was bad. In the context that it’s a treatable issue, I still agree that suffering is not something we should do. However, more recently, I have come to terms with the fact that the option of suffering is necessary for continued growth. A good quote from one of my favorite books/movies, “How much can you know about yourself if you never been in a fight?” Coming from the movie Fight Club, sure we think that it must be a fight, but rephrase it a little and think about the question, “How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never chosen to suffer?” The key is to choose to suffer. You do it for a specific purpose. You know that it has meaning and is a means to an end.

With all this said, I don’t think suffering is the most correct term because going to the gym is a luxury. I’m not tossed into a life or death survival struggle. I get to train, I don’t have to. In this instance, I get the option to choose to suffer. I can just as easily choose not to at any point. I do feel that if I want to get past my comfort zone, there is going to have to be some period of uncomfortableness that will need to be overcome. For a lack of better term, let’s say that I’m going to have to suffer a bit. “But Will, I thought training was supposed to be fun?” Working out is fun. Training is not. Muhammed Ali said, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’”

I’ll admit that somewhere along the way, I stopped choosing to suffer. Workouts got easy. I started to coast. Sure, I was hitting a few of the numbers I wanted, but really I was honestly on autopilot and just working out – I wasn’t training. It’s frustrating to look back and see just how easy I was taking it on myself. I had stopped choosing to suffer. Was I still making progress? That’s debatable. Was I happy? I thought so, or at least temporarily. The more I thought about it, the more I looked at where I was, what I wanted, and what I thought I was capable of, the more pissed off I became. Something needed to change.

Unfortunately, I have a lot of examples of this, but the best example I can give is working in a bench shirt. It sucks. It’s tight. It’s pulling you out of position. Your forearms are cramped. Your elbows are screaming because bicep and tricep movement is restricted by the sleeves. Your hands are going to sleep. A tight shirt is a miserable experience. I’d get 3-4 sets done and then need to get out, or so I thought. Claustrophobia, or pain, or some other silliness would convince me that I needed to get out of the shirt. The quicker I got out, the less time I would spend it in the next time I was in it. It started a negative feedback loop. The relief of getting out was better than the experience of training I had while in it. I found that I would cut a set off, drop the reps, or find an excuse to not even do the training at all. It was quite pitiful.

Other instances weren’t so obvious but started to creep in when I seemingly was unaware. I’d cut sessions short. I’d skip important parts of warming up. I’d spend too much time on my phone. Looking back, I’d find all sorts of shortcuts that I was taking to get to the easy way out. Anything to keep from having to suffer even the tiniest bit. There would be whole sessions I’d skip. Oh sure, I’d give myself what seemed like good reasons. The truth was I wasn’t prepared. Either I hadn’t planned well enough, or I procrastinated just a bit too much. Whatever the reason, training was getting easier and I was getting softer.

I can’t honestly say what lead to my little revelation. Maybe more the fact that progression has all but stalled, but whatever the reason, I’m not letting it continue. They’re relatively easy fixes. The highest priority goes to putting the phone into airplane mode. No Wifi, no texts, fewer distractions. Next priority goes to maximizing the time in gear. I’m cinching it down and getting it competition tight from the start. If I can get in it and last through a training day, I can easily last through a meet. That’s the point of training anyway – making meet day easy. The training days should be more difficult than a meet. Last, but not least, putting my happy ass on a timer for all work, but the main lifts. Two minutes for secondary exercises and 90 seconds (at the most) for assistance work.

I know that training isn’t supposed to be easy. I tell people that exact thing daily. I will flat out tell someone that what they’re about to undertake is going suck. Did I somehow start to feel that this particular aspect of training didn’t apply to me? Maybe. Maybe I was thinking that I had been doing it long enough that it was supposed to have gotten easier. Someone needed to remind me that it only gets tougher, not the other way around.

I’m turning 38 this year. I’ve got 2 young daughters at home. I’ve got every reason to back off training and coast. I’m not going to. Training is only going to get tougher with age and with life. That is in no way, shape, or form going to be an excuse.  I choose to continue to be hard myself. I choose to continue to work hard.  I choose not to quit and gently roll over.  I choose to suffer.


Suffering from back pain is not something you have to endure.  Pick up GOI the manual for athletes to become and remain pain free.

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Low Country Strength

Will Kuenzel is the owner of Lowcountry Strength (www.LowcountryStrength.com) in Charleston, SC. Will started his athletic endeavors as a pole vault; finishing up his collegiate career with a best vault of 16’9” at a whopping 160lbs. He the track and field world to pursue bodybuilding, his first show in 2005, he won 1st place in Men’s Novice as a middle weight. One year later he took 2nd as a Men’s Junior heavy weight. Since 2007 he has been a competitive powerlifter and totaling elite as a 220lber. His best lifts in multiply equipment are a 710lbs squat, a 605lbs bench press, a 615lbs deadlift and a 1930 total. In 2008 Will started Lowcountry Strength out of his garage. Since then it has moved into a 16,000 sq/ft facility and shares space with a mixed martial arts studio. With all disciplines of powerlifting, strongman, MMA, jiu jitsu and other sports in the Charleston area getting trained under one roof, Will heads up the strength and conditioning for a wide variety of athletes and clients.

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