Embrace the Suck. Stephen Madden-reviewed

Embrace the Suck. Stephen Madden-reviewed

This book is about resilience, it’s about getting fit, it’s about loving ourselves and our families, it’s about facing pain in the face and punching it in the throat. It’s a book most of us could learn from. Surprisingly, it’s also a book about love. 

Stephen Madden was the editor of Bicycling magazine, an industry leading rag that meant he had to be in shape. The magazine is part of the industry and while it reports on the news of the cycling community, offers training advice and motivation/encouragement, it also sells things. Like any magazine. Madden had to be fit as he test rode bikes every year that were worth more than his little Mazda. In fact, he rode over 4000 miles a year (almost 6500kms for us Canadians). I am sure I needn’t say any more about his fitness level.

And yet…he tells the story about how one day while lying on the couch watching football his phone rang. It wasn’t one of these life changing calls from a doctor.

The phone call changed his life because he realized he couldn’t do the sit-up he needed to and so had to use his arms to help him up off the couch.

He could bike for hours and hours but he couldn’t do a single sit-up.

He needs to fix this and much of the book is the story of his entrance into Crossfit, a very intense workout regime that has a strict diet associated with it and daily work outs meant to leave you crushed. He went to boot camps and all sorts of facilities and events. The descriptions of the exercises and the pain involved in them is pure sports writing gold. 

At first Madden isn’t certain why he is going to such lengths just to answer a phone. “just what the F*&K was I doing here? What was a I trying to prove, and to whom was I trying to prove it?” It’s a question any athlete is bound to ask at some point as the pain sets in, or, more likely, just before a workout when the athlete must overcome fear and dread and take the step into the workout. Madden thinks it through, “I was hoping to find some other, larger truth in all this. I was nearing fifty, and I was feeling weird.”

One of the truths he earned is that Crossfit, and regimes like it, prepare a person for whatever life is going to throw at them. Nothing else today will be as painful as the workout of the day, and if it is you will get through that too.

At one point during a year-end event he is asked “what’s the most important thing you learned this year?” Even the instructors know that more than physical fitness is going on whenever an athlete strives to push their limits:

“Love is the answer, sir” Divine scares me, staring at me through the murk of a February night. He must think I am putting him on or being a wise guy. Who talks to a Navy SEAL about love? He’s gonna make me do another lap with the rock. And you know what? That’s okay. At this point, I know I can do it. I can take anything he wants to dish out. I’d rather not, but I can if I have to. I’m fine with it. Because at this point, I know my answer is right. Love is the answer. If I didn’t love my family, why would I have done this? And if I didn’t love myself, how could I have done this/ He’s still looking at me. “Outstanding, Madden. Outstanding.”

There is much pain in self-improvement. There is much camaraderie. There are many sacrifices to be made by everyone in the family. There is love.

If only Stephen Madden could know the love of God! If only he could know that in the eyes of the Most High he doesn’t need to justify himself, prove himself, or punish himself. If only he knew that God loves him whether he can do a sit up or not…then again, maybe he does, and he doesn’t let that stop him from pursuing fitness with a passion and setting an example for all of us. 

If you want to work on your fitness you are most welcome to join us Saturday May 6 2017 as we run 6k and raise money for a water project in Africa. To join us or support us please click here.   


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