Embrace the Suck: What the Army Taught Me About Fitness

Embrace the Suck: What the Army Taught Me About Fitness

It was chow time, 17:00 hours, in BCT (Basic Combat Training), and my platoon was standing in formation waiting our turn to process into the chow hall.  To make the wait for food even worse, the Drill Sergeant screamed at us to drop into the front leaning rest position (basically a plank pose on your hands) while one of us had to jump up, sing the first portion of the Army song, and then resume the front leaning rest position again.

As our arms began to shake, Drill Sergeant Nelson yelled “Embrace the suck, Privates! Embrace the suck!”

This mantra, “Embrace the suck!”, would come to be one of those “Ah-ha!” lessons the Army taught me because I was never what one would call an athlete. Often times my petite self was picked last or near last for any sporting event in school, and although I was scrappy on the soccer field, I was never going to be the star player. 

When I enlisted in the Army, I (to drive the point home) sucked at PT (Physical Training). My arms shook with each push-up, my legs wanted to fall off after running an hour of 60/120 sprint drills, and the sheer exhaustion of it all often got the best of my mental state. 

“Embrace the suck, Private!”

I heard that phrase yelled at me constantly. Constantly. And it began to work. I found myself embracing all the suck. The Army was changing my mentality and self-confidence for the better.

My arms could power me through more and more pushups. My legs began to build stamina and pushed through longer and longer runs. I stopped doubting myself and my abilities and instead “embraced the suck” of it all. I couldn’t change my circumstances (after all, I volunteered for this), but I could change my attitude.

Fast forward to now, twelve years later, and I “embrace the suck” daily. I may not be the fastest runner but by changing my mindset, I can run far further than most. Marathons, once a very lofty goal, are now one of my favorite challenges to overcome because they are the epitome of “embracing the suck.” You are going to hurt, you are going to want to quit, and you are going to question your sanity; just embrace it and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

“Embrace the suck, Private!”

 Drill Sergeant Nelson, I took your words (as loud as they were) to heart. And they have served me well.



Kayley Nammari is an Army brat and a veteran of the US Army Reserve where she served in the Intelligence Corps in both an enlisted and officer role. She no longer targets terrorists but instead wrangles her two young sons. While searching for a new handbag, she came upon Sword & Plough’s website and has been using her wool handbag ever since. She now sports a mini tote to hold an assortment of sippy cups, baby wipes, and the occasional book about tractors.


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