The Performance-Enhancing Drug Called Laughter

Note: This post was written by Susan Lacke.

First off, lovely NMAs…goodness, you are fabulous people. I can’t even begin to express how awesome your responses were to my last post. So many of you shared great stories about how you’re helping newbies overcome adversity and join the ranks of runners across America.

I’m not going to lie – it was hard to pick just one person to receive the autographed Bart Yasso book. But Janet Oberholtzer, you rock! Thanks for sharing your awesome story, and good luck to you on your half-marathon!

Everyone else, please don’t think I’ve forgotten you. I think NMAs everywhere are the bomb, and Bart Yasso seems to agree. We’ve got an interview with him in the works…That’s right, people – an interview with the Mayor of Running should be appearing in your computer screen soon. Who loves ya? That’s right. No Meat Athlete does. Stay tuned. Now…let’s get down to serious business: you know, FUNNY STUFF. Read on:

A Laughing Matter

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Just try not to be these two.

I’ve been accused of two things: First, I’m told my jokes about training must mean I don’t take things very seriously. Second, I’m told my attitude in my writing on NMA gives people the false impression that training for an Ironman (or any other athletic endeavor) is easy.

I get it. I really, truly get what they’re telling me. For some people, accomplishing a marathon or Ironman or other endurance event is the crowning glory of their lives. It is a highly intense and emotional experience. For me, a cupcake-eating former chubby girl, to come on to the scene and crack jokes about my experience…well, it could make some people feel like I’m somehow minimizing the hard work they put in toward their high and lofty accomplishment. If I’m not whining about how hard training is and wanting to give up every time I have a hard workout, that certainly must mean I don’t comprehend the gravity of my decision to train for an Ironman.

To the critics, I say this: B-S. Don’t make me spell it out for you further.

(No, really, don’t. The spell-check on my computer is broken.)

I take my training seriously. Very seriously. The blisters on my left foot, the sore calves, the saddle sores, and the sunburn I’m sporting as I type this didn’t exactly come from sitting on my couch watching movies and pontificating on how hot Brad Pitt is (umm, by the way – SO hot. Just sayin’.).

If I’ve given you the impression that training is easy, please read the following disclaimer: Training is not easy. There are days when it flat-out sucks. I do not suggest anyone get off the couch (especially if they’re watching a Brad Pitt movie), declare themselves vegetarian Ironman triathletes, and sign up for a major athletic endeavor because Susan Lacke told you to. Susan Lacke is not an expert, and if you look on Wikipedia, it might even tell you that Susan Lacke is kind of a dork. Furthermore, her contributions to NMA should not be taken as a replacement for advice from someone who actually knows what they’re doing. <End disclaimer>

Laughter is the Best Medicine

It’s important to take a humorous approach to training because…well, heh, the whole thing is kind of funny. Let’s face it. This is self-flagellation, plain and simple. Larry, Moe, and Curly poked each other in the eyes and nyuk-nyuk-nyuked; We do hill repeats. Both involve the infliction of pain in ridiculous ways, and both almost always get a laugh from people who think pain is funny (admit it – you’re one of them.).

Joking about training also helps us cope with this pain. On a run this morning, I faced a brutal incline that makes many people stop and walk, despite their best efforts. While huffing and puffing my way up the hill, I caught up to a girl making the same wincing and contorted face as I.

“This seemed like a good idea before we started, right?” I asked her. She laughed. Though we had never met before, our shared suffering and joint belief that this was a stupid idea somehow made the rest of that hill just a teensy bit more tolerable. Real, true, big-kid scientists with all sorts of impressive initials after their name have confirmed what many of us have known all along: Laughter can dull pain. It really can!

It’s because of this anesthetic effect that we should crack jokes whenever appropriate.

“Funny” doesn’t have to mean “embarrassing.” You can outwardly make yourself (and others) laugh with crazy antics, if that’s your style. You can also keep the jokes in your head and leave everyone wondering why you’re smirking to yourself while you’re running. Everyone will want to know your secret for making running look so…enjoyable. When the going gets tough, the tough giggle.

When my swim coach gives me an insane workout plan, I’m quick to exclaim, “Are you HIGH?” He isn’t. I think.

On long bike rides, I have Bob Roll’s voice running my head, giving commentary on how amazing it is that I’m not only faster than Lance Armstrong, but look ten times better in my spandex.

While running, I pass the time by picking a “theme” of music and singing as many songs of that theme as I can remember in my head. I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve filled a 3.5 hour training run with boy band songs. Don’t judge me. You liked the Backstreet Boys once, too.

It’s Funny Without Even Trying to Be

Some of us willingly get into a bathtub full of ice after every long bike or run. That’s ludicrous! It’s hysterical! That gets a laugh without me even mentioning the fact that I take the cold sting out of the ice bath by re-enacting scenes from “Titanic.” (No, no, Leonardo DiCaprio. Don’t die! You’re too pretty to be killed by an iceberg!)

After hard workouts, there are days when I’ll deliberately select outfits to artfully cover up the recovery compression gear I’m wearing underneath. Sexy Victoria’s Secret lingerie it ain’t…so if anyone knows how to seduce their partner while wearing compression socks, please pass that advice on to me. I could really use it. But until I master that, I have no choice but to find a man with a really good sense of humor.

I’ve heard spouses of endurance athletes complain they think their husbands or wives view sex as just another way to get their heart rate up. In Triathlete-Land, athletes do all sorts of things normally deemed inappropriate in conventional settings, like wear unitard tri-suits and blow snot rockets on the sidewalk. I’ve forgotten to scrub the race numbers off my arms and calves, only to have random strangers at the grocery store ask if there’s a particular story behind my “interesting tattoos.” C’mon – it’s FUN-NY.

In all Seriousness…

I don’t care how stoic your approach to training – you have to admit, the things we do as athletes are seen as ridiculous by the majority of the population, whether they’re athletes or not. We can’t help but laugh. It doesn’t mean we aren’t taking the training seriously or that we’re trying to oversimplify what we do; It simply means we’re having fun. Twisted as it may seem, that’s what this whole self-flagellation shebang is ultimately supposed to be about. I’ve often said my training and my fun must go hand in hand; Otherwise, I’ll find other ways to have fun. Right now, I’m working hard while taking the time to find the humor in all of this insanity. I share this humor with you as a reminder to not take it all too seriously.

The day I stop finding this funny, I’ll park myself back on the couch and fantasize about Brad Pitt. Until then, rest assured – I’m working my butt off, just with a smile. I hope you are, too.



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Comments

  1. Hey Susan! Thank You for being so funny! Your sense of humor is very motivating, and as a new runner. I need all of the motivation that I can get!

  2. This was such a great post. I am definitely printing this one out and hanging it on my fridge. weird.. maybe. ha ha.

    • It’s not weird. Not at all! Just make sure you hang the article in the general vicinity of any sugar-laden treats you might have laying around. My articles are like plants…only instead of sunlight and water, they need cupcakes to stay alive. :)

  3. Ryan Wachter says:

    A prime example is Chrissie Wellington. She races with a permanent smile on her face, laughing all the way during her Ironman competitions and she is unstoppable. After a 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike ride, she can still run a marathon that puts most runners to shame (2:57)

    • At all the Ironman events I’ve attended, I’ve noticed that a significant number of the pros as well as a lot of the age-groupers all are having a great time. I’ve even seen some people go so far as to race while wearing cowboy hats or doing funky dances at aid stations to keep morale up. It’s awesome!

  4. Your posts are so fun to read! It always gets me motivated to get out there and just do it. One of these days I will learn to swim and do a tri and dream of an ironman. For now, I am happy living through you and your posts. You are inspiring and very FUNNY! Keep it up!

  5. So true in all aspects of life, you really need to find the humor in every situation.

  6. Hi Susan,

    I’m always amazed by how seriously some people take all of this. Before the repeats, the heart-rate training, and the meticulous attention to pace we all just ran for the fun of it. You just have to look at a group of kids to see all the pieces that serious runners throw away. Running, and training in general, should be a joy – not a chore.

    If more athletes took your approach to all this, there would be a lot more smiling people out there. Thanks for the great read.

    • I agree, Tim. When people tell me I’m crazy for doing triathlons, I always remind them that when we were kids, our idea of a perfect day was when we woke up and said, “Let’s go the beach and swim! Okay, now I wanna ride my bike! And let’s run around the neighborhood! Ahh, man, the streetlights came on? I don’t wanna go to bed.”

      So really, triathletes are overgrown kids…whether they realize it or not. :)

  7. Wonderful post!!! Training should be fun, even if our sense of fun is completely different than other people’s!

  8. Thank you for writing this :) LOVE IT!

  9. Wonderful post and perfect timing for this new runner too. Thanks!

  10. Susan, I loved this post. It had me laughing the whole time and I totally appreciate the reminder that our training should be enjoyed! Despite its absurdity….

    • Not “despite!” We should enjoy our training BECAUSE OF its absurdity! In fact, I think we should make our training MORE absurd, just to get a couple more giggles out of it. :)

      Glad you liked it!

  11. so if anyone knows how to seduce their partner while wearing compression socks, please pass that advice on to me.

    Isn’t it obvious? Wear the compression socks… and nothing else.

    • I think there’s only two types of people in this world that can pull off that move — supermodels and professional athletes. My cupcake-eating klutzy self does not fall into either category. :)

  12. I dream of one day completing an Ironman. Hopefully before my 40th birthday. (I turned 35 this year.) So far, I have walked 6 half marathons. I found this post very humorous. I also find the humor in things. If I don’t make it enjoyable, I just won’t make it. Thanks for the post.

  13. Love this post! I always tell people to stop and actually enjoy what they are doing! Especially during races, not just training. You’re supposed to love it, that’s why you’re doing it!

  14. Haha I loved this!! “When the going gets tough, the tough giggle.” You should get t-shirts printed with that on there…

  15. Do share that compression sock seduction info if it ever comes your way. After my last marathon, I was on the couch with compression socks, no make-up, and an ice-pack on my right buttock and left shin. I looked at my husband and said, “So. Is my running making me more attractive to you?”

  16. Hilirious!

    I laughed so hard at the section “It’s Funny Without Trying to Be”. Laughter really does dull the pain.

  17. Pat & Rhiannon Lacke says:

    Rhiannon and I both agree. You need to write a book. This is great stuff!

    • Attention, NMAs: This is my father. Yes, even as an adult with a really cool gig writing for a really cool website, I still have my dad doing this stuff, making me want revert back to my adolsecent days and while, “DAAAAA-AAAD! Don’t EMBARRASS ME!” I bet Mark Twain didn’t have to put up with this stuff.

  18. BrooklynGirl says:

    HUH-larious! And if you laugh while doing situps you don’t have to do as many and get better results. ;)

  19. I love your posts!! Thanks for sharing!

  20. Hey!! Thanks for following me on twitter! Love your blog! :)

  21. On especially hot runs here in South Carolina, I LOVE bumping into other runners that are just as crazy and stupid as me – if only just to say “little warm out today, huh?” as we’re both suffering terribly. Hello 102 degrees with humidity!

    Other inappropriate times I laugh – if only to myself:
    ~when dogs of questionable temperment chase me down the street
    ~when one of my own dogs trips me in an attempt to meet (charge full-speed in front of my feet) said dog of questionable temperment, and I have to finish my run bleeding from my palm, shoulder, and road-rashed thigh
    ~when the sky opens up in one of two ways (blazing sun or torrential downpour)

    Yeah, humor!

  22. That is SOOOO Hilarious!!!!! I am getting ready to run a marathon @ 18, and I will have been running for 4 years, and I just needed to re-find my reason for running. Although I probably do like the endorphins (in other words getting high NATURALLY), it is the laughs that I get running with my teammates, or just running on my own and singing songs out loud that draws me back to it. Thanks for the article!!! I was laughing so hard through the whole thing ( much to my LITTLE sisters annoyance).

  23. It is very wonderful timing where If more athletes took your approach to all this, there would be a lot more smiling people out there.Thanks for great post.

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