Suck Less

Doctor Oughtred:

When the saying “Suck Less” first started getting popular among my clients, I wondered if I should take it as some stern-but-fair feedback. 

Much to my relief, a few clients laughingly explained they’d concocted the phrase as a sort of one-line tribute to my training philosophy for everyday athletes. (My competitive athletes hear it too!)

A half-dozen years on, “Suck Less” has evolved from a one-liner to a working philosophy. It boils down to two key concepts:

·      Extreme/unrealistic expectations can be an obstacle to progress.

·      A “tell it like it is” approach is vital to good coaching and evaluation. 

These days, it’s certainly not hard to find “Level One certified” trainers who specialize in reminding clients how “elite” they are.

But with health and athletic performance, as with the rest of life, it generally makes sense to focus on optimizing individual performance, not rating yourself versus others. No matter where you are on your journey, “Sucking Less” will move you forward!


I might be the Patient Zero of “Suck Less.”  I came to Ryan as a hyper-stressed guy with a demanding business and an undemanding fitness routine – one that consisted mostly of me coasting off a once-decent base, skipping dessert on alternate Fridays, and hoping that middle age would just overlook me entirely.

Getting evaluated by Ryan upended my complacency pretty quickly. He’d put me through a drill to test some core element of balance or coordination, say, then shake his head (a little bemused, it always seemed) and go, “Hmm… so that seems a little hard for you right now, eh?”

I botched one or two so impressively that Ryan would re-demo the movement in slow motion, cheerfully perplexed that a basic athletic motion could be made to look so difficult. You could almost see him thinking, “But this wasn’t difficult three minutes ago… hmmm, still not difficult.”

As a numbers guy, I kept pushing Ryan to quantify just where things stood on each test, how my results compared to elite/ski-team standards, where I could expect to be in six months or a year if all went perfectly, etc etc. Finally, he shook his head a little, grinned and went, “For now – for the next six weeks -- let’s just focus on getting things to suck a little less than they do now.”

It was a nifty moment of clarity. And that single sentence captured a lot of what I’d come to know as Ryan’s approach to training:  practical, no-fluff, and yet inspiring in unpredictable ways.

Looking back now, several years (and much fitness-related reading later), I appreciate Ryan’s guidance – from programming to nutrition to work/life balance -- even more. Ultimately, Ryan gives you the tools to keep making athletic (and quality of life!) progress on your own… and that’s the best recommendation for any coach or trainer I can give.


Can you see the difference?  Cast your vote for which squat sucks!

  Squat # 1

Squat # 1

  Squat # 2

Squat # 2