We all want to be strong. Having strength just makes life easier. And, being strong is just cool. Right? Aside from being cool and looking awesome with those guns you carry, do you know why you really want to be strong? You can’t help but want to be strong because you were made to be strong. Intuitively, you know this is right. I’ll bet you can’t think of one single person who has ever wanted to be weak.
It’s true. Your body was designed for strength. Heck, it adapts to stress by growing stronger! The mission of your body is to make hard things easy, efficiently and optimally. In fact, each of us has an optimal level of strength our structure will allow us to achieve. We are all different in size, shape and proportions, so we will all have differing levels of strength, but the strength each of us can attain is nothing shy of superhero-type strength. That’s right. You are capable of amazing feats of strength. At least you should be.
Most of us will never reach our full strength potential. There are many reasons for this, but one reason in particular is our perception of strength. Our perception, the thoughts and views we have about strength, will ultimately determine whether or not we can reach our full strength potential. Sadly, many of us are viewing strength through the wrong lens.
Often, our perception is shaped by how we define things. So, let’s start with looking at a definition of strength. Wikitionary (yes, that’s a thing now) defines strength as the quality or degree of being strong. For example, It requires great strength to lift heavy objects.
A definition like this has often begged the question, “How much ya bench?”. The pursuit of strength with this definition in mind may actually keep you from becoming strong. I’ve met many a person with a very impressive number on their bench press, but they really weren’t that strong. They could lie on a bench, pick up a heavy bar and press it. But when they were off that bench, they couldn’t do much else. They were strong in one lift, in one position, in one gym. Outside of that, they weren’t too “strong.”
Just to be fair and spread the love around, I’ve also met plenty of people who could post impressive kettlebell numbers in weight or volume, in grinds or ballistics, who were really not that strong outside of their kettlebell craft. Their lens, their definition of strength, gave them strength inside the area of their pursuit but it did not yield a great deal of strength outside, in the realm of life. When not holding a kettlebell, they moved very stiff, immobile and often in pain. Don’t be upset if this is you, I’m really pointing at myself from several years ago.
Our definitions determine our lens, our perception, from which we see things. This can become dangerous if we are operating from the wrong definition, and it can become frustrating if we are operating from a partial or narrow definition.
With the above definition of strength, it is possible to become so focused one actually gets stuck inside the pursuit of moving heavy things or putting up impressive numbers. In other words, the pursuit of weighty numbers becomes the end goal and strength actually becomes lost. The bigger picture of health and vitality can be traded for sore backs, achy knees, and busted shoulders all because the desire for strength becomes a laser focus for reaching a certain number that will magically mean you have reached the Realm of Strong. When in reality, what often happens is you’ve reached the Realm of Injured and you become your condition. “Hi, I’m Steve. I’ve got a bad back. But I bench 350!”
What if, we were to define strength another way: The ability to live your life the way you want to because you are physically and mentally able. The ability to engage and enjoy life because you are capable; you have both a resilient body and an agile, resilient mind.
I know, “Tim’s just made up his own definition.” But really I haven’t. I’ve just looked at the expanded meaning and understand that strength is far greater than a physical quality that only lives in a training environment. My perception has changed. I now understand strength is not just about what heavy objects can be moved. Sometimes strength resonates more with what cannot be moved. Having the resolve to not only engage in life, but the grit to overcome life’s obstacles is indeed a form of strength.
Anyway, a strong body is capable of moving heavy things in the pursuit of training. Yes. But a strong body is also capable of wresting with grandkids, hiking mountainsides at any age, running up and down stairs without growing weary, and helping a neighbor move furniture without the fear of getting injured.
Can you deadlift three times your bodyweight? Great. But can you put on your jeans without having to sit down on the bed? Can you squat twice your bodyweight? Awesome. Can you put on your shoes and tie them without having to sit down? Don’t dismiss this as a “balance thing.” It’s not about balance. It’s about ability, which comes from real strength. Besides, balance is strength. It’s not an isolated quality of movement.
Strength is not just about impressive muscles or impressive numbers. Strength is about quality of life. Without optimizing your strength potential, you limit the quality of life you can ultimately enjoy. Your strength, your life, is built on the little, simple things that you do not miss until you lose them. Simple things like being able to put on socks, or easily reaching over to tie your shoes – these are fruits of having strength. We should not dismiss the things we can no longer do because we are growing older. The reason a person cannot do the things they once could do is because they have grown weak, not because they have grown old. There is a difference.
You will grow older, but you don’t have to grow weak. If you are not as strong as you want to be, or should be, remember, your body is designed to be strong. You can still reach your strength potential. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how weak you’ve become. You may have to start back at the very beginning, but no journey is ever experienced without a starting point.
If you are wondering, the very beginning for all of us is breathing with the diaphragm; filling the lungs up from the bottom to the top. Breathing is not just about getting oxygen to your cells. Who knew!? Breathing actually lays the foundation for amazing strength. Yes it is silly, but powerful avalanches are not possible until the first snowflake falls. A strong, healthy body can’t start without one good breath.
The point is, if your pursuit of strength is not enabling you to enjoy the little things in life, you may need to step back, take a good breath, and examine your lens.