What does it mean to be strong. Does it mean we can Deadlift half a tonne. Does it mean we can tear our opponents apart on the field of play, does it mean we can move mountains and bring the absolute limits of ourselves to reality, or does it mean a strong will and character.
Today I want to address how strength through physical training and adversity builds not only strong minds but strong characters and makes us more than what we have become.
Strength training is grueling, it is brutal, it requires countless hours of practice, research, recovery, refueling, and grinding. It leaves us feeling broken, beat down, exhausted, elated, ecstatic, confident, and above all else, strong.
So what can strength training do for our mentality, spirituality and work ethic.
Focus – When have you ever stepped up to a lift and missed it because your head wasn’t in it. Because you were not focused, concentrated, set right. When have you ever just picked the bar from the rack and just went NO, not now, I’m not ready, put it back, took a few breaths, lifted it again and absolutely smashed the lift. Why, because all of our focus, our energy and our strength was accurately primed and ready to push, pull or drive that weight for those X Reps at that moment. It is so important to be focused when attempting strength lifts be it 8 reps or a 1 rep max. I always coach my athletes with the following sentence before any big lift, alright, take a breath, set your feet and when you are ready take the bar and begin. No rush, no other thought, no other words just focus, and attention from their part and then its on them. As soon as the bar starts moving up I will add encouragement be it in the form of a well done, or a shout of Get It Up, Push, Drive Drive Drive! But they need that focus to perform well. Now apply this to your home life, are you aware and focused on your wife, your kids, your friends and family, do you give them quality time when you can or they need you. What about work or in study? Do you apply yourself with focus in class or in the office or are you on your phone checking your snapchat, watching clips on youtube, chatting about the weekends movies with colleagues. Building and encouraging focus in training encourages it in all aspects of your life, especially when you stop for a second and consider your goals like you would in training.
Toughness – Strength builds toughness. Strength can prepare us for adversity, be it in sport, or in life. When you train and things get hard, you find the courage and the strength to continue. When life gets unbearable, when it gets hard, when the weight of reality becomes to much, we can be strong enough to overcome it. When your opponent is in your face, the score is against you, the fight is nearly lost, a strong mind will search not for the towel to retreat and surrender, but for the answer it is missing to turn the tide in your favor. When you train, when you build strength and mental toughness it may not always come in the form of numbers on a page, of pounds lifted, of punishment taken, but it will always translate to an ability to overcome a previously unsurpassed challenge.
Resilience & Determination- When have you ever had a bad day training. Missed sessions, missed lifts, been out injured and had to start over again. This determination comes with one simple word. FAILURE. When we learn to see failure not as the end of the road, but the signal for a new path, or a new adapted approach we begin to see more possibilities. If your training has plateaued, if your win streak has ended, if your body has been injured and needs to restart, then look to find the answer. Look to see where you can improve, where you need help and work, and take action. Strength breeds resilience. And above all it breeds a determination that no matter what happens out there, that you will never give up in the pursuit of your goal. You will get stronger, more balanced, more skilled, more knowledgeable, and above all you will overcome.
Patience – How many of you set yourself unrealistic goals? How many of you want the results now. Want the big Squat, the victory, the skill set, the next PB lift. This attitude is good if coupled with patience. With patience and the right approach you can achieve anything. Patience is a skill many overlook. You can work hard but if that effort has a time limit attached then you will ultimately fall short of the path to success. This may come in the failure to realize a weakness that was holding you back. In the shape of injury from rushing an attempt at a lift you were not ready for. It may come in defeat by an opponent you did not prepare for. But in the end if you can develop patience in your game, in your craft, you will develop mastery. Be patient, be strong, and be committed for the long war, the long relationship, the end goal. Every single step needs to be taken even if the path veers left and right and at times seems misguided, trust that with patience and practice all of your goals can and will be achieved, as long as you commit to the path and don’t cut corners.
Confidence – Strong body, strong personality. Building your body, improving your skill, improving your abilities all accumulate in an increased confidence. A confidence in your abilities, a confidence in your chance of success, and a confidence in YOURSELF. You begin to carry yourself differently, you don’t cower away, sit quietly in the corner when you feel moved to speak your mind or voice a conflicting opinion. You act, you act confidently and you always look to be yourself and live your own life, free from others restraints and focus instead on your own goals, your own life and your own choices. It is with confidence that we stride forwards and take control of life and begin to live free.
Drive – When you know you have to place a weight on your back, sit all the way to the floor and stand back up again, and you know you have never felt that sort of weight before, it demand that you focus in, get tough and fight. You pull yourself under the bar, take a deep breath, close your eyes, feel the ground beneath your feet and take one more breath. Then what? You get after it, you pick it up, set your feet and fight, you lower the bar, and then drive and drive hard. Giving an ground shaking push as your core and spine support the weight and you drive through that pain barrier and force yourself to stand up. It is acts like these that strength athletes experience and come away more resilient, and mentally tougher than before. Physically we are broken, immediately after a 1 rep max lift we are exhausted, sore, and beat down. But mentally, at that moment you are unbeatable. Your personal expectations are so high and your pleasure centre is so fulfilled, that you feel anything is possible. You are tougher and ready for more. How many of you have ever been struggling to lift a weight for a week, or a month or a year, obsessed over it, tried again and again and failed. You may think you have reached your limit, and then one day you push through and make the lift. Think back, after the initial reaction in your head of YES! HELL YEAH! What is the second voice that speaks calmly and encouragingly in your ear saying? It’s saying MORE. Picture this, you hit a 200kg squat after almost a year of trying and straining for the goal, and after not even 1 seconds jubilation, your mind whispers “205”. It is a drive to be your very best that will never leave you and it comes easily to strength athletes the world over.