Strength, Actually

Strength training can get a bad rap relative to most other physical pursuits.  Tell a friend that you’ve decided to take up running, for instance, and chances are you won’t be asked whether you’re worried about ending up in a crumpled heap at the end of a 50 mile race.  They’ll probably say something like “cool, maybe we can do a 5k together sometime.”

Tell that same person you’ve decided to start training with barbells, however, and it’s usually Katie bar the door.  “Aren’t you worried about ending up looking like…those people?”

To a degree, this is understandable if regrettable.  On a nice spring day in the city you can look out your window and see scads of people running the river at lunchtime.  You don’t generally see folks carting dumbbells and barbells out into the great wide open.

But make no mistake, strength training is something every human should be doing in some form or another.  Let’s put aside the implements for today and just focus on the why–what is strength. actually, and why would you want to be training to get stronger?

1. Strength is sturdy.  Resistance training, especially done in the context of a progressive routine, protects, maintains, and builds lean body mass.  This is important at any age, but increasingly so as we move into our fourth decades and beyond.  You are your bones and muscles, and when those are stronger and less susceptible to the physical insults of an active life, so are you.

2. Strength is capable.  What’s an active life?  You move around.  You carry things.  You work hard, then rest a little bit, then work hard again.  Groceries.  Christmas trees.  That godforsaken New England snow to be shoveled.  Strength training makes you better at doing the things you have to do so that you have more time to be better at doing the things you want to do.

3. Strength is a considerable reserve.  I love training people in the wintertime for many reasons.  One is that inevitably two or three folks will tell me that they are amazed at how much easier their runs on the slopes or the ice felt after beginning our strength training program.  And not just their first day outside either; it’s actually the second or third days that strike them so powerfully.  “My legs weren’t nearly as tired the next day.  It was awesome.”

Getting stronger is like putting money into a physical investment account.  It compounds in many different ways.

But the best part?  There’s never a penalty for withdrawing any of that strength for daily usage.


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