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What is Strength?

As a coach, I hear “I’m just not strong enough” more often than I’d like to and if I’m being honest I’m certainly guilty of uttering this phrase at times too. A few weeks ago, I was in the gym about to start a workout with someone when she turned to me and said, “I don’t know dude, I’m just not strong enough.” I stopped dead in my tracks. The clock kept counting down. 10, 9, 8… when the clock hit 0 my focus was somewhere else. I wasn’t focused on the workout. Instead, the entire 20 minute workout was spent fixated on her remark. Not strong enough. What do you mean not strong enough? Does she measure her strength solely by the weight that is on the barbell?  I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know this individual on a more personal level over the past couple of months. I’ve heard her share some of her personal struggles, especially recently, in dealing with an illness in the family. “I’m just not strong enough” kept ringing in my head. Which ultimately led me to this question.. What exactly is strength? More importantly, why is it that we tend to fixate or associate “strength” with a weight that is on a barbell, a dumbbell, or a kettlebell. While your definition of strength may differ from mine, here is ultimately what I believe strength is as evidenced by these (few) examples, none of which involve a number.

Strength is…

A young wife who holds down the fort while her husband is overseas.

It’s no secret that a career as a serviceman or servicewoman is grueling, both physically and emotionally. What remains unknown are the things that happen behind the scenes. My brother-in-law is in the Navy and while I am honored and proud when I declare that he fights for me and this country, I am equally as honored to say that my sister is right there by his side through it all, never skipping a beat while he is gone. That is the definition of strength. A person, who without the one she loves the most in this world, gets up day in and day out and continues to hold down the fort, alone, while her husband’s whereabouts are unknown. Though you’d never know it, some days I can’t help but feel that she is being robbed of some of the greatest moments of her married life. Instead of wallowing, she immerses herself in others, focusing on ways to bring happiness to others’ lives. To the most selfless person I’ve ever met, my sister, you are the definition of strength.

A man who isn’t afraid to be vulnerable and openly shares his fears.

Comparison is the root of all evil and sometimes in the CrossFit world it can certainly be hard not to compare yourself.  Over the past couple of months, I’ve had the pleasure of growing closer to an elite competitor. At 6’1, 220 pounds you would assume he is unbreakable and fearless. But there are times when he is not. 90% of the time he certainly embodies these two characteristics but  the other 10% of the time he is human. Just like you and I, with fears and uncertainties. While I am continuously impressed with his performance in the sport, I am more moved by his ability to own his fears and share them with others. He doesn’t pretend to be invincible or superhuman. He isn’t afraid to be vulnerable. That is what I admire most. THAT is a true definition of strength.

A daughter who busts her ass day in and day out to make certain she never has to burden her parents.

For almost two years, I’ve watched one of my closest friends bust her ass day in and day out to ensure that she never has to ask for a dime from her parents. Not only is she a true definition of independence, she is also someone I truly admire. Her drive for independence does not stem from retaliation or rebellion. Rather, her drive for independence is fueled by appreciation. Acknowledgement and appreciation for all that her parents have given her, all of the sacrifices they may have made along the way, and the burdens (unrelated to her) that they may still bear. Her pursuit is the definition of strength. She is the definition of strength.

A family that has endured all that life has to offer with grace and hope.

When I was nine years old, my best friend’s father had a massive stroke. A few years later, her mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. A few years after that, her father battled cancer. Two months ago, her father’s cancer returned. Her family has endured far more than any family should ever have to. Despite this, I’ve never experienced a minute where they didn’t meet life’s challenges and unfairness with grace and hope. Not only do they represent the true definition of a unit, they also symbolize strength: a powerful force that refuses to succumb to life’s unforeseen misfortunes. It has been an honor to watch their bond strengthen with each curve ball that has been thrown their way.

The ladies at the gym who work a full-time job during the day, attend school at night and still find time to crush a workout.

Don’t think you go unnoticed. You are my motivators. Day in and day out, I see you at the 5:15AM class throwing weight around for an hour only to immediately scurry out the door to get the kids on the bus. An hour after that, I know you’re sitting at your 9-5 planning how to scarf down dinner, take care of the kids and make it on time for your night class that doesn’t end until 10PM only to do it all over again tomorrow. You are the definition of strength and I thank you all for being role models for me.

 

Strength to me has absolutely nothing to do with a number. Unless those numbers are the number of days you’ve gone without seeing your husband, the number of days that you went back to the drawing board after a terrible day of training, the number (or lack their of) of dollars left in your bank account after you’ve managed to pay for absolutely everything that month, the number of unfortunate events your family has had to navigate, or the number of home cooked meals you’ve had to eat in the car in order to fit it all in in one day. Each of these examples are my definition of strength. So the next time you try to tell me that you aren’t strong enough, think again. YOU are more than strong enough. Each and every one of you.

 

Article written by GUADS staff member, Chelsea

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