Why Any of This Strength Stuff Matters

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It seems so obvious in hindsight.

All the dots were there – some were even connected – but one thing that seemed missing was finding why any of this strength stuff mattered to me.

Strength has always been important to me but often it was fuelled, much like my leanness goals, by a desire to be noticed. Honestly, that kind of orientation to the world is like playing price wars in business; the only way is down.

When you’re in the fitness industry and you have a tendency to be insecure about yourself you can easily end up importing your value from your perception of what others think or what others do. With that kind of premise you always lose because the wind changes every second.

If you’ve read my blog over the years you’ll know I’ve been all over the place at times. Sure, I eventually learn something and grow from it, but I’ve seen myself swing from extreme to extreme trying to make sense of myself and gauge whether I’m “happy yet”. The irony (or clue) is that I don’t actually believe happiness is my goal, because it’s not really a value of mine, but perhaps that’s for a different blog.

Since early 2015, I decided that if external goals never satisfy then it must be ALL about the inner journey.

I was wrong.

A recent experience at The San Diego Pain Summit finally gave me a way to connect and root the dots to something that was me; finally reaching a place of greater balance, and better alignment with my core values.

So let’s discuss pain for a brief moment so I can build the picture of how I learned this important lesson:

People in physical pain can often become afraid and guarded against doing themselves more harm. They form other beliefs about what’s possible for them and what’s not. They often shrink their aspirations, their dreams, their exploration of movements, and their identity so often becomes encased by these beliefs. In essence, they become disabled. Gradually they decide there are things they can no longer do, like bend, twist, exercise; live a full life. I know this because I’ve been this. But it’s true for many others, too, and not just those in physical pain.

Can you see how an external experience/journey changes the inner environment, shifting the persons very perception of themselves? Often, these rigid – yet understandable – beliefs are not accurate. but you can’t just tell someone what they need to believe instead, they have to see it to believe it, willingly. People in pain stand a greater chance if they can regain movement, exploration, and purpose which aligns with what’s valuable to them, so it’s important that the therapeutic alliance is one built on trust and is patient-centred rather than “Doctor knows best: do X, Y, Z”.

It was how the limiting beliefs were disconfirmed that I needed to hear in order to join my dots.

The key is to help guide that person to a place they can feel safe to explore and DO something they may currently think impossible/scary/uncertain for them. Allowing them to freely decide that their encasing beliefs aren’t true after all. It takes time and practice, but how they see themselves can transform and they can become more empowered to believe other things are possible too. They gain a sense of control and hope about what’s possible for them (self-efficacy). The Physio, or nurse or Personal Trainer can be a valuable resource in helping the clients or patients find their confidence and/or motivation to change forward.

I suddenly saw the real reason strength and, mainly empowerment are so important to me. They can be traced back to what I love the most: inspiring people to believe in themselves! This whole blog started because I couldn’t stand seeing any more half naked fitness models on pedestals and everyone else wondering how they’d EVER achieve that. It’s why I want the underdog to win. I love empowerment because it brings possibility, advocacy, and accountability forward in our lives. These are things I highly value and what makes my own training, and my work so rewarding.

What I see in the fitness world, and what I’ve seen in myself, is a whole lot of people never challenging that tainted belief that they have no worth “unless _____ happens”. Just like that price war strategy in business, you’re in for endless comparisons!

What you physically experience shapes what you believe about yourself and the world. What you believe about the world then influences how you live.

That’s why I’ve felt so cynical about fitness goals for a while. After the Pain Summit I realised even more how the issue is not the goal, it’s what you believe that goal will answer. Remember: your goals can be used for or against you.

The sneaky thing about beliefs is they come equipped with the ultimate array of evasive manoeuvres. They don’t change automatically, and almost never because someone has “reasoned” you into it. You also can’t just believe in the promise of a good outcome alone – we can all do that until reality hits and we revert back to our old pattern. You must also believe in the process and have support so you’ll take the necessary action to get to the good outcome and you tap into your ability to accept that maybe the old belief wasn’t so true after all.

Examples:

If you believe your upper body is genetically too weak for Push-Ups and Pull-Ups how likely are you to attempt to disconfirm that belief? 

What does the belief that you ought to love the look of your body do to you when you can’t? What if you actually don’t have to love how you look to live a life aligned with your own values? There’s no generic right answer, just possible good answers for you. 

You believe that nobody wants to hear what you have to say, yet someone asks you for your opinion. Do you allow that, along with other evidence to shift the old belief? 

It’s tough, right?

What I’ve learned this past year has drastically changed my perspective on goals, on motivation, on the power of coaching. I know I haven’t been hugely active on here, but I’ve been busy behind the scenes developing my vision for Myomy Coaching and beyond. I’ve just completed my Coaching Certificate and I’m specialising in Motivational Interviewing (and presenting on it at next year’s San Diego Pain Summit). Also, after a year in the planning and testing, I’m finally about to launch The Pull-Up Academy Coaching Course. Finally, a month ago everything clicked into place as I saw the real value of these technique used clinically for patients in pain. I’ve completely changed how I coach strength, and I’ve completely changed what I believe about strength training! In some ways I guess I don’t really coach strength; I use strength training as a means to coach self-belief.

To stick with the business metaphor, what I really needed to do was orientate myself toward my life, my own training, and my business based on value. The inerrant value of those I work with and their ability to transform what they believe about themselves brings a whole new level of fulfilment I didn’t think was possible. Value grows as long as you nurture it.

It’s funny to think that after coaching strength for so many years, I’m only truly believing in why for the very first time.

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9 Responses

  1. Jim walker says:

    Ever since I was a kid, I could not do pullups. I was mocked my the other guys, but I was a runner and developed lower body strength. In my late 40s I decided I had the upper body of a 12 year girl. I hired a personal trainer to help develop upper body strength. The day I did a unassisted pull up was memorable. I still don’t have the upper body I want but I keep working at it. I am now 66 years old but I can still do a few unassisted pullups. I will match my clean and press, snatch and deadlift with anyone anywhere my age. You have been a inspiration for me and many of my athletes.

    I use many of your kettle bell workout with the KB classes I teach. I have a group of elite athletes I work with and finally have determined that the number of pull ups do not define the athlete.

    • Kornélia says:

      Upper body of a 12 year girl? Really? My daughter could do pull-ups and chin-ups and other uneven bar exercises as soon as at 10 :-). Not to speak about flips and handstands. Good job anyway, Jim, it’s still amazing how our bodies can respond even after 50’s, right? Thanks for having shared your thoughts.

  2. Martina says:

    Hi Marianne,

    Thank you for this article! You have offered great insights and I would love to share it with others in my local invisible illness group (people dealing with pain too). I was surprised that you don’t have any ‘share’ buttons (for twitter or facebook) as the content you provide it fantastic.

    Thank you for being an inspiration!

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Martina,

      Thank you for sharing this with your group. Yeah, my share buttons seem to have broken :-/ I’ll have to reinstall them. I’ll get on that now.

  3. Chris says:

    Thank you so much for this article, Coach, and thank you for putting up with me. I seem to always be un- programing and re-programing beliefs. Ultimately, I need to go back to just having fun with working out and life in general. Might have to take the gospels advice (Matt 18:3) and become a child again. Actually, that ought to easy LOL Thanks again for your wisdom and patience.

    • Marianne says:

      Hey Chris, I never put up with anyone 😉 I love how you said you’re always un-programing and re-programing beliefs. You should have fun. Get the jump rope and bag work back.

  4. Roland says:

    I’m so happy to read this. Your ability to stay true to you and your values sets you apart from an industry that I all but give up on.

    I have zero doubts about this program and I hope that you sell out.

  5. Kornélia says:

    Thanks for that insightful article – I’m totally with you there. After years and years of exercising for “looking good” and as a mean of weight management, these couple of years I have concentrated only on strength and developing new skills. I’m approaching my fifties and have been amazed of how my body can respond even at that age. Slowly but steadily. I can’t tell you how much it frustrates me to wake up every morning with some muscle soreness and/or skeletal pain and stiffness in joints here and there but how good I feel after I went lower in my pistol squats (after six months I finally succeeded in making on nice full pistol squat) or higher in my pull-up (still not there) or longer on a static chin-up hold. My progress is sometimes measured only in half-centimetres or 1 second more but it’s been steady and it makes me proud of what I can still achieve.
    I’m glad you put your Pull-up academy together, these pull-ups do suck! But I know, no matter how much time and pain I’ll have to invest into it, I’ll eventually be there.
    Looking forward to reading/watching you soon.

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