Where Else Do You Express Strength?

As a coach,  I’m the most excited about finding out how we can best apply our practiced fitness to the experiences of life. While we’re all training with a particular goal, we can also channel that energy into more rewarding, empowering experiences.

Looking good in a bathing suit may be important to you, but is that really bringing you happiness? I’d wager that we all feel better when we’re moving around.  That’s exactly where I find myself in my personal journey.

I’m excited about being fit enough to comfortably do the other activities I’m interested in. I want to be strong enough to climb a rock wall, or fit enough to paddle a kayak. During my first visit to the bike park this summer, I learned that I’m strong enough to go over the bars on my bike, not once but twice!

I should note that this was entirely unintentional, and now present you my case studies:

Let’s be honest here; these weren’t big crashes by any means. These were two mistakes in body position that didn’t turn out so well. Sometime between jamming that front wheel down and actually tipping over, I thought to myself:

“Oh yea, this is why we do plyo push-ups!

In reality, I’ve never programmed the plyo push-up for force absorption. There are safer and more intelligent ways to learn how to land. Still, it felt like it was part of my bigger picture.

The plyo push-up is an expression of core tension and force production. It asks the question, “Can you maintain a plank stabile enough to launch and land?” That force production is quickly followed by force reduction, and I was grateful for the push-ups in my life as I felt myself falling.  As ‘big’ as it seemed in the moment, it’s still a very small point of the something much larger.

What’s the bigger picture?

Let me tell you a story about Stella.  During a recent trip to Israel, my girlfriend’s mom visited the mountain Masada. There’s a cable car from the base to the summit that offers a quick trip to the top, but Stella didn’t ride it.  Instead, she climbed the Snake Path, which according to Katie “Feels like you’re walking up stairs for 45 minutes.“


Once home Stella remarked something along the lines of, “Why would I take the cable car? When am I going to be here again? I’m going to climb up; I workout so I can do things like this!”

I was so excited for her to have that experience, and proud of the work she’s done at MFF before her trip, and her decision to make that climb. For me this comes back to one of my all-time favorite philosophies of fitness, from George Graham, past president of the National Academy of Sports and Physical Education:

The goal of physical education is to. educate people to the point at which, when given the choicethey‘ll voluntarily choose to be physically active.”

We’re not all interested in bench press PR’s, in body fat percentage, or in Strava KOM’s. Our common interest lies in finding activities that are empowering and improve our quality of life. It’s during those activities where we truly get to express the strength that we cultivate in the gym. 

When given the choice between climbing or riding, Stella chose to climb.  After sketchy wipeouts, I got back up and kept riding.  These weren’t direct goals of our training, but our training better prepared us to get outside and express our strength.

Why does this matter? Why do you need both?

I can’t “prove” that you have to be physically active inside and outside of the gym.   Philosophically however, I think that we can all live the most complete, fulfilling lives by doing so. I don’t want to be naive about it; I know that 60% of our country is overweight, and less than 10% have a gym membership. There’s a lot of room for greater participation.

That participation is less about measuring steps, heart beats, and miles, but more about feeling things. Where do we feel the most successful, inside of the gym or during other physical activities. It’s by leveraging our success in one activity against new challenges that we’re able to truly express our strength and become better versions of ourselves.

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