By Mark Reifkind, Master SFG
I probably shouldn’t write this. It’s not the politically correct thing to say. Some people will be offended. But that’s okay, as well as the point. Getting strong is not for everyone.
That is not to say that everyone can’t be stronger or couldn’t get stronger. They can, and they could. But the truth is, they won’t.
Many will think about it, but few will do it. Even fewer will keep doing it. As I have been known to say, “I don’t make the rules, I just know ‘em. And they apply to me, as well.” This is one of those cases.
Not Everybody Will Be Strong
I have seen this over and over in the 41 years I have been a student of strength, and by direct association, a student of willpower, creative intent, and toughness—both mental and physical. And even more directly in the last fourteen years, I have been a full-time personal trainer.
Everyone loves the idea of strength, of being strong, in all its many forms. Of lifting more than they have before. Of running farther and faster than before. Of resisting that cookie or piece of cake they have decided they don’t want to eat. Of being able to make up their mind about something and stick with it. That kind of strength.
Becoming strong ain’t easy or everybody would be. It’s really that simple. The bar isn’t going to lift itself, the kettlebell isn’t going to swing itself, and no one but you can make you get out of bed early on a cold dark morning to make yourself do what you said you wanted to do.
You have to be tough. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s better than okay, it’s good. If it were too easy, everyone would have it and then it would mean less to have it. At least to me.
Being Strong Means Being Tough
When I saw Pavel’s first video of the Russian Kettlebell Challenge, these words spoke to me: “Comrades, I give you the Russian Kettlebell Challenge, for those who like it tough, and just a little bit dangerous.” I was a competitive powerlifter at the time and I knew what he meant. Real training, where you are utilizing the body to the fullest is never easy, never comfortable. Being comfortable with being uncomfortable is the first step.
What is tough? One way to look at it is being able to endure that which is unpleasant in the process of getting what one really wants to get, or to be. It is the price of admission into the world of the strong. Of being able to set one’s mind to the task at hand and do that which is necessary to achieve it, or as close as possible. To be able to ignore the minor uncomfortable aspects of overcoming the inertia of laziness that seems to grow bigger every year.
James Allen, author of As a Man Thinketh, has been paraphrased as saying, “Challenges don’t build character, they reveal it.” And so does the world of strength training. It doesn’t matter if your weapon of choice is a barbell, a kettlebell, or your bodyweight, the real weapon is your mind and your will. And the real obstacle is your weakness and lethargy. Even the act of challenging them will make you stronger.
To be able to confront your weaknesses head on and do something about it. To not be pushed back by the task. To be able to say no when that is the right thing to do or to say yes and push forward despite fear or uncertainty of the outcome.
It really doesn’t matter what the goal is, when a person is at their limit and the next step is into the unknown, the feeling is always the same. When I could only squat 300lbs, 325 was the unknown and scary. Confronting that bar, which couldn’t care less about my goals or dreams, was the task. Choosing to get under it and risk failure was the only real option to getting stronger. But I had to make the motion and take the risk.
Strength Is a Choice
There is a great prize for those who can, and those who do take the risk—the feeling of being strong. Of living in the world strong. Of knowing if they want to achieve something, they can put their all to it. The ability to create force, which is strength, is in their capacity, in their toolbox. That gives you a confidence that literally cannot be bought, borrowed, stolen, faked, or obtained in any other manner. And few things feel as sweet.
That is why when strong people meet, they recognize and respect their peers, no matter if they are strong in disparate disciplines, because they know what that person had to do to get what they achieved. What they endured. What they sacrificed, what they chose.
Strength is a choice. It is an attitude. It is a belief in your power to move things in the direction you desire. By sheer force of will and imagination. And toughness.