I read an article that was titled something like, “Strong is the new Skinny.” I’m not going to give you a link or tell you who the author was because we are all entitled to our own opinions; heck you may not even agree with me. I certainly agreed with some of the author’s notes and comments because I can relate to the growth that occurs during strength training. However, my biggest problem is that there was a title. Strong vs. Skinny.
I had a conversation with my friend about the article which sparked this writing. She shared Nick Horton’s article with me “Strong is the New Skinny Rant.” And, just like Nick reiterates: each of us is different. We have different genetics, body types, time restrictions, and well actually, some of us just don’t enjoy going to the gym, lifting heavy weights, or running, etc. We all have different goals, individual ones that make us each special in our own way.
Remember the Queen from Snow White (truth be told I just remembered her as a witch!) looking into the mirror asking who was the fairest in the land. The mirror always said she, the Queen of the Land, was the most beautiful right? When the beloved Mirror Mirror finally grew courage to deem Snow White and her true beauty the fairest, the Queen went berserk and sought out vengeance: enter the poisoned apple. There is your analogy to consider for this topic of “Strong is the new Skinny.”
Here are some questions I pose to you: When you look into the mirror, what do you see? What do you ask about yourself, and what do you desire? Do you like what you see, and appreciate the person who is standing right there?
In today’s society there are so many different stereotypes, characteristics, and even expectations. Many of us have grown judgmental based on those criteria too, right? What I mean is that when someone wears spandex and doesn’t look like the model who initially wore the same thing certain thoughts cross our minds. I’ll admit I’m guilty of that too. Or, when someone appears to be overweight and is consuming mass products that we know are a poor choice—a certain judgment can be made that they should not be eating them, right?
Let’s break it down starting with the comparison.
For all those ladies reading this, how many of you have said, “I wish I were skinnier?” Or, have you looked at a runway model and voiced out loud that you
“will look like that one day?” Men, perhaps not as much as women, also compare themselves on a variety of levels—muscles, “beer belly,” “man boobs,” etc. Just like my very first article on the Dagger, sometimes definitions of certain words are rather elusive because we’ve changed them to fit society’s norm. Skinny isn’t worth trying to define either, because it varies for each person. For some people, they are genetically gifted to have a body they may feel good about without having to exercise or eat well. In fact, I often hear the envy of people when such people, characterized as “skinny,” consume various foods. Heart disease can still be present in these folks, and although they may appear one way to you, the health of their body could be entirely different. Just sayin.’ Fitting the stereotype of “skinny” can also be attributed to a lack of muscle. Did you know that each year we age we lose muscle, and after hitting age 30 the muscle loss begins to increasingly disappear unless the body begins to move and transform those regressions?
We live in a society where so many of our injuries are attributed to lack of movement. We sit driving to work, we sit at work, we sit on the couch to watch television, we sit while on the computer (unless you have a standing desk!), or even sit while playing video games at the end of a workday. Kids even sit all day at school…the list goes on. The bottom line here is that it doesn’t matter what you look like, but how you feel. The measures that you, individually, take to live an active and healthy life are what need to be considered, not the characteristics of your body type.
Now, moving on to what was deemed the better of the comparison.
First off, the definition of “strong” seems to have become cultured, as I described above for the “other” word. So, again, we are looking at someone and describing them based on characteristics our culture adopted as a description. “Strong” is great. But, “strong” isn’t for everyone. Here’s where my opinion comes in: a cultured description of “strong” may lead people astray. It alludes to particular characteristics that may be individualized based on what the subject has observed, read, or seen on television. Honestly, I’d like to see people pursuing healthy bodies and exercises to reiterate that action. Going on the label idea again, think about your exercise: do it because you want to have a healthy body, not because you want to fit a specific characteristic or stereotype. The results should be the by-product. BAM! That’s it. In fact, the organization that I’m certified through, “StrongFirst” actually adopted the idea that we aren’t even “working out” but practicing moves and exercises that assist our bodies’ functions. In the stereotype of “strong”, comes the idea for those who begin strength training that you don’t want to “bulk up,” “get big,” etc. Get rid of the title. Enter strength training.
Strength training is essential for life—this is different than “strong!” Remember the concept of “use it or lose it?” Think about how much muscle our society has lost from sedentary lifestyles. Many people avoid strength training because they are worried they will bulk up, specifically women. Ladies, I’m here to tell you that without artificial means this cannot happen. Dudes, you have the means to bulk up but if your program isn’t designed to do that, then chances are that you will just gain appropriate and necessary muscle. As a trainer, I always encourage all my clients to focus on strength because it is so important. For instance, think about the runner who focuses only on their training by adding on mileage. Oftentimes, without the appropriate strength training, there will be an injury or even an inability to finish a particular distance. Each program is specifically designed for the individual’s goals and needs, but there should always be a strength component.
Here’s my other thought: Strength isn’t just physical, but mental. And, I believe that the mental part of building strength is sometimes more of an obstacle than actually gaining the muscles. Often, the idea of strength causes an inner struggle. Once you conquer that inner struggle and realize that you have overcome the mental block, the results are simply the by-product. By overcoming fears, as well as anxiety about a certain body type, you begin to love yourself and your body for what it truly is, regardless of what flaws you may observe. You love yourself for YOU!
There are so many components to the word “strong,” and in my opinion putting a title to it and adding it to that series of stereotypes, well….just sucks. I don’t even consider myself anything, not even strong and I love to lift heavy stuff and put it down! I’m just APE!
Forget “title,” just be YOU!
Before you begin to label your body or goals, think about it. Think about your reason for the challenge. Think about what is motivating this new “want,” ensuring that it isn’t led by society’s motivation but YOURS! I’m all about encouraging people to dig deep and find their own “awesomeness.” We also need to stop putting these characteristics on other people (remember, I’m guilty here too!). We simply need to share love. Help others: find the love inside your heart and share it with those who may be struggling to see their “awesomeness.”
Think about your goals. You only have one body, one life. We are only here for a short time. These goals should not be limited to solely external results; but internal. DIG DEEP! Instead of classifying your body, just accept you for you. Look in the mirror and dig deep—be comfortable with what you see. Love what you see. Who cares who is the fairest of the land because it is your mirror, so YOU are! Enjoy your life. Move a lot. Eat good food, especially the green stuff. Love even more. Your body will thank you. Besides, titles are best left at the end of names, when they mean you should trust that person with their opinions for their expertise.