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Soulful Sundays: Strength Training

"Physical strength is the most important thing in life. This is true whether we want it to be or not." -Mark Rippetoe

Strength is the hardest physical attribute to develop, but it is arguably the most important for us to focus on. It confers a plethora of adaptive advantages for all ages, and it can be trained safely and systematically. Having strength helps in all aspects of sport and everyday life. It helps us to better manage pain and avoid illness. It provides a kind of confidence that is difficult to express in words.

With proper training you can increase your cardiovascular endurance in two months and your flexibility in six, but to appreciably increase your strength it can take years, possibly decades. There are numerous reasons for this disparity. For one, muscle is energetically expensive to maintain. Two, building strength requires us to not only train the muscles, but develop the nervous system and connective tissue. Lastly, and most importantly, getting stronger is mentally demanding. It requires one to go beyond what they think is possible day in and day out. This is why it is called strength training and not simply exercise.

In many ways physical strength translates to mental strength. The act of training our body requires that we train our minds. That we develop healthy habits and positive self-talk. That we endure days where we don't feel like training, but do anyway. That we target our weaknesses and appropriately revel in our strengths. A strong mind is a capable mind. Capable of taking on life's challenges with as much intention as our time in the gym.

As we age strength becomes even more important. The number one accident sustained by older folks is broken hips caused from unexpected falls, and the one-year fatality rate of the elderly post-hip fracture is 58%. Think about that for a second. They fall because they are not strong. They lack muscle. Muscle is also protective from other diseases of aging like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, infectious diseases, and cancer. You can think of strength training as one of the most potent preventative treatments out there.

Strength training is one of the safest and logically sound programs that you can engage in. Modern equipment (like barbells, kettlebells, dumbbells, olympic plates, and squat racks) is designed to keep us safe while allowing us to lift heavy weights. The equipment can be precisely loaded to allow the trainee to progress in an exact fashion. Under the supervision of a coach to ensure good lifting form, there are very few injuries in the gym. Furthermore, strength training is very time efficient. Two half-hour sessions twice a week is an adequate and realistic place to start for almost everyone.

Finally, being strong is fun. Who doesn't want to be more physically capable and powerful. Overcoming obstacles with a long-term strategy might not sound super sexy, but don't tell that to someone in the gym who just lifted a personal best. The goals that we appreciate the most are so often the ones that we have worked the hardest and longest to achieve. I encourage everyone here to consider starting a strength program for no other reason than taking on the challenge of a difficult pursuit. Who knows, you might learn something about yourself in the process. You might even like it.

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