Soft and strong...the toilet roll post
A couple of conversations I’ve had recently have started me thinking about strength and its importance to me. I list it as one of my core values and my social media feed would suggest obsession at almost dangerous levels. And yet, I don’t really think I look like it. Sure, I’m large but that’s easily dismissed as desk jockey/all-you-can-eat-buffet-fan.
I have this bad habit of writing these blog posts without a plan, so I have no idea where this might end up, but I’d like to try to explain.
The weights room is my happy place. Not in a nip-slip, Gym Shark vest, mirror-posing, cheat-curling-in-the-squat-rack, Brozilla kind of way. It’s also not about ego. I’m only moderately strong and body composition is not my target. I say moderately strong on an objective basis rather than any self-deprecation. I’m stronger than a lot of people but in a strong gym or even a college weights room there are plenty stronger.
I enjoy the lifting. So much that normally occupies my mind falls away and the world boils down to the simple rhythm of the exercise. The endorphins help. The soreness of the body afterwards a reminder that I’m built for something else.
Reflecting on it, the training gives me so many lessons that I take into life but that’s not a consideration before or during. It’s also not about numbers on the board; the weight on the bar or painted on an atlas stone. Those demonstrate progress and occasionally I even allow myself to enjoy that (as you can probably tell from in this video)
but that’s incidental. They’re not the goal. It’s much more simple than that - it’s a clean struggle. You put the bar across your shoulders; it pushes you down and you either then stand back up with it, or you don’t. It’s pretty binary.
And to add to that, some days it happens. It’s like you’re hydraulic and nothing can stop you. Other days it might as well be rooted to the centre of the earth for all the movement you can generate. You strain and you gurn and you curse but the love between gravity and the weight is strong enough to resist all your best moves.
Really it’s facilitative. It’s about what it gives me in other areas of my life. The energy cleanse - a wake up signal to the body. The ability to lead my life, to help others along the way. There’s the mental composure. There is no need to prove anything to anybody. I’m at peace with what I can do. I want to improve myself but I know where I am. This enables my gentle side out. The mask can stay on while I can give of myself to others - my time and my patience freely. Important because some of those are my other core values and keeping my gentle side imprisoned jars against those values. Some days are more of a struggle than others. I can be a colossal twat and downright unpleasant if I don’t keep tight hold of the reins.
So what of life and shifting tin? Some days your strength is enough. Other days it isn’t. But you’ll be back. Sometimes you find that for all the strength you have you are just unable to get any traction and lay that power down. Which speaks to a lot of the conversations I have had with people suffering with mental health issues - that feeling that some days, what you are doing, what you normally and customarily do just doesn’t work. It’s frustrating as hell but you can’t let that stop you.
And I’ve also learned an appreciation for those who try. Those who are not put off by what others are doing (or talking about doing), they keep coming at it, again and again to push beyond where they are now. Putting the setbacks behind them and keep going. (And while the elite are impressive, you overlook the strugglers, the grinders, the tireless unflashy workers at your peril).
These are habits that can carry over into other avenues of our lives - quitting when it gets though; half-repping and giving it the celebration as if you’d done the whole thing; learning from your mistakes; taking guidance and dusting off the regret of your misses? Each and all of these things can become habitual pathways. What you repeat you can become.
Ultimately though, it gives me peace - in the moment and afterwards. But for all that, I don’t do it as much as people think I do but that’s more because I have little else to talk about and so it appears more than it is… But that’s another post.
In conclusion, a couple of fortune-cookie aphorisms to try to put you in my place:
- Strength is knowing that you’re weak but not letting that weakness define you.
- Strength is being able to assert yourself but not having to prove it all the time.
- Strength lies in what you choose not to do as much as it rests in what you do.
- Strength is tenderness and humility backed by a savage resolve.
- Strength is in what you stand for and in how you get up from your knees.
- Strength is something to test, to develop, to push, to embrace. It’s in your head, your hands and your heart.
- Strength is how you bear yourself.
Until next time, thanks for stopping by.