The word “strength” has different meanings in different circumstances. In sports, strength is the dominating characteristic of powerful athletes: Olympic weightlifters, pro football players, or Clydesdales. In world society, we think of the strength of character shown by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt in rallying the free world against Hitler and the Nazis. Strength is also used to describe the force of hurricanes and the tearing resistance of plastic garbage bags.
As thoughtful and as diverse as the preceding uses of the word “strength” are, none is adequate to help us understand the relationship between strength and health. If we take a few moments to consider this relationship, it will deepen our awareness of that we are trying to accomplish when we engage ourselves in strength training. Understanding and feeling what you are doing at the very moment you are performing each repetition of every strength exercise, will make the experience constantly provocative and will increase dramatically your prospects for lifelong strength and health. Therefore, I submit the following definition of strength for your consideration.
Strength in terms of health is your determination to create the physical, mental, and spiritual forces necessary to exceed the demands of everyday tasks, to excel in your chosen activities, to consider the needs of others, and to stimulate growth and repair in your body.
Strength is an essential quality of your health. If you lack strength, or if you have strength and then lose it, your potential to enjoy the freedom of good health is diminished significantly. Physically, you lose your personal independence, even the ability to clothe and bathe yourself. Psychologically, you lose your self-confidence, the ability to confront the inevitable challenges of each day. You may even lose your capacity to think of other persons who need your help.
You create physical strength by training your muscles to contract and relax smoothly and gracefully as you perform powerful, coordinated, and skillful movements. You create mental and spiritual strength by facing the obstacles in your life with calmness, confidence, and bravery. Training yourself to develop these varied dimensions of strength enables you to carry out the required and desired actions of your life with excellence and without experiencing premature structural breakdowns in your body. You feel strong and healthy. Your potential for long-term vitality is enhanced greatly, relative to what it would have been if you had let your strength slip away.
When you define it this way, you are reminded, once again, of why strength is for life!