By: Barbell Logic Team
As you celebrate Thanksgiving consider giving thanks for strength. Because the lifter’s satisfaction isn’t the airy or exhausted feeling of an endurance event. Rather, it comes from the indomitability of spirit—of will. We know that when you train for strength, you aren’t exploring your present limits, you are actively and forcibly changing them.
Examples of this from our corner of the Strength Community abound. And it is worth a short recap of some of the stories from this year that highlight the amazing ways that strength has affected so many people. The articles and videos below are a small sampling from the community on why strength matters to all of us.
Thanks For Strength
Every year thousands of people line up on Thanksgiving morning, donning numbers and race shirts, wearing turkey costumes, chasing the runner’s high in their local Turkey Trot fun run. The runner’s high is an in-the-moment sense of well-being and reduction in anxiety that comes from the exploration of your physical capability; a kind of short-term elevation of self-image that comes with physical exertion. This is particularly attractive on a day most people associate with feasting and food to excess. Stephen King even wrote a novella this year surrounding the Castle Rock Turkey Trot calling the runner’s high “Not a wind, not even a high, exactly, but an elevation. A sense that you had gone beyond yourself and could go farther still.” (King, “Elevation”). It’s a wonderful feeling and a great prelude to Thanksgiving dinner. But we suggest a counterpoint to the runner’s high: The lifter’s satisfaction.
As you celebrate Thanksgiving—or for our international friends, as you enter this traditionally celebratory season—consider giving thanks for strength. We at Starting Strength Online Coaching and Barbell Logic are thankful to be finishing up our second amazing year. We’ve now been able to be a part of the strength journey for thousands of people. This community has expanded dramatically, and we get to help change lives every day as coaches, guides, and friends. So, we are pretty thankful for strength around here.
We hope you will celebrate with us in the most appropriate way possible… by doing the things that add value to your life: Spend time with your family or loved ones, eat some good food, drink some fine whiskey, and train.
Because the lifter’s satisfaction isn’t the airy or exhausted feeling of an endurance event. Rather, it comes from the indomitability of spirit—of will. We know that when you train for strength, you aren’t exploring your present limits, you are actively and forcibly changing them.
Examples of this from our corner of the Strength Community abound. And it is worth a short recap of some of the stories from this year that highlight the amazing ways that strength has affected so many people. The articles and videos below are a small sampling from the community on why strength matters, or should matter, to all of us:
When a large skin cancer appeared on his right temple and Philip Midkiff’s doctor mused that “Maybe he’s tough enough,” to drive 4 hours daily for radiation treatment. Philip took the “maybe” out of it:
“You see, I had bought into the Starting Strength mindset: you man up and do what it takes. I had seen many inspirational videos of young and old, male and female being brave under the bar. I appreciated the no-nonsense content of the “Ask Rip” video series. I experienced a physical and mental wake-up when, during my second session with Matt Reynolds, when he added twenty more pounds to my personal best deadlift and said ‘lift it.’”
“Training is as close as we can get for a mithridate for life. I now have three stents in the arteries around my heart—two of them in the LAD, which is sometimes called the “widow maker” artery. There was a phrase my wife and I heard several times from nurses and doctors who were trying to comfort us during the heart attack, during the process of getting three stents put in, and while recovering in the Cardiac Critical Care Unit. They said that I would be okay because I am strong.”
Renee’s Journey To The Platform by Andy Baker, SSC and Renee Mathis
Describing her own “road to strength” as “the scenic route with a few potholes,” Renee found inspiration in the strength community.
“In 2018, a major event occurred: I went to Strength Con in April 2018 in Wichita Falls. The combination of coaching, encouragement, and information resulted in a new commitment to 3 days a week of training (up from 2 days per week to this point).
This led to me registering for my first ever Strength Lifting meet. And thanks to Andy’s programming, I was able to set 3 PRs during the meet in September. I Squatted 205 lbs, Pressed 99 lbs, and Deadlifted 302 lbs. Not bad for a 55-year-old grandmother!”
“Three times a week something extraordinary happens. I was there visiting, having driven all morning. I was just finishing up my squats when the door burst open and a parade of excited lifters entered. Residents of the local group homes come twice a week to train. Excited, they come in ready to put on their lifting shoes and work hard. They are developmentally disabled clients and usually have some other challenges, but they do their work and set PRs, just like everyone else.”
“Lifting my father up from the floor, carrying him to the chair (no more cane, no more walker for him anymore) was simply the most important lift of my life. Although submaximal, it was much more difficult than I anticipated: lifting a human body by yourself from the floor can be difficult, a partially dynamic load with a shifting and unstable center of gravity, and damn near impossible to keep a ‘vertical bar path.’ But even in times of sadness there is humor, for I wanted to ensure my form was good. Somehow I remembered to keep my hips high, shoulders back, chest up, and lift with a neutral back. Even the thought of what a moment diagram would look like came to mind as I lifted my father.”
Up until the very moment she stumbled upon Starting Strength, Ness struggled with her relationship to food. Strength training with barbells shifted her focus from a dissection of her body’s every imperfection, to an acknowledgement, a sense of pride in what her body can actually do.
“Lifting will make you feel better. No shit, right? Everyone knows this, but when the depressive inertia sets in, it can be hard to get out of bed and make yourself train. You have to resist the inertia. Once you get done with your workout, you will feel better, and if not, at least you got something done. I can’t speak for others, but there is a feedback loop associated with my depression. I don’t feel like doing anything, so I get nothing done. Then I have nothing to show for my week which makes me feel like a piece of shit, so I get depressed. Having something disrupt that feedback loop can be extremely beneficial. Elevated mood being associated with exercise is well documented and was written about in a recent Starting Strength article, The Prescription of Strength Training For Treating Depression And Optimizing Cognitive Performance.”
“As I lifted heavier and heavier weights, my confidence grew, along with my assertiveness and conflict resolution skills. I noticed that things that would normally wear me out mentally and emotionally were easier to overcome, like disagreements, criticism, and failures. I slept better, was more energized and attentive during the day, and I no longer had constant low-back pain. And because Starting Strength is strength-focused, I began to appreciate my body for what it could do and stopped obsessing over what it looked like. I’m 15lbs heavier now, and gaining weight was one of the best decisions I made for both my lifting and my emotional well-being. And now, my periods of depression and hypomania are less extreme, less frequent, and are shorter in duration.”
“I lacked focus, but pursued all of it as a spiritual discipline, a pursuit of virtue. I knew I needed something more focused. My rounds were missing, but somewhere there was a target. I didn’t have the vocabulary for it yet, but I needed training, and I was merely doing exercise. The Starting Strength Novice Linear Progression (LP) provided what I knew God was calling me toward: Physical strength, and alongside it, the virtue learned in the progress. LP both requires and directly increases at least two specific virtues: Diligence and courage.”
The Lifter’s Satisfaction
When we choose to get under the bar, we are acknowledging some weakness of body or mind. Sometimes this weakness is inherent to being simply human. Sometimes that weakness is anomalous and unexpected. Other times, the weakness is an acknowledgment that we see ourselves as less than we should. Strength training becomes an overhaul in how we exist, how we fight for what’s important, and how we define value in our self-worth. Each weakness is something we can affect and change with this simple process that makes you stronger tomorrow than you are today.
This is the lifter’s satisfaction. You might not feel it as the bright and bubbly lightness of the runner’s high. Rather, you feel it in the tiredness of your legs when you finish a hard set. You relish it in the exhausted satisfaction—and relief that it’s over—after a heavy set of deadlifts. And in that sweet adversity, the barbell serves as a stand-in, a mimic or a boggart, for the many challenges that will assail your physical and mental being. It arms you with knowledge, that you’ve exceeded old limitations, that you are stronger and can bear more than you think. And you hold onto that knowledge when you have to face other tough things. The lifter’s satisfaction is the contentedness of a builder taking pride in his work, the artist’s relief that what she had in her mind became what she intended, knowing that at least in one venue hard work pays off. We encourage you this Thanksgiving to acknowledge your weaknesses because they give meaning to your training and make shine all the many reasons to train beyond the mere increase in force production. Give thanks for strength, because in working on yourself, you turn those weaknesses into the way forward.