Overcoming difficult life experiences is an obvious defense against future difficult life experiences.
Another, more proactive, defense is to just go pick up heavy ‘ish and get strong.
Consider the following. Throughout the fitness world you’ll hear a great deal about “newbie gains.” During the first six months to a year of training, strength increases on compound lifts are almost incredible for the typical trainee.
Why is this?
During the early stages of strength training, it isn’t so much that muscles are developing at an insane pace. No, the brain is just literally learning what it can already do, where you have strength and what muscles to recruit to overcome each obstacle. It’s going through neural adaptation.
You can’t know just how strong you are until you’ve greased the wheels and been forced time and again to be strong.
At First You’re Just Learning What You Can Already Do
The greatest gain early on in a strength training program is being surprised by, and convinced of, how strong you already are.
Programs like Starting Strength or Stronglifts advise you to start with just the barbell. It’s got nothing to do with your actual ability to lift the weight. Instead it’s about learning the right way to move in order to maximize strength gains over the long haul and minimize injury and setbacks. It’s about building confidence.
So you show up week after week and you squat, bench, deadlift and press. Each week you add another 10 lbs. And with little exception, you’re astonished week after week to be able to handle it.
The Only Way to Know Your Limits Is To Test Them
This is the thing with life: you don’t really know how strong you are until you’re tested. You don’t know how strong you are until you actually have to be strong. That’s when you discover whether you have grit, tenacity, resourcefulness, courage or wisdom. You don’t know until you have to know whether you can kick serious butt.
Your brain stores those experiences so that the next time you face challenges, you can have a little less fear and a little more confidence. You’ve seen yourself overcome.
And this is where strength training becomes so valuable.
Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right. -Henry Ford
It doesn’t seem like there would be, but there’s a correlation between how strong you feel at the gym and how strong you feel in life.
According to an article in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, “[i]ndividual perception of personal capabilities is hypothesized as an integral cognitive mechanism that may moderate this relationship between resistance training and psychological states.”
Let me break that down.
If you think that you’re strong, you’ll act like someone strong. You’ll try things that are hard. You’ll pick up heavier weights, take on challenges in life, stand up for yourself. You’ll thrive. This perception of self-efficacy affects “every area of human endeavor.”
When you feel stronger, your actions change and you act stronger.
You realize you already ARE stronger than you thought.