I read a terrific blog post from a strength trainer this weekend, gathering up responses from her female clients to the question: Why do you train for strength? This is a must-read, so take some time and read it here.
I don’t know about you, but I laughed and cried and yee-hawed my way through that posting. One client’s response in particular made me sit up and take notice:
- “Then I started remembering…growing up the youngest of 4 I frequently felt left out and inadequate. One of my older brothers would (almost daily) decide to make me his unwilling wrestling partner. He would pin me down while I screamed for my mother (or anyone) to help me. Yet, no one came. My childhood is full of similar memories of being overpowered, and feeling frightened, weak and helpless….Now as a grown woman and mother of 3 I have taken control of my life and these feelings and focus on being positive. Does doing pushups make me feel strong? Sure. Chin ups? You bet. 110 lb squats on my 120 lb frame? Oh yeah!!”
This really resonated with me. I was the baby of seven children. Standing in line–last, left out, inadequate, too little, not old/big/smart/fast enough–was my daily bread. I learned early on that there was nothing I would attempt that had not been done before, better, stronger, faster, or with greater success by my older brothers or sisters.
And yes, the older-brother torture? Tickling, for me–bouts that would start out as fun and light-hearted–what little kid doesn’t love the attention of the older brother?–but that would leave me crying and heaving for breath, occasionally losing control of my little-kid bladder, humiliated and utterly powerless. Great game for them–unrelenting fear for me.
Long ago, I had pinpointed my birth order and these early feelings of littlest-and-least as the root of my sense of being called to, my feelings of satisfaction in my work: helping students (who also often feel littlest-and-least in these big systems) navigate their way through university, connecting them to the tools, information, and people that will ease their way and move them toward their goal. College was the one area where I had persisted and achieved above and beyond my siblings; I took that success and parlayed it into a deeply satisfying career.
Essentially, I never left college–perhaps because it was the first and only place I had found success on my own terms.
But this weekend, I suddenly had a new think to think! Could that same root of fear, of powerlessness, be why the kettlebell has so taken hold of my heart?
When the doctor I worked with for a year gave me the go-ahead to add exercise–having controlled the scary stuff, and reorganized my eating into a pattern I could (literally) live with–he strongly urged that I experiment with new things, find something that “gets you excited to do it every day”. In a lifetime of failed attempts to lose weight and get in shape, I had tried just about all of it, too: aerobics, machines, gym membership, women-only gym membership. But it was kettlebells that captured me–and in a sense, helped me save my own life.
The sheer muscular joy in strength of the women I saw on screen–that could be mine. The utter competence required by the focus on proper technique to manage greater and greater weights safely–I could do that.
I could be competent. I could be strong. And I could teach others. Funny how it all fits into place.
Not just exercise: blessing, both ways.