Strength Is Relative (You Are Stronger Than You Know)

You already know strength is relative: a 100kg squat might be quite difficult for the average person walking down the street, but a piece of cake to an Olympic weightlifter. What is strong for me is weak for them. Sure. But I recently realised strength is relative in a different way, too.

I was struggling with some difficult emotions recently, but I forced myself to go to a Strongman class at my local gym. I got there, started doing the first few exercises and it was then that I knew I couldn’t go on.

I told the coach I needed to leave (which is something I never thought I’d do, and that anyone who knows me would never think I’d do), I cancelled the next class that I was also going to do right after, and I left, walking five minutes to where I’d left my bicycle, trying not to break down, crying, in front of anyone.

I got to the place where my bike was, and in the quiet, away from the street and the people, I noticed something: I wasn’t hungry.

And then I cried.

You see:

  • In this moment, strength meant not making these emotions about food, despite having a history of disordered eating.
  • In this moment, strength meant crying.
  • In this moment, strength meant cycling home, having a shower, getting clean, and taking care of my body with gentle movements and mobility.
  • In this moment, strength was the knowledge that tomorrow I had the opportunity to come back and try again.

The old me would have seen quitting the gym as a sign of weakness. It would have berated myself for giving up, for not trying hard enough. I would have told myself I would never amount to anything if I keep quitting like this.

Now I can see that stopping where I did was actually an opportunity to show strength. Because strength is relative, not just from person to person, but from moment to moment.


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