The other day someone referred to something I did in a workout as “a feat of strength.” While I very much appreciate a compliment like that, and I LOVE lifting more and smashing old PRs, the idea of being viewed by others as strong is kind of funny to me. I never thought about whether or not I was strong until I started Crossfit. I suppose it didn’t matter much to me how strong I was when I was lifting weights in front of a gym mirror. I was just doing it for myself, never measuring progress in numbers. Now 16 months into Crossfit I have a much better sense of the areas I am physically stronger and those that I’m not.
Over the last several weeks there have been a number of times I’ve wondered whether physical strength- like the barbell and yoke and heavy prowler push type of physical strength- is somewhat frivolous in the context of modern life. I work at a desk, drive a car, and buy my food at the grocery store. I don’t mean to put it down or take it for granted, but I’ve had some heavy things of another sort on my mind. It started during a sequence of events one night while I was laying in bed on an unseasonably warm night in Chicago. Anyone in the city knows what happens when the warm weather hits. That night I lay in bed, heard gunshots, had a nightmare about my family being hurt, and then I woke up and couldn’t sleep. I started poking around on the internet and for the first time I read an article about the Trayvon Martin murder. What really got under my skin on that particular night was the strength of his parents. That’s strength. To continue breathing when someone has taken your child’s last breath away. I thought about my friend who lost her young baby in a tragic accident and gets up every day and makes a life for her older child. That’s strength. Caring for a child, advocating for someone who needs help, losing a child and still going on, over-coming real life obstacles- these are certainly things that represent meaningful strength to me.
So where does moving a heavy barbell fast fit in? Does it even matter? The conclusion for me is that it does matter. It fits in because it uplifts us. What we do with our bodies can be likened to art or music or any other beautiful thing that demonstrates the best of the human spirit. I’m sure plenty of people would disagree with me. However I have met (both virtually and in real life) countless people who have been inspired and encouraged by one another through athletic pursuits. Here is a portion of a message I received from a woman who has rehabbed a very serious injury and is back Crossfitting (I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing!):
“Today I am on the road to recovery, and progressing in ways I never thought possible… Your words have given me strength in very trying and dark times and I cannot express to you what an inspiration you are! … You have changed my life… Thank you Elisabeth!”
Um, yeah. That leaves me with the feeling that moving a barbell matters. When you accomplish what you thought was impossible in the gym, you suddenly feel you can accomplish the impossible in other aspects of your life. If seeing me lift a big weight makes someone believe they can do the same, and in turn tackle something else in their world with greater confidence, then that’s my privilege. It’s my privilege to train hard and commit myself everyday to being strong.