It’s no secret that I am an advocate of strength.
I’ve dedicated hundreds of hours to training with a barbell, training for competitive strength sports, and pushing my body to its absolute limits, and there are a great many things that I’ve learned from that experience.
For starters, it’s made me question whether or not pushing myself that far has had health and longevity benefits or not.
Most people start same way, they decide that they need a life change, they decide they need to lose some body fat, or they decide that they need to be a little bit stronger and in better shape. Many of these people do not play competitive sports, and far fewer of them actually get paid to do so.
With the fitness boom, it seems that everywhere we turn we are inundated with information and programs and workouts to get us in to lean mean fighting machine shape. We get sucked in by the allure of being a warrior, being a titan, or looking and acting like our favorite professional sports players, bodybuilders, or heroes of lore. Often times this causes us to adopt training that does not serve our life. We go harder than we should, we recover less than we should, we say things to her self like “get after it”, “beast mode”, and “pain is weakness leaving the body.”
How often do we ask our bodies what they need, and quiet the clutter of the mind as it tries to intervene by telling us we need more, punishment, pain.
I’m here to tell you that after years of training under a barbell, countless injuries, setbacks, not being able to do everything in life that I want to do because I am too sore or hurt from the gym, that there is a better way.
I am not throwing out the ideas and principles that have gotten many of us strong throughout the years. I am not selling the next as seen on TV fitness toy. I am however, promoting being smarter, taking the Long Road, and approaching fitness, strength, conditioning, and overall health, in a way that serves our life, forever.
There is still a place for the barbell, but that place is far smaller than we have been led to believe.
As parents, businessmen, weekend warriors, adventurers, and people with lives that do not solely include sport, We need a way to bulletproof our body, build our strength, be agile, lean and conditioned, and enjoy the process while staying pain and injury free, so we can continue to live our lives every day during the process.
It is no secret also that I have been training with kettlebells. I have found that my risk of injury even though I am very experienced in the world of strength, has gone down to almost zero. My balance and coordination has increased, I am stronger in ways that I didn’t even know existed, and I wake up willing to train, wanting to enjoy the process, and not dreading the beating I’m about to put on my body as I’ve done in the past. With a mixture of body weight and kettlebell training, I have found that even as a trained and experienced strength athlete, I can improve more, and become a better human, be a better father, be a happier man, and ultimately be more capable for more of my life.
I’ve asked myself what is important, and no one pays me to lift heavy, but life requires I am strong and capable. This is me putting a flag in the ground, and declaring that there is a smarter way to train, that does not involve pain, injury, and can yield anyone a greater quality of life.
Whether or not you decide to start training with kettlebells makes no difference in my life, I will still be me, doing what I need to do, I only offer this as a path that I have found to be beneficial. There will be those out there that will read this and scoff, declare that that without the heavy lifting of the bar they cannot become strong, and I know this because that was me for so very long.
I would hobble around, grunt as I got down onto the ground with my daughter to play, rub my aching knees and shoulders, wince as I would carry a barbell back to the rack while coaching because my hands were so sore from the excessive amount of wear and tear I put on them. All the while I would view myself and compare myself with the professional lifters, the guys that top in the world, the 1% of the population that was either a successful competitive CrossFit athlete, powerlifter, strongman, whichever. I would go about my day like this, in pain, unhappy, unfulfilled, and scoff at an article that tried to tell me I should take a step back and be smarter, maybe adopt a style of training that helped my increase joint stability over the long term, or didn’t put the same stress on my body, but still contributed to my overall being able to move better.
I am so passionate about this because I’ve opened my eyes. Probably because I live in an environment where I see it every day, I see the people in the gym, and on social media, working towards fulfilling their own ideas of emulating the professionals, all while leaving themselves feeling worse for the day, but expecting a larger payoff dow the road.
This is not to say that some don’t continue to improve, and that’s great, but if your mentality is to push yourself to the absolute limit all the time, to find that line and flirt with failure, to come face to face face with your breaking point repeatedly, inevitably, you will cross that line sooner than later.
This article is meant to be a plea for you to really take a good look at why you’re training to begin with. If it’s because you have aspirations to be a competitive athlete, that really believe you will someday make it, then realize that there are demising returns to your health when competition is introduced at a high level.
If you’re looking to be better at being you, then it has to serve you today. You have to leave your training everyday happy, uninjured, and willing and ready to do it again. If you find that you’re “putting in the work” and not loving, feeling worn down, then it’s not working.
Consider adopting a different training style for a little while, give it a month, see how you feel, I promise you won’t lose all your gains.
If you’re an avid lifter, try hitting up some bodyweight and running, or give kettlebells a go, I have plenty of ways to make training effective with them alone, and more to come in the future, and you can always message me and I’ll put you on a plan.
In the end, I want to see you happy, I want to see you come in to the gym ready and excited to have some fun, and if that’s not happening then you’re doing yourself a disservice. Take a long hard look at yourself, and ask yourself why you’re really doing this, and is there a smarter way, a way where you’re not broken but built up, not worn out but energetic, not just getting through it, but loving it, not just surviving, but thriving.