Strength has been a passion of mine since I was a young boy. Growing to be strong is encouraged heavily when a boy is a child.
“You have to eat well so you can grow to be strong!” I can recall.
Clearly, in my young mind, our purpose was to grow up to be a strong man. When I got into high school, with sports and weightlifting, I thought I had found all of the answers about what strength was, and what becoming a man would require.
I never did start learning about strength until I got into personal training and helping others.
Before this, I thought strength was something that could be measured, and if you didn’t meet those measurements, you just weren’t good enough. High School, I qualified as a state wrestler. College, I weighed 160 lbs. and could bench press 320 lbs. Adulthood, I qualified for The Boston Marathon on my second try. All of these were measurements that a lot of people could look at and say justified the merit I was seeking. It never felt like it though. I was never happy and always striving for more. Why?
Nobody ever actually got inspired! In fact, I remember a conversation with a fellow.
He says, “Man, you’re looking fit and I’m just a slob! That makes me feel bad about myself.”
I responded “Well, I do stay fit to inspire others. It doesn’t inspire you?”
“Not at all. Actually, it makes me feel even worse.” An honest answer.
This was a blow. I truly believed, with all of the effort I had put out there, that I would be helping people feel better. Not worse. I didn’t want that, and I still don’t want that!!!
I had been so focused and obsessed about the ‘measurement’ it took to be strong that I forgot about the weakness aspect of strength. Weakness, in essence, it what motivates a lot of us to be strong in the first place. Being up to the measure may have inspired some people, but as a whole it was inspiring a few and deterring the rest.
In April, I took a big step back. I signed up to do a half-marathon in Nashville, Tennessee with my sister. This was her first one, so I decided to stop chasing a personal best time, and to hang back with her and run by her side. Do you know what happened at the end of that event? I still felt great and accomplished. I used to think that beating my own records meant getting more out of myself and impressing others more.
What this taught me was how to be happy for others. That is huge! Chasing the numbers made me bitter because very few people could relate to them. When I hung back, I became relatable and could cultivate a bond. That bond woke me up. Invigoration! What is inspiration without it? Simply a shallow breath. I’m not here for a shallow existence.
While I’m here, I simply wish to breathe freely and with liberation. By myself, I can breathe freely, but it is in being with others that brings liberation also! With strength, as a human being, not just the defining principle of your gender, it requires two things. First, be honest with yourself and where you’re at, and second, once you are in that place of honesty, help anybody you can help get there too. Here, I feel strong!
Trey Tompkins is a local resident who writes fitness columns for the Record-Herald.