This article is written by Keris Marsden.


When I entered the health and fitness industry I considered strength predominantly in the physical sense. Strength was related to how much iron I could rip off the ground and press over my head, and how long I could grit my teeth and push my mind beyond blisters and fatigue to beat the competition. This instilled a level of self-confidence about my physical capabilities. I considered myself strong, and so would anyone else who saw me in the gym.


Over the past few years, my perception of strength has drastically changed. I’ve come to realise that testing my physical limits is actually easy, thanks to my competitive nature and love of endorphins. However, life has presented me with a set of challenges that require a type of strength that goes beyond deadlifts and dumbbells.


This strength has kept me upbeat and positive when my mum was diagnosed with cancer. It led me to invest my life savings into writing a book, knowing that I might not sell a single copy. It made me open my laptop and restart after making almighty business blunders. There have been many occasions when, against all odds, I’ve managed to dig deep to discover an inner strength that I never knew existed, and I’m pretty sure I’m yet to see my personal best.


male clean

Whether it’s a performance, health, or life goal, strength builds the strongest version of you. (Photo courtesy of Cara Kobernik)


3 Crucial Elements to Embrace Strength

Strength is personal and subjective. To find real strength, you have to break down barriers, overcome limiting beliefs, and exceed your own expectations. It requires stamina and endurance of a different kind as you’re tested relentlessly from many different angles. Here’s an insight into what strength means to me.


1. Get Uncomfortable and Deal With It

With good intentions, expert coaching, and a burst of willpower, you can venture outside of your comfort zone. Sign up for a new class, enter a race, download a diet plan, hand in your notice at work, or launch a business to fulfill your ambitions. Venturing into the unknown is the easy part. The hard part comes when you realize how much hard graft, consistency, and focus are required for success. This place can be exhausting, boring, and frightening at times. Your comfort zone will coax you back with the promise of safety and familiarity every chance it gets.


Strength enables you to tough it out and get up again after knockbacks and mistakes. Strength gives you the drive to start fresh after a downright awful day. For me, running a business has easily been the toughest strength programme I’ve ever endured. Leaving my office job was easy because I was fueled by a passion to change the world. But it turns out, I’m a terrible entrepreneur. Public speaking petrifies me, I loathe discussing financial transactions, marketing lingo makes me shudder, and when tax season rolls around, I shove my head in the sand. But I’m still here, because I know every challenge makes me stronger.


Takehome: True strength involves acknowledging the commitment it takes to apply the knowledge, skills, tools, and confidence you need to navigate unfamiliar situations and challenges. Whether it’s a performance, health, or life goal, strength builds the strongest version of you. The first time you attempt to perform a squat, meditate, swing a kettlebell, write a blog, or poach an egg, it will likely feel unnatural, uncomfortable, and may even go wrong - especially the egg, if you’re as impatient as me. The second and third attempts might be the same, and it’s easy to feel like “this isn’t for me,” but please don’t give up. If you persist and remain dedicated through the bad times as well as the good, you will discover the true depth of your strength and achieve things you never thought possible.


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2. Learn What to Do When Things Shift

When I was nineteen years old, my dad told me that a strong attitude and robust mindset will help you stay positive through uncertainty and change. His words resonate with me now more than ever. Years ago, when I told my dad I wanted to leave university because I was feeling totally overwhelmed, he took me on a long walk and explained that change in life is inevitable, and there would be many occasions when I would feel challenged or threatened by change. He told me confidently that the strongest people in life take attack change head on and make the situation work for them.


Takehome: In whatever process you’re going through – training, nutrition, weight loss, or career - look for positives. Many people focus on what they’re missing and remain blinkered to the new opportunities that lie ahead. If you’re improving nutrition, rather than lamenting the absence of your favorite foods, invest time in the kitchen to get savvy with your cooking skills so you can whip up tasty meals. If you’ve joined a new training venue, join in on social events and get to know the team so you feel comfortable in your new environment. If you struggle with the process, find a coach who will discuss your fears. At Fitter Food, the core of our work with clients is developing an awareness that adversity is tough, but ultimately it’s what makes you stronger. 


Your strength will evolve as you take more risks, face more fears, experience more discomfort, and acknowledge and learn from your mistakes.

3. Embrace Yourself

In a world where technology has revolutionized how we live and interact, the Internet allows you to selectively edit how your lifestyle is perceived by others. The daily bombardment of aspirational images adds to the highly competitive social environment, making it tempting to enter the race, buy the supplements, or eat the superfoods. On top of that, the health and fitness industry is waiting with solutions to take advantage of these pressures you feel.


It takes a great deal of strength to stay true to your beliefs and values and not get swept along with the hype. I hope #justbeyourself becomes popular, as it’s vital to your happiness, health, and success in life.


Takehome: Many clients we coach come to realise that a reason they’re struggling to reach their goals is because they have imposed unrealistic expectations upon themselves. They lack the satisfaction of success because they are striving to become something they are not, perhaps driving themselves in to destructive habits. This can take the form of trying to achieve an unhealthy body composition or training through injuries, actions that are rooted in a materialistic perspective.


This pressure to be something you’re not is creating an epidemic of adrenal fatigue, orthorexia, overtraining injuries, and low self-esteem. To be yourself in a world where you’re encouraged to be anything but is a sure sign of your true strength. There is no such thing as perfection. Become best mates with your body. Have the courage to be open and honest about your vulnerabilities. Share mistakes, and admit when you fucked up. In essence, just be real, and if you’re ever in doubt on this journey, follow your gut instinct, because it’s often right.


Make real health your focus. Eat right, sleep enough, train hard, and fulfill your potential in life. There are no short cuts. The success you achieve is the direct result from consistently standing by your beliefs and taking pride in your efforts.


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Strength Is All About You

The expression of strength goes beyond how much you lift, how fast you sprint, or how you perform in competition. You may not consider yourself to be strong, but I’m 100 percent confident you’re a force to be reckoned with.


At some point, life will force you to rise up when you want to hide. You’ll give everything you’ve got when you feel like you have nothing left, and you will believe in yourself when others don’t. Your strength will evolve as you take more risks, face more fears, experience more discomfort, and acknowledge and learn from your mistakes. You will emerge stronger and undefeated.


There is nothing that compares to your strength, because strength is all about you.


This article was originally published on Breaking Muscle UK.