Strength comes in many forms; physical, mental, emotional and even professional. One of my favourite things about the human body is its ability to adapt to get stronger and improve resiliency. Anyone can build strength in any of these facets, at any time. It just takes some hard work, consistency, and patience.
So, what is the secret ingredient to getting stronger in any of these areas? Stress!
Stress is an essential component to building strength. We often think of stress as being a being a negative thing, but that’s not always the case. For each of us, there is a sweet spot of stress that is uncomfortable, yet manageable, and that’s where the real growth and adaption happens! We just have to find where our own sweet spot is to make the magic happen.
Let’s break it down with an example of building physical strength:
As a Health Coach, I help people get stronger physically through strength training. By loading a client’s body with external loads (the uncomfortable stress), muscles and joints become stronger, more robust, and resilient. This improves the client’s capacity to do more in life, as well as reducing the chance of injury and pain as you age.
However, by adding too much load, too soon, the stress is no longer manageable for the client’s muscles and joints, resulting in an increased chance of injury. This is why we want the uncomfortable stress to still be manageable. Throughout a training plan, there will be times when the stress is no longer manageable, or rest is needed for a more fruitful recovery. So, recovery weeks are added to the training plan to help de-load.
When we are in that sweet spot where the stress is uncomfortable, yet manageable, the journey feels long and daunting. There is rarely a “quick fix”. This is where consistency and patience is important because this process will yield exponential results over time.
As health coaches, we call this entire process, “The Principle of Progressive Overload”.
Think about how “Progressive Overload” and how the application of stress can apply to getting stronger in other areas of life…
For example, let’s look at how we build mental strength as we go through the educational system:
It’s funny how each stage felt mentally stressful and we were’t sure how we would manage. But we learned, adapted, and grew. And when we look back at what we used to think was mentally stressful, we laugh and realize how far we’ve adapted and the mental strength we’ve gained throughout the years.
However, those are examples of more “voluntary” situations to build strength. Sometimes we have an opportunity to grow because we are forced into unfortunate situations. For example, someone experiencing a sudden loss or hardship may gain emotional strength as they learn to cope with that stress. Or an entrepreneur currently navigating the hardships of COVID-19 is likely getting stronger mentally, emotionally, and professionally.