Building Strength

Tyler Ouwendyk

This is a Guest Blog from Tyler Ouwendyk, owner of Momentum Fitness. Leading up to the STEEL Conference, we'll have a guest blogger write us a piece about each of the Pillars of the conference. Enjoy the following blog about Building Strength, and find out more about the conference here.

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:

The Uncomfortable Stress

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.

Making it Manageable

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.

Consistency and Patience

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”.

Applying Progressive Overload to Other Areas of Strength

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:

  1. We start in Kindergarten with half days, abundant play time, and no homework. Somehow, that felt stressful. 
  2. Then we move through the elementary years where the school days get longer, we have less play time, more homework, and we may have added some extracurricular activities to our plate. That too felt stressful.
  3. Next we have high school where all that amplifies, plus we’ve in added a part time job.  Again, that felt stressful.
  4. Fast forward through the next few years and now we find ourselves juggling our careers, family time, social time, health, hobbies, and whatever else.  Again, stressful.

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.

Other Examples of how to Build Strength

  • Building a stronger professional network: attending Hamilton Hive events and building new relationships with like-minded individual
  • Becoming a more confident public speaker: taking a public speaking course, signing up for public speaking opportunities
  • Improving yourself or your business: hiring a coach for professional guidance, support, and accountability
  • Learning to be a better leader, teammate, winner, and loser: joining sports teams or joining clubs
  • Working on weaknesses and opportunities for growth: reading books and taking courses that focus on areas for improvement

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.

5 Step Action Plan

  1. Think of how you would like to get stronger.  Write a list of the items and the areas you would like to improve.
  2. Now, picture yourself reaching these goals.  What habits does your future-self do daily?  Write these habits down and immediately start implementing them the best you can.
  3. Create a plan to reach your big goal.  You can create a plan by making a path that your current-self would take to get to your future-self.  Or reverse engineer the path if you prefer.  Just make sure there is a plan in place. Your plan should make you a little uncomfortable, doing the easy things won’t help you grow.  And remember, consistency and patience is key to avoid overwhelm and burnout.
  4. Set up mini goals and milestones along the way.  Think of ways you can celebrate each milestone when you get there.
  5. You’ll face some challenges, so remember to be easy on yourself.  What are ways you can stay accountable to the plan?  Who can keep you accountable?

And remember: there will never be a perfect moment to get started, so get started NOW!