We’re only as strong as our weakest link
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about this concept. I wrote “We’re only as strong as our weakest member,” meaning that we take care of our own. It’s the job of the stronger, more knowledgeable, advanced member to take care of and look after the weaker, less experienced, newbie. We look after our own and strive to bring everyone up regardless of where they started from.
Once you’re a part of us, you’re a part of us.
Today I want to apply that same concept to you, your body, and your training. As physical beings, we are only as strong as our weakest link. And unless we address those weaknesses and bring them up, we’ll never reach our full potential. A squat can be limited by a weak core, a overhead press by poor shoulder mobility, a deadlift by the inability to hinge properly, fat loss by a poor understanding of nutrition or a lack of emotional support.
Here’s the problem: most of us find it very easy to support, encourage and help improve weaker persons in our group. As a society, we’ve come to value compassion and to see the merit in taking care of those weaker than us or at least we pay lip service to that notion. We publicly praise those strong enough to take action on behalf of those who need our help. But we won’t do that for ourselves. Why?
At a party last night a friend of mine told a story about replacing the water supply line that ran from the main to his house. To save money he dug up the line himself. He said, “You know, I was out there digging. It was around Christmas time, and the ground was soft and relatively wet. I dug for about an hour or so and got two or three feet. As I rested I began to think, ‘I could go to Lowe’s and rent a ditch witch...’ And then I thought, ‘What am I doing? JUST DIG!!!!’ So I dug for a few more hours and then I began to think again...’No, JUST DIG!!!!’” We all laughed at this story. We laughed because we know it so well. And I probably wouldn’t have thought much of it if he hadn’t capped the story off with, “Why am I such a pussy?”
Obviously, he’s not. He dug up 30 or 40 feet of water main buried a good 16 inches underground. There’s a reason tools like ditch witches got invented. Digging is hard work.
We drive ourselves so hard. My mentor and close friend, Chip Conrad, has said in workshops, “If we were to observe the way we treat ourselves in two other people, we’d call it abuse. Why do we consider it okay to do to ourselves?”
In the above story, my friend talking to himself that way is funny. But what if he had been talking to his wife or an employee? Suddenly that's not so cool. Why is okay to talk to ourselves in ways we'd never consider talking to another human being?
We abuse weakness in ourselves. We neglect it for as long as possible. We refuse to admit it even exists until some crisis won’t let us ignore it anymore; and then we launch into that weakness with a ferocity that - were we a married couple - would end us up in family court. How is this helpful?
When we work to bring up a weakness in another individual, we do so with support. We find ways to prop up the weakness. We offer remedial classes, tutorials, we identify the source of the weakness and find ways to negate it’s effect. If we want to eliminate the weakness we know we have to, in essence, love it away. Only then can we turn a weakness into a strength.
Why should we be any different?
In your training, it’s important to understand your weaknesses. First, by understanding that having a weakness is not a flaw in your character. There’s nothing wrong with you. There’s nothing inherently bad about having a weakness. It’s just how things are. This part is not as strong as it could be. Because of that it impairs ideal function. Period. That’s it.
You don’t suck and I won’t love you any less. In fact, you don’t even have to do anything about it, unless you want to get better in the particular movements that weakness affects.
Once you decide you want to address a weakness, a huge opportunity opens. The first step is assessment. What is the weakness? To find that we first look at the movements we’re having trouble with. How is the movement breaking down? What’s the cause of the flaw in the movement? To find that we look at the joints involved. Are they functioning like they should? If not, what’s the problem - stability or mobility? Stability is a function of strength. Mobility is flexibility.
Once you’ve identified the problem, you can then begin to devise appropriate exercises to build up the problem area. But you can’t do any of this until you let go of the negative emotions you associate with failure.
Ask yourself, does my being able to bench press my body weight make me a good person? No, of course not. There are plenty of perfectly horrible people who can achieve this feat of strength. Why do we feel that not being able to do so makes us somehow bad?
Qualities like weakness and strength have no inherent value in and of themselves. It’s what we do with those qualities that give them value.
Have the strength to love yourself. Have the strength to be patient with yourself. Use your intelligence to guide your growth with compassion. Work with your body not against it. You’ll find the path not only easier but more successful.
If you find you need help along the way we’re here. Agoge Fitness Systems offers both classes and private sessions to address all of your goals in a supportive manner designed to work with you. We’re happy to help.
To our perfect imperfection,