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Insider Q&A | What Does It Mean to be Strong?

12th January 2024

12th January 2024

By Hannah Belsham

We spoke to our Innermost ambassadors about what strong means to them. In this exclusive Q&A, they share their perspectives on strength, extending beyond physical strength to encompass mental resilience and self-belief. 

As we step further into the New Year, take inspiration from the ambassadors' resolutions - consistency, enjoyment of the process, and self-compassion. Find what you love, start where you are, and embrace the transformative power of strength.

Before we get started, let's meet the ambassadors, Sade, Hercules, and Dina:

Chade:

"My name is Chade, i discovered yoga at 15, instantly fell in love. It became a vital part of me, helping me discover aspects of myself I never knew existed. In 2018, completed 200hr teacher training with TeganBYoga to deepen my connection and share the practice. Alongside my full time job i also teach morning classes at Hot Pod Yoga, the perfect way to start my day." 

Instagram: @chademoore_

Hercules:

"My name is Hercules Nicolaou. I am an entrepreneur, wellness coach and advocate of daily discomfort. I'm 1/3 of 'High Performers Club' where I spend my time helping people to reach their goals by helping them get comfortable being uncomfortable. In my free time you'll likely find me on a long run with a heavy backpack on somewhere in London!"

Instagram: @5mirky

Dina:

"My name is Dina and I am 26 years old and I'm an ultra runner. I love working out it has become such a big part of my life, in the last 3 years I have done 3 ultramarathons and 2 marathons and I look forward to doing so much more in the future."


Instagram: @runwithdins


Defining Strength, what does strong mean to you?

Chade:

To me, strong means not only being physically strong, I think physical strength empowers you to realise your capabilities. Strong is being really connected to your mind, body and self.

I think we often undermine how capable we are. So I think when you can strengthen your mind and strengthen your self-belief, you will really see the full capabilities of what being a strong human being is. I think strength definitely goes beyond the physical and it encompasses mind, body and everything else.

Hercules:

I think strength isn't just the number of weight that we move in the gym or a certain time it takes to run a distance. For me, I think strength is not just about what we do on the outside, but also how we feel on the inside when we do these things.

I think being able to find strength in our struggle is a really important aspect of life as well. More often than not in our hard times and within our discomfort, whether that be exercise or something in our career, that's where we find the most growth. So trying to stay strong within the struggle.

Dina:

How I see strength is that you need to be able to overcome challenges that are thrown at you. For example, I love running ultramarathons and there's a lot of moments while running that I have to push myself beyond my limits. I think you need strength in those situations in order to overcome anything in life.

It can be your mental strength, physical strength. Once you put those together, you become such a strong person. I think if you can overcome what's thrown at your mind, you can overcome anything in life. And that's one of the main attributes that I've been working on, just making my mind stronger as ever.

How Does Fitness Empower You?:

Chade: 

With strength training, I think you have to be consistent to start seeing the results in your physical strength and I think consistency is such an important trait to learn. I think when you can feel empowered to keep showing up, that is when you are going to reach the best version of yourself and I think that is something that everyone should try to achieve.

Hercules:

I think strength training has empowered me to have the confidence not just inside the gym but also outside the gym. knowing if I'm training for an event, for a run, or even just the way that I hold myself in aspects, whether it be social or in my career,  getting a hard workout done and strengthening my body just leaves me feeling a little bit stronger than I was the day before. I think that makes over into every other part of our life.

Dina:

Strength training has empowered me mentally and physically. Strengthening my mind and body has helped me so much when running ultras because a lot of the time I'm outside for hours, 20 hours and above, so working on my strength in the gym has allowed me to overcome a lot of things in life, not only in the gym, but also in my personal life as well.



 

What's Your Favourite Strength Exercise?

Chade: 

I think the plank because when you are holding a plank, it's up to you to stay in it. When your mind is telling you to stop you have to think, no, I'm staying in this and I think that's one of those moments when you feel your own strength. 

Hercules:

I think my favourite exercise would have to be the squat, mainly because it is the most uncomfortable and horrible exercise. Not only are you strengthening most of your body and your legs and your core, you're also strengthening your mind and you're becoming more resilient in the exercises that you don't want to do.

Dina:

For me, it's RDL's. So with RDL's, you have to really like work on your core and embrace your core during the exercise. And it took me months to get a good form whilst doing RDL's.

 

What's Your New Year's Resolution and What Advice Would You Give For Getting Strong?

Chade: 

My New Year's resolution is be consistent but at the same time stop being so hard on myself. I think we are our own worst enemies in putting pressure on ourselves. So I want to be consistent, but in a way that makes me show up to my training. 

For those starting their fitness journey this year, I would say find what you love and what makes you want to get out of bed. You don't have to do anything else that you're seeing other people do just because maybe that makes them look or feel a certain way. Find what works for you and remember to do you.

Hercules: 

My New Year's resolution is definitely to enjoy the process more. Stop being so fixated on the goal or the target or the event, but to enjoy the training building up to that.

My number one piece of advice for everyone who wants to start their fitness journey would just be to start where you are. It doesn't matter if you haven't got experience yet. Don't compare your page one to someone else's page 20. Just start exactly where you are, small steps and eventually you'll build up momentum.

Dina:

My New Year's resolution is to not be so hard on myself. I've done quite a lot in my life and I feel like I need to be grateful with the journey that I've gone through.

My advice to anyone is just stop, because a lot of people are scared to just take the leap. Once you start, you'll get the hang of things and just keep going. Don't focus on anything else by yourself.

Need Expert Advice?

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When you use external resistance like weights or resistance bands, it causes tension in your muscle fibres and microscopic tears. During the recovery phase, your body starts repairing these tears by creating new proteins and muscle fibres, which is what makes your muscles stronger. 4 Common Strength Training Myths: The buzz around strength training doesn’t come without common misconceptions and myths, and I’m sure you have heard many reasons as to why it might hinder your health or just not be of benefit to you.  1. Strength training can make women bulky This myth is  so prevalent within society but seems to be slowly decreasing. Actually, a balanced strength training program with a good diet gives you a lean and toned physique. Numerous studies have shown that genetic and hormonal differences between ourselves and our male counterparts, such as testosterone levels, make gaining large amounts of muscle a greater challenge for women. Studies have also shown that strength training in women tends to lead to an increase in lean body mass, which is associated with improved metabolism and fat loss and contributes to a toned and athletic appearance rather than bulkiness. 2. Cardio is better for fat loss Strength training actually plays a significant role in shedding fat by boosting metabolism and promoting lean muscle mass. A 2019 study by the Institute of Sports Sciences found that muscle is more active than fat -  a pound of muscle can burn anywhere from 10 to 20 calories a day, while a pound of fat burns only 2 to 5 calories a day. A 2020 study published in the Journal of Sports Science also shows that your metabolic rate is increased for up to 72 hours after strength-training exercise. This means that you’re still burning additional calories hours and even days after your workout. 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This is because strength training improves blood flow, reduces inflammation, and increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is basically what’s linked to memory and learning. Multiple studies have also pointed to other significant cognitive improvements after participating in strength training, like processing speed, memory, and executive function. Executive function is like the CEO of your brain—it's the boss that helps you plan, organise, manage your emotions and get stuff done. It's what makes sure you remember to grab your keys before leaving the house, helps you follow a recipe, and stick to a schedule without procrastinating or binge-watching TV. 3. Physical strength: It may seem like stating the obvious, but it’s an equally important benefit, and that’s your physical strength. As Shiv talked about earlier, as you progressively challenge your muscles with resistance, they get better at generating force by bringing in more muscle fibres after those microscopic tears. This allows you to lift heavier weights and perform more challenging exercises. This doesn't only mean the benefit is you can squat more or deadlift more, but also translates to completing more mundane tasks more easily like bringing the shopping in or climbing the stairs at work.  Strength training improves posture and reduces lower back pain by enhancing the strength and endurance of core muscles. When the muscles supporting the spine and lower back are strengthened through exercises like squats and deadlifts, they provide better support and stability. This, in turn, helps maintain a more upright posture and reduces the strain on the lower back, which alleviates that pain and improves your spine health. 4. Metabolic and chronic diseases: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), strength training has been associated with a 20-30% reduction in the risk of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and arthritis.  This is because it’s been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, so your body is able to regulate your blood sugar levels more effectively. It’s been linked to improvements in blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It also improves joint function and overall mobility.  5. Better sleep: Engaging in regular physical activity, including strength training, has been shown in research to improve sleep quality and duration. That research shows that 60% of people who weight train get an average of 7 hours or more of sleep per night. The exertion during workouts, coupled with the positive impact on stress levels, promotes more restful and rejuvenating sleep.   In summary, there are numerous myths surrounding strength training and if you're ever confused about anything you hear about it, you should do some research before disregarding weight training entirely, or simply get in touch on our website for some quick advice. Beyond physical benefits, strength training has many benefits for your overall health, from improving cognitive function to reducing the risk of chronic diseases, strength training enhances overall well-being. Embrace the power of short, focused workouts and discover the joy of achieving strength goals. Strengthen your body, elevate your mood, and foster a healthier, more fulfilling life through the enduring practice of strength training. Read more
Strength Training 101
Let’s talk strength training, where beyond pumping iron the pursuit of overall wellbeing takes centre stage - or should we say platform. In this article, we'll explore the multifaceted benefits of adding strength training to your weekly routine, and just how you can do so effectively. What is strength training? Strength training, also known as resistance training or weight training, is a form of physical exercise focused on improving muscular strength and endurance through resistance or weights. The primary goal of strength training is to enhance the ability of muscles to generate force, promoting increased muscle mass, improved tone, and overall functional fitness. It works by inducing controlled stress on our muscles to prompt physiological adaptations. When external resistance, such as weights or resistance bands, is applied, it creates tension within the muscle fibres and microscopic tears. 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The supportive community environment, both in-person and online, ensures an inclusive space for sharing experiences and motivation. Ultimately, strength training goes beyond building muscles; it fosters strength, confidence, and well-being for everyone.    What are the benefits of strength training?  The Mental Health Boost Strength training is not just about physical gains; it's a holistic approach to health that extends to mental well-being. Engaging in regular weightlifting sessions has been linked to reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression [1]. The release of endorphins during exercise acts as a natural mood enhancer, helping to alleviate stress and improve overall mental clarity [2]. Easier Everyday: It may seem like stating the obvious, but beyond the broader spectrum of benefits, the fundamental advantage of strength training lies in … you guessed it … enhanced physical strength! As you progressively challenge your muscles with resistance, your muscles become more efficient at generating force, allowing you to lift heavier weights and perform more challenging exercises [3].  This improvement in strength not only empowers you within the confines of the gym, but also translates into a newfound capability to tackle everyday tasks with greater ease and confidence. Increased Metabolism: Strength training isn't just about building muscle; it's a metabolic powerhouse. As you engage in resistance exercises, your body works hard to repair and build muscle tissue. This process consumes energy, boosting your resting metabolic rate. Over time, this heightened metabolism becomes an ally in maintaining a healthy weight and supporting fat loss goals [4]. Improved Posture, Joint Health & Bone Density: Strengthening the muscles that support your spine and shoulders helps maintain an upright posture, reducing the risk of chronic back pain [5]. Additionally, targeted exercises can enhance the stability of your joints, contributing to overall joint health and flexibility [6]. Weight-bearing exercises stimulate bone growth and remodelling, making your bones denser and more resistant to fractures [7]. This is particularly significant as you age, helping to combat conditions like osteoporosis and promoting long-term skeletal health. Enhanced Insulin Sensitivity: Regular strength training has been linked to improved insulin sensitivity [8]. This means your body becomes more efficient at utilising insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. This is not only beneficial for individuals with or at risk of diabetes but also contributes to overall metabolic health. Better Sleep Quality: Strength training could also be a natural remedy for those struggling with sleep issues. Engaging in regular physical activity, including strength training, has been shown to improve sleep quality for some [9]. The exertion during workouts, coupled with the positive impact on stress levels, promotes more restful and rejuvenating sleep.  How to Strength Train like a Pro Strength training for beginners: Start with the basics – master proper form and use lighter weights. Focus on fundamental exercises like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses to build a strong foundation. Don’t be afraid to ask your local personal trainer for help (that’s what they are there for!). Equally, if you’re practising at home, recording yourself and watching it back can be a great way to assess your technique - along with getting to grips with your mind to muscle connection, and making sure to feel the burn where you should! Begin by doing 12 reps of each exercise and go through the routine for 3 sets, taking a 30-second break between each set. Aim for a weight that gives you a good challenge, making the last two reps of every set extra tough - you should be too tired to try a 13th repTop of Form! This initial phase will trigger neuromuscular adaptations, enhancing your body's ability to recruit muscle fibres efficiently for strength-based tasks. Level Up:  When you’ve got the hang of it, it’s time to intensify your routine. Gradually increase the weight, reps, or sets, and add variations of different exercises to keep challenging your muscles – this is called progressive overload. Consider split routines, which target specific muscle groups on different days. This will allow for more targeted training and effective recovery. A common split routine divides training sessions into upper and lower body workouts. On upper body days, exercises concentrate on muscles like the chest, back, shoulders, and arms. Lower body sessions then emphasise exercises targeting the legs and glutes. Another approach is the push-pull split, where one day is dedicated to pushing movements (e.g., chest and triceps), and the next focuses on pulling movements (e.g., back and biceps). Advanced Strength Training: Now in the big leagues, strategies such as periodization come into play. Periodization involves cycling through different phases of intensity and volume to prevent plateaus and optimise performance [10].  Advanced lifters may experiment with techniques like drop sets and supersets to induce greater muscle fatigue and stimulate further growth. Recovery becomes paramount at this stage, so listen to your body, prioritise recovery, and make sure to fuel yourself properly for optimal results. Summary In the world of strength training, we've discovered its broad benefits, going beyond muscles to mental well-being, enhanced functionality, metabolism, joint health, and better sleep. Progressing through your strength training journey involves mastering form, intensifying routines, and strategic approaches. Whether you're starting or seasoned, the key is personalisation, consistency, and recovery. Building strength isn't just about weights; it's about a healthier, resilient you. So, grab those weights, start your journey, and watch transformative benefits unfold! [1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6137526/[2] https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Eric-Hall-4/publication/325652029_The_acute_effects_of_resistance_exercise_on_affect_anxiety_and_mood_-_practical_implications_for_designing_resistance_training_programs/links/5b1ee1ab458515270fc46b0c/The-acute-effects-of-resistance-exercise-on-affect-anxiety-and-mood-practical-implications-for-designing-resistance-training-programs.pdf[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2892859/[4] https://pure.bond.edu.au/ws/portalfiles/portal/36134364/AM_The_effect_of_exercise_interventions_on_resting_metabolic_rate.pdf[5] https://bmcsportsscimedrehabil.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13102-020-00181-0[6] https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0269215515610039[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6279907/[8] https://www.bewegenismedicijn.nl/files/downloads/tresierras_et_al._2009_-_rt_in_the_treatment_of_diabetes_and_obesity.pdf[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4341978/[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3438871/#:~:text=Periodization%20is%20the%20planned%20manipulation,the%20onset%20of%20overtraining%20syndrome   Read more