Get strong first

Having learned about the different fitness types, and about to make a change for life, you may have ideas about the type of body or changes you want to make. Perhaps a large part of your exercise routine will include long walks, or gentle jogs. Maybe it could include a ten minute punishing routine on a bike or rowing machine in the gym. I’m going to ask you to reconsider that choice before starting, and focus on one specific fitness type first.

Strength. When we looked at the archetype strong man, I chose Mariusz. I could have chosen any strong man competitor, olympic shot-putter, or body builder. Think of Arnold Schwarzenegger in his heyday. People look at bodies such as those and think, no, not for me. I don’t want to look like that. They have to eat ten chickens a day; clothes won’t fit me; I’m taking years off my life etc. A million other credible concerns come forward, and they’re all valid.

You flatter yourself, however, about how easy you think it is to look like that. Don’t worry about straining every sinew in your body: starting with an average build, you could lift like Hercules for a year and still fit into the clothes you buy on the High Street. It takes decades of hard, constantly progressive training to look like a strongman competitor. When I recommend that fitness begins by starting on strength training, don’t worry that you don’t want to look like The Incredible Hulk. Consider a different example of someone who saw the benefit of strength training.

Marilyn Monroe. She looked in great shape in countless celluloid classics, and she did free-weight strength training with dumbbells and barbells. All sorts of people train for strength not because they want to look like the extreme body builder, but because they want the unique benefits of strength training.

Bench press
Marilyn Monroe shoulder pressing a barbell
Overhead press

Everything reverts to the mean. If you do any fitness training for a while but then regress to a state of immobility, whatever benefits you realised from your training will be lost eventually. If you run round the block for 30 minutes every day, expect to go up a few flights of stairs with no problem. If you do sprint interval training, expect to win a foot race against most people. If you do strength training, expect to be able to lift a heavy object comfortably. The abilities will take a certain amount of time to be achieved, but they will also take a certain amount of time to disappear. Strength disappears slowly. Some aspects of strength persevere for decades to come e.g. your bones will become stronger to support the weight and load that passes through the frame that’s performing those feats of strength. No one likes to think about growing old and how their fading physical powers will cope, but becoming strong at any time will make the aging process easier.

Strength is a multiplier to other fitness types once achieved. Strength will help you keep a good body shape and toned muscles. Strength will make you less prone to weight fluctuations. By all means, train however you choose and focus on whatever fitness type you prefer. But consider starting to get fit by incorporating strength training at least to begin with. That’s my strong recommendation.