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You Are Stronger Than You Think – Guest Post by Gubernatrix

This guest post is really exciting for me.  Gubernatrix is one of my heroes and she actually asked if she could write something for us.  Replying to her email was one of the first pieces of real fan-mail I’ve ever sent.  Get ready to be inspired by a brilliant, strong, witty person whom I adore madly.

You are stronger than you think



by Gubernatrix

I’m a strength training obsessive and I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people say “I wish I was strong enough to do that” or “I would love to do that but I haven’t got any strength”.

The other complaint I often hear is “I’d like to get stronger but I find lifting weights boring”, or “I don’t like the gym”.

Sound familiar?

Well I am here to tell you that you are already stronger than you think you are, and that you can develop even more beautiful and useful strength without getting bored or frustrated.

This isn’t the preamble to revealing an amazing new piece of equipment or new training method. I’m simply going to talk about you and your attitude to your body and the movement it makes


My interest in strength grew alongside and fed off an interest in dance – specifically breakdancing (or ‘breaking’ if we’re going to be accurate). I’m really not that good a dancer but I loved it and I loved the way it made me feel.

The athletic demands of breaking made me strong and flexible. It built an incredibly strong core and strong upper body – the first time I ever tried a pull up I was able to do one because of the years of breaking. Becoming strong through breaking encouraged me to explore my strength further.

Both dancing and strength training involve manipulating your body in space and through space. Both require great awareness of your body and control over it, power, explosiveness, grace.

Like dancing, strength training puts you deeply in touch with your body, its physicality and its abilities. You learn a lot about yourself when you are trying to lift something heavier than you have ever lifted before, or when you are trying to master a movement that will explode a heavy weight from the floor to over your head in a second.

You can also be creative in strength training, just as you are in dance or any other activity for that matter. It is the difference between training movements and training muscle groups.

Train movements over muscles

All human movement is controlled by the same muscles. Dancing and strength training develop the same muscles. Shopping and mowing the lawn develop them too!

I’m not talking about “development” in the bodybuilding sense which is concerned with size, but rounded strength development and the mind-muscle connection which in its ultimate incarnation will allow a very heavy weight to be moved super fast.

You know those odd stories that crop up in the news every now and again: ‘Woman lifts car to free trapped child’? Type that into Google and you will see hundreds of them. People (you!) have super human strength and they don’t realise it because they don’t know how to access it. (If you want to know more about why these strange feats happen, read this article).

We use the same skeleton and muscles for everything we do. Strength training is therefore of the utmost importance in helping us to live better and be better – physically and mentally.

If the movements that you did in the gym reflected the movements that you did in life, you would probably find that you were much more competent at them than you thought. Ever pick something heavy off the floor? Ever carry a heavy weight in front of you and then squat it down? Ever throw it, hit it, drag it?

Those comments I referred to at the start are not wrong: working individual muscles is boring. Training with no discernible results is boring. Training moves that don’t do anything useful won’t make you feel strong and empowered.

But strength training doesn’t have to be like that. It’s quite simple – pick up heavy things (including your own bodyweight) in a variety of ways on a regular basis.


Choose movements you like doing, draw inspiration from whatever you fancy, whether it is dance, music, fighting or playing. You will be stronger, healthier, happier and have a whole lot more fun!

Gubernatrix brings her readers advice, news and opinion from the cutting edge of functional strength and conditioning. She likes free weights, kettlebells, rings, bodyweight, odd objects, conditioning, eating right and spending time in the great outdoors.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Stephanie Smith August 24, 2009, 7:34 am

    I love to dance and you are so right, it takes a lot of stength and endurance to do certain types of dance. That is a part of my fitness routine, so to speak, and I love it. The funny part is when people tell you that you make it look easy, but YOU know just how much effort it can take!

    • Josh Hanagarne August 24, 2009, 8:35 am

      Stephanie, what kind of dancing do you enjoy most?

  • Casey August 24, 2009, 7:34 am

    Awesome article! I agree 100%

    I used to be one of those gym rats that focused on single muscle groups… Don’t get me wrong, it worked well enough, I got stronger, faster, etc.

    But since I’ve got into a more “functional fitness” mode I’ve been impressed by difference its made in my day to day life, as you called it – moving through space.

    Thanks for the article!

  • Casey August 24, 2009, 9:08 am

    Just call me the white tornado!

    Sometimes I do a little dancing around the house, it only lasts for a few minutes. It usually ends with my wife giving me a concerned look and asking if I’m having a seizure, since what I was doing obviously wasn’t dancing.

    I smile and laugh, but secretly I’m crushed. *Sob* I suppose I have to face up to the truth. I’m just another guy who can’t dance.

  • Jon Owens August 24, 2009, 1:35 pm

    Great post! I don’t know why it took me so long to figure out that the Frankenstein approach to exercise (I think that’s a Dan John term) in my view misses the big picture of movement, strength, and fitness. I don’t think it could be said any better than Gubernatrix did: “pick up heavy things (including your own bodyweight) in a variety of ways on a regular basis.” Brilliant.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 24, 2009, 7:01 pm

      Jon, I’ve heard “Frankenstein” a lot, but don’t think Dan invented it. but remember, everyone invented everything.

  • Positively Present August 24, 2009, 1:46 pm

    Great post! I’m definitely one of those people who says things like “I’m not strong enough to do that” so this was a great post for me to read. 🙂

    • Josh Hanagarne August 24, 2009, 7:01 pm

      @Positively Present. Everybody starts somewhere!

  • Ron - Heroic Nature August 24, 2009, 4:59 pm

    I’m a gym guy myself, but I often have to find new ways to motivate myself to keep going after I realized that it was becoming repetitive (not the exercises themselves, but the going and coming).

    My ideal exercises though are football (soccer) and martial arts. I do plan to take them up again at the end of this year (seriously). I enjoyed those movements back in high school. The running, the kicking….great stuff.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 24, 2009, 7:01 pm

      Ron, I don’t mind the gym myself. I always train movement rather than muscles, however, so I never get bored.

  • Josh and Gubernatrix – I can’t believe I’m saying this publicly, but I haven’t been to the gym in 3 years. I think it’s because I haven’t found what type of exercise works for me – but this post reminded me of dance (which I did for 12 years) and just the simple outdoors, which can contribute significantly to strength and health. I’m kicking myself in the butt and will try to get this going again (fab ideas in the post as well). I can’t promise any of this activity will happen today, but I’ll report back shortly.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 25, 2009, 7:27 am

      Laura, I haven’t been to the gym in months, but I’m exercising more (and better) than ever. You can do a lot of things with your body and a kettlebell in a space the size of a phone booth.

  • Gubernatrix August 25, 2009, 5:46 am

    Glad this strikes a chord with people! Actually my dancing antics were something I forgot until quite recently. Rediscovering them, and applying them to the way I am training at the moment has been very rewarding.

  • Gordie Rogers August 25, 2009, 6:36 am

    Body weight exercises are much more fun and challenging than lifting weights. I make an exception for kettlebells and clubbells. They are better than barbells and dumbells.

    There are tons of exercises to do with them. Matt Furey’s book “Combat Conditioning” would be a great place to start.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 25, 2009, 7:26 am

      Gordie, thanks. This is the first time Matt Furey’s name has popped up here. I’m a big fan of his. Glad you are too. I’ve never used clubbells but have been very interested for some time.

  • Victoria Vargas August 25, 2009, 8:22 am

    I, too, love your statement “pick up heavy things (including your own bodyweight) in a variety of ways on a regular basis.” I was in killer shape in my 20s when I was working as a bartender as an undergrad – lifting buckets of ice, kegs and cases of beer, racks of clean glasses, etc. All the heavy-lifting, constant movement, squatting, reaching, etc. was better than any workout in a gym. My job today is much more sedentary, and its beginning to take its toll. So, I’ve been thinking lately how I might start improving my strength, flexibility, and tone by doing fun activities instead of gym drudgery. A few ideas on my “try this” list are: rock climbing gym, West Coast Swing dance classes, rollerskating, fencing, and power yoga. Several of these activities would involve hefting my own body weight around (rock climbing and yoga in particular), which would more quickly increase my strength. Given your post, I think I’ll start with those that will do that first and then try some of the others later. Thanks for a great, thought-provoking post!

    • Josh Hanagarne August 25, 2009, 8:25 am

      Victoria, I’ve heard the sort of strength you talk about–picking up heavy things, etc–referred to as “dad strength.” Meaning, a generation ago, more people were doing physical labor and a lifetime of hard work just makes you tough.

  • Gubernatrix August 25, 2009, 9:22 am

    @ Victoria: I am a rock climber too and can highly recommend it in terms of building strength and your body’s general abilities. Rock climbing involves a lot of technique and balance as well as strength. Once you have the basic skills you can climb in three dimensions, up, down, upside down. It’s fantastic!

  • Gubernatrix August 25, 2009, 9:23 am

    By the way, I’ve written a useful little article on rock climbing technique here:

  • Panayiotis Pete Karabetis August 25, 2009, 11:23 am

    I loved this article! I am fascinated with Olympic rings, break dancing, and Capoeira as sources of physical fitness. I agree that training compound movements is more functional that isolating muscles just for increasing strength.

    Pete | The Tango Notebook

    • Josh Hanagarne August 25, 2009, 6:51 pm

      Panayiotis Pete Karabetis, I’m a huge Capoeira fan. No, I can’t do any. I would love for you to write something about Capoeira if you’re interested.

  • Panayiotis Pete Karabetis August 25, 2009, 11:25 am

    You guys may also enjoy this pic!

  • Panayiotis Pete Karabetis August 25, 2009, 11:10 pm


    That’s me, and yes, I own those socks 🙂 I would love to write something about Capoeira. I’m a Tae Kwon Do guy by trade, but the kicking lends itself well to Capoeira movements. Break dancing’s even better. Email me, let’s discuss.

  • Gubernatrix August 26, 2009, 7:38 am

    Yep, breaking steals a lot from capoeira. I tried capoeira once but I wasn’t into the music…

  • Panayiotis Pete Karabetis August 26, 2009, 7:53 am

    Capoeira is definitely an acquired taste, Gnx. The beautiful thing about a group is how they encourage everyone to participate in playing the instruments and singing the songs. Singing in Portuguese still conflicts with my native Greek tongue so I’m still working on that. Otherwise, it’s an incredible synergy that takes place between players of a Capoeira community!

    Pete | The Tango Notebook

  • I enjoy watching them at any rate 🙂