Strength – Power – Endurance


Remember taking the SATs? All of us crammed in together in a gym or a library or the biggest place your school could come up with, breathing the same air WITHOUT MASKS and DEFINITELY not six feet apart – AHHHHGH!

Wait. Did I mean to go on a Coronavirus rant? I did not. I’ll start again.

Remember taking the SATs? It was a time of grinding stress for me, and the feeling that I was unquestionably the stupidest person in the room – probably in the entire nation of eleventh-graders.

The only time I even approached a feeling of confidence was on the English portions. You want me to tell you what’s wrong with that sentence? I’ve got this. You want an antonym for the word “rapacious?” Years of novel-reading made that a breeze. (Let’s go with “abstemious”).

As for synonyms – here. Hold my beer. English I got.

So when the world’s finest trainer, Barbara (of Body Dynamics, and she does virtual, so you could glory in her brilliance too!) hit me with what I THOUGHT was a synonym but it wasn’t, I was so deeply confused.

We were discussing the reality that when I’m in her cardio class (45 minutes of Is It Over Yet on Mondays at 10) or her balance class (60 minutes of I’m Not Watching The Clock YOU’RE Watching The Clock on Thursdays at 10), I know when I’m getting tired because my back muscles start bitching.

“Use more abdominals,” she said – as if that was easy.

“I KNOW,” I protested. “But they’re TIRED. That’s why I’m going with my back.”

“Yeah,” she said – not agreeing with me. “We’ve given you lots of abdominal strength, but not enough endurance.”

“What?” I was  knocked off-center by this (mentally; it matched me being knocked off-center by whatever exercise we were doing). “How can I have abdominal strength but not endurance?”

She answered me, but of course I couldn’t hear her; I was too busy frantically reviewing SAT regulations to take in what she said.

So the next day, while working out with Chip (also a brilliant Body Dynamics trainer), I button-holed him. “What’s the difference between strength and endurance?”

He nodded. This is apparently a common question among people who make their living re-shaping the bodies of people in need of a lot of re-shaping.

“And power,” he said, as if he hadn’t just lobbed a grenade into the mental library where I am, apparently, perpetually taking the SATs.

“What?? Don’t make it worse! Now, power really is the same thing as strength. Cut it out.”

“No – wait. Watch.”

He backed up from the camera on his laptop and assumed a push-up position on the yoga mat behind him. Chip is a dancer; he has those long, lean muscles that in no way prepare you for the oomph he can muster on the slightest whim.

“This is power,” he said.

Then he dropped his chest down almost to the floor and was suddenly hurtling upward like someone had stepped on the end of a rake, until his head was about three feet off the floor and his hands met in front of his chest in a loud, cracking clap.

I gasped at the sheer beauty of the movement, and missed him saying “And this is strength,” followed by a perfect regular pushup that a normal human might be capable of aspiring to one day after months of intense work and grim determination…

But I had stopped applauding by the time he said “And this is endurance,” and then he repeated the perfect pushup about five times, smoothly and easily.

“Wait! Wait! Go back – what was strength, again?”

So then he did all three of them again, like it was nothing. By the end, I was cackling in a very unladylike manner because the idea of doing ANY of that was so far beyond my imaginings, much less my physical abilities.

Eventually he calmed me down and explained. “Power is strength over a very short burst. Endurance is strength during conditions of muscle fatigue – it’s strength over time.”

Jeezum. Sounds like a formula… and I was SO BAD at the math SATs.

I asked Chip if he was training me to be good at strength or power or endurance. “Yes,” he said with a brilliant Chip smile. “All three. We want you to have strength, power, and endurance. So we keep pushing your limits. Slowly – but we keep going.”

“Surely at some point, I’ll get to a mythical “maintenance” stage?” My question was hopeful; his response was depressingly pragmatic.

“As we age, muscles want to weaken. It’s easy to slip into a much more rapid decline than you would have experienced a few years ago.” (He was being diplomatic. I’m sixty now; I’m unquestionably in the “use it or lose it” category.)

I was definitely whining. “So we’re going to keep increasing these exercises every time I can manage them? This is never going to get easier?”

He wrinkled his adorable Chip nose; he knew the answer I wanted to hear but was forced by his innate fairness to keep me informed.

“When it’s easy, you’re not pursuing power, speed, or endurance. And that means you’ll be increasingly more limited as you age. Which is NOT easier.”

Damn it. That’s an annoyingly good answer.

So now you know, too. There’s a difference between power, strength, and endurance. Which one should you be going for? The answer is – Yes.

Screen Shot 2020-06-05 at 3.14.37 PM

Wish I had a photo of Chip doing that clap; it was so much more fluid and powerful than this meaty steroidal shot – but I was too busy gasping to take a picture. You’ll have to go with this outrageous theft from Google images. Although – now that I’m looking at it, doesn’t it look like this guy has let his left hip drop down JUST ever so slightly??! Everyone’s a critic.



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