If you want to get strong in a natural and deep way I suggest getting a couple of unruly (not mean) dogs that pull you around every which way when you are walking them about. I have been doing that for the past twenty five years and I believe it has served me well.
Some people are stronger than others. Some people are born that way and some develop strength over the course of a lifetime. It is my deeply felt belief that it is good to be strong.
I was born fairly strong for whatever reason. I am fairly weak in comparison to so many of the people I have met and worked with over the years but it is all relative. It became apparent that I was pretty strong when I took my first job in construction at seventeen years old. I applied for a laborers gig from a Help Wanted ad showing up at a construction site on Thompson Street between Bleeker and Houston.
As it turns out, surprise surprise, I was the only Caucasian and the only applicant without a prison record. And I was half the size of everyone who showed up. The foreman laughed at me, said “Why not?” and asked me if I had ever used a jackhammer before.
While the first few days were truly viscous— jackhammering eight hours a day to put a twenty foot by twenty foot whole in the floor to make room for a central stairway that would lead to the section of the store below street level. But soon enough I was hauling rocks and lugging bags of cement and it was quickly apparent that the fact that I was half everyone’s size didn’t set me back much.
In the years since I have done more than my share of manual labor, loving the work and the exercise combination aspect of things but it has been a long time since I have had to put in a real days work and sometimes I think I suffer for it.
As a yoga and movement teacher I offer a strength based practice. My classes tend to work the core more than anything else trying to help people develop a balanced musculature that will serve them for a lifetime.
But one of the issues with yoga— that I have written about numerous times before— is its inherent lack of dynamism. It is a fairly linear and straightforward practice without any of the sudden start and stop kind of power inherent in most teams sports like hockey or basketball, or daily activities like living..
To that end I am always trying to help people find ways to get strong in a functional way that fits into their lifestyle.
If someone wants to develop upper body strength and a dynamic core I highly recommend getting two dogs between fifty and seventy pounds and don’t work too hard to train them.
Speaking from experience as I mentioned, there is nothing like trying to keep a couple of beasts in line in the pursuit of core tone.
It helps if they like chasing squirrels and cats. Imagine if you will, a lovely Brooklyn morning out with the dogs. You run into someone you know and are chatting amiably. Unbeknownst to you a cat has sauntered out of a garage into the driveway that you stand in front of.
You have no time to prepare as both dogs lunge at the same time doing their best to pull you off your feet. And guess what? If you aren’t somewhat strong they will. But if you are strong and they reach the end of their tether they will come flying back towards you on the rebound as your core solidifies around your trunk and your arm becomes an extension of your spine. As strong as they are, if you are up to the task they won’t be catching critters any time soon.
The feeling of two dogs lunging that way is pretty awesome and amazing. And feeling the power of an engaged core is pretty cool as well. Your brain goes into action to activate the necessary muscles before you are consciously aware of it, and you can witness the end result – you as immovable object— with a certain proud omniscience. Cool stuff.
To be honest I am fifty one and my days of big dogs are coming a close. We have one at the moment after his mate passed away a couple of years ago. The next batch of puppies will be of the smaller variety. But that is because I am fairly strong already.
If you are looking to build up some natural strength get a couple of big ornery dogs and go on some long walks.