I remember being told that in order to do great things, I need to toughen up. I had to be strong. That 6 year old girl spent the next 20 years living up to a definition of strong that was given to me. All the while wondering why I never felt strong enough. So let’s talk about being strong. 

Strong is defined as “having the power to move heavy weights or perform other physically demanding tasks.” Naturally growing up I thought to myself that I needed to be powerful, more dominant than others in order to be great. I needed speed, agility, athleticism. But I was tall, lanky, slightly uncoordinated, and wore large glasses because I couldn’t see. I thought…. “I AM NOT STRONG.”

I began playing sports and discovered my athletic ability. My 17 year old self could switch hit and throw out the fastest girl on my softball team. I found Crossfit and loved sweating it out once a week. It was the first time I found the barbell. Within three years I tore my ACL twice and battled with the thought that I’d have to hang up my cleats competitively. I figured …. “I AM NOT STRONG.”

The doctor called on a Tuesday night with my diagnosis. It had been an uphill battle for 13 months. Three specialists, $2k is medical bills, and no confirmed answers. I was told to limit my physical activity (hahaha another post for another day) especially vigorous exercise. I gained 44 pounds over the next 3 years. I moved across the country, married my best friend, and started a new job. Meanwhile I struggled with body image, injuries, and major anxiety disorder. I did not have it together. Nothing seemed to work. I accepted … “I AM NOT STRONG.”

I found Weightlifting. I started training and competing four years ago and it soon became my therapy. I wasn’t good but that didn’t matter. I was working and could escape from my reality for a few hours each day. Insert social media and my lifelong definition of strength and I was close to giving up. I saw women who lifted more, earned medals, competed to represent our country. It all seemed unattainable. I convinced myself that strong was reserved for the them. But as for me … “I AM NOT STRONG.”

For most of my life I subscribed to a notion that strength was physical and that strong meant being able to move weight against my opponent. But what percentage of our lives are spent trying to beat someone else? How many hours per day do we spend physically moving some inanimate object? Compare that to the percentage of time we spend convincing ourselves to overcome obstacles … sleep more, eat better, drink water, turn off social media, be kind to others, apologize first, forgive more, laugh and the list surely goes on. Here’s the facts STRENGTH IS ABOUT LOOKING IN THE MIRROR and overcoming what’s looking back at you. 

There is another definition of STRONG that I learned recently. Strong represents the ability to withstand great force or pressure. The battles, stigma, the challenges… strength is about enduring the pressure and coming out on the other side. It’s asking for help. It’s about admitting when you’re wrong. It’s about standing up tall. It’s about integrity in the face of adversity. I am not unique in the fact that I have had crap happen to me and I most certainly set myself up for some of it #life but I’m here and stronger than ever. Strength is mental, it’s emotional, it’s spiritual and while I was being challenged physically- I was gaining strength in areas that have helped me get to where I am now. I’m far from perfect. I’ve still got insecurities. I have things that I’m trying to figure out. But I stopped apologizing for not living up to a partial definition of strong that society tries to teach us. 

I’m doing a lot right now. Much of which I never thought I was strong enough to accomplish. Earned my PhD, now I am teaching, coaching, writing a book, and managing a book …. and the question I get is “How do you do it?” I’ll tell you this. God gives me a ton of grace and I found STRENGTH in the details.


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Hi, I'm A'Naja

With more than a decade of experience in the fitness industry, I am a proven ambassador of holistic approaches to functional fitness, competitive Weightlifting, nutrition science and overall wellness.

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