Litfest Special – “Sore Today, Strong Tomorrow”

“It ain’t about how hard you train; it’s about how much soreness you can endure and keep lifting heavier. It’s how much pain you can take, and keep progressing further. That’s how true strength is built.”

Sounds like someone just tweaked one of Rocky Balboa’s famous dialogues? Well yes, this is my version. This is what I kept saying to myself every single day when I was sore and wanted to quit lifting. Wait, do I sound as if I were training for some major lifting competition? Not really. I was (and still am) just training to get strong, and trust me on this – it comes with loads of soreness.

I was fascinated by this sport called “Powerlifting,” and the massive strength these power lifters possessed. What intrigued me most was, “Can an ordinary girl like me get that strong?” And there began my rollercoaster ride with lifting and soreness.

The very first day of my training, I trained legs, and the next day, I could barely walk. I was limping in pain. It appeared as if my tryst with lifting would end in just a day.

But, I wasn’t going to give up so easily. Second day, I trained back and chest. Again, the next day, I experienced unbearable pain in my entire back, chest and arms.

I started having doubts that either there was something wrong with my training, or I was not made for lifting heavy in the first place! I mean, I was supposed to get strong, but there I was, in such pain that even attending to my daily chores seemed nearly impossible.

I was beset by self doubt and misgivings. Should I quit? Should I change my training? Why do I even need to get strong?

With these questions in my mind, I sat down to do some research, and the first thing I learned was that this pain was called “DOMS” – Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness. The more I read about DOMS, the better I understood what I needed to understand – “If I have to get truly strong, I have to endure an enormous amount of soreness.”

I define DOMS as an annoying, grace-crippling, style-cramping and clumsiness-inducing after-effect of lifting. Have you ever tried to just put on a shirt after a rigorous arm workout, or tried walking gracefully in a pair of stilettos after a strenuous leg work out, or climbed stairs without your hands supporting your lower back after a heavy deadlift session, or even just tried crossing your legs in style while sitting on a chair after brutal leg training? If you have, then you will definitely appreciate my definition of DOMS.

In my initial months of lifting, I was sore every single day in one part of the body or another. Sometimes, my entire body was sore. But, after the initial dread and hatred towards DOMS, I eventually developed a love-hate relationship with soreness. It hurt and I hated it when I could barely sit on the toilet, but felt awesome knowing that I trained hard enough to be sore.

So does “Sore Today, Strong Tomorrow” mean one can train today and get strong tomorrow? No. One needs to train relentlessly for months together without giving heed to soreness, in order to build any real strength. It took me a year to see some real strength gains. The strength I have today to carry 120 kgs on my shoulder and squat, to deadlift 110 kgs, to bench press 65 kgs, to press 60 kgs over my head, and to row 60 kgs, is what I have gained from all the soreness I have endured, and still endure on and off.

From struggling to squat and deadlift the weight of just the barbell, to squatting and deadlifting 100 plus kilos with ease, the strength I have gained is as real as the soreness I have endured.



Article Credits – Aaniethaa Singan (Litfest Submission)