For those of you who do not know the original story of Milo of Croton or Milo and the calf let me tell you a story…are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin…

“There is evidence of weight training even in ancient Greece, where Milo of Croton was perhaps the first strength athlete to gain renown for his athletic feats. He supposedly developed his strength by lifting and carrying a calf on his shoulders each day from its birth. As the animal grew in size, so did his strength. The principle used by Milo of progressively increasing the load or resistance to build strength and muscle mass has been verified in modern times as an effective means of developing strength in people of all ages.”-

So, that’s Milo. His story has been used many times to explain progressive overload in strength training, however in this article I am going to throw this story into a different perspective…

The one thing I hear most frequently from women when the subject of strength and weights comes up is…’I cant do that I am not strong enough’ Now, I am not talking 200kg deadlifts here, more so anything over 25kg on a bar and probably anything over a 10kg dumbell.

So, a couple of years ago when I got particularly frustrated at hearing the same old ‘I can’t lift that,I’m not strong enough’ and started to rant a bit with the group of women I was training. I didn’t know the story of Milo at this point but when I eventually read it, I realised the analogy between the story and the content of the rant. Its just taken a global pandemic and 2 years to write it down…

Anyway, I explained to the group of women the following concept. The biggest thing we tend to forget. It is more relevant to women who have had children but is a reminder to those who haven’t just what potential is hidden within.

So this is my (female) version of Milo of Croton…

When a woman conceives, she will in most normal circumstances gradually put on weight. Fat stores on her own body and the growing baby gradually increase over the course of the 9mths. This weight gain can be anywhere from 15 to 40lbs according to some sources (recommended ranges depend on the starting weight and other circumstances) but everyone is different.

The woman then goes through labour which in itself is a feat of strength for most of us. Not making light of c-sections as that brings its challenges particularly post partum, but anyone who has gone through natural vaginal birth will know most of the time its a bloody marathon not a sprint, and for the sprinters (I know you’re out there!) even they require extra energy and some stamina.

Then we get to the days/weeks /months following the birth. Some of us retain some (or all) of our post birth weight, so we are going about our daily business once again, this time not as heavy but somewhat heavier than pre birth and pre-pregnanacy.

We now have to lift and carry the ever growing baby for the best part of a year, sometimes longer before they can walk. They cant walk far for another couple of years so we are lifting and pushing. They cant get up on things, they can get off of things, we chase them and lift them all the while they are growing heavier… see where am i gong with this??? Now if we are lucky we start to lose some of that dead weight we are carrying, but the growing child is getting progressively heavier just like during pregnancy… And just like Milo’s calf….

Now, as can happen, the woman may get pregnant again during the 1st 2 years of the life of her 1st child. So the cycle begins again…but this time the loads are heavier. Even if you are back to your pre (1st)pregnancy weight when you get pregnant again, you are repeating the cycle but this time with a babe in arms or kid on hip…and don’t even get me started on our fore-mothers, and women who live in 3rd world countries…

Yes there are exceptions and yes everyone deals with pregnancy and child rearing differently and children differ in weight and development but the process is pretty standard for most of us. Just as it is with training and progressive overload.

Some of us do it once, some of us pop them out like we trying to repopulate the planet and some of us will never go through pregnancy but our potential to be stronger is always there.

My point to all this my fellow females is…you are stronger than you think or realise. Your body is capable of amazing feats of strength and your XX chromosomes have made it so. You just have to realise this and then understand that with correct training and most importantly time and patience you can be stronger.

This article has turned out to be a pre cursor to a couple of other articles regarding pregnancy and training so keep an eye out for those in the (hopefully) not so distant future.

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