What Happened to Strong & Tough?

You’re strong but are you tough? What do the words, strong and tough mean to you? Feats of strength are posted all over social media, but the toughness aspect has slowly faded away from modern culture. A pet peeve of mine is how “soft” we have become as a society.  Some of the following can be held responsible for the slow deterioration of the definition of “tough and strong” in relation to men.

  • Skinny Jeans
  • Lifting Gloves
  • Yoga pants (on guys)

On a serious note, there are many other things causing society in general to “soften up” but the above are a few of those associated with the weight room and todays fashion trends. I’m not proclaiming to be a tough guy but I definitely think that society in general is on a slippery slope. Compared to my father and grandfather I don’t even come close to their level of toughness/ruggedness! I’m sure anyone reading this  comparing themselves to their parents and grandparents will admit the same. (Unless your father is a UFC fighter of course)

My granddad is about to turn 93 years old. Just last week he was out cutting down trees with his chainsaw, loading them onto a trailer and then unloading back at the farm. I just hope I am in such great shape at 93!! His recipe? Hard physical labor, natural food in moderate doses and a side order of quality Irish whiskey. He has obviously found a recipe that works.

1) He has never entered a gym. He moves OFTEN.

2) He does not take ONE medication. He eats real food.

3) He has all his original teeth. Sugar is consumed in moderation if at all.

4) As a result of the above, he has zero prescriptions for medication. (Something doctors were amazed by on his most recent office visit)

5. Physical labor is all he knows from the age of five.

Grandad with Billy the pony
Grandad with Billy the pony

The sad thing is there are people in their twenties and thirties who don’t even compare to my grandfather physically and that is a problem! Obesity of course is one cause, a topic for another day perhaps. Apart from the obvious nutritional problems with modern eating habits, toughness is becoming a watered down topic.

There is a blurred line between the two words “tough” and “strong”. After reading an article called “You May Be Strong……But Are You Tough?” from artofmanliness.com  it got me thinking.  The definition of tough is “strong enough to withstand adverse conditions or rough or careless handling”. On the flip side of that, strong means, “having the power to move heavy weights or perform other physically demanding tasks”.

Being strong is something everyone should aim for and there are great benefits from being mentally strong as it pertains to life and sports. Over the course of time, the definition of tough has changed dramatically. If after reading this article you run out and bench press your car in order to prove your toughness, then kudos. After seeing the above mentioned article I put together my own list of some small steps we can to raise the level of toughness currently in existence.

1. A Thick Skin

Previous generations had more exposure to physical labor. They battled the elements and worked hard at their jobs. Simple. There is less and less of this due to technological advances that we have now. The idea is not to quit your job and become a bare knuckle boxer or even a lumberjack. Instead maybe don’t pay someone to clear the snow from your driveway or clean your car. Try taking on these physical tasks yourself.

2. Exposure to the Elements

Steve Maxwell recommends slowly exposing the skin to colder temperatures over time for a range of different benefits. It could be in the shower or even just walking to work or the gym without your gloves and hat in the winter. Maybe leave the $600 coat at home and battle the cold with something lighter. The facts it’s snowing outside is not a reason to not go to the gym, or bring your dogs for a walk. Man up. Who knows, it might just make you a little tougher (I guarantee it will).

Maybe even have some fun in the cold weather
Maybe even have some fun in the cold weather

3. Acclimation to Discomfort

This plays in to point number one above. Mentally take on anything and make it a normality. When I came to the US on a soccer scholarship in Georgia, playing in 100 degree heat was destroying me. I decided to stay in the US during the summers to train in the heat. At 1pm every day I would conduct my conditioning sessions. By the time the season rolled around the heat was normal to me. Try applying this theory with something that you’re struggling with and see how you do.

In the Georgia heat

3. Mental Toughness Part 1

I saw this quote from Tim Grover and it sums up the process every top level athlete goes through. Albeit they can make training their job. If you want to be successful, embrace the process. Crave the end result and you will get to where you want to be. My Boston Wolfe Tones Gaelic football team show up every Tuesday & Thursday at 9pm to get a two-hour session in after working a full day. That’s desire. Gaelic football is a sport where the chance to beat the bejesus out of someone is a common occurrence (See below), so their level of toughness is slightly higher than normal.

Too many people will only do things on their own terms. Get out of your comfort zone and embrace a challenge. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Lateral day for the Wolfe Tones

3. Mental Toughness Part 2

The most deflating thing to see in athletics or in society is a team or individual who has thrown in the towel. Their “internal story” is telling them they cannot take on the challenge in front of them. It could be a team that’s down big in a game or perhaps someone who has just lost their iPhone. Tears should not follow the second example. (True story).

Instead, try to build a mental toughness by not letting a situation overcome you. Approach it in a manner that allows you to make it a more favorable position for you. If not, your stress levels will eventually lead to health problems. For mental toughness and personal development in general you can see any of the works from Dale Carnegie or Coach John Wooden.


I’ve listed some small steps above that I believe can help halt the slide towards a society that is getting increasingly “soft”. Any physical sport or time where you are exposed to the elements will help you maintain a certain toughness. It’s a small effort but its something. I really feel as if toughness and ruggedness will be lost in the not too distant future as technology continues to play a larger role in our lives. The reality is that technology has made us lazy. Time to do something about it. For the sake of mankind DO NOT wear skinny jeans!!!!!!!!!!!

maury skinny jeans

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