Before I begin........
The story of what led me to strongman training,lets start with a little about what strongman is and is not. I promise, it is not what you think. The sport of strongman is very different than powerlifting, crossfit, or general weight lifting for fitness (although there are similarities). Strongman requires you to train with dumbells, barbells, kettlebells, plates, and strongman medleys (which are basically oddly shaped, heavy objects). Just so you know, this is not an advice column, or an endorsement piece for anyone. This is simply an intimate look at my perspective on the sport as an Amateur athlete. Disclaimer: I am not an expert ins strongman training, or the sport itself.
One of then things that I love about the sport is its exclusivity. Strongman doesnt care where you come from, your looks, or your gender. All that matters when you compete is what you bring to the table. There is no cheating in strongman,there is technique, time and perseverance. Just like any sport there are things athletes can do to improve performance, but steroids wont help you get explosive strength to maintain it for long periods of time when competing for an entire day in multiple events. There is no "posing" or quick route to becoming a strongwomen. It takes time, and several program adjustments, and a good knowledge (with or without) a strongman coach or strongman program. To become a good athlete its not just time in the gym, you have to constantly improve your technique by reading books, watching videos, and practicing with a coach. Yes, these same principles apply to other sports, but you cant hyper speed this process, all that will do will cause injuries for you, and cause you to zero out at your first few novice events.
People often think strongman training is just another extreme form of weight lifting for egocentric purposes, or for women who dont have "other hobbies", or as a mom I have heard before "training for selfish reasons only while neglecting me child". This is very un-true! My training was always second priority over the care of my child, and he was always happily with his Dad on adventures while I hit the gym. His dad and him would be sleeping at home while I hit the gym for late night, exhausting gym sessions.
When I decided I wanted to train for strongman it was after years of battling various challenges in my life, from depression to a long-term genetic, un-curable disability. It came at a time, when I was just casually browsing on facebook and saw a news post about the 1st Annual Strongman Competition in Winnipeg. I had recently finished my first year competing in Scottish Heavy Highland Games, and was looking for another level up sport to train for in the highland games off season. I had trained for years as a dancer, choreographer, and triathlete, and in my early twenties as a body builder. After giving birth to a baby and experiencing partial paralysis and nerve damage from birthing my son naturally I knew training for physique was not going to be a motivation for me. I didnt care if I had 6% body fat and a fake tan,I just wanted to use my natural genetics for strength, my love for holistic lifetime fitness, and passion to fuel me into strongman. I wasent sure if I could do it, and sure as heck didnt know if I would like it, or even be good at it.
It took me a year and a half to get my body to be strong enough to train for highland games to compete 5 times last year. After competing I knew that my body needed a huge overhaul. I was devastated emotionally after I gave birth, worried I would never be able to dance again, never mind be able to lift weights. I hated my body, as I felt it had failed me despite my best efforts to manage my disability, it seemed my lingering lifetime fear of what bearing children would do to my body turned out to be true.
My motivation when I started my self-initiated wellness plan back in 2017 was not to lift weights, but to be able to hold my child and play with him in the park, play sports with him,go bike riding with him, and teach him how to dance. The yearning for this was stronger than my willpower, self doubts, and judgment from others,etc.
Before giving birth to my son I was a size 10 to 12, and after giving birth to him I was a size 22. I felt trapped in my body, and I missed the freedom my thinner body had given me. As I looked in the mirror 7 days post partum with hanging skin from my belly where my son once lived, I knew that I loved this body more for the beautiful son it gave me, and I was not going to let negative thoughts stop me from doing the things with my body I wanted to do.
Which is important, because sometimes we can get so wrapped up in getting a specific look, or a specific lifestyle, friendships, lovers etc when taking control of our fitness and health goals. Its not about that. Its about gaining our mental strength back, loving ourselves by being body positive through the process. Self hatred will not help you get fit or stay fit, as our value to ourselves, the world, and the people we love is not about our looks, its about our QUALITY of life. I say this because having a disability or a baby is not a burden, you are not missing out on the great things in life unless you let it limit you. I refused to accept unhappiness or self defeat whatever challenge I have faced in my life. Its really not about gaining fame, but about being the best person you can be to yourself and the people you care the most about.
The biggest give in life I have and will ever receive is my son. Yes winning in strongman and highland games is a nice goal, but my 5 year wellness plan I created for myself was about the trans formative process, and the ability to achieve the things I set out to do in my "bucket list"
Because I love my son, and knew that I could only love him as much as I loved myself and my life, I made the investment of time, and gave myself a strict but flexible schedule for training. I didnt care if people understood or accepted it, in fact most close family and friends warned against it.
TO GIVE YOU AN IDEA OF THE PROCESS, AND HOW LONG IT TOOK ME TO GET WHERE I AM NOW:
2016 (Fall) - Gave birth to my son in November. With barely enough strength to clean, my exercise consisted of me going for walks at IKEA, Superstore, and short 15 min walks in my neighhbourhood with my sons stroller.
2017 (Spring) - Began walking 30 to 45mins 2 to 3 days a week with my son in his stroller, and taking him swimming 2 days a week at the local pool. Began doing light yoga, block therapy, and resistance training at home once a week or more.
2017 (Fall)- Began teaching dance 3 days a week for 2 to 5 hour sessions at a time. Block therapy and light yoga at home 3 days a week for 45mins a session.
2018 (Spring) -Began bicycling 4 to 5 days per week for 30 min to 1 hour per day pulling my son in his attached bike trailer. Kept teaching dance and practicing dance 3 days per week for 2 to 4 hour sessions. Continued with block training once to two days per week at home in the afternoon when my son was sleeping.
2018 (Summer) - Began doing lightweight kettle bell functional training combined with resistance band training at home 3 days per week for 2 hours in the afternoon while my son napped. Kept dancing and teaching 3 days per week for 2 to 4 hour sessions in the evening. Started competing in the sport of scottish heavy highland games, and did my first 5 competitions, winning one of them, and placing second and third in the others.
2018 (Fall) - In September I joined the gym again so I could have access to heavier weights and sold my at home gym equipment to my friend. Began doing functional training with Kettlebells, dumb bells, and large muscle group gym machines.
2019 (January) - Began doing Barbell Training, harder Kettle Bell functional training, and started using sleds and large tire workouts at the gym.
2019 (March) - Purchased my first strongman training book among a few others, and spent hours reading articles, and watching webinars and talks from various strongman athletes, and coaches to begin experimenting and improving my barbell technique, overall muscle endurance, and explosive strength. Started pulling and pushing 90% maximum loads with sleds, throwing sandbags, and doing the Barbell workouts that are the hardest and scariest to try on your own for the first timeby yourself.
2019 (May) - Purchased more stretching techniques book for the Strongman athlete. Began to push for complete stability in the core by doing deficit workouts with barbells, kettlebells, sandbags, etc
2019 (June)- Began pushing harder into endurance workouts with sled pushes and pulls, kettle bell platform lifts, sandbag throws/carrys/ and runs working 2-3 x 100ft. sets. And endurance reps of 8 to 12 per set of lifts over head.
2019 (July) - Began focusing training on working with specific lifting, push pull events of my first strongman competition the MB- Classic by joining its host gym - Brick House Gym. Hadnt touched a yoke carry, atlas stone, log or axle bar deadlift until then.
2019 (August) - First Amateur strongman competition, didnt place. 2 weeks later did my second strongman competition with different implements and placed 3rd! Did a car dead lift and truck pull for the first time and had the fastest time with 80 feet in 51 seconds pulling a 1/2 ton truck. Honestly was terrified of these two events, and was blown away that I was able to do this. Yayyeee deadlifts and sled pulls as much as I couldnt walk the next day after my strongman saturday trainings, it was totally worth it!
Some of the challenges of training have been two significant injuries, that I thought were gonna inflate any chance I had at competing. My first injury was a sprained back doing my regular 70% Max load RPM in a trap bar farmers carry, and the second was an overhead press gone wrong where I had to throw the barbell onto my leg for it not to fall backwards on me and crush me. Sounds scary right? Not really, it just hurt more, now I have a beautiful dent in my left shin. Ok, DON'T LET THAT CONFESSION SCARE YOU FROM TRAINING! These injuries literally happened because I was tired, and rushing my workouts those days even though I felt sick going to the gym. The most valuable lesson I have learned out of this is to listen to, and respect your body, no matter what! Also, it was a kind of
ridiculously ambitious goal of mine to literally start training with barbells for the first time in my life, and enter an amateur (not even novice) strongman competition 9 months later!
So my advice to you is give yourself at least one full year to do solid training for strongman, and start with the following books (in this order) to learn the nuances of this sport. As much as a personal trainer may provide helpful basic advice, strongman training is VERY unique, and best programmed by those who have been, and currently are in the sport. I have bought these books and legit, would have no idea what I was doing without them!
So what did I gain out of this? Amazing new friends, better mental/ physical/ emotional health, and quite honestly better character as a human. Training for this put my whole life into balance and helped me budget well and manage my time with my son, family, friends, and my business better. Now all I desire
is for women and mothers to discover their inner power and potential from training for strongman even if your goal is not to win worlds, or compete provincially. Training for strongman does things for your soul that Im not sure if all sports do, all I know is I have never been more happy then when training for strongman, and this is coming from someone who is honestly addicted to dance and spends WAYYYYY to much on dance shoes and clothes. Dont believe me? Ask my husband and Amazon, or just look inside his wallet.
Oh, and I got to share my story on TV! That was really cool. Training for strongman was extremley challenging as the only person in my gym male or female that was doing so until the last month of my training. Of which I sprained my neck and ankle while pushing into my maxes a few days before after having a cold my toddler passed onto me for 3 weeks before.
TV INTERVIEW: https://globalnews.ca/video/5712499/competitors-get-ready-for-the-manitoba-classic-strongman-competition
My point is I did not quit, and this was one of the best decisions I ever made for my life. I would love to see more women in the gym smashing those gains, and lifting barbells. Wanna hit the gym?
TRUCK PULL: https://www.facebook.com/PerformingArtsInnovation/videos/652807365206279/
CAR DEADLIFT: https://www.facebook.com/PerformingArtsInnovation/videos/503018296908716/
Written by- Stephanie Strugar
DON'T LET LIFE DEFEAT YOU. SHOW YOUR'S WHOS BOSS ;)