It’s not easy to be a strongwoman. But the best thing I’ve taken out of competing in strongwoman is that it is extremely rewarding. Starting strongwoman gave me specific goals to work towards. A competition gives you specific goals to work towards, which helps you focus your training. The obvious thing here is when you start training for strongwoman, you get stronger in more ways than you could ever expect.
How Strongwoman Changed My Mind
Simply put, after you start training, your gauge of what used to be heavy changes. When the heaviest thing you lifted before was a 10 pound dumbbell and you complete your first training cycle, I guarantee you that the 10 pound dumbbell will feel like nothing, because you will have exposed yourself to heavier weights. I urge you to also write down your workouts, so that you can see where you started. You’re changing your mindset: when you start out you think, I can’t lift 40 pounds. But let me ask this question: have you ever tried? If you never try, you’ll never know. So I challenge you to start. Start small, and progress each week. Start lifting weights 5 pounds heavier. Think about just getting 1% better every day, and within a year you’ll get 365% better.
“Get comfortable being uncomfortable.”
I love this quote because you have to push yourself and it’s uncomfortable. It’s normally uncomfortable because it’s new and you haven’t done it before. A lot of my new strength clients, will say, “I can’t do this,” or “this is hard.” So I say, yeah, it’s new and uncomfortable, but you can do it. I remind them that I wouldn’t ever give them an exercise to do that I didn’t think they could do. For example, most people starting out haven’t flipped a tire, nor would even think to. So they are uncomfortable doing it until they try it and see that they can. Then usually that’s the exercise they want to do over and over again, but that might be also because they think it’s cool to flip tires. You may need somebody to push you into it at first, some occasion or competition might strike your interest, but you’ve got to set goals. Once you have your goal, then you can make a plan of attack. I mean this literally. Make a plan and attack it, because just going through the motions will get you nowhere. Attacking pushes you forward to lifting more, or faster, or whatever the case may be.
When I started training for my first strongwoman competition I felt uncomfortable every single time I stepped in the gym. I came from training for soccer and track for the bulk of my life, which didn’t put me in the weight room often. So there I am with my coach and my training partner and they’re asking me to do all these brand new lifts, like a Log Press, or lifting Atlas Stones…definition of uncomfortable when you try these for the first time. However I will say this now: Atlas Stones are my favorite lift/event ever!The first couple weeks I started training, I had to find out how much I could lift in different events. The first week for the barbell deadlift, the most I could lift was 175 pounds. Then in the next couple weeks I got to 225. It’s cool to see the two 45 pound plates on each side of the bar and be able to lift it. I was so pumped, and I started to realize I was stronger than I thought. Then came along the 3 plate challenge, trying to hit a 315 deadlift. I, like many other type A people, over think everything…and I mean everything! When going for a new max lift, I try to go through a checklist of all the techniques the lift requires, much like every different event in strongwoman. This was my worst enemy as I then kept thinking how heavy 315 was. I had worked up from my 225 and kept progressing making 20 lb jumps here and there, and after months of training pulled 305.
First time lifting 275: Hearing some training advice from training partner, Brian Panelli and for the record this was the first time I saw stars after getting a big lift.
This was two weeks before my first strongwoman competition, which included a last man standing barbell deadlift with jumps going from 185-225-275-315-365. I knew I could hit 275 going in, and I had been hitting 305 without a problem, but put 3 plates on there, and the mental block popped in. I saw 3 plates on each side and thought, wow that’s really heavy, there’s no way I can lift that. Mentally I thought the bar had 500lbs on it, and I knew I couldn’t lift 500. I tried two weeks in a row and I couldn’t even break it off the ground…until competition day. On that day, one of my training partners and best friend to this day, Mieka, yelled at me right before my lift and told me, “don’t think about it, just lift it.” And it clicked and I took a deep breath, and pulled until I was standing up with 315 in my hands.
This was a defining moment for me, as I look back now, it’s when I learned to trust my training. More importantly it made me trust myself and that was the first time I realized just how much mental toughness this sport took, and I had the mental strength to do it. I knew all the weights at the competition, and I trained accordingly. If I’m hitting 305 on a deadlift pretty easily, then there’s no reason I shouldn’t get 315.
I had a similar experience the first time I did Atlas Stones in a competition. I had struggled and let the weight get to me mentally. Also when you’re starting out with Atlas Stones, you’ll learn it’s like nothing else you’ve ever done…and sometimes leaves some bruises on you. I’ve had some people that actually prefer strongwoman event training because the bruises on their arms or shoulders from the events are tangible reminders that they accomplished something they never had before…then I tell them to wear sleeves because it does kind of hurt your skin. It used to bother me because it looked like I got beat up and this can even stop some people from re-entering events, however I would say, do you really care that much about how you look, that you’d let it hold back your training? For me personally, they are like any other scars, they have meaning, and I’d rather be stronger.
I love getting stronger physically, because it proves to me that I also got mentally stronger. I still struggle like anyone else when weights get heavy, and I think sometimes I might not be able to do it, but now I just say, “ good thing I’m strong, or this would really be heavy” or my favorite from my coach Gary Montoya, “it’s not called weakman…it’s strongman.” These quotes help push me past the mental blocks I set for myself.
It’s all about choices. Do you want to get stronger?
Ok then you have to look at all the angles of nutrition, exercise, and recovery. When I’m competing I don’t drink alcohol and I always am conscious of what I eat because it’s fuel. I’ve learned that I feel better when I eat better, and I lift better…so that’s a no-brainer. You can choose what you eat, so choose wisely. I follow a plan for strength and conditioning, and everyday it’s a choice to follow the plan. I’ve learned to adjust training days and times to make sure I don’t miss days, I follow my program with common sense.
But it’s a choice, I could easily just not lift if I didn’t feel like it. Recovery wise, there are a lot of distractions out there that can keep you up so you don’t get enough sleep. There are some athletes out there that take themselves off social media for this reason, it helps them focus on themselves. It’s up to you, what do you want and what are you willing to change to get there? I say this a lot to my clients, “Nobody can lift the weight for you, you have to do it yourself.”
The take home message here for me that strongwoman has taught me is that I concurrently got stronger mentally and physically. I learned to trust my training in knowing physically I could do the events–I just had to get my mind to agree with that. Once you get that down, it opens the doors for more possibilities, and it’s endless!