SCOTLANDS MOST POWERFUL WOMAN
If Powerlifting is full of stigma and stereotype then Strongman must out testosterone and out man it by a 100kg sleigh pull mile.
So I can only surmise that should people ever think of Strongwoman they would either drift off with images of Buffy and Xena to a happy place of glamorous kick ass or they are startled awake by the vision of a monstrous mountain of a matriarch.
Or maybe they just draw a blank. And blink.
It is an untapped sport for woman and even to find a female event in the UK is a rarity.
I love Strongwoman and have added much of it into my weekly training with great effect and simple joy. It allows a change in perception of what you think you can do; instead of tapping out at the top end of your Deadlift, in Strongman you can just keep adding on the kilos and hit up a Yoke walk or a Farmers Carry. Strongman brushes aside the silly little weights you normal lift in the gym and brings out the superhero that was buried inside.
On Sunday 17th Feb the CrossFit Glasgow Girls and I, in a strange twist of circumstance, became the unsuspecting competitors in Scotlands Most Powerful Woman.
While competing at a Powerlifting Competition, only a few weeks ago, we were invited to Maximum Potential Fitness Complex in Ayrshire by the lovely Louise Williams Blades who holds an impressive list of successes in the elusive world of Strongwoman and its events.
We believed it was to be a ‘have a go’ day and subsequently some of the girls who might have shied away from competition came along filled with excitement at the prospect of trying out some Strongman style movements and skills.
It came as quite a surprise when on arrival we were told that it was infact a bonefide competition complete with trophies and judges. For some the news landed on enthusiasm and delight. For others; impending doom and terror!
The mixed emotions were swiftly set aside as Louise and her husband explained the situation and reassured the girls that everyone would be able to take part and there was no pressure and no audience. Although there were judges!
The events started quickly giving little time for nerves to set in or for anyone to over analyze that they were waiting in the starting line up of a Strongwoman Competition.
I would love to name everyone in this with their own personal achievements, records and times. Everyone certainly deserves unlimited praise and recognition for their incredible attitudes and strengths – both in kilos and in character. I am afraid I simply cannot do justice with this article to the performances that I had the great pleasure to witness. But know this girls; I am bursting with pride and admiration for you all and will be heard for many days to come retelling the moments of this day.
This is Sparta.
Kirsty blasted us off as the first on the Sleigh Pull – 100kg sitting on a metal sleigh on the end of a super fat heavy 20 meter long rope. She could not have set a finer example of how to attack the event. When we all saw the sleigh move there was a collective sigh of relief that it was infact possible; followed immediately by dread. It was in fact possible and we were going to have to do it too!
The girls were incredible and inspiring as one by one they proved to themselves that there was an inner strength in them more powerful than they could have dared imagine just waiting for a moment such as this for it to be unleashed.
The next event was the log press, something I had been dying to try. No-one had any preconception of how it would feel to pick such an odd object up. As CrossFitters we are fairly well practiced at hands on the bar clean and jerk. But a log messes with that motor skill and muscle patterning.
The judges were there to support and encourage as well as keep score and they did a fine job of filling the girls with a determined gusto and vigor. When in turn they placed their hands into the log and pulled it from the floor there was no hint of “I can’t do it” or “I’m not strong enough”.
Elise showed that, if you are as competent as she is then weightlifting skills could indeed transfer over to the log press afterall, when she lifted the log time and time again until it was only the mythically strong duo of Louise and Steph and herself left standing.
Farmers Carry; my favourite event.
They set it up really well with handles at 40kg per hand and others at 75kg per hand; first a fast length with the lighter weight which all the girls could handle, and handle it they most certainly did!. And then straight onto the heavier weight for those that could.
I threw my confidence off before the event started by failing to be able to even pick the 75kg handles off the deck. Good start.
A quick chat with Nisha before my turn helped straighten me out though and when it came up, they came up. And off I went hanging onto them all the way to cross the line.
Again this event saw Louise and Steph out in the front but I was delighted to squeeze myself into third place on an event I enjoy so much.
Next was the Deadlift frame hold.
This was a peculiar feeling. We stood in the middle of the frame and had to lift and hold it for as long as possible. It was to be a 120kg weight and so those that could, lifted and held as long as possible; fighting through the shaking and willing their little fingers to grip on as the frame slowly and then suddenly fell from their grasp. The frame was then decreased to a manageable, but far from light 80kg for the rest of the girls. They all posted impressive times with a statuesque grace that eluded myself.
From the moment I stood up with the 120kg frame I knew it would not be a good round for me. Instantly my left bicep went into a spasm and the only way to make it stop was to put the frame down. I held for as long as I dared but to put it down before my grip went was disappointing. However, such is the nature of competition; regardless of why I had to put it down, I still had to put it down.
Finally we had the fifth event; a sandbag carry at 75kg over 20 meters. Fastest time wins.
I liked the uncomplicated nature of the event and was keen to see how the girls would tackle it.
I was blown away when they wrapped their arms around it and started for the 20 meter line. Every one of them made it look disturbingly easy. And every one of them was fast!
I knew I was going to have to run with it if I stood any chance at all of finishing in third place for the day. I was not sure what the standings were at that point but I did know Nisha, Kirsty and Elise were my closest contenders for the spot.
First and second being claimed easily by Louise and Steph respectively.
Nisha was fast as I expected. Kirsty tripped and fell after starting off at a good pace and Elise held on tight to the bag to cross the line confidently.
But for me it was not to be. I was halfway to the line when the bag simply fell to the floor. I did not feel it go.
It just went.
I still could not help but smile. What an outstanding competition. What an outstanding day.
The final standings were Louise, Steph and Nisha. The most strengthy beautiful triplet of women in the whole of Sparta.
There was one last twist to our day though.
Just when we thought it was all over.
The 18” Deadlift was brought out for Steph to attempt to break Louise’s record of 216kg.
Of course being the people we are, we all wanted to see what we could get.
The bar was set up 18” from the ground attached to two little skips into which weight plates could be added. And I will admit the skips were so cute it kind of made the lifts easier!
It started on 120kg. And each round a scary 20kg was added.
Several girls got up to the 140kg bar and a couple of us even proudly managed the 160kg.
180kg was just a jump too far though and that left only Louise and Steph battling out for the record.
Then it was 220kg for the record. Steph stepped up with the confidence of a true athlete and pulled the weight from the floor with a determination that did not allow for failure.
Louise was so so close to getting it as well but just could not make it happen on the day.
Steph is now the holder of this title and well deserved it is too.
We will see much more from this diminutive athlete in the years to come for she is surely setting a standard that will be hard to compete with.