Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Go Hard or Go Home... My Strong(wo)man Experience

"One way to keep momentum going is to have constantly greater goals." -Michael Korda

If you've been reading my blog for a bit then you probably know that throughout this year, I've been challenging myself to conquer a wide spectrum of "bucket list" goals.  Having an annual goal is something I started a few years ago but, specifically for 2012, I wanted to complete 20 goals in 12 months... aka my 20(in)12!

I've had a few milestones this year... finally being able to do sets of 10+ bodyweight chin-ups, placing 3rd in my 2nd bikini competition and starting my blog... but this weekend marked a turning point for me in how my goals are going to be reshaped for 2013.

On Saturday, I had an opportunity to attend an Intro to Strongman Workshop at Lightning Fitness in Connecticut.  It was the 2nd one hosted by New England Women of Strength (N.E.W.S.), an organization that I was introduced to by one of its founders, Gina, who was also a fellow competitor at my 1st bikini show in 2011.

According to their mission statement, N.E.W.S. is "a community of strongwomen formed of common passion, created to share enthusiasm and knowledge, support each other and build a pathway into the sport."

Quite simply...N.E.W.S. is A.W.E.S.O.M.E.

If you are a female interested in strength training and/or learning more about the sport of strongman/strongwoman training - regardless of whether or not you live in New England - I highly suggest liking N.E.W.S. on Facebook and taking advantage of all the great information and events they are making available.

What is strongman training?

In a nutshell, the sport of strongman training is somewhat of a hybrid between the principles of powerlifting and Olympic lifting (although different events), plus conditioning. As one of the instructors explained, it's not just moving heavy weight; it's moving WITH heavy weight.  Different types of strength are tested (overhead, static, grip, speed, throwing, endurance) in a variety of events, many of which require technical skills that need to be practiced.  These events are not the same at each competition, which requires varied training and preparation by competitors.

This intro workshop was led by 5 experienced strongwomen and covered all things strongman training-related including: an introduction to the sport and what it entails; instruction, guidance and hands-on practice with four of the more popular implements seen in competitions; a Q&A session; and an opportunity to connect with other women who are interested in this sport.

The four implements we trained on were:

1. Farmer's Walk - speed-walking along a course while holding heavy weight in each hand...

90lbs each hand... not too shabby for my 1st time! :)

2. Atlas Stones - lifting round, concrete boulders of varying weights onto a platform...

95lb stone

3. Yoke - carrying weight across your back using a crossbar-type piece of equipment...

4. Log Press - cleaning and overhead pressing a "log" with handles... 
Learning the log press technique

I liked Farmer's Walks and Atlas Stones (even though the platform was super high and came up to my collar bone!)... but I had a tough time keeping the Yoke bar on my back and an even tougher time mastering the Log Press.  My very first attempt to press it overhead resulted in slamming it into my chin instead, lol.  A bit easier to manage once I got the "roll" part down.


The workshop was amazing and I met some really cool people.  I love that there is a network of other women who get excited about things like this and genuinely want to help each other learn and do well.  It got me thinking about my new goals for 2013...

Workshop participants and coaches... there are amazingly strong ladies in this group!

Ok... so I am hardly a physically intimidating person and most people would probably be confused (or, perhaps, amused??) if they knew I wanted to train for a strongman competition.  I have twigs for arms and sticks for legs that I'm able to coax little muscles out of when I train hard... BUT my training has primarily focused more on hypertrophy and aesthetics, not strength and power...

I was the least strongest person at the workshop (not that anyone cared or even probably noticed), not to mention my vertically-challenged body was a slight disadvantage with the atlas stones... but all this just makes me want to work hard at it and see what improvements I might will make...

Because one thing I've learned about myself over the last few years is that I'm capable of doing anything I put my mind to.

The quote at the top of this post is from a custom-made N.E.W.S. training journal that all participants got as a gift at the workshop.  The journal is full of inspiring quotes and pictures and is something I'm definitely going to use moving forward.  I was feeling so inspired that I wrote my 1st entry after I came home Saturday night...

"I had my first taste of strongman training today... and my first strongman battle wound :)  I'm feeling inspired to pursue it further even though my "strength" leaves a lot to be desired.  I want to learn more, start training and see what I'm capable of... and then put it to the test at a competition.  Right now, the very thought of entering a strongman competition seems crazy, ludicrous and impossible... which is exactly why I'm going to do it."

I'm putting it in writing.  My new goal for 2013?  I will be a strongwoman competitor.

"Impossible" = I'm Possible :)

Sign posted at Lightning Fitness... my new mantra :)

Have you ever pursued a goal that was way outside your comfort zone or seemed out of reach in the beginning??  I'd love to hear about it!

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