Grab a snack and settle in for a long recap! I don’t have any pictures of me in action (Rob was filming everything, so lots of videos below!) but the organisers will be putting up some photos later in the week. (PS. If my videos don’t load on the page, click through on the links!)
Yesterday I competed in my first (but definitely not last!) strongwoman competition, Britain’s Most Powerful Woman. The competition was held at Progressive Training Systems in Northampton, which is about 90 minutes north of London.
On the train ride up, I was surprisingly calm. I ate plenty of food on Saturday and had a small-ish breakfast (3 eggs and one sweet potato). I didn’t want to eat anything out of the ordinary, and I was also worried about making my weight class.
I travelled up with Rob and Anna, who I have been training with for the past couple of months. My coach had ACL surgery on Thursday and is still in hospital, but we were delivering a blow-by-blow commentary to his hospital bed! We arrived at about 10.30am and I weighed in straight away.
My weight class was 75kg, and guess what I weighed in at? 74.9kg!! I can’t make this stuff up! I’d been sitting around 72kg for the past few months but gained some weight once I got back from holiday three weeks ago. I knew I was close to the cut-off but talk about cutting it fine!
Then I ate again – my usual pre-workout snack of yoghurt and a banana. We warmed up and played around with the equipment. Coach told me not to touch any of the heavier weights. We were relieved to see that the sandbags were a lot easier to grab a hold of than the ones at our gym. The 40kg log looked much wider than what we’d practiced with, but I think I was just psyching myself out!
There were four divisions: women’s novice under 63kg, women’s novice open weight, men’s novice under 105kg and the main event and my division, women’s under 75kg. The top two competitors in my division qualified for the World’s Most Powerful Woman competition held next month. The U63 ladies did lighter weights for all of the events, while the open novice events were the same as ours – except for the pressing event, where they did max reps with the 40kg log instead of the medley.
I won’t lie. When I saw my competition, I wanted to run out the door! All but two had competed before. I had originally signed up for the novice open division, but my coach told me it’s better to be the worst of the best, than the best of the worst! There were 8 in my division, and I think 7 in each of the other women’s classes. There were about 20 men competing, so quite a big comp!
Every division ran through each of the events in order. Although I think the competition was well-organised, I don’t think they thought through the timing very well. We began with zercher squats, which took 2.5 hours for everyone to get through! The comp started at 12pm and by 6.30pm they had to cancel the last event because we were going to be there all night (it was due to finish at 5pm originally).
My only other complaint is that they made us wear yellow shirts! I mean, is yellow anyone’s colour?!
We started with zerchers. All the women had to complete a 40kg lift, and then the weights went up in 5kg increments and you could jump in and out as desired. I don’t think anyone failed until we got to 100kg, so they started the weights way too low! I did 40kg, 60kg, 80kg, 90kg, 100kg, 110kg and 115kg. I tried 120kg but failed, but was still happy as I’d hit a 15kg PR.
100kg zercher (nearly stacked it at the top!!)
115kg zercher (big PR!)
120kg zercher (fail)
I was standing up there for over an hour doing zerchers. By the last two attempts, my legs were shaking uncontrollably and I had to sit down until it was time to go. Adrenaline was pumping and my heart felt like it was going to burst out of my chest!
I only beat one other girl in my division. The winner did 150kg and barely broke a sweat! She was incredible and ended up winning overall. She is an Olympic sprinter and had never done most of the events before, so was getting coached through them right before! She has a 180kg deadlift so obviously her strength training has a bit of carryover.
Next up was the pressing medley. This was the only event I was really worried about as I knew I wasn’t going to be able to press 50kg. I didn’t like that it was individual, so I had to make a fool of myself in front of a packed room full of people. You had to complete one rep of each before moving back to the start. As you will see in the video, I didn’t exactly race from station to station!
Pressing medley (watching this is painful!!!):
I actually jumped the gun a bit in my axle attempt. I was planning on waiting as long as possible before attempting the lift, but with people screaming and yelling at me I rushed it and missed twice. I just wasn’t getting the bar high enough, and can’t believe I missed the clean which I have got several times before. I had a little cry but moved on about 30 seconds later when I saw some of the other women fail it too. Only three managed to get the axle up twice.
We knew it was my weakest event and because it was so early on in the day, we had to make sure it didn’t ruin the rest of the events by me mentally freaking out. Luckily the bag carries were next, which is my best event!
I was surprised at how well I did in this event. I got equal second in my division. We only had 75 seconds to get the five bags over the bar, and the majority of competitors only got three or four finished. Anna was the only novice who finished and she smashed it in 1:07, but only one other girl finished, three seconds shy of the time limit.
I didn’t get a good enough grip on the last bag and the timer threw me off when he said I only had 10 seconds to go (that’s when I drop the bag on to my knees). I got it just to the bar when they called time. I was disappointed I didn’t complete it but happy I beat almost everyone else there.
After the bag carries, I was absolutely gassed. I laid down on the floor and tuned out for a while. I was a bit thrown off because I thought farmers were up next, but it was actually the sled (I find farmers much more taxing so wanted it to be over!). I was munching on yoghurt-covered raisins all day long and coconut water, but by this stage it was about 4.30pm and I hadn’t eaten a proper meal since 10.30. I had some chicken and sweet potato (how bodybuilder of me!), but didn’t want to eat too much and make myself sick.
Around this stage, four or five girls in the novice divisions pulled out because of injuries/exhaustion. I had a Diet Coke and hoped it would give me a little boost.
Next up was the 100kg sled pull and drag, which was completed two at a time. We changed order (in the previous events, I went second), so we were now going in reverse placing order. The leader of the open novice was going against the last place U75, and at this point I thought I was in last, so I thought Anna and I were going up against each other! I surprisingly wasn’t last so we missed the chance of an epic face off 😉
Right before I went up coach told me to win this event, but you will see in the video I’m clearly not as fast as we think I am! I also did one unnecessary pull. Live and learn!
After this event, I honestly wanted to die. I was 100% convinced that I was going to faint, so I laid down on the floor for as long as possible. I decided to stop eating sugar (combined with the nerves, I think it was just making me too shaky) and just drank lots of water instead. I must have peed at least 15 times throughout the day!! Mostly nerves, of course.
At 5.30pm we started the farmers walks. I was really freaked out before this event. The handles were a lot lower than what we’d been practicing with (thank god we practiced with 70kg!!!), so it was essentially more of a deadlift – and I can’t deadlift 130kg (or maybe now I can!). Plus I felt like absolute crap and didn’t know how I was going to push through. I just kept reminding myself that everyone was in the same boat, and this is how champions are made!
Anna took this video of me, which I think is hilarious. Would you check out that face!!
Farmers walks (65kg each hand)
Once I got the weights up, it was easy. I had absolutely no problems with my legs or grip like I usually do. I think when you’re in competition, your body shuts out normal feelings of pain because of the adrenaline. I can see why so many people injure themselves!
Once we all finished the farmers, they announced that the final event was cancelled. I was gutted because I’d practiced the wobble hold to death and it was probably my second best event. I had gained a second wind by this point, but knew it was probably sensible to stop after 6.5 hours of exertion!
I placed six out of eight in my division. I’m thrilled with my placing, to be honest. It was my first comp, I was up against some incredible ladies whom I can’t ever imagine being able to beat, and just over a week ago I thought I would not be able to compete at all! Not to mention the whole thinking I’d never be able to lift again thing.
The only goals I had for this comp were to complete the events to the best of my ability, and try not to come last. My body actually felt good and I was popping ibuprofen all day for my mouth infection. I’m very proud of myself for doing what most people would never do! And I’m also pleased with how well I handled my emotions, which was much better than it has been in training.
I’ve just signed up for another competition next month, which my coach will be able to come along to. For now, I guess I can call myself the sixth most powerful woman in Britain 😉 I’m taking this week off completely, partly for recovery purposes and also because of my operation on Thursday.
Oh and Anna blitzed her division to win with a perfect score, just like I knew she would. She is still very new to lifting and is my inspiration!
Leaving was a nightmare as the trains were down, so we didn’t get home until almost 11pm. I made a rookie error and didn’t pack enough food (I was honestly expecting to be home at about 7.30-8!), so didn’t eat a solid meal between 10.30am and 11pm! Let’s just say a burger never tasted so good.
This post is ridiculously long so I will wrap it up now! Thank you all for supporting me throughout this journey, and I hope I can inspire more of you to give (really) heavy lifting a go 🙂
And thank you to Rob for being my biggest cheerleader, and being remarkably patient for 8 hours <3