When Pigs Fly

When Pigs Fly

Welcome to the first edition of When Pigs Fly. Thank you all for your submissions. I loved reading your stories, and I hope everyone reading finds them just as inspirational as I did. I hope to put the next post up in 2-3 weeks’ time, so please email me if you would like to be included in the next edition!

I want to start with my training partner. This lady is the biggest motivator in my life. She has only been lifting since freakin’ February, yet she is one of the strongest people – man or woman – I know. I met her through my blog and watched her first powerlifting competition. Watching her compete lit a fire under my belly, and she is largely the reason I changed gyms and got into strongman in the first place. I usually train with her twice a week and especially appreciate her presence given that I’ve been training without a coach lately.

Anna is competing this weekend at the British Classic Championship, aiming for a 140kg squat, 70kg bench and 160kg deadlift. She is also competing at England’s Strongest Woman in December, and I can’t wait to go watch her kick some ass. My trainer put together this video of her pressing the 60kg log for the first time. She can now do this in her sleep and is training for a 75kg log press in December. This video was taken during what I think was her third-ever log pressing session. She has been doing strongman even less time than I have!

I won’t tell you how many times I hesitated before I clicked “send”.  I worried whether my story of strength would sound lame, or it’ll just be another tale of a cardio-bunny-turned-lifter chick – then I figure WTH, I don’t care and if it’s so lame then it won’t get published on the blog anyway!  (So I’ll know if this is lame or not if I see it!)

I slowly got introduced to strength training to several training programs floating online but kept at my almost daily cardio – because I feared the day I stopped cardio (and 1200 calories only), I would blow up and get fat.  It all seems silly now but that was honestly the rationale (hah!) behind my training philosophy.  It never ever, crossed my mind that lifting heavy would do much more good to my metabolism than pounding pavement on a daily basis.

I did eventually read/hear of the benefits of strength training and enlisted the help of a PT.  He taught me to lift heavy and I remember how proud I felt of myself for hitting the 100kg deadlift barrier (when I had started 6 months prior on 40kg) and completing my first bodweight pull-up and chest dip!  I also however recall also (always) asking him is if I was doing enough cardio because I wasn’t getting lean fast enough – to which he answered “don’t even bother with cardio”.  Old habits die hard – I was pretty stubborn and kept at it.

Financial issues and relationship problems put a dent in training with a PT.   Then, I succumbed to a back injury and wondered why I even bothered to start lifting heavy.  On my own, I experimented with so many diets and still with the daily cardio.   I still thought I had to eat little and that only the big women lifted heavy.

Two years passed and I’ve finally found a nutrition coach who recognised my dieting history may have possibly inflicted slight damage to my metabolism – we’re patiently repairing my metabolism with generous amounts of macros and watching attentively to my body’s responses – health is paramount now.  I’ve resumed lifting heavy and joined a powerlifting-focussed gym.  I recently competed and my best deadlift was 135kg!

Venecia in action!

I know I will get leaner but it’s taken me awhile to realise that my dieting history will mean it may not happen overnight.  Lifting heavy has helped me gained a good amount of muscle and revved up my metabolism.

I guess what I want to share is that not every journey is a linear and/or fast one – mine certainly hasn’t been (and probably will continue to zigzag but that’s ok).  It’s taken me almost 2 years (with issues) to deadlift double my bodyweight, do pushups with 2x20kg chains, squat 100kg, bust out pull-ups and even longer to heal my metabolism.

Thing is the journey itself has made me stronger.  I understand my body better and more importantly, I love it.  The journey to lifting heavy is such an empowering one and kudos to you Tara, for sharing your stories on your blog for all women (and men) to be inspired.

push up chains

I had always been an overweight teenager so I tried all of the “traditional” things that girls do to lose weight – I did cardio, cardio, and more cardio. My dad had always lifted weights so he taught me a few things but I brushed it off and turned to running.

Right before I graduated college, I was running a lot in an effort to slim down and ended up screwing up my knee – I’ve still got minimal cartilage in my left knee and at one point, my doc was sure that I had micro tears on my meniscus.  At the time, I was also having a lot of physical ailments – daily migraines the required heavy duty medication, ulcers, constant sickness, extreme fatigue. We figured out that I was highly gluten intolerant and it was wrecking my body.

About 2 years ago,  I ended up sustaining a very strange stress fracture in my foot due to the lack of calcium absorption caused by years of undiagnosed gluten intolerance. My bone scan revealed that I was teetering very close to having full blown osteoporosis….at the old age of 23.  My doctor recommended that I try lifting weights instead of doing cardio since my foot was in a boot, I was on crutches, and clearly my bones needed some strength.

I started by doing what everyone else does, I googled weightlifting for women, found some bodybuilding style programs and got to work. I progressed on to doing some more metabolic circuit type work and some back squatting and fell in love with the barbell. I tried Crossfit on a whim with a friend and was instantly smitten. I loved it, especially all of the strength work (we are heavily strength focused gym) – it was nice to meet a bunch of like minded people and having a coach was a massive change and a good one. I went from just doing WODs and the strength work each day to joining the barbell club/program our gym offered and have been doing for about 7 months now.


From starting mid-February:
Back squat: 130×5
Bench: 73×5
Press: 55×5

Back Squat: 195×2 (190×5) current best
Bench: 93×3 (90×5) current best
Press: 70×5
Deadlift: 250# (this is a pretty old number); 300# from 18-inches
Clean: 123#
Axle Clean: 120#x3


I’m just coming off of my first Strongman competition (you can read about it here!) and I’m doing our gym’s normal barbell programming with a couple modifications. I lift 3 days a week and occasionally go in on a 4th day for very light skill work. My training is centered around the Olympic lifts (snatch, clean, jerk), squats, bench press, strict press, and some accessory lifts (hip thrusts, pull ups, dips, etc.). 

My goals:

  • Compete in Strongman again. My first competition was such a great time – I really cannot wait to do it again. I’d also like to compete in some other strength sports like powerlifting and weighlifting because strength athletes are just about the nicest people out there.
  • 200# back squat for reps (SO CLOSE) – long term, 300# back squat
  • 300# deadlift – long term, 400# deadlift
  • Get strong(er)
Gabby crushing her first strongwoman comp!

Gabby crushing her first strongwoman comp!




‘M’ in Texas:
Last week on Monday, I worked up to a single deadlift at 245lbs.  Not a PR or even a true max attempt but heavier than I’ve done in quite some time.  I followed it with 2×2 at 225.

Then, on Friday, I did 46 deadlifts at 185lbs in under 14 minutes (4 sets — 12, 12, 11, 11)  The funny thing was a gentlemen nearby who complimented my core strength commenting that 185 is a lot of weight for a woman (I lift belt-less).  I appreciated his compliment, but I couldn’t help thinking in my mind, “Dude–the impressive part is the reps!!  The weight is barely a warm up weight for me.”

Oh, and I am 43 years old and was overweight until my 30s.

I remember vividly one particular day a winter a couple of years ago. I was completely reliant on heavy-duty painkillers and I’d just had my second arthritis flare-up which had knocked me out of commission for two weeks. And I’m out of sick leave. So, I’m walking to the train station like I’m 80 years old, and my misery is overwhelming me and I honestly don’t know how I can take another step, but we need the money from my wages. And then I get to the stairs at the train station. And my muscles had gotten so weak by this point that every single stair is an effort and it took me ten minutes to climb a set of stairs that I should have climbed in thirty seconds.

I’ve had a big year. At the start of the year I couldn’t open up a food can and I had my worst ever blood test result, my C-reactive marker was 12 and I was miserable. Everything changed the first day my trainer guided me through my first deadlift.

Through consistent hard work and effort and training four or five times a week I’ve now increased my strength to the point where I did 1 set of 20 squats with the 20 kilo bar, and another two sets of 15 with 30 kilos of weight. Last winter was the first winter I’ve had in a long time where Arthritis didn’t knock me out of commission for a couple of weeks. My blood pressure is now normal, my resting heart rate is almost normal and the C-reactive marker in my blood is normal. I’ve lost 27 kilos, but it’s almost incidental when I consider the strength and health gains.

Every time I rest a bar on my neck or pick up weights I know what I’m made of, I know that I’ve beaten my arthritis and I will never struggle with those stairs again. Every time I lift more weights or do higher reps than I thought I was capable of, I know that we can achieve more as humans than we realise and that we sell ourselves short when we give up because we are in pain. Mostly every time I lift a weight I fall in love with the bar and it makes me happy.


I’ve been around the blogging world for quite some time now and while I’ve watched Tara grow into this amazing, trusting, smart & confident trainer (who knows her stuff like whoa), I too have increased my strength both mentally AND physically. While fitness is not a career for me, it is an intense passion that I do commit both the time and the money. Over the past 5 years I have slowly transitioned from a cardio junkie, to a weight lifting dabbler, to a 6-month Crossfitting stint, and ultimately back to just the good old me – slammin’ those weights around & sweating like a pig. Until recently – pretty much when I started Crossfit – I hadn’t really thought about goals… but since I’ve put on a very necessary 30lbs over the past 2 years, I’ve begun to focus less on the aesthetics of training and more on the goal of feeling and getting stronger. With the guidance of Tara I set two major goals for myself over the past 6 weeks, and as I come to the conclusion of week 5 – my second peak week – I can officially say that although not pretty – I did in fact hit a 155# back squat this past Tuesday. Friday – actually the day you are reading this – HOPEFULLY I will have hit my 220# sumo deadlift goal as well. And although I may not be as ‘skinny’ as I used to be, I certainly am stronger – and for that alone, it has made me mentally stronger as well. Time to set new goals!


First of all – I have to thank Tara for being such an inspiration and putting together this whole program! I feel incredibly blessed with the body that I have and I’ve been into lifting for about two years now and more recently got a tad more serious about it all. In the beginning of my strength training experience, I was skinny, weak and ready for a change. I had struggled with my weight and my body image during my second year of college and instead of making my focus on an ornamental body, I pushed more towards focusing on creating myself an instrumental body, so I started lifting weights, challenging my body and pushing past the limits I  thought I’d never break through.


Fast forward a few years, I’m at a much healthier, happier shape and taking advantage of the strength I’ve gained. I hired a trainer to help me with my form, my nutrition and just my overall gym experience. Within the past month of working with him, I’ve learned so much and I’m a lot less intimidated when I’m at the gym by myself. I will totally admit to being frightened by the squat rack in the past and avoiding it like the plague. Nowadays I’ve got no excuse not to get my squat on. When I hit the gym, it’s game face on, fear off. I’ve also been able to dispel myths that I fell victim to frequently. Right now my main focus is to keep up with my PR’s, I’ve set monthly PR goals for myself and what I’m celebrating this month is leg pressing  500lbs for 6 reps…I attempted to clean 7 but I’m pretty sure my innards were about to expel out of my butt. It was quite the experience. I left the gym that day (it was actually just last week) feeling empowered, confident and ready to take on the world. THAT feeling right there is what I dig deep for when I lift, THAT feeling of empowerment is what I hope to inspire other people to feel as well.

Share your strength and celebrate it. Thanks again, Tara.


Thanks again to everyone who contributed. I want this post to be about you guys and not me, but I will say that I am proud to be competing in my second strongwoman comp this weekend 🙂 Please feel free to share your PRs of the week in the comments below!

PS. Congratulations, Jan for naming this series! It took me FOREVER to pick a winner but I wrote the post, and then figured that title suited it best. You are all my little piggies, and I like to see you fly <3

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