I’m a big believer in stepping out of comfort zones. The best things I’ve ever done have followed a giant leap right out of the comfy cozy and into the unknown. A couple of weeks ago, I took a GIANT dive outside of my safe little space to compete in my first Strongman competition at Primal Strength here in Charlottesville.
What is a Strongman competition, you ask? This is the best definition I found:
“Strongman is a weightlifting-based sport where the athletes compete in several events involving different aspects of mental and physical strength, speed and endurance.” – EliteFTS
In short, it’s a competition to move/push/pull/lift/etc. heavy things that pushes your limits, both mentally and physically. Always up to try something new, I signed up way back in March. .
In April, I had a shoulder setback. While it was a minor injury and my friends at Airrosti fixed me right up, I did lose a lot of strength. We worked hard to get my strength back up, but I entered the competition knowing that while I was stronger, I still wasn’t where I was in March. This was the foundation for my anxiety about the event – weights that were once relatively easy for me weren’t making it past chest level. Still, I trained hard and hoped for the best.
In the week leading up to the Strongman competition, I had serious doubts about competing. Again, it was WAY out of my comfort zone, and I was nervous about my lack of overhead strength, playing that whole comparison game that always gets us in trouble. And honestly, Strongman is hard. My mental toughness wavered.
“I paid for it, so I’m doing it” became my battle cry. That and “send help” every time my friends mentioned the competition.
The day before the event, I was calm and, if not confident, something akin to it when I stopped by Primal for weigh-in. By Saturday morning however, the train was off the tracks and I was a wreck. My anxiety was high, and I very nearly pulled out of the competition before I ever left my apartment. Still, I put one foot in front of another with the encouragement of my friend Hanna and showed up. My trainer/coach/friend, Justin, gave me another pep talk (there were tears) and so, the competition began.
The first event was Wagon Wheel Axel Bar Squats. It was an as many reps as possible (AMRAP) event with a time of one minute. This was the one event I felt confident in. The weight for my class was 210lbs, well below my max squat, and something I knew I could do for reps. I ended up banging out 17 officials reps.
Up next was the overhead medley. Over the course of a minute, we were to clean and press an axel bar (95lbs – first photo), shoulder and press a circus dumbbell (55lbs – second photo) with one arm, and use the remaining time on the clock to get AMRAP with a 110lb log press. With my shoulder, we knew this wasn’t going to be my event. I was able to get the dumbbell up – for the first time since April! – but the log just wasn’t going overhead. Unfortunately, that event was a big goose egg for me.
The frame lift was another event I felt comfortable with. We had three attempts to pull our max weight. I had maxed my frame lift at 355lbs before hurting my shoulder, but hadn’t been able to pull more than 320lb at the gym since. Imagine my surprise when I rather easily picked up 360lb on my last attempt. It was a PR for me, and one of the highlights of my day.
And then came the truck pull. You read that right. I had only pulled a truck once before and I was pretty nervous about this one. Not to mention the fact that the truck was a casual 13,000lbs. We had 60 seconds to move the truck 50 feet. I was pretty happy with my 20 or so feet!
The final event was atlas stones. You either love or hate atlas stones and I, frankly, hate them. I have the strength, and my technique has improved, but I just can’t get down with the atlas stones. We had one minute to move five stones from the floor to their respective shelves, with the stones getting heavier and the shelves getting shorter. In my class, the first shelf was 56” and the stone 116. The final shelf was “48 with a stone weight of 200. I’m only 62” which obviously made this event tough for me from the beginning. The first shelf was level with my chin. I managed (for the first time!) to get my first stone on the shelf and came close to getting the second one up, but ran out of time..
Ultimately, I finished 9th out of 11, but I was proud of myself for showing up and pushing myself – really really really pushing myself – to do something hard. Something that, for whatever reason, scared me. I had a lot of personal victories, and I’m happy about that. I’m also thrilled that so many of my friends, from my gym and other gyms, won or placed in their divisions.
The biggest takeaway from the day was how supportive the entire group of both competitors and non-competitors were. Everyone cheered for everyone. It was HOT (104 degrees at one point) and the competition was outside. Everyone was melting, but there was always someone quick to offer a bottle of water or a Gatorade or water. Ultimately, the camaraderie was the best part of the event.
I have hypoglycemia – low blood sugar – and need to eat pretty regularly to keep my blood sugar from bottoming out. My appetite wanes when it’s hot, however, which meant I ate just enough to not completely crash – a pumpkin muffin for breakfast, a few bites of watermelon, 3 peanut butter protein balls, and a banana. Not nearly enough. When my last event ended, I was suddenly STARVING. I wanted Chipotle, but they had free Mission BBQ for competitions and it was eight o’clock so – I ate it.
I’ll spare the details, but let’s just say I fell asleep on a very empty stomach.
I actually fell asleep on my couch at 9:30, woke up at 11, and dragged myself into my bedroom – where I didn’t shut the door, turn off the lights, or even bother with getting under the blankets. I woke up stretched diagonally across the bed around eight the next morning to Knox digging in my hair. I was so out of it the night before that I forgot to feed the little guy and he was starving. Bad dog mom moment.
The next day was spent recuperating with lots of Pedialyte and light food (you know… Easy Mac…). I did teach my barre class and begrudgingly grocery shop, but the rest of the day was spent sitting by the pool or else camped out on the couch, watching re-runs.
While this was likely my first AND last Strongman competition, I’m glad I did it. I’m glad I pushed through my fears and doubts and finished the competition.
I’m glad I showed up.