Our next athlete to be featured in Strong People is Becky Harris. She tells us how she went from being in an abusive relationship to finding her passion for exercise again and how this led to her discovering Strongwoman.
I packed my possessions and children into two car loads and I left.
I was free.
Yet, despite escaping the grips of a narcissistic abusive relationship, nothing prepared me for the emptiness that came alongside my freedom.
I didn’t know who I was anymore and the weekends without my two young children became endless voids.
One play date, I remember one of my closest Mum friends turning to me and saying “Becky, you have to get your running shoes back on.” I realised by her tone that she was worried about me. She booked me in for a 10km race 6 weeks later and come rain or shine, she was prepared to meet me for 6am runs before my children came back home. It was the most incredible sense of achievement and in just that short time, I knew I had found something to save me from endless swiping on Tinder!
Then my Mum offered to babysit my children one evening a week so that I could start swimming with my local Tri club and meet people.
I feel I should explain that I really wasn’t ever a natural sports person, having spent most of my life overweight and as a smoker! However, what I lacked in athletic ability, I did make up for in enthusiasm. The Tri Club became family and before long, I found myself the Chair of the club and more impressively, the owner of a dodgy, second hand aluminium bike. Triathlons on a single Mum budget are definitely not a match made in heaven but they’re possible.
Soon, I felt the impending doom of turning 30 pressing down on me and I decided that I would enter a marathon and a half iron man to mark the occasion. What happened to just getting drunk?
I knew that with my limited training opportunities and genuine lack of ability (I still can’t tell you how many gears I have on my bike) that I couldn’t do this alone.
Finding Strength Training
I had already lost nearly 6 stone and I decided to quit smoking and use the money towards gym membership. Not just any old gym but the type of gym that’s in a storage container, with no mirrors and the most terrifying looking metal poles and plates. This was a gym that gave “results, not promises”. Eek.
I knew that as I was injury prone, strength training would be an essential aspect of my training to prevent injury, especially as I was about to increase my training significantly and after all, I was about to hit the big 3-0.
As my training language knowledge grew, I became increasingly aware of the term “power” and according to my bike, it was a super power I did not possess.
Tom Burns, our head coach (who lives up to his name), knew just what to do to help. Tom is strict; he has the natural ability to push you but equally, knows exactly when to reign you in. At first, I doubted him; how could squatting or lifting concrete balls (atlas stones) possibly give me more power in triathlon. Of course, as usual, he was right. It never gets easier but I was undoubtedly having to use more gears on my bike - a result of more power... apparently.
The strength sessions were hard but I found I never had to drag myself out of bed and I actually looked forward to them. So much so, that after I completed the marathon, I decided to up my sessions, alongside training for my first half iron man. I even decided to enter the first timers Strong Woman competition my gym was hosting.
I think, for me, training for Strong Woman offers something so different from triathlon. It genuinely doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, what size you are and how much money you have - a several thousand pound bike versus an aluminium eBay job means nothing here. In this sport, apart from my new found love of liquid chalk, all that counts is the work you’ve done.
However, just like triathlon, the women are undeniably competitive and your best friend at the same time. Nothing inspires me more than seeing my fellow training partners and coaches succeeding. It’s just here, well, I have a chance - at long last, I have found a sport that I’m actually alright at and more importantly, I truly love.
Deadlifts, Body Image and Competing
My favourite lift is the deadlift; it’s always been the session I have most looked forward to0. I absolutely love the process of wanting to lift heavier but having to get stronger and improve my technique first. I find it can be hugely frustrating because I want instant results but I am learning to “trust the process”. This makes achieving PB's even more rewarding. Training for deadlifts is transferable into my every day life; now, it's so easy for me to scoop both my children up during a toddler shopping trip melt down and waltz on out of the store like Super Mum.
I entered my first ever Strong Woman competition six days after completing the half iron man. It’s a really weird feeling going from genuinely trying not to come last to wanting to place as high as you can. Interestingly, I didn’t just want to do well for me but also because I wanted to do well for our gym. I wanted my performance to match my thanks; my thanks to our dedicated coaches who painstakingly helped a dyspraxic successfully lift a weight above her head, ready for the comp in less than 3 months. And to my fellow gym members;, my friends, who supported me through endless chin bashing, gave me advice and believed in me, even when I doubted myself.
I gained weight and at first, as someone who has battled with their weight all of their life, I found it incredibly challenging. Perhaps even more so considering my job is to help others lose weight. On the flip side of that, I truly believe that your self worth is not measured by the number on the scales and I hope I convey this message. Nutrition is still the element that scares me more than deadlifting a car but I also find it exciting - fuelling for endurance and resistance sports require a considerable amount of thought and learning.
So, what now... well, 2020 is the year I attempt my first full Iron Man. I set myself on a journey that I really want to complete but I now also hope that 2020 is the year I attempt a novice Strong Woman competition.
Thank you Becky for sharing your story and keep us updated on how your future competitions go. If you would like to follow her progress then you can find her on Instagram @beckyharris_sw