Mairi Ross tells us her story about how she started lifting weights during her lunch times at work to then go on to achieve 3rd place in her first Strongwoman competition and she did all this whilst being a single parent and battling an eating disorder.
What is a Strongwoman?
February 2019, I would never in a million years have put my hand up and said me! But in just one year I was competing in my first ever competition – Kaos Novice and Intermediates in Preston England.
Let’s rewind slightly.
I was bored and frustrated with my life, battling a binge eating disorder, working full time as a Prison Officer and being a single parent to my wonderful but very active young son. I was tired, extremely overweight, and fed up with the uninspiring life that I was leading. I had been in counselling to manage my eating disorder and was now in the hands of the NHS Dietitians. Exercise came up in many a conversation.
I had access to the gym facilities at work. One of the Gym Instructors had started a Beginners ‘Get into Lifting’ class for the girls. I wasn’t convinced but I put my name down and went at lunchtime. She showed us the basics: squat, bench, & deadlifts. I liked the deadlift; there was something quite powerful about the movement!
So I continued to go to the gym. I followed a basic strength programme a friend had recommended. I started to get stronger, noticeably stronger. But I had zero gym knowledge. Jamie, another gym instructor, offered to programme me; he has been competing successfully for several years. In the coming weeks, more and more people began asking me if I had thought about competing. I said I hadn’t, but their questions planted a seed. I saw a post for a competition in February 2020 – Kaos, home of world deadlift record holder! And that was where it all began. I decided to enter into the intermediate category!
The preparations began, the hotel booked, my friends wanted to make a weekend of it! Jamie said he would come with me to coach – absolute star – and I’m so glad he did. The day was here! The drive down from Scotland the night before, the horrible broken sleep, the forced breakfast in the morning, the ten nervous trips to the bathroom. I was signing in. I was getting my t-shirt. I had my number on the back of my hand! I was chalk white. I felt sick. I was in a bad way. I didn’t think I could go through with it. It was my turn, the first event was log press for reps. It was outside. It was raining. I chalked my hands, tried to rub it together and it went everywhere all over my glasses, I could hardly see!
‘Lift!’ The call came.
So I started lifting. The log diameter was huge in comparison to the log I had used in training! It felt awkward, but I just kept trying my best. I got 8 reps in that event in the sixty seconds. Once it was done I took myself for a walk. I didn’t know if competing was for me; the adrenaline that was going through me had me shaking. I almost cried, it was so overwhelming.
The next event was Deadlifts at 130KG, my favourite lift. I got a virtual slap and told to get out there and get it done! So I did I lifted and lifted. The atmosphere was spurring me on. I was buzzing! This is why I came here! 16 reps in 60 seconds for that event.
The next event was Farmer’s Carry. I nearly fell on my face trying to run before I lifted the handles! But I recovered quickly. I was now enjoying myself. Sandbag runs next. I completed that but moving events aren’t my strong point. Last up was Stone over Yoke. 70KG. I lost time on the first rep, getting my hands in the correct position, but then I got it over and over it went! 12 reps for that event in sixty seconds again! I was done, physically exhausted. Although I had never felt better. And to top it off I made the podium: 3rd in my first competition! I was so shocked I ran to the podium and forgot my trophy!
This is just the start of my journey in Strongwoman and a day I’ll never forget. It made my decision that this was a sport I wanted to be a part of. It felt like I belonged.
I would like to thank my coach and friend Jamie, my friends and family who believe in me, although they don’t quite understand the madness. For anyone sitting in the side lines, wishing they could just go for it, I believe in you. Find yourself a great coach and invest that time and effort into what you want in life; make positive steps towards your dreams and goals, and one day it will be your reality.
Oh and if anyone asks what a strongwoman is, I’ll stick my hand up and proudly say I am!
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