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The Story of an Eight Year Old Weightlifter - Aeryn Ejjina's Story

I would like to introduce you to eight year old Aeryn and her father Craig, I recently reached out to them to see whether they would like to contribute to the website. I was thrilled that they said yes and even more pleased with what they have written. Aeryn is predominantly a Crossfit lady but enjoys all kinds of training including Strongwoman and I for one can't wait to see where her passion for lifting takes her!

Aeryn's Story

How Did I Begin?

I saw Daddy weightlifting and wanted to do it. So I built a Lego barbell to train. The next day I saw a video of the Dottir’s. I loved them, they were so strong and had long blonde hair. I want to be just like them.

What Does Weightlifting Mean to Me?

I like that it makes me stronger. I’m so strong now I can push a car!

Favourite Three Lifts and Favourite Record?

My favourite three lifts are clean and jerk, deadlift and back squat. My favourite record is probably my 15kg clean and jerk. I was so happy I cried.

How Has It Changed Me?

Erm… I don’t know… I mean it’s changed the way I look. Like I have become muscular and have abs now. It’s made my legs bigger. I think it’s helped my confidence as you have to be confident to lift the weights.

What Does A Typical Week’s Training Look Like?

I do a morning workout, which is usually kettlebells or core work, before school. Then after school I do weightlifting, cardio, gymnastics, all CrossFit training. That is usually one or two workouts that mix up everything and I do it against the clock. Daddy is always changing things for me. I love the weightlifting and strongman stuff though. That’s really fun. Then I go swimming at least twice a week and usually go running at least once a week on a 2km Jr Park Run, or sometimes join in the 5km adults one. Today I joined mummy on a 7km trail run. But I make sure I get one day a week where I do nothing and enjoy a rest day, usually on Saturday. 

Who Inspires Me?

I have a picture of the Dottir’s on my wall. Katrin Davidsdottir, Tia-Clair Toomey, Annie Thorisdottir, Sara Sigmundsdottir, Eik Gylfadottir, Matt Fraser, Samantha Briggs from Britain and teenage CrossFit girls like Emily Bott, Sophie Shaft and Hayley Adams. Then I love strongmen like Eddie Hall. Oh and my daddy and mummy because of her running.

I also love Wonder Woman and Superman.

What Do I Want To Do In The Future?

In the future I would like to win the CrossFit games and the Olympics in weightlifting. I would also like to train people in a gym.

Craig's Story

Getting Started

It all started because I was trying to get fit. I was lifting some weights with YouTube on in the background, just some exercise videos for motivation. Aeryn walked in just as a CrossFit video came on. She saw the women lifting weights and doing their thing, and was in awe. Within moments she was asking to do the same.

I hated the idea of my little girl lifting weights, and some members of our extended family still have a problem with it, after all she was my baby girl, so small, my little princess, no way I could see her doing anything like that. I said no, then I said no again. When she built her own barbell out of Lego I relented a little and showed her the basics, deadlift, clean, press, etc. I fully expected her to forget about it in a few weeks as she had with ballet and music lessons. After six weeks she was still going strong and I let her start lifting the empty barbell. Then we added the smallest amount of weight we could. I was terrified, but she was loving every minute.

The Ultimate Strongman came to Telford park, only a few minutes from where we live, and she spent the afternoon watching and loved it. She wanted to try a few of the exercises they were doing, so we modified a few, and obviously did it with objects her size, and she loved that too! Since then she met World’s Strongest Man, Eddie Hall, and talked to him about her favourite lift, the deadlift, and his encouragement was all she needed to continue.

How Did It Affect Her?

Firstly we proceeded very slowly, I did plenty of research on kids weightlifting to see if it was safe and how to proceed. A neighbour was a qualified coach back in Poland so I picked his brains quite a bit and quickly she proceeded to Olympic lifts of snatch and clean and press and the usual compound lifts of deadlift, squat, chest press, bent over rows and overhead press.

She grew stronger and better very quickly, so quickly I could not keep up! I looked for help at local gyms and none were willing to allow her in, but eventually a club invited us and she went once and impressed them, being invited to come back as often as she wanted, but their junior’s class was at 4pm and we just could not get there in time after school.

We concentrated on her CrossFit skills, she progressed in terms of cardio and gymnastics as well as weightlifting, setting new goals every few months and smashing through them.

The biggest affect was not physical, but in her personality. She had been a very shy girl when she started, not confident in her physical abilities at all, happy and friendly, but never one to be confident when doing sports. That changed in a huge, monumental and massive way! It was picked up by teachers and other parents at school, suddenly older children were asking her to join in their teams, other kids were asking to come over to ours to work out with her, she called it “training them” and she exuded confidence in everything she did, it even expanded into her schoolwork. Today she had no fear. At all. Anything she is asked to do, from playing in the school sports team to new activities we have tried this year, like paddle-boarding and tree-trekking, she has attacked both with vigour and a smile on her face and so much confidence we’re slightly alarmed!

It has affected the way she looks at her day. Before she would come home and look to play before doing anything, now she wants to get her homework done so she can get her workout in before mummy comes home from work. Her brother will join in sometimes, and that’s when it becomes a bit of a competition!

But it was soon affecting the whole family, she now wanted to eat healthier too! Out went white bread in school lunch boxes and was replaced with brown. She started asking for fruit rather than chocolate, cucumber suddenly became her favourite food! She enjoyed treats, but her diet definitely became healthier and she researched nutrition on her own and would start to dissect meals telling us what was in each one, where the protein sources were and that we “could eat this today, but we had to be healthier tomorrow!”

What Sort of Challenges and Goals Do You Set?

Aeryn leads the way, always. She has a few athlete friends she talks to who make suggestions, a few months ago we went through a flexibility kick and getting a full split became something she wanted to do which was a suggestion of theirs, but initially it was things like “do a full pull up” and “dead lift half her bodyweight” and “do the Jr Park Run in under 15-minutes”. She always wants to lift heavy, so I have to reign her in as she’s so enthusiastic, so we have agreed to a maximum of one “heavy day” every week at most, usually more like two weeks as I distract her with new and different workouts and challenges. These days most of her weightlifting centre around technique and using the lifts she has learned within a larger workout, we have several set workouts that we try, the traditional CrossFit WOD’s (workout of the day) and one’s we have created on our own which we do once every few weeks to track her progress. So our goals are usually testing a new skill, such as “learn to do a muscle up” or “take 10 seconds off thr ‘All The Ropes’ Workout” whereas earlier on it might have been “deadlift 15Kg”

But every now and then she throws us a curveball. The other week her aunt, who has been training in strongwoman events, pulled a truck. That set her off an a week later Aeryn pushed a car. That was terrifying, but she was so proud of herself and actually said it was pretty easy.

We usually start by making 10 goals at the start of the year, and modifying them as she gets through them so she always has something to strive for.

What Does The Future Hold?

Well, Aeryn is a couple of years away from joining middle school, but is already saying she’ll only go to one with a gym so she can work out after school before doing her homework.

She would like to compete in competitions, but there are precious few for her to be able to I England. She sees girls the same age in Brazil and America doing the same sort of weights, or even less, she is doing and winning national titles, and wants to do the same. But until she is a teenager there’s nothing we can do. She talked about winning medals and setting records, so perhaps the Olympics or Commonwealth games in weightlifting, but her focus is always “winning the CrossFit Games”. But she looks up to personal trainers in our local area, one of whom is Miss Shropshire, and recently she has suggested following her into doing modelling, pageantry and personal training. But I cannot rule out her trying out Strongwoman events either as she really loves that stuff, but I don’t see her having the size to take it very far.

I think whatever she does moving forwards fitness will be a big part of it, and weightlifting will be a huge part of that. I expected this ‘Phase’ to last a few weeks, tops. We’re now coming up on a year and a half. It’s more than a phase really, it’s who she is.

Thank you to both Aeryn and Craig for sharing their experiences! I think it's so important especially at such a young age to help encourage children to try all types of sports and to encourage that they enjoy what they are doing. If you would like to follow Aeryn in her quest to become a champion you can follow her on Instagram @jovanbkt