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What training for Strong Woman has taught me

A little about me. I’m a personal trainer based in Manchester with a passion for strength training, coaching people to achieve great things beyond their current beliefs. I have just finished my first competitive Strong Woman season and placed 1st BNSF England’s Strong Woman, 3rd BNSF Britain’s Strongest Woman and 3RD WHEA Worlds Strongest Woman.

I first got into competitive Strong Woman, as a goal to focus on getting as physically strong as I could and dedicate my training to preparing for my first Novice Strong Woman competition. Having spent many years focussing on what I looked like in the mirror. I wanted a different physical challenge. Having a previous competitive sport background in field hockey, I missed having a competitive goal. Enter Strong Woman, and the lessons it’s taught me so far.

To become physically strong, do not solely focus on the load lifted, but the quality of the movement, the range of motion, how many repetitions were performed and the way it felt. When I first started out, I thought strength was all about my 1 Rep Max for movements in the squat, bench and deadlift, now I look at how strong I am in a given repetition range, for example, what I can do for 5 reps or 3 reps, how am I moving compared to before, how does the load feel. Yes, strength can be objective, but also subjective. Nobody cares what you can lift, if it looks and feels like shit.

Training for Strong Woman has forced me to work on my weaknesses. A) because I want to be a competitor for a long time, remaining injury free is of upmost priority, weaknesses lead to injury, pushing yourself to your physical limits with heavy loads is unforgiving so don’t ignore your weak points and B) What’s the point in competing if you aren’t in this to improve as an athlete, and get better at your craft. We spend a lot of time in the training ground, so it’s important to love and learn from training. Looking for placings in competitions is a very short-sighted approach, and it is important to focus on progression and improvement. You are only as strong as your weakest link, so get to work and embrace training. Competitions are a marker of progression, not a destination.

Training for Strong Woman is a humbling experience. If you’ve been strength training for a while, and you log your lifts, you can probably estimate what you’re going to lift in a given session, based on your previous training numbers. Yes, that’s all well and good if we progress linearly, but guess what we’re not the same organism every time we attempt to pick up the bar. Many a time have I loaded a bar expecting to lift what I lifted the week previously and been frustrated to find I can’t. Many variables can play apart in the success or failure of a single rep in a training session, let alone high stakes of a competition. Recovery, sleep, nutrition, environment, mindset, emotional state, they all play a part, so don’t be too hard on yourself.

This links nicely to the next lesson. Training for Strong Woman has made me think critically. When a training session or a lift doesn’t go to plan, I no longer, kick, scream and throw my dummy out of the pram as I once did and let it impact my entire existence for that day. Instead, I think critically but constructively, what could have contributing factors which aided or hindered today’s session, what can improve or put in place next time, what can I learn from this experience, or how could it help others?

It will mentally and emotionally challenge you week in, and week out. Not a week goes by without me reaching new grounds in the training room, whether it is learning a new skill, perfecting a movement, increasing load on the bar or performing more repetitions, you are constantly challenged. It makes you realise the more you achieve, the more you can achieve. This is not singly for getting strong but, life’s challenges as well. Its taught me to harness self-belief, doubting yourself serves no purpose. Your thoughts become things, so believe in yourself, and great things happen.

It may be an individual sport, but you are not alone! I’ve met some amazing people so far in my Strong Woman career. From my very first Novice competition to competing in the World Finals each person has the same goal. To be better than they were last time. That’s why I have built and maintained some great connections and friendships this year, being around like-minded people and sharing experiences. The other competitors and crowds are celebrating and cheering on personal success, whether it is smashing a personal best in a Max lift event, or giving it everything you’ve got in a max distance event everyone will be roaring for you.

Strength sports may seem intimidating from the outside looking in. However, if you want to be physically and mentally challenged, improve your mindset and personally grow I highly recommend you get involved in strength sports. You will get out of it more than you bargained for, make some great friends and connections along the way. You never know, you might just get to compete on a World stage!

Katie Ball – BNSF England’s Strongest Woman U65kg

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