What is Strongman, anyway?

Some sports have ancient histories dating back millennia- like javelin throwing, wrestling (sexy or otherwise), archery, and doorbell ditching. Strongman’s origins are similarly varied and prehistoric, spanning ethnicities, borders, generations, and genders.

Basically, people have picked up heavy shit and then put it somewhere for as long as there’s been such a thing as people.

Feats of strength are an important part of being human. For some, it’s a purposeful and focused expression of aggression, itself a necessary component of participating in human life. In order to create, we must have aggression. The bird must be aggressive to break its shell; the butterfly must survive intensive transformation in order to emerge from its chrysalis. These feats of strength, too, bring life to our cycle of birth and death.

It’s also pretty badass to watch people lift heavy shit, and even more badass when you take the risk and do it yourself. There is really nothing quite like that feeling of asserting your physical self even when your mind says “Are you fucking kidding me with that???”

Strongman is about ferocity, receptivity, and taking a risk that you are actually more capable than you think you are. I think Winnie the Pooh said that.

Wait, here it is. Christopher Robin says to Pooh, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

(:::cry:::)

Strongman as a sport has evolved over the generations, in more recent history from circus sideshows into an internationally-recognized sport. From nail bending to Budgie to Highland games and other current day strongman contests, Strongman keeps on growing. CrossFit has been attributed as being a gateway sport for some Strongman competitors (this guy included).

Some of the events you might see in contemporary Strongman sport include:

Atlas stones: You take these big ass concrete balls and lift them onto a platform, over a bar, onto your shoulder, something like that.

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Log: Clean and press this giant cylinder over your head as many times as you can, or for max weight.

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Yoke Carry: Carry a huge fucking contraption on your traps for distance, time, and weight. In my upcoming competition, I’ll have to carry a 350# yoke, for some unknown distance and/or time.

(I don’t have a picture of this yet and am not willing to thieve one from the interwebs, but you can google “yoke strongman” and see what I’m talking about)

Some other events are keg carry or toss; sled drag; farmer’s carry; car deadlift; truck pull; all kinds of other shit that sounds basically like you’re hanging out in a junkyard and finding the heaviest and most uncomfortably-shaped item to do something totally normal with. Like, you’re putting away your groceries, but instead of groceries it’s a giant tire or some oddly-shaped tree trunk.

So why would anyone DO this??

Because it’s fun, of course. 😀

Here is a link to Wikipedia’s wisdom on Strongman for further reading.

 

The accidental competitor

I stumbled into Strongman earlier this year by signing up for California’s Strongest Woman, a novice strongman competition in Santa Cruz, on a whim. Well, maybe not a whim– my coach and trainer is a strongman competitor and kicked ass at California Mid-State Fair last summer (and won the contest). So it would be accurate to say I had a little encouragement.

Fast forward to April 14, when I won third place in my weight class in the Master’s division which automatically qualified me to compete in the Strongman Corp’s Master’s Nationals in Las Vegas in September.

My first thought was, “Well, shoot. I guess I’d better start training!”

This blog will chronicle my experiences with all aspects of my training, including:

What is Strongman? How do people get strong? What’s the difference between exercise and training? What is a competition like? What is it like being a woman in the lifting world? Do politics really belong in sports? Is it even possible to separate them since bodies are historically sites of political and social organization??

Writing is important to me. It’s how I process and make sense of things. With these writings, I aim to explore the experiences of me, a middle-aged gender-flexible person, psychotherapist by trade and psychoanalyst in training, as I embark on my very first Strongman contest preparation. Parallels to life, the universe, and everything will be made. Please enjoy lots of food pictures, squat videos, and musings about envy, greed, power, receptivity, humanity, love, justice, mental health, and community. 

I’m glad to have you with me!

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(That’s me, above, at California’s Strongest Woman’s opening event. I got 105# on the log clean and press. At the moment, it’s still my PR.)