“My First Strongwoman Competition” by Sheri Stiles


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As I sit here, completely bruised up and feeling exhausted, I can’t help but think to myself “Man, no matter how sore I am right now, that was totally worth it!”

As many of you know, I competed in my first strongman/strongwoman event on Saturday.  As I feel the aftermath now, with every task seeming more daunting than normal and no matter how much coffee I consume, I could sleep at any given moment.  I don’t regret it at all 🙂

I have written before about the post-meet exhaustion and emotional process I go through, so I won’t go into that too much but it’s definitely no different this time around; if anything, I am sorer than after my powerlifting meets!  I am attributing the soreness to doing movements I am not accustomed to, and deadlifting (technically) 4,200lbs in 60 seconds!

I had a blast the whole day! Although I felt out of place (it seemed everyone else but me knew what was going on) it was quickly apparent that everyone was very supportive and willing to lend advice, and help each other.  You get some of that in powerlifting, but this seemed even more so in strongman. It was like it didn’t matter if you were first or last in an event, everyone was right there alongside of you, pushing you to go further. I know personally, during some of the events, it was others encouragement that made me bust out that last rep!

The competition had 5 events: farmers carry, circus dumbbell for 60 sec, 5 odd object load, yoke walk, and deadlift for 60 sec.

The farmer’s carry was 135 lbs. each hand for the women, for 100ft and timed. Originally it was 70 feet on the entry form, so those who trained this event for distance had to add 30 feet. This event was one I had actually trained (like 3 times anyway). I was nervous as it was the first event, but I also felt comfortable doing it. I finished the event in 14 seconds and 5th place. I remember thinking after, “I could have walked a little faster that wasn’t bad.”

The 2nd event was a 50 lb. circus DB for max reps in 60 seconds. I had tried this twice in the gym, and did alright. However, I have a tendency to press too much, and if I could learn to get underneath it more and use my legs I could have gotten more reps. I learned something I have to work on! I ended up getting 20 reps and 8th place in the event. Pressing has always been my weak point, I stopped doing any overhead movements about a year to heal a shoulder injury. My shoulders have been great since, however, much weaker than they used to be. Slowly, I am adding back in pressing movements as this is big in strongman.

Next we came to the 5 odd object load event – this was by far the most fun! Well, besides the deadlifting (anyone who knows me knows I LOVE deadliftingJ). We were given approximate weights prior to meet day, but no information on the implements that would be used. We were also planning to load to a shorter height than the actual event called for. I am kind of short, so I was disadvantaged in comparison to taller girls in this event. Plus, I had only ever practiced loading stones twice, and a sandbag once; neither of those were included in the 5 objects!  The objects we had were a 90 lb. keg, 115 lb. propane tank, 145 lb. fire hydrant, 165 lb. keg, and a 175 lb. circus dumbbell. You had 75 seconds to complete this event, and had to get at least the first 3 for it to count. I ended getting 4/5 implements before running out of time. This was probably the hardest for me endurance wise.  I don’t believe the weight was necessarily the issue, but the speed/time is new for me. I honestly loved this event though!

Yoke walks were next. This is what I had been dreading all day! I had practiced standing up with a 410lb yolk, and actually walking with it once without weight, and once with 375. I couldn’t move the 375 more than 10ft, so I was thinking there was no way I’d be able to do 350 for 100 ft. I ended up (somehow) finishing the yolk carry of 350lbs for 100 ft. in 19 seconds! I took 3rd in this event. It did not feel fast and smooth (all I remember doing was staring at the finish line) but the video made it look easy!

The final event was a 300 lb. conventional deadlift for max reps in 60 seconds. Needless to say, I looked forward to this ALL day. Going into the competition I knew I could deadlift; if nothing else, I could pull! After all, I would consider it my best lift, although having it last – after the loading event and the yoke carry – I was nervous about how my back would feel. One of my training partners said to me “Look at it like a powerlifting meet; you squat and bench before you get to pull!”  This was a great way of thinking. Usually, I go into the deadlift event in my powerlifting meets with a ‘clean slate’ mentality. Forget what just happened and pull like it’s the only lift of the day…So that’s what I did. I ended up doing 14 reps and ended in 3rd place. I pulled 11 reps easy, then decided to strap up (as that was allowed) and pull the last 3. Although I was tired at that time, and I fought for the last one, I think I wasted time strapping up to only get 3 more out of it. My grip has never been my issue, so I don’t usually conventional pull with straps, but in the moment I thought it could help me get a few more. Overall, however, I was fine with pulling 300×14—talk about endurance athlete 😉

I ended up placing 3rd overall (out of 13 very strong girls) and qualifying for nationals in my first strongwoman competition. This is something I did not expect; I was honestly shocked when I saw I had placed.  I was ecstatic nonetheless, but surprised!

I went into this competition super excited to try something new, and although I honestly felt I had no idea what to expect from the events, I told myself I would go there and do my best. No matter what the trial was, I was going to work my butt off and test my strength. I believe I did just that!

I love the challenge strongman has opened me up to. I love training, and doing work to see just what I am capable of, and I have once again found my desire and passion for competition!

I have even signed up to do North Carolina’s Strongest Man/Woman in SeptemberJ