By Lindsay Jean
As a child I was always active. I played softball and soccer. I ran track and figure skated. I snowboarded and hiked. As a freshman in college, parties became more important than practice and I quickly became sedentary. By the time I finished college in 2008, I was married with a one-year-old. I had 3 children in 4 years and continued to be under-active. My children became my excuse. My self-esteem suffered huge blows as my marriage soured. After a period of physical and psychological abuse at the hand of my spouse, I left with my boys in tow. In the months after I left I sought trauma therapy. I was broken and overwhelmed. Being the only parent my boys had, I knew it was time to get healthy. I found a gym with childcare and I headed straight for the cardio machines. First the elliptical, then treadmill and stair-climber, I was a cardio bunny. My shins hurt so bad I could barely shave my legs and I started "earning" my calories based on what I burned in the gym. After running miles on the treadmill I would lift weights in hopes of getting stronger not realizing that I wasn't eating enough to gain any muscle. It was a miserable existence.
One year later, I was asked to train with a young, elite athlete. Her coach, Aaron, was dating a friend of mine and we had talked a number of times about fitness and sports. The sport she was going to be training for, Olympic weightlifting, was completely foreign to me. I had never held a barbell. The plan for me was to train and cut down to compete in the 75kg (165lbs) weight class. My starting weight was 94.5kg (208lbs). After about 6 months of training and cutting it was apparent that I wasn't going to be able make weight without losing a lot of strength. We talked about other strength sports. Aaron had previous experience in Strongman and felt he could coach me. My first week of training, I fell in love.
The last year of Strongman training has yielded many lessons- about life, self-love, strength and determination. What is determination? This question is one I have often asked myself over the last 18 months; culminating in a definition forged in my experiences as an amateur Strong(wo)man. I have never been a particularly determined person. I was notorious for starting something and then quitting, just ask my mom. Guitar, cello, hockey, drawing, figure skating, dance, lacrosse - I tried and quit them all. This wasn't a childhood phase, it was a trademark. After 6 years and 4 different schools, I graduated college with a Bachelor's degree in Psychology. Not because I wanted it, but because it was expected of me. I did absolutely the bare minimum to get my degree. I had always gotten by, relying on intelligence and whit. I had perfected it as an art form.
There is no room for quitting in Strong(wo)man. As Master Yoda said, "Do or do not. There is no try." You either move the weight or you don't. I often joke that the events in Strong(wo)man test your will to live. What I really mean is that your determination is tested. Because athletes know well ahead of the competition what the events are going to be, they all arrive having prepared similarly. What sets athletes apart in competition is determination.
After winning my first and only novice competition, I felt ready to compete in the open heavy-weight women's class. I signed up for White Mountain's Strongest Man/Woman and trained for the events. As I arrived at the venue, I was nervous and excited. Sometime after the first event my nerves got the best of me. I was jittery, unfocused and I began to second-guess myself. By the third event I was sitting on a cinderblock behind the bathrooms, crying hysterically and ready to give up Strong(wo)man altogether. My head was out of the game. I lacked the determination to finish. I was crushed.
One year later, I have had many triumphs and losses, both in the gym and in competition. I have learned the huge difference between practice and performance. Just because you have done something in the gym does not mean you'll be able to replicate it on meet day. Conversely, just because you haven't been able to complete a lift in training doesn't necessarily mean you won't do it in competition. The deciding factor is determination. Your determination is defined by your desire, how badly you want to win. If I want to be the World's Strongest Woman some day, I have to want it, I have to be determined. Although I am far from WSW, I am determined to get stronger every day.
Lindsay Jean is a Strongman Competitor based in Massachusetts. She is a mother of three boys and with a few wins under her belt and an upcoming wedding, she has lots to look forward to! Lindsay is one of Gymwrap's Team Athletes.