As a kid I was always the smallest, skinniest one, not very athletic or coordinated; my poor parents attended many uneventful school sport days!. However I loved classical ballet and danced and played a number of musical instruments (including violin in a quartet) up to my late teens when I felt I had to make a decision about University.
University kept me busy with last minute assignments, parties, hangovers, and working crazy hospitality hours to pay my rent, bills and student loan (really just having way too much fun!). In my final year body pump and step aerobics were the big fitness trends and I ended up captaining my University’s team at the New Zealand University games (I cringe at this now!). After University I always made time to run, swim and started learning to lift but without any real focus as the party lifestyle continued. It was after getting into football (soccer) that I got a taste for competing, but picked up a few niggly knee injuries and tendonitis in my Achilles that led me to start taking my lifting ( and boxing for cross training) a bit more seriously. And it was though a friend at the gym that I went to watch my first bodybuilding show: The next day I phoned New Zealand’s top Bodybuilder trainer (and competitor) and explained I wanted to compete in my first show in 20 weeks…
The preparation for my first show was a real eye opener; I had to give up drinking, make immediate, strict diet changes, train twice a day and completely change my lifestyle. Luckily I had a trainer that I could place my faith in 100% so I never doubted that if I stuck to his plan I would make it. One of my darkest moments was being so exhausted I had to crawl on my hands and knees up two flights of stairs to the fridge. But after that it was all uphill. For 4 years I competed at National level (figure, short category) forging new, inspirational friendships with all kinds of athletes (my training relationship with my coaches, fellow athletes and Jonah Lomu is something I cherish always) as I changed from a party-girl to a determined, focussed, driven woman in all aspects of my life.
The discipline I gained from competitive bodybuilding also resulted in my return to university to study for a degree in nutrition via distance learning (Science and maths had never been my strengths at school so this was a brave decision for me!). Then I landed a job in an organisation I had wanted to work in for a while; the Manager who interviewed me later told me I was successful because my C.V demonstrated to her that I could juggle being challenged in all aspects of my life (I had ignored my recruitment agents earlier advice to remove competitive bodybuilding from my C.V to avoid any stereotyping!). And to top it off, around the same time I was fortunate enough to pick up a sponsor. At this time it struck me that the decision to compete at bodybuilding had positively impacted every part of my life.
At this point in time I realised that I needed change to challenge myself further and decided to use the British passport I had through my Father. 2 months later I landed in Manchester (I didn’t want to take the typical kiwi approach and move to London!). The first 3 months were tough; Britain was in a recession so I was burning through cash while trying to find a job. The worse bit was waking up every morning hearing people go to work while I got ready for another day of online job hunting. I remember spending my first birthday in England on my own in a city where I didn’t know anyone, still jobless, and thinking I never wanted to feel like that again. 1 month later I had a job and a flat in London and wondered why I hadn’t moved here in the first place?!
Through all of this I kept lifting but I also made the decision to take a break from competitive bodybuilding. Whether I wanted to admit it or not, my body was stressed from four years of restricted eating and intensive training on top of a full-time job and studies. For a while I dabbled in Olympic lifting, teaching Spin classes and training at a HIIT gym but I missed having a specific goal and the sense of purpose that gave my training.
By chance, an attendee at a lifting course I was on told me about a modified Strongman event and at Body Power Expo I was lucky enough to grab a few minutes with Andy McKenzie regarding a training approach (he probably won’t remember that meeting but for me it cemented my move from aesthetics to a strength athlete). One of the trainers at my gym (now the GB Powerlifting coach) told me about the modified Strongman classes at The Commando Temple (Deptford, London), so I signed up. It was intense. It was emotional. I was physically broken. But most importantly, I realised I was nowhere near as strong as I thought was. I was hooked.
I have now been competing at Strongwoman for just over a year with mixed success. At 54kg I am a lightweight, but this isn’t an excuse. In fact I believe this has been my greatest source of motivation along with my constant drive to challenge stereotypes of what female strength athletes look like. It has meant working on becoming even stronger for my size (it’s an urban myth women bulk up simply from heavy lifting) by simplifying my training and focussing more on the big lifts: squats, bench press, deadlift, overhead press and weighted carries (such as farmers walks, bag carries and the yoke). Also, work to develop explosive power. And as part of this process I have ended up in the world of competitive Powerlifting (I had my first comp in November this year). I guess you could say I am well and truly converted to strength sports!
What drives me to keep doing what I do with 100% commitment – I work hard at work and outside of work, make sacrifices, eat well 95% of the time, surround myself with the right people and am continually seek out learning opportunities – is to show women through lifting how much potential we have both physically and mentally. No matter what age, size or background (I am of mixed descent) your only limitation is yourself. Being a sponsored athlete gives me the added motivation, support and optimism that I can help expand a community of likeminded people. I am not even minutely athletically gifted; I am simply a woman genuinely choosing to #makeithappen in every aspect of my life, every day, always hopeful that others will do the same.
Stay tuned for more of our teams stories in the coming weeks. In the mean time check out the Bio-Synergy ambassadors here