By Crystal Lowery
I went to Nationals. And I didn’t cry, puke, or come in last.
Yes, those were my actual goals for my first National Strongman contest.
Competing is already hard enough, with the intense training leading up to the contest, the day-of nerves that make you want to puke, and the long, exhausting day of actually competing. Now, add in flying halfway across the country (alone, on three different planes, nonetheless), TWO days of competing, and knowing there are THREE badass pros competing in your weight class.
This is what I did, and I lived to tell about it.
A little background: I started training Strongman two years ago after getting over a pretty bad back injury. Yes, you read that correct; I hurt my back, it healed, and then I started lifting really heavy objects. Yes, many people thought I was crazy, but it was something I really wanted to do. Luckily, I have a great coach who I trust, and I knew that if I showed up and listened, I would get stronger. And I did.
I competed in a few shows that year, and I even placed 2nd in my very first show! It was in my last show of that year that I qualified for Nationals. This year I competed in a few more shows and managed to win the title of Virginia’s Strongest Woman.
Training for Nationals was tough, and it was heavy. And despite a crazy busy work schedule, I managed to get to most of my training sessions and actually felt really good before leaving for Iowa. (Nationals was held in Iowa, exciting, I know. At least I can cross Iowa off of my states to visit list.)
Typically, the night before a competition, my stomach is a mess. I am not someone who normally gets stressed out; I mean, my nickname at the gym is “strong, cool & collected.” Apparently I don’t show much emotion and never appear to be nervous/worried/stressed out. I arrived in Iowa on a Thursday and attended the rules meeting that evening. At the rules meeting, I wasn’t nervous, like at all. I was excited, yet incredibly calm. I was surrounded by all of these strong people. I had “arrived.” This is what all the hard work had been for. And to top it off, Kristen Rhodes was sitting in the row in front of me! (In case you don’t know, she’s one of THE strongest women in the world and has paved the way for women in the sport of strongman.)
Two-day competitions are hard, both physically and mentally. This was my first one and it was a challenge. The waiting between events is the worst. You get amped up for your event, do it, and then you wait. Then you get amped up again, do another event, and then you wait. This went on for two days. And I’m very happy about my overall performance. I hit some PR’s and made note of the things I need to work on to become more competitive.
I also got to meet and hang out with some of THE most awesome women I’ve ever met. I was excited to be competing with some ladies that I’ve trained with before, and also with some ladies that I’ve competed against in the past. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of women to spend the weekend with. One of the things I love most about Strongman is the athletes. In addition to being hard-working and immensely dedicated, they are also some of the nicest and most supportive people I’ve ever met. Your competitors cheer for you; they want you to do well. They push you, and they comfort you. I couldn’t ask for a better community to be a part of.
I’ll be honest, though. I thought after going to Nationals I’d be ready for a break and maybe try something new to change it up. After Nationals, I was anything but.
I came away from Nationals MORE excited about Strongman than ever before.
There is so much I want to accomplish and this honestly feels like the beginning. For those on the fence about competing, just do it. You’ll never feel ready enough. You’ll never be as strong as you want. Just do it. Competing will push you to your limits, and you’ll do things you never thought you could. And, you’ll meet some amazing people along the way.