Mum who joined gym to lose weight ends up being crowned world’s strongest woman07/24/2019
Andrea Thompson, a 36-year-old National Vocational Qualification assessor, lives in Melton, Suffolk, with her docker husband Stephen, 42, and daughters Olivia, 10, and Violet, seven.
When I walk into the weights area of a gym, I’m often greeted with sceptical looks. As a 5ft 5in woman, I’m not expected to be strong.
So when I pick up a 235kg barbell – twice my body weight – there are often a few jaws on the floor.
The truth is, I’m officially the world’s strongest woman, and can lift the equivalent of a pygmy hippopotamus.
But I haven’t always been athletic. Until a few years ago, I’d never really thought about what my body could do.
I’ve always struggled with my size, so when my sister announced she was getting married and asked me to be her bridesmaid, we decided to lose weight together.
At the time I was feeling quite lost. My daughters were both young, I hadn’t gone back to work and I was very overweight. We joined a Crossfit gym. I was apprehensive but at my first session there were lots of new members, which put me at ease. I loved the combination of weightlifting and cardio exercise. By the wedding I’d lost four stone.
I also found I had a natural talent for lifting weights. In one class, we had to lift a barbell from the floor above our heads 30 times. I did it in less than five minutes. The instructor was amazed. They’d never seen a woman do it so quickly and suggested I take up weight training.
I found a local trainer and told him I wanted to enter strong woman competitions. He said Britain’s Strongest Woman was weeks away and I signed up.
He warned me some of his clients had been training for months but I wasn’t deterred. Six weeks later I competed to be Britain’s Strongest Woman, with my mum and husband cheering on the sidelines. As the scores racked up, I realised I wasn’t doing too badly. But I couldn’t believe it when I came third.
Now I wanted to compete more and more. For the first time in my life, I liked my body. Instead of focusing on what I looked like, I started to realise the incredible things my body could do.
Over the next few years, I won Britain’s Strongest Woman three times and, in 2018, set my sights on the World’s Strongest Woman competition.
That December, I flew to America for the contest. The first event involved lifting three different weights in as short a time as possible – the heaviest was 235kg, the weight of a pygmy hippo.
The following day, I did a sandbag throw – throwing a weighted sack over a 4-metre post. Next, I had to lift a series of heavy objects over my head, including a 100kg axle and a 90kg log.
The final day saw the most gruelling event. I would have to run for 20m carrying a yoke weighing 270kg, then add a 100kg sandbag and do it again.
As I heaved the yoke onto my shoulders, every muscle was pushed to the limit. But I finished with the quickest time and to my delight, was crowned world’s strongest woman. My family were so proud of me.
The soft and squishy body is gone. Instead, I’m muscular and toned.
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