"Great things are done by a series of small things brought together" - Vincent Van Gogh
I was lucky enough to meet Canberra based, scottish strongwoman Bex Prior in Campbelltown a couple of weeks ago when I had a go at my first strongwoman competition. I've admired Bex and watched her compete in strongwoman over social media and event live feeds for a while so it was pretty cool to finally meet her.
Bex is not only a ferocious competitor but also the brains and brawn behind Canberra Strongwoman, an organisation which supports, teaches and encourages women to participate in this fairly fringe strength sport.
I feel like I travel a similar path to her, we share a joint desire to spread the gospel and grow the community of women who thrive in pursuing strength. It's also worth noting that when I met her, she was WEARING a blanket and I thought, "this is definitely my kind of chick".
We are pretty excited to announce that The Barbelle Club will be partnering with Bex and Canberra Strongwoman to bring you some joint awesomeness. Bex has come on board to host the strongwoman open gym at our Strength Camp in September and The Barbelle Club will be shooting some video of the many badasses competing in the upcoming Unleash the Beast novice strongman competition - which Bex is working on putting together at her home gym, the X Unbranded.
We spoke with Bex earlier this month about her training and the motivation behind creating Canberra strongwoman.
Bex Could you tell us a little about your training history and how you have come to strongman? I have been involved in a number of different team sports from a young age. Sport has taught me valuable lessons in teamwork, responsibility and given me a passion to strive for excellence. Before I found strength training, I trained at a regular fitness-style gym. My only goal was (and always had been) to lose weight. Once I was introduced to heavy strength training I realised I could feel good in my own skin, and my focus changed from striving to be skinnier, to striving to be stronger! I have definitely found my niche in strength sports and have trained hard to achieve what I have in the short time I have been competing in Strongwoman. Strongwoman has taught me about dedication and persistence, and inspired me to push myself beyond even my own expectations. I find strength sports incredibly empowering and exciting and I want EVERYONE to get involved. I want to build the sport in the Canberra region and inspire as many women and men to find their own strength. As such, I have dedicated a lot of time and effort to running novice competitions based at The X Unbranded Sport Preparation in Fyshwick. These competitions are open to anyone who is a “novice” to Strongman. Our next comp is on the 24th July and spots are filling very fast. In terms of PB’s Competing in the Arnold’s in Melbourne and then South Africa is definitely the high points.
What are some of your prs? I carried a 250kg yoke for the first time in Melbs and it felt easy! The 250kg yoke at South Africa with no PCL is also a pretty cool story!
Can you tell me about Canberra Strongwoman and how that came about? Back in the beginning of 2015 after I competed in the 1st Strongman comp I fell in love with the sport and couldn’t wait for the next comp. Unfortunately for whatever reason at the second leg I was the only female to compete. I decided then that I wanted to get as many women involved as I could. I wanted them to feel the same empowerment and confidence that I had felt and I also wanted some competition! I started contacting people I already knew from rugby etc. and it started to gain momentum again. Andrew Fraser, who created Canberra Strongman Association and whom was coaching me at Strongman Saturdays at the time, asked me if I would take on a bit more of a role in growing the women’s side of things. I created the Facebook page and that’s been quite effective.
How important is it that a female community is cultivated in this sport? Having a female community in this sport I believe is essential! We can achieve so much more together then we can alone. Working together and pushing each other up to strive for more feel fantastic. That’s what I feel we have at The X Unbranded. The women I train with are fantastic and support each other. When the competition rolls around they will compete against each other, but it’s healthy competition and each one wants to see her fellow strongwoman achieve her absolute best.
Do you have any problems with retaining strongwomen? I feel we do have a small issue with retaining strongwomen. In my own experience we as women are less inclined to make training and competing a priority. Don’t get me wrong there are women who absolutely do make it a priority but work, family life etc. etc. is always going to play a huge part in the time and money we can dedicate to this sport.
Why do you want to encourage women to try or train strongwomen? As I mentioned before. It’s incredibly empowering! Lifting a huge concrete ball, or carrying a massive Yoke… “women shouldn’t be doing that”… says who!? I love the idea of breaking these stereotypes and showing that women are just as capable of doing anything as males and I want every female to experience it too.
What are your plans for the future self and canberra strongwoman? Plans for Canberra Strongwoman…I want it to take over! I want regular competitions beginning at the Novice level to give women the confidence and basics and then progress to the Canberra Strongman Series and beyond. For myself I’m rehabbing my torn PCL at the moment, it’s slow but we’re progressing. If it the knee is ready I want to compete in the Australian Strongman Alliance Nationals but that is potentially too soon. Will see. Then there’s Canberra’s Strongest Woman on at The Big Boys Toys Expo in EPIC (Exhibition Park in Canberra). It’s on the weekend of 20th Aug and is looking a little more likely. After that we’re looking at joining up with Joanne Greagen in Melbourne for a women’s only Best in the West comp, which is set to be an excellent event!
What is your favourite movement? and what do you dread (if anything). I LOVE the yoke. I love how you can pile the weights on. You have to be strong and move quickly. I used to love the farmers too, unil I tripped up in South Africa. E event weight was 70kg per hand which is very light for me. I was too busy thinking about the finish line and just getting there as quick as possible that I didn’t concentrate on the basics. It’s a good reminder to always run through in your mind what you are about to do, and never forget the basic steps. Fraser used to say at Strongman Saturdays “think about what you know” and this has stuck with me, I often say it to others if I’m spotting or helping them. I guess I lost sight of that. But as the clichés go, every day is a school day and you either win or you learn. You never ever lose. I hate the Dreadlift… I mean the deadlift! I was progressing well with it in the earlier days then did something to my back. I got the fear and just sort of avoided it for too long. When I got back into it the whole movement just felt wrong. Something I’m working on. And I guess it’s worth mentioning, that you can’t be good at everything. There’s always something that you won’t like or will struggle with. But what matters is that you keep trying. Never give up! what strongman event do you enjoy teaching others the most? I love it all! Well except deadlift. I try to avoid giving advice on that!
"I’ve chatted with plenty of females from all walks of life, all shapes and sizes and often a common barrier to exercising is that they are too self-conscious to go to a gym, or get into a swim suit etc. because of how they will look. I just want to tell you … (and I’ll apologise in advance for my language) but fuck everyone else! Are you doing it for you? Or are you doing it for some random person who don’t even know you? That guy at the gym is probably looking at you because you can squat heaps! Or the girl in the corner is probably envious of your confidence! Everyone who steps into a gym (regardless of how they appear) is there for the same reason. The exact. same. reason! And that reason is; to make a change! To improve themselves! To try!
Think about YOU. Think about what YOU want. Think about what YOU have to do to get it and GO DO IT!"
How do you eat and recover to support your level of training? Ahh nutrition is a difficult one for me. I know exactly what I should be doing to compliment my training but actually doing it, is the hard part for me. I go through phases. I eat well, lots of natural unprocessed foods, eggs, fresh veggies, lean protein etc. but for me I find I probably under-eat Monday to Friday with work and then way over eat at the weekends. It’s something I’m working on. I do use protein supplements and on-off with pre-workout for a bit of a boost if I feel flat. I take a multi-vitamin and since my knee injury I’ve added in fish oil. I think the key is to be prepared. “Food prep” on Sunday is good (I work M-F). I leave a few ready-made meals in the fridge and the rest in the freezer and can grab them out when I need them. The times I get caught out are if work gets super busy and break times are all over the place or if I have to do overtime at short notice. I try to keep an extra stash of protein powder at work.
Do You Even Not Lift? My favourite non training hobby? I like being crafty! I crochet and decoupage and of course I love to go shopping! I like to do my face up and wear dresses! Haha
Fave post competition meal? Usually I'm starving as I'm notoriously bad at eating during a comp, I get nervous and feel sick if I eat. We usually go for a big burger and definately icecream!! Looooove icecream!
Who inspires you? I take inspiration from heaps of different woman. From all of the women I've competed alongside, from their dedication and determination. I also am inspired by the women who train in Canberra. People like Renaye. Renaye has given 100% everytime I've seen her train. She has basically been involved in strongman the same amount of time as I have and its been an absolute pleasure to watch her progress and become stronger and stronger. I love that she has been true to herself and even when other people didn't approve of what she was achieving she kept going and keeps going!
Favourite quote? That's a tricky one. I like heaps! One that really sticks and comes to mind moreso now than ever is one that i think is by Vincent Van Gogh "great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of things brought together".
Any tips for a woman who might be interested in trying strongman? Get in touch! Come and try it out! As mentioned I train at The X Unbranded which is fully kitted out for Strongman. I love it there, such an awesome community and would highly recommend it. I do however have contacts elsewhere in Canberra if Fyshwick isn’t suitable. Top tip though, if you are thinking about it, just do it! You won’t regret it! Get into a gym with the equipment and sign up for a novice comp! Thanks for talking with us Bex x
* If you can’t answer this question, my advice is that you should leave the gym immediately, get a coffee, sit in front of a mirror and have a good hard look at yourself