The other weekend, I competed in my first Strongman competition. It was an awesome event and showcased a number of extremely strong and athletic individuals local to Western NY. There were 41 competitors overall between all the different male and female divisions. As it was my first competition, I opted to compete in the novice heavyweight division. The men’s open heavyweight weights were a little daunting, so I felt it was smart to compete in the novice division.

The events and rules were as follows:

  1. Descending Axle Deficit Deadlift – Athlete will have 60 sec. to complete as many reps as possible, given UP and DOWN commands each rep. Deadlift will start on a 5 – step riser. Starting at 18-16” and ending at 2” deficit. After each successful rep, a riser will be removed.
  2. Max Keg Press – Athlete will have up to 30 seconds from the lift command to attempt a lift. Athlete will get three attempts. In order to receive a down command, weight must be secured overhead with elbows, hips and knees fully locked out. Keg must be guided down.
  3. Farmer’s carry – Athlete will have 60 sec. to complete in this order farmer’s carry drop turn around and carry back. Lifter will carry farmers handles 30’ (receiving a down command when both rear weight of the farmer’s handles passed the line). The lifter then will turn around, pick and bring the handles back to their original starting position. The timer will stop after rear weights of both handles pass the line. If time expires and does not complete event a measurement will be taken.
  4. Harness truck pull – lifter will be wearing a spud harness and start with rope in hand. Lifter will get a start command. Lifter will pull the truck 50’. Timer will stop when one foot crosses the finish line.
  5. Last man standing stone load (Men will load to 50” woman load to 46”) – Athlete will have up to 30 seconds from the start command to start the attempt the lift. Everyone takes every weight before the next stone is to be loaded.

As a person who has suffered spine pain and numerous back injuries, a lot of these events may seem like it may have been a disaster for someone with a history of a severe lumbar disc herniation; however, I was able to not only compete, complete all the events successfully, but I was also able to take 1 st place in my weight class. The worst thing I experienced was the sunburn I received because I didn’t realize the entire event was going to be outside. This is not an attempt to brag or boast about my own strength or abilities. This is a testament to what is possible as a spine-injured person.

In the past, I have been absolutely crushed and debilitated due to crippling low back pain. I have spent days face down on my apartment floor, only getting up to waddle to the bathroom, bent over to 90 degrees because I couldn’t bare anything “more upright” than that. I have had hot burning pain shooting down my leg with what felt like a hot poker stabbing me in my low back and ankle, limping around campus while I was a student. I have had episodes of such severe low back pain that putting on my socks first thing in the morning was a task that just didn’t seem worth attempting.

Over the past few years, I have been extremely diligent with my daily movements, cognizant of even those most mundane activities. Putting my socks on a certain way, putting a dish in my dishwasher a certain way, bending over my bathroom sink to spit tooth paste out of my mouth and rinse, all of which were done with intent and purpose to avoid further injury and allow my spine to heal. It has been a long, arduous process, but at the end of the day, my low back feels the best it has felt in years despite being a spine injured person. Despite the fact I am not currently in pain, I will always consider myself a spine patient. It’s more of a mental thing for me so that I will never get too comfortable and abandon the things that helped me. Now, I am not advocating people rush out to do Strongman events or powerlift or anything like that. What I am advocating is that you do not have to suffer endlessly, and you don’t have to live in fear of pain and avoid ever trying something new. The possibilities of an injured spine are pretty amazing. And I still have more new things to try…