Arnold Sports Festival USA 2019: Amateur Strongwoman

Location: Greater Columbus Convention Center, 400 N High St., Columbus, OH 43215

Shanice Harriston (Arnold 2018 Amateur 4th Strongest Woman) (Heavyweight strong (wo) man competitor), Arnold Sports Festival USA 2019: Amateur Strongwoman
Shanice Harriston (Heavyweight strong (wo) man competitor), Arnold Sports Festival USA 2019: Amateur Strongwoman

What were you doing out there?

It is an actual deadlift. What makes an actual deadlift different than a regular deadlift is the actual bar deadlift is stiff. It doesn’t bend with the weights when you pick it up. That means you pick up all the weight at the same time. You must pull it quickly off the ground. We were doing reps at 450 pounds.

How do you train? Do you have a special diet?

There is no special diet. Anything put in front of my face, I eat. All the weight I can gain is a good thing.

I train heavy days; but, not too often. We do a lot of banded deadlifts to help with speed.

Tell me about the whole competition.

Yesterday we did two events, and we just finished the deadlift. Next we have the medley which is a malteser block (a big square block) that weighs 220 pounds. We will carry it 50 feet; then, we pull a rope that is connected to a 350 pound sled. That is a timed event. Then, we have two more events tomorrow (if you make it to day 3).

What is a good time?

A good time for the medley would be below 20 seconds.

How long have you been doing this? Any advice for the next generation who wants to do strongman?

I have been doing strength training for about 10 years. I was a track athlete in college. After college I went to a powerlifting gym. I was told that I was too athletic to do powerlifting and that I needed to do strong man. I have been doing strong man for the last two years.

My advice for anyone who is looking to do strong man is to get started as early as you can. The longer you can train, the stronger you will be. Stay healthy and eat well.

Anything else?

It’s a great event. Come out and have fun. It is a community. The athletes understand everything that you go through. Some of the competitors have been my best supporters all weekend.

Monica Johnson (Heavyweight strong (wo) man competitor), Instagram @monie5903, Arnold Sports Festival USA 2019: Amateur Strongwoman
Monica Johnson (Heavyweight strong (wo) man competitor), Arnold Sports Festival USA 2019: Amateur Strongwoman

What were you doing? How do you train for what you were doing? What do you eat?

It is called strong man, but we are strong women. I have been doing strong man since the summer of 2017. I started training in the gym for powerlifting; then, switched to strongman. I train five days a week. Four of those days are a mixer of event and power lifting with accessories. The fifth day is more event work. My training cycles are usually fifteen to twelve weeks. My eating is a work in progress. It is clean for the most part. I try to get veggies in. I eat meat and cheese. I try to watch the sugar and alcohol. I haven’t had a drink since Christmas because I want my body to be in the best shape possible and for recovery. The biggest thing is making sure I get eight hours of sleep. This training cycle I learned for my recovery process to do more massages and stretching.

What advice would you give a young lady who wants to do what you are doing?

Do it at your own pace. We don’t see enough women of color doing strength sports. Andrea Thompson is one of the pro women from UK. She just won world’s strongest woman. She is dominating the competition at the Arnold. Seeing women like her doing it, inspires me. It is so easy to get caught up into the “so and so just got her pro card” in two years or three years. Have fun with it. When I am not having fun, that is when I over think things and make mistakes. Get to know your community. Shaun (Shanice Harriston) and I went to the nationals.  We talked to people and made friends. Coming to the Arnold, we know a bunch of people. It made this competition so much more fun. If you can get a training partner, get one. Shaun lives two hours away from me. It has been great having Shaun as a training partner. I can call Shaun every week. With Shaun being a person of color too, it makes it easy to vent about things going on at the gym or in life. We hold each other accountable. We are like the dynamic duo. Which makes it so much easier to get in the gym. Find your community.

Alisha Oden (Middleweight strong (wo) man competitor), Arnold Sports Festival USA 2019: Amateur Strongwoman, Instagram oden_strong
Alisha Oden (Middleweight strong (wo) man competitor), Arnold Sports Festival USA 2019: Amateur Strongwoman

I compete at middleweight women. My normal division is 160 but for here I’m at 180. I had to clock in under 180 pounds which was nice. Normally, I must weight cut and that puts a whole another ball game on it.

How heavy was the dead lift?

It was 405 pounds.

How do you train?

At ten weeks out 405, was a life time PR (personal record) for me. Three weeks ago, I pulled 405 for the first time, and I pulled it twice.  When you don’t know if you are able to hit a weight, you must do a lot of strength building. I do a lot of repetitions at lower weights. For example, 365, 375, 385 to get that volume. Once you feel like you are ready, you let loose. We did a lot of little things like deficit deadlifts, deadlifts on a higher platform to get the different angles. That way if you get stuck in a competition when you are pulling, you have practiced at those different heights and you will be able to push through it.

How long have you been doing this?

I have been doing strong man since 2016. I went to the nationals for the first time after my first competition and won that one. I went to nationals and placed seventh. I didn’t really know what I was doing; but, it was fun to be there. I took the whole year off in 2017 to get stronger. In 2018, I went to nationals again and finished in second place which punched my ticket to this.

Why do you do it?

I like to lift heavy. People think you are going to get big and bulky when you lift heavy. That is not the case. Lifting also changes you on the inside. If you know you can lift 405 you can do anything. My dad was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) a few years ago. He is my role model. I do this for him. He got me into this sport. It is nice to do the things I know he wants to do and show him his baby girl is still throwing down.

How do you prepare mentally?

I ran track at UDUB (University of Washington). I was a sprinter. I grew up with this type of mindset. You must believe in yourself. You must know you can do it. You must visualize you getting that trophy on day three. Five minutes before I go to bed, I visualize myself going through each event, the good, the bad, and the ugly, that way there is no surprises on game day.

What advice would you give the next generation?

Don’t be afraid to try. A lot of this stuff is functional fitness. If you do one trip with grocery bags, that is farmers carries. There is a big community in this space. If you have never done it before, go online to to find a gym. At our gym, we love it when new girls come in. Everyone becomes your best friend. You are throwing down with each other. You are going through the same stuff. It’s hard, but at the end of the day, everybody loves it.