You’ll find everyone in strength sports has their own catalyst that took them deep into the seemingly underground world of yoke, atlas stones and lifting inordinately heavy things. For most, it’s a natural lineage in their adventure to be strong. Some fall into it accidentally. Others have plans and strict programs to be the world’s strongest man or woman.
The first time I deadlifted, I broke 200 pounds off the floor and I was hooked. I could barely squat an empty bar, but I learned to love and respect the barbell. That high didn’t keep me going, and I eventually stopped going to Crossfit.
With an affinity to make abrupt and irrational decisions, I walked into a local health club spontaneously, not knowing their offerings, their programs or their people. It was close to work and I was in a bad spot mentally and physically. I threw money at them and started regularly at their Crossfit in October 2016 with a newfound dedication to myself. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I just knew I wanted to be better.
As a paramedic, I knew I was strong – mentally, sometimes physically. I wanted to be able to lift my own patients off the floor, carry my own bags up flights of stairs and carry patients back down without feeling as if I was physically tired. Sharp minds, healthy bodies. I wanted to be able to be as strong as the firemen we call to help us. Ideally, I wanted to stop having to call for their help.
I remember the day I decided I was going to be strong. I had ripped my hand attempting to do some pull-up and toes-to- bar work. It was my first (and last) hand tear and I was bleeding. I walked onto the turf, where a former Crossfitter and police friend was with Sondra. The blood caught their attention pretty quickly. She was talking about the upcoming May competition, and mentioned that if I wanted to learn more about the sport, I could sit in on her training. She taught me how to clean a keg a week later. I sent 315 Strong a Facebook message that day saying “I think I want to do this. How?”
Fast forward nine months and I’ve taken second place in the heavyweight novice division at CNY’s Strongest Man and Woman. I participated in last month’s Orange Elite 3 as a super heavyweight, stepping way out of my comfort zone. It was a risk on my part and I ultimately didn’t do what I wanted or planned, but I did a hell of a lot more than I would have last September.
I’ve loved learning about everyone’s journey into the sport. From the former Ultimate Frisbee-er, to the deadlifting queens with a cancer diagnosis, the men who can probably deadlift my house, the former powerlifters, the law students. Each has their own journey, their own reason. Some share them, some don’t, but one thing remains constant -- it’s an eclectic mix of people who just want to lift awkward things, be strong as hell and generally find any active excuse to avoid cardio.
This sport requires a bit of grit, I’ve learned, especially with the underground nature it sometimes holds. You have to be a little crazy, but nothing is more empowering than learning your body is capable of so much more than what you experience on the daily grind. You don’t need machines to do this sport. You are the machine.
"Amanda Seef is a local paramedic and former news reporter who participates in StrongWoman competitions through 315Strong. She trains at Edge Strength and Conditioning in Syracuse."