Cheltenham’s strongest man and woman competition at DW Fitness

Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t.
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Support for Help for Heroes
Competitors of Strong man and woman competition at DW Fitness, Cheltenham

Last month, I organised a strong man and woman event in honour of Help for Heroes. After competing myself in a strong woman contest and donating to charity,  it inspired me to organise my own competition. By doing so, I was able to contribute larger donations to charity where I could help make a difference. I wanted to encourage people to push beyond their training limits and try something new. Help for Heroes is ‘founded on the belief that those who put their lives on the line for us deserve a second chance at life for them and their families’. This non-profit organisation touches the hearts of many individuals, and together we were able to promote and fundraise for this amazing charity.

The competition had four categories, two for women (under and over 75kg) and two for men (under and over 90kg)

The competition consisted of:

  • Deadlift
  • Farmers walk
  • Hercules Hold
  • Bench Press
  • Pulling sled race

Death by deadlift

The deadlift consisted of a lighter starting weight for each category, and an increase of 10kg per lift. The focus was to keep lifting each weight increase until failure. We had some incredible personal bests on this event, and the energy in the room was sky high.

Farmers walk

The farmers walk was a starting weight of 120kg for the under 75kg women category. 130kg for the women overs category. 180kg for mens under 90kg category and 200kg for the mens over 90kg category. The goal was to reach the 20 metre line, drop and turn back to the finish line in less than 60 seconds.

Hercules hold

This may look easy, but this is probably one of the hardest events of all. This event requires strength of the shoulders, you must raise your arms with a weight in each hand and hold that weight in place for as long as you can.

Bench Press

The good old bench press. Not a classic strong man event, but an event that requires some serious strength. This exercise was made even harder by our lovely umpire Glen (particularly for the lads, bless them). The bench press required the competitor to bench a starting weight, and wait for the “PRESS” order to be given by the umpire. After each successful lift you were to hold the weight in place until more weight was added and repeat the same again… ouch.

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Pulling sled race

A race between competitors! The quickest time to pull a weighted sled over 20 metres.

Our winners of each category were: Matthew Diamond, mens over 90kg category. Christian Ayandokun, mens under 90kg category. Natasha Walters, women’s over 75kg category. Zoe Lundy, women’s under 75kg category. We also nominated our people’s champion as April Di’ Tomaso. I’ve known April for about 6 months, and strength training is not usually April’s forte. However she pushed herself past her limits and proved that she could compete in a strong woman event if she set her mind to it. I’m so proud of what we all achieved and the donations we all made. A massive congratulations to all the competitors, the event would not have been possible without you.

Thank you!

Huge thanks to Glen our umpire, Hannah co-host, Vicki Cale, our loudest and most supportive spectator, Cameron Hayward, Samantha Bond and Robbie for collecting donations on behalf of Help for Heroes. Thanks to Boston Tea Party and Pizza Hut for donating their time and delicious free snacks to our competitors and spectators. Thanks to Don Browning Trophies for your stunningly crafted trophies. Thank you to Brydie who spent hours getting footage of the event, and thank you Joe Allen the general manager of DW who made this all possible. Thank you to all the spectators for coming and supporting our fabulous contestants and last but not least the competitors themselves: Chris Lineham, Josh O’Malley, Adam Rauland, Jamal Ahmed, Aaron Jewell, Christian Ayandokun, Matthew Diamond, David Rushmer, Joe Butterfield, April Di’ Tomaso, Eden McClean, Naomi Craddock, Neringa Popruga, Zoe Lundy, Sophie Odam, Natalie Turner, Natasha Walters and Tay O’sullivan.

Strongest Woman

Earlier this year I interviewed several contestants at Simply Gym’s strong competition in Cheltenham. The event made press coverage with the Gloucestershire Echo, and all in all was an incredibly successful day with many spectators enjoying the events.

On the 12th November 2017, I entered in for the Strongest Woman at Trojans gym in Bristol. Observing the Simply Gym’s contest inspired me to push my own limits and challenge myself in ways I would never have even considered before. Taking part in the event was one of the best experiences and most sensational feelings I’ve had to date.

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My good friend Hannah Loughlin, joined me on my journey to becoming a competitor for Strongest Woman. If I’m being honest, we doubted ourselves right up until the day of the event. If I’m being brutally honest, we doubted ourselves seconds before making our first lift.

We trained for a whole 7 weeks. Which in fact, is the shortest period of time for any two people to be training for an event such as strong woman. We struggled with self-doubt throughout our training, we probably didn’t eat what athletes should eat leading up-to an event (unless a giant chocolate cupcake is considered healthy?) I’ll admit I threw several strops when I couldn’t get a lift right. I stomped off when I couldn’t get the dumbbell over my head, and we missed copious amounts of strength training sessions at Knights gym. You may be thinking, how in hell did you girls even get through this competition? Well the answer is quite simple, and thats sheer determination, huge support from our family and loved ones, a soar of adrenaline, an element of stubbornness and a fabulous friend.


Death by deadlift

To begin with, Hannah and I endured a wonderful event called ‘Death by Deadlift’. Which was my least favourite. I have not quite perfected the technique for a deadlift, and by that I mean my deadlifts are rather horrendous and I pulled my back on the third lift. However! I got 110kg off the floor, and I have never lifted that much weight before.

Zercher walk (yoke)

After our warm-up, we then moved onto the zercher walk. How delightfully painful that was. A giant yoke (thick black steel bar) sitting on your chest, restricting your intake of oxygen. Although we couldn’t breathe whilst lugging a 90kg yoke, this was the easiest of the events.

Overhead medley

The one event I thought I would smash, I actually ended up smashing myself in the face with a 40kg log. It began so well. I was so confident I would get all the lifts, but then I hit myself in the face on the third lift and it threw me off for the 45kg axle press. A lift I had done a few times before, but failed to carry out on the day.

Fantastic work to Hannah who got the lift and smashed the medley.

Farmers walk

This event was our biggest obstacle and the one we were most apprehensive about. I let this event defeat me mentally before I even attempted the lift, I was certain I would not get the weight up off of the floor…

Not only did I lift that weight, but I finished the event in 27 seconds.

(70kg in each hand)

Stone over yoke

Last but not least, stone over yoke. In other words, a giant ball of concrete being thrusted over a steel bar. I managed four in one minute. Never again will I wear tacky and a hoodie, big mistake. Unfortunately, Hannah didn’t wear any tacky at all and couldn’t get a grip of the stone. I think we both learnt from this one.

I am so proud of what we accomplished that day, and even though both of us failed at an event and both of us came last, I couldn’t feel more like a champion. If there’s anything I learnt, it’s never to doubt yourself.

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Donna Moore was the judge. FYI – Check her out on Instagram. She holds several world titles for strongest woman, and what she can do is insane.


This whole experience has inspired me to run my own event which I have organised at DW Fitness in Cheltenham and I will be raising money for Help for Heroes.


I plan on entering into another strong woman event for under 63kg in January at Genesis gym in Wembley.

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Fitness advice from the pros

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We asked fitness athletes what advice they would give someone new to the industry or looking to compete, and these are the results.

Athletes who took part:

Nikki Blacketter – GymShark athlete & fitness model

Catharina Wahl – BioTech USA athlete & IFBB bikini fitness model

Ryan Terry – USN athlete, Mr Great Britain, mens physique champion at the Arnold Classic

Tom Coleman – USN athlete, WBFF pro

Arran Arogundade – SCI MX athlete, sponsored by Pursuit

Jenny Murphy – Optimum nutrition athlete, WFF Miss World

Laura Bardsley – Body power competitor

Cristina Silva – USN athlete, WBFF bikini and fitness diva

Leanne Walker and Chris Swann – Body power competitors

Lubos Chladek – WWF 2016 World Champion, classic bodybuilder

Tom Powell – Love Island 2016 contestant, Sponsored by BPI

Suki Hayer – Sponsored by USN, online coach and personal trainer


Interview with Arran Arogundade

Oxford athlete wows at BodyPower

Banbury bodybuilder Arran Arogundade has lifted the lid on his rapid climb to success.  Arogundade is a fitness fanatic making his way up the ranks, tipping the scales at 100kg, he has wowed thousands of fans with his impressive physique.

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Arogundade started off training at his family home using a bench and set of weights in the garage, at 17 years old he joined his local gym and fell in love with training.

His road to success has been a blend of hitting the gym hard, eating a variety of protein sources and good genetics.

He told Oxford Mail:  “I love the gym, I love working hard, the gym is like home to me”.

His goals for 2017 are to grow his social media and impact as many lives as possible.

He said:  “It’s not just about the body, I want my character to show through too”.

Arogundade talks about how important nutrition is for maintaining his figure. He eats a lot of protein and vegetables when training for a competition, however he has admitted that he is partial to the odd burger and Krispy Crème doughnut!

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After a few years of training, Arogundade competed for the first time at BodyPower expo in 2014 winning the world’s fitness championships. He got signed by SCI-MX Nutrition and currently represents clothing brand Pursue fitness. He continues to grow and has competed in WBFF London placing top 5 over the last 2 years.

Check out our exclusive interview with Arran Arogundade.


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Last weekend was the BodyPower event that took place at the NEC in Birmingham. BodyPower, as some people will know, is the largest fitness expo in the world, all the biggest athletes and brands of the fitness industry attend this event.

I attended BodyPower as part of the press representing the Oxford Mail on Saturday 13th May. Jeremy Clifton Gould (cameraman and film director) and I went around interviewing some of the sponsored athletes and getting some awesome footage of all the action happening around the event.

Below is a small snippet of an Oxford Mail special. Next week, another video providing all the footage of the interviews conducted will be posted. Keep visiting my blog, or checking up on youtube for further updates.

Check out Arran Arogundade’s exclusive interview on my blog or visit youtube.

Simply the Strongest

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Simply Gym in Cheltenham Gloucestershire, held their first strong man/woman event on the 22nd April 2017 which I had the pleasure of attending.

‘Simply the Strongest’ was organised by PT Matt Kurlinkus of Maximum Personal Training and Nutrition. Matt is a personal trainer at Simply Gym and has been coaching and training the contestants in preparation for this event for the last few months.

The event was incredibly successful and had a fair number of spectators attend. A charity barbecue was also being held alongside the competition in aid of Diabetes UK. Simply gym were able to raise over £150 for charity. It was a fantastic sunny afternoon and a proud day for family and friends who attended.

The event was sponsored by Images Plus who provided the competitors strong man t-shirts. Cheltenham Mercedes also supported the event by lending the venue two fabulous cars for the competitors car pull. @IntergritaPlus for supplying the video footage, and @allaboutsportsclothing for the merchandise.


The event consisted of the following challenges:

Relay medley

Car Pull

Log Press


Crucifix Hold


Line up of competitors:

Andrew Smith

Scott Whitty

Chris Payton

Andrew Hughes

Nick Podmore

Claire Bond

Laura Stevenson

Kim Hilton-Lee

Victoria Polozenko

Throughout the day I was able to record some of the events taking place, and interview most of the contestants. It was an incredibly close contest, everybody did a tremendous job and made a fantastic achievement. The video I have submitted below is of some of the competitors and a few clips of the challenges that they undertook. I’m sorry that I couldn’t get around everybody that day, had a little malfunction with my phone. Please excuse the editing it’s not the best video I’ve done, but I hope you enjoy J please feel free to leave any comments on the home page.