by Roland D. Hallee
CHINA — On April 8, two women from China will compete in the 10th annual Central Maine Strongman Competition to be held at GEvolution Gym, 9 a.m., at 16 Edison Dr., in Augusta.
Alysia Farrington, of China, mother of a 14-year-old daughter, has been a longtime member of GEvolution gym, in Augusta, where strongman training is one of the components of the gym.
Chele Fuller, is the mother of three boys, 10, 15 and 17 years old, and lives in South China.
Chele trains in what is called the “basement,” a term coined simply because they train with a fellow strongman leader in his . . . basement.
Gina LoMonaco, the owner of the gym, encouraged Alysia. As a former winner of Central Maine’s strongest woman competition, Gina influenced Alysia to take on the same challenge . However, a hip replacement surgery slowed down her plans. “I needed a hip replacement at the time, but I decided then and there I would return at some point to compete,” said Alysia. “My hip has been replaced and I am ready to go.”
A group of about 20 women, who also compete, are helped along by four coaches, meet three times a week for two hours, for 12 weeks. On Saturdays they train with the implements with which they will be competing, also for two hours.
The training is intense, involving commitment, heart, endurance and grit. They have a specific lifting schedule to build strength and stamina.
“The coaches give us our plans each week,” said Alysia, “and we train in small groups throughout the week. It’s exhausting but so rewarding to see your progress throughout the 12 weeks.”
“I look to the entire strongman community to support my training,” Chele said. She has been forever influenced by GEvolution co-founder Gina LoMonaco who has been with her from the start of her strength journey in August 2013.
“I sat in front of her as an obese woman who couldn’t even do one pushup on my knees,” Chele admitted. “Much has changed since then.”
This will be Alysia’s first strongman competition. “I have always been physically active.” She has done triathlons and biathlons, and has run the Boston Marathon. She has also done 500-mile treks across Iowa twice. In high school and college, she did competitive cheerleading.
She plans to train with her daughter this summer for more competitions.
Chele went to a strongman competition to support a friend, and was impressed. “I felt it was the first sport I observed where athletes were genuinely supporting each other,” Chele stressed. “I knew I wanted to compete in a strength sport, I just didn’t know which one.” It only took one time of watching the sport of Strongman and she was hooked. “The first time I almost signed up to compete right there and then.”
Good sense prevailed and she trained for eight weeks, and entered her first competition in the Central Maine Strongman 8, placing third in the novice class. In the past two years she has competed in a total of eight contests and has competed all over the country, including Oklahoma and Connecticut, culminating in competing in the Masters National Championship, held in Las Vegas, Nevada, in September 2016.
Chele continued, “Until I began strongman, the only physical activity was as a high school cheerleader.“
Chele says commitment and belief in yourself, combined with consistency of training and nutrition, have to be made to succeed.
Chele has dedicated herself to the sport. “I will forever continue to show my passion for the strongman sport in our community and beyond, as an athlete, coach and its biggest cheerleader.” Her goal is to someday expand into judging, scorekeeping and other behind-the-scenes functions.
The godmother to her children, Amy Farrell, engaged in strongman competition, but Chele never saw her compete until she became a competitor herself.
Strongman competitions vary in the choice of implements. For this competition they will be doing Conan’s Wheel of Pain, which consists of carrying a yoke and walking in a circle as weight is added. Starting weight is 270 pounds. The Hercules Hold is holding 120 pounds in each hand for time. The Powerstairs is carrying specific amount of weight upwards on five stairs for time. Atlas Stones are cement balls of 150 pounds that need to be lifted over a bar for time and then overhead medley which is four overhead stations, consisting of the log, axle, bar and keg, each with two repetitions for elapsed time.
According to their website, Willie Wessels, president of United States Strongman, Inc., states they use old school tradition with a new blood attitude. United States Strongman, Inc. is dedicated to the growth of strongman through the education and development of athletes and promoters. Their mission is to work with veteran promoters and provide high quality contests. They guide new promoters through their mentorship programs at the state and national levels. Their high quality contests and performance seminars help develop amateur strongman competitors by providing opportunity and instruction. They attract fans by hosting entertaining, well run events; these events offer affordable marketing opportunities with measurable return on investment for sponsors.