Welcome to next in the series of ‘Women In Sport Week’ blogs, I am very excited to bring another, different sport (for want of a better description) for you to read about. Perhaps also, I want to highlight that Nicola H has come to this sport relatively recently and is leading the way in terms of creating new paths at any age, at any time.
I have watched Nicola grow and develop in confidence while working with Stuart Aitken from Stuart Aitken Fitness. As a personal trainer and someone who thoroughly enjoys the feeling of lifting weights, Nicola’s points for me demonstrate some real progress in terms of encouraging more women to lift weights. It is important that we take pride in being strong and challenging those preconceptions.
Have a read and get behind Nicola as she embarks on her journey to represent her country . . . .
1.Have you always participated in some form of sport/ exercise/ activity? If so what have you been doing and if thats a no, has there been any reasons?
At school I was always one of those kids who would forget their PE kit on purpose and write fake notes so I could skip class, I was never a sporty child! Through my teens I played a little hockey and netball, then I found something I loved martial arts! I trained in Freestyle Kickboxing for years, until I picked up a knee injury. Following that life just got busy and I stopped all sporting activities for years. However, during this time I focused on my career and my family.
2. I know you have been training with Stuart Aitken Fitness for some time now, what brought about this next phase in your training/ participation in sport/ exercise?
About 6 years ago at the age of 34, I made a choice to get off my arse and get fit! But it is a minefield out there! I really did not want to do fitness classes (not coordinated), the gym was something which was alien to me (full of ‘pretty’ people) and I did not know where to start. So I decided to go with something familiar, something I knew I could do and that was boxing. I did this for about 2 years and during this time my fitness levels gradually increased but it wasn’t enough and I felt like I needed to push myself.
That’s when I signed up for Survival of the Fittest which then led on to the Deerstalker and Spartan Race. One thing I discovered from participating in these races is that….. I AM DEFINITELY NOT A RUNNER!!!!!
This was when I got a bit lost in my fitness journey and I decided that I wanted a bit more structure and someone to support me. Around this time is at the age of 36, I started to work with Stuart Aitken of Stuart Aitken Fitness. Stuart gave me focus and accountability which I had never had before.
Stuart will probably tell you when I first started with him I wanted what nearly every woman wants to be slimmer and leaner. But now I realise I was just trying to fit into expected social norms!
After training with Stuart for a period of time we both realised that I work better when I set a challenge (something real to aim for) and that’s when Stuart suggested Powerlifting and before I knew it I had signed up for my first Powerlifting Competition. That’s where my strength journey began and I have never looked back since. Also as a result of the confidence I gained through my PT sessions I started martial arts again, this time taking up Sport Jitsu – this helps a lot with the Cardio.
3. What do you take away from your training and participation in your sport? Has this evolved over the years or with changing activities?
Training sessions are “protected time” just for me. I work full time in a stressful job and have a daily commute of 3.5 hours in total. During training I can just focus on what is in front of me and most of the time it’s just about getting through the sets and lifting the weights. Nothing else matters during that time. Life is left at the door! I always have a great sense of achievement after every session…..
Powerlifting is a sport where it is just you against the bar and you have to be physically strong to lift the weight but mental strength is also key. I am still working on that element but every day I am getting better. I also have to give recognition to the women in the Powerlifting Community who are some of the most supportive and inspiring women I have met. At every Powerlifting Competition they are always there cheering and pushing you on, its part of the reason I love this sport and it makes me feel proud to be part of such a great community.
4. You received some really awesome news this year in your powerlifting journey, would you like to share this with us? How did that feel?
Following on from my recent trip to Belfast for my first British Masters Powerlifting Championships, I have recently been selected to represent Team Scotland at the Commonwealth Powerlifting Championships in South Africa from 10th – 17th September this year.
To say I am proud is an understatement! Although, slightly terrified!! I am really looking forward to getting on the platform in September and getting some PB’s.
Thanks must go to Stuart my trainer for his constant reassurance and guidance and my husband Brian for his unwavering support.
5. This blog series is part of Women In Sport Week,I love highlighting real people achieving their goals and truly enjoying what they do.
You came to the sport of Powerlifting relatively recently, what would you say to other women out there who are afraid to lift weights or think they are too old or too overweight or too unfit?
I would say to other women, try anything and everything, what have you got to lose?
You never know what will be the one thing that you connect with.
I turned 40 last year and never would have imagined that I would be representing Scotland at this stage in my life! You are never too old to try something new. Take risks, believe in yourself and lifting weights doesn’t make you bulky!
Negative body image is something which I have struggled with all of my life. I was bullied at school which led to years of self-doubt and negative thoughts. I used to talk about myself in a really destructive way – and you don’t understand how harmful this can be (especially when you get older and have kids).
I used to feel that my self-worth was based on how I looked and that I was nothing unless I was skinny! This led to dieting (a lot of unhealthy dieting) and when I reached my “goal” weight – you know what – I still wasn’t happy!
It has taken a lot to get to the point where I am now (and I still have off days) but I believe Powerlifting and focusing on strength training has changed my perceptions of my body – where achievement and goals aren’t focused on looking a certain way but are based on what your body can do. It’s about accepting who you are and being happy with that.
As an example, a few weeks ago I came into the gym and said to my trainer “I am weighing too light Stuart, I need to put on 3-4kgs” the pre-powerlifting me would never have said that but now I really just don’t bother about weight – it’s just a number! (unless I need to make a weight class!)
If I had a chance to speak to the younger me I would have said “ be who you want to be not what everyone else expects” – would have saved me years of grief!!
If you would like to help Nicola to realise her dream in SOuth Africa feel free to pop onto this crowdfunding link to donate: