The back injury that saved my life (part 1)

Sounds dramatic, I know, but it was life changing. Which sounds again, dramatic, and a bit cliche but now I actually get what it means to really to hit rock bottom. 



Let’s rewind back to April 2023… 


I was the strongest physically I had ever been. 


I was hitting multiple pbs and burying myself every training session leading up to the biggest comp of the year, the Australia’s Strongest Middleweights Series Championship. Coming off the back of a podium finish at another national title series, I was placing a lot of expectations on myself but also to continually push my body to its limit. 

At the same time I was trying to maintain my women’s strength training program which wasn’t growing, starting a new physio job after getting burnt out from my last one, caring for a new puppy and trying to keep up my relationship with my partner that was growing distant due to the all-consuming nature of competing. 


I was spinning a lot of plates.


Comp weekend rolls around and I’d just been exploring Melbourne with my good friend while weight cutting, doing my deload sessions and prepping for the comp. It was all coming together, this is what the entire 12 months of competing before this was leading to – the chance to prove myself as an athlete and that I deserved to be up there with the big girls.

I remember tossing and turning the night before, anxiously going through all the events in my head when we get woken up by a fire alarm at 2am.. Not ideal on comp day

After that I struggled to go back to sleep and kept trying to remind myself that it didn’t matter what the outcome was, I had grown so much as an athlete that – but did I truly believe that? Hell no. I wanted to be fighting to scrape onto the podium, then all of the other things not going well in life wouldn’t matter because at least I’d succeeded at this one thing. Right?


Day one of comp was hard and 250kg Yoke absolutely cooked me. Dropped it about 5 times trying to make the distance but I knew this was going to be my worst event. So at least it was over and the other events that day went ok.

That night I started to feel my back feeling fatigued and hurting a little bit, but as I had been the last few months, covered it up by taking an anti-inflammatory and telling myself it was just because it was the cumulative fatigue setting in (which wasn’t a lie) rather then my back telling me it had had enough. 


Well it didn’t just tell me the next day. 


While I was attempting my second deadlift on the comp floor, a huge 170kg which would have been a 10kg PR, the bar got to my knees and I heard a ‘pop, pop, pop’ in my back. No pain in that moment but I knew something wasn’t right. 

Stiffly, I made my way to my seat and watched the other girls pull their deadlifts while my mind was beginning to race with what I could have done to my back. 


The “what if’s..?” started pouring in…

What if I herniated a disc?

What if I fractured something?

What if I was out of the comp?

What if I couldn’t train?

What if, what if, what if…


I kept it together until we headed off the comp floor and out the back into the athlete area. I walked outside, trying to get away from the other competitors and lost it. I was bawling my eyes out (anyone who knows me, knows I don’t cry a lot), not because I missed the lift or because of the pain setting in – but because I trained so hard to be here and my worst fear was missing out on the rest of the competition.

The girls I was competing with, as well as my partner, got behind me and helped me as best they could through the rest of the comp. I managed to dig deep and find the strength somewhere to compete – even if it wasn’t the execution I’d expected or wanted. 

You could say I should have pulled out after the deadlift – which in hindsight might have meant the 3 days after weren’t as painful but in my mind, there was no other option than to compete. 

I remember struggling to roll over in bed, awkwardly lowering myself down in the car with an audible groan and painfully carrying my suitcase through the airport. When I was in excruciating pain sitting in my seat on the plane, I knew I was in trouble. 


Fast forward a few months, when I went to see my physio (yes, even physio’s need their own physio), he asked me to take two weeks off training as I’d be trying to get back into what I was doing but I was rushing myself trying to get back to where I was. This was devastating at the time. How could I take a whole two weeks off training?! I hadn’t done that since I started in the gym at 15.. 

That probably sounds crazy to be upset about that to a lot of people, but at the time I had a complete meltdown about it. The thought of not doing any training broke me. 

Those next two weeks were the longest of my life. I remember sitting on the lounge in between work shifts, staring at the wall and not knowing what to do with the extra 15 hours I had in the week not training.

This is when I actually started to realise that I wasn’t going to be competing again anytime soon. My physio said 6 months, in my mind that was forever away. What was I going to do in the meantime?

My whole identity was being a strongwoman. I lived and breathed competing in Strongman for so long, all my other interests had faded away. 


Who was I, if not a strongwoman athlete?

Who was I, if I couldn’t train?

Who was I, if I was no longer strong?

It was that last one that really cut deep. 

Because if i wasn’t strong … Who was I?