BALLYVAUGHAN native Michelle Guthrie is not your average Josephine Soap, walking around the block in an effort to shift last night’s takeaway.
Michelle follows a strict diet and spends three to four hours in the gym nearly every single day, as well as holding down a full time job.
Why in God’s name would she put herself through that?
Michelle has been chosen to represent Ireland for a chance to win the title of World’s Strongest Woman at the Official Strongman Games in Raleigh, North Carolina this December.
“To be recognised amongst the strongest women in the world is huge because Ireland is so small so the field of play is smaller for me than it would be for somebody competing in America.
“While I understand that maybe my level of achievement or what I’m able to do may not be enough to be the strongest, I’ve been recognised as potentially being and that’s huge for me because it shows that the hours that I spend in the gym mean something,” Michelle said.
In a gruelling test of strength and agility, Michelle will show 30 other competitors what she is made of.
She will compete in the lightweight (64kg and under) category, taking on the log, yoke, loading medley and even lifting a car to prove her strength.
The Strongman event will run over two days and Michelle has to finish in the top 10 to guarantee herself a place in the second day.
“A lot of the women that I will be competing against have been competing for quite a long time. Some of them are considered professionals, whereas I’m an amateur,” Michelle said.
Michelle has been putting in endless hours at the gym in preparation for the event, but she is used to the tough schedule that Strongman demands.
“I’ve kind of worked out a schedule, I used to train in the morning time and then I was like ‘OK my training sessions are a lot longer now so I need to train after work’.
“So I just kind of changed up my training and I just realised now that when I leave the house at 8.30 in the morning that I’m not going to be home until at least 9pm that night after training. I’ve just accepted that now, that’s the lifestyle that I have.
“It’s not as big an issue as it may seem for somebody who wouldn’t train that much, but you just get into the habit of it,” she said.
It’s not her first rodeo however, as Michelle has already claimed numerous Strongwoman titles.
So far, Michelle has won Republic Strongest Woman 2017 (lightweight), All Ireland Strongest Woman 2017 (lightweight), National record for deadlift (lightweight) at 165kg, Max Deadlift & Total tonnage winner 2017(lightweight), Lightweight Champion at Winter Wreckage 2.0 2016 and Lightweight Champion at Riverfest 2016.
“I went over to Lancaster in Pennsylvania in December of last year and competed in a competition, there was probably about 200 to 300 people there and in my category I think there was about six or seven lightweights and I won that.
“Now that was a massive shock, I did not think that, it was my first time competing internationally with Strongwoman and I was very shocked that I won, but I guess it was just the concentration on training.
“I guess I just kind of had the bug then and wanted to keep going. For 2017 then I kind of decided that this year was going to be the year for me to really focus on Strongwoman,” she added.
Not bad for someone who only started lifting weights in 2015.
Michelle was working full time when she completed her Masters, so her busy schedule didn’t allow for any decent amount of exercise.
She joined a circuit class with her sister when she finished her college course and her fitness journey quickly went into overdrive.
“The first time I deadlifted or even touched a barbell, I lifted 90 kilos so I kind of was like ‘OK, I’m not too bad at this’, and that was with no training,” Michelle said.
Michelle currently works as an Inside Sales Manager for a Galway based water filter company, managing a team of eight people.
She made the move from Ballyvaughan to Galway for college and stayed to progress her career, but she is happy to be close to home.
“Galway has a tendency to grab people and keep them. It’s hard to get out. I work in Galway now, but I guess it’s so close to home, it’s a 40 minute journey if even to Ballyvaughan and I’m in the door so it’s not that far away from home.
“I guess that’s probably why I’ve stayed around here because I have a city way of life but I’m close to home,” Michelle added.
Speed and agility is almost as important as strength when it comes to training for Strongman events.
With the help of coach Matty Costello, Michelle pushes herself to the limit to make sure she is well prepared for the World’s Strongest Woman competition.
“I train for speed, so for example I’ll have a sled and I’ll put 100 kilos on it and I’ll drive it for 30 metres and I’ll do it five times or something like that.
“It’s to get fast carrying weight, but that also implies that you need to have a good lung capacity, so a lot of my strength training would involve a lot of reps, so you know where a power lifter might train, eight would probably be the maximum repetitions that they would do.
“I’d be going into 12 and 15, just to get myself out of breath and recover, that’s the aim of my training, I’ve just been building all the time to increase the maximum weight that I can lift,” Michelle said.
Michelle receives no financial help for her sport, so she has to pay for her training programme, gym, nutritionist, transport and competitions out of her own pocket.
She is reluctant to ask for help, but she is hosting some fundraising events to raise €1,500 for her trip (though she knows it will cost more).
“I’m positive it’s going to cost me at least €2000, I don’t even want to think about it. So just any bit of money that I can get raised at all to help me, it will make me relax and be able just focus on the training,” Michelle added.
We can’t wait to see how Michelle gets on and we will be cheering her on all the way.
Check out Michelle’s Facebook page for upcoming fundraising events here: https://www.facebook.com/michelle.guthrie.9
And access her Go Fund Me page here: https://www.gofundme.com/the-road-to-worlds-strongest-woman