I first saw Erika compete at the Feats of Strength Strongman show in August of 2013. Since then, I have watched her constantly progress at each show we have competed in. I predict that she will be an impressive performer in less than a couple years. She was nice enough to sit down and answer some questions for use, check them out below:
1. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Erika. The first time I saw you compete was at the Feats of Strength Strong(wo)man show in Redmond, OR last year, was that your first competition? How did you first hear about the sport of Strong(wo)man?
Thanks, Brandon, for the opportunity! Dean Munsey actually held his first competition in August of 2012 and that was my first one. It got me hooked but I didn’t compete again until Feats of Strength last year. I’m part of the cliché saying that I got introduced to Strong(wo)man through Crossfit. I started attending Crossfit Breakthrough in Redmond, OR in February of 2012 and was eager to learn more about lifting and my abilities. Within my first few months there my coach, Tom Benge, asked me, “Have you ever lifted?” And he was slightly shocked when I said no. I had no idea of my abilities and potential when my coach was constantly telling me to add more weight. He is the reason I am where I’m at right now, he’s introduced me to everything I know about lifting and the sport of strongman. My coach isn’t your typical Crossfit coach. He has worn many hats in the fitness industry; strength and conditioning coach, Olympic Lifter, powerlifter, strongman, bodybuilding, black belt, MMA striking coach and the list goes on! Everything Coach Tom has thrown at me; I’ve said yes with a smile and dedicated myself to it 100%.
2. What other sports did you play before you started Strong(wo)man? How do you think they helped you prepare for the sport you compete in now?
I ran track in high school, I was too shy to try out for team sports! Going into college in Arizona I was introduced to rugby, no try outs either 😉 I fell in love with the rush of the sport as well as all the family I acquired. I played rugby for a total of 6 years, ending my rugby career with the Bend Lady Roughriders due to an injury in April of 2013. Rugby prepared me for Strong(wo)man in a lot of ways! You have to be a powerhouse in rugby to drive through rucks and tackling. There is also a lot of up and down, recovering from tackles and pushing through any pain. This carries over into Strong(wo)man for medleys, all those uncomfortable carries, and digging deep during those pulls/pushes.
3. You seem to have a lot of support at shows. Who is your biggest supporter, and how do they help you perform? How do you repay the favor?
Gosh, this is a hard question! I have so much support from my friends and family. I don’t have family in Redmond but I sure have made one! Between rugby, Crossfit, and friends there is so much support. I would have to say my biggest supporter would be Coach Tom and my box family. I see them usually 5 days a week; my box is my comfort zone and my safe house. I’ve been through a lot the past 1.5 years in my divorce and making a lot of life changes and my box has been a constant and unending support. Having so many people believe in me keeps me performing to the best of my ability, whether they are on the sidelines cheering me on or not. I repay the favor to Coach Tom in my time and dedication. I’m on time, ready to go, and never question him! Sometimes I’ll give him a look that says, “Are you serious? You want me to do that!?” Then I put a smile on my face and go do it.
4. Did you qualify for Nationals this year? If so, how will you begin to prepare for some of get heavy weights that will be present?
The Apple was my second qualifying show this year! Now it’s time to focus on my event training and just getting stronger overall. For the Apple, I decided to cut down to middle weight 160# and my body is really agreeing with performing here! My plan is to continue through October at this weight and build my base strength. My last two shows brought to attention a few weaknesses that need to be dialed in, so rounding out the rough edges. I’m just about to start a new training cycle that I’ve never done before. A lot more hands on implements as well as Olympic lifting. Building my confidence in my strength and ability is also something in and out of training I’ll be working on. So much to continue to learn about my body and to keep my mindset in check!
5. What does your three-year plan look like, concerning your athletic career?
Oh man, how about the next 3 months?!? So many opportunities lay ahead and I’m taking them in stride. Within the next 3 years I want to have a solid list of competitions under my belt, start competing out of the Northwest to experience a variety of shows and meet more people in the sport. I’d like to be invited to the Arnold and get my Pro card! I’d like to get more involved with my box and the Northwest to introduce more people, especially women, to the sport of Strongman. I am currently attending Oregon State to get my bachelors in Exercise and Sport Science, using my degree to spread my passion for Strong(wo)man and lifting is my goal.
6. Most people have favorite events, and events they can’t wait to just get over with. What is one of your favorite events, and what is the one that you dread?
The sport of strongman has such variety that you get a taste of everything, good and the bad! So far my favorite events are pressing, but by far the log! I recently did Grace (30 reps, clean and jerk) with a 100# log and yes I enjoyed it! 200# axle jerk in my near future! I dread any deadlift events. It has been my weakest lift this past year with a lot that I need to work on. But ultimately, you are your own competition in this sport. If you can’t place first in an event, it better still be a PR!
With coach Tom Benge
7. Do you have pre-competition rituals that you always like to follow?
I’m still trying to figure out what works for me. The Apple was the first time I listened to my headphones prior to events and it helped clear my head. I put together a playlist of motivational, upbeat songs to warm up to. I also prefer to go off by myself and not talk to anyone while I stretch etc. This helps me cut out the socializing and I’m able to focus on the challenge ahead. I also tend to think of my dad before every competition, he passed away when I was 4 and competing makes me miss him a little more. I always say to myself, “If you could only see me now, Dad.” I give myself a few moments of reflection and then it’s time to do work.
8. We tend to get pretty beat up and dirty by the end of a show, so do you have any special advice for women who want to get into the sport, but might be intimidated?
All you women out there, wounds heal and dirt washes off! Nothing shows hard work more than getting dirty; it makes me proud of what I’ve just accomplished. I don’t mind getting beat up, just don’t mess with the face! Women can be strong, beautiful, and bad asses all at the same time! Scars are sexy and so are muscles, I’m proud of mine and they tell my story. There’s no need to be intimidated, get involved! Reach out to fellow lifters, don’t be afraid to say you’re intimidated because I’m pretty sure we’ve all been there. Strongman has so much community and so many resources, use them!
Five things you may not know about me:
1. I worked as an assistant baker at a cupcake shop for 1.5 years and lost 20lbs. I’m an amazing baker, true story.
2. I have a very large collection of high heels. Still know how to get fancy every once in a while.
3. I don’t like scary movies, can’t even handle the Walking Dead.
4. I always wanted to join the Air Force, did ROTC while I was in college.
5. Cannot clean without loud music and dancing. My daughter and I have quite the dance parties.
In grade school and high school Erika played basketball, softball, ran track and was introduced to her first gym environment her junior year. Leaving for college in Prescott, Arizona she could often be found at the gym, running hills, hiking, or on the rugby pitch. She moved to Central Oregon after having her daughter in 2008. Needing to be active again she found the Bend Lady Roughriders Rugby Club and slowly became their president and helped rebuild the team. Starting Crossfit in February of 2012, Erika has come a long way in her athletic and personal life. Since then she’s become a single mom of a 6 year old girl, is attending Oregon State University to get her bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Sport Science, bought a house, got her real estate license, and carves out time for her 4-5 days of training. Last summer was her first time participating in Highland Games and wears a purple kilt for the festivals! She wants to use her bachelor’s degree, as well as her experience in strong(wo)man, to share her story of her transformation through her hard work and dedication. Getting involved in Strong(wo)man has helped her conquer obstacles along the way and come out the other side stronger and thirsty for more. Since competing in her first competition in August of 2012, she has a total of 4 competitions under her belt and is attending Nationals for the first time this October. A few of her greatest lifting accomplishments recently are her 202lb bench, 195lb axle jerk, and 312lb back squat.