50 Tips for Getting Seriously Strong

{The Giveaway on this post has now ended}


It’s been a little over a week since I won the title of NOVA’s Strongest Woman (heavy weight novice).  Egad, that’s seriously awesome right there! I’ve had a bit of time to reflect and have so much to share! This was my first athletic event, my first ever competition and strength is now my sport. As I aim to achieve even more in the future competing as a Heavyweight StrongWoMan in the Open division going forward, I’ve got to focus on some lessons learned in order to make further progress!

Stacy is NOVA Strongest HW Woman - PaleoParents

First and biggest lesson learned: I’m not a camel. I went into the competition a bit “on empty” because of the previously mentioned stomach flu. I also gave up salt, a terrible idea and I just wasn’t thinking when I did it. There was no way for my body to hold onto fluids and electrolytes. And then I competed, using all the remaining energy I had. Two days later I was diagnosed with dehydration-induced vertigo. I recommend you guys not get this. It sucks.

Second lesson: Wait for the tire to finish bouncing. I think this analogy applies to more than just tire flips. Ultimately it’s for each and every movement you do. Of course your goal is to be as quick as you can, but if you rush and get frantic or overly-excited, then you’re more likely to make a mistake. And the mistake is going to be harder to recover from than if you just take an extra second or two to make sure you’re stable before you press out that clean, flip that tire or repick the yoke.

Third lesson – be athletic: I know that sounds like a nebulous and overly-obvious statement, let me explain. The sport of StrongMan, and most sports, isn’t about just one thing. It may surprise you to learn that StrongMan combines the skills of agility, coordination, flexibility, stamina, and strength – in essence, it tests athletisism across the board. It’s not just who can lift the most one time. There were certainly women stronger than me in the competition I ended up winning, but overall persistence, patience and well-roundedness in all the events, both speed and strength, is what ultimately won me the title.

Stacy is NOVA Strongest HW Woman - Yoke Run - PaleoParents

Last but not least – prepare for the worst: I had no idea how awful I’d feel (as I mentioned in the recap) during the competition itself. Having BCAA‘s available was (I believe) critical for my success. Ask your friends and co-competitors for their personal recommendations for preparation, many told me after “If you would have told me how you were feeling I had many things to help!” but I was trying to “hide” it at the time. I know I’ll be making sure I have my own protein powder of some kind (after researching what I believe to be the best one) just in case the next competition is as nerve-wracking and digestive-upsetting as the first! I also came with multiple kinds of beverages (kombucha, iced coffee, water, grass-fed yogurt smoothies) as well as foods (sweet potato biscuits, pumpkin custard, pork rinds, and paleokits) because I didn’t know what I would want. I also had a complete change of clothes in the event of “accident” or something drastic and all of the gear noted below. It took effort to plan, but made for a smooth day to have everything I needed!

10 Foods to Eat

Here’s the thing, this sport is heavily populated with people who justify the need to build muscle with eating habits that made me fat to begin with. I can’t consume massive quantities of low-quality food and expect to perform in the gym. I firmly believe that my progress in the gym and (limited) success I’ve had in the sport are directly attributed to the fact that I fuel to nourish and perform with the most nutrient-dense foods possible! That meant, for me, that I consumed absolutely zero alcohol, grains, or refined sugar at all for the past 4 months. OK, maybe I allowed myself a couple of bites of recipes we tested for our upcoming book Real Life Paleo, but seriously I was super strict paleo and found the following foods enabled me to keep on track without feeling deprived.

soup 4

1. Mineral Waterrich in magnesium and electrolytes this is my new go-to way to hydrate, I especially love the Lemon Whole Foods brand. Because, um… I’ve been told hydration’s important and could lead to things like dehydration and vertigo.

2. Soup – I made sure to get collagen-rich homemade bone broth everyday to reduce inflammation and help my joints.

3. Gelatin – I prefer smoothies, but we’ve got 60 different ideas in this post.

4. Chicken Liver Mousse – One of the only ways I can enjoy liver, the most nutrient-dense super food!

5. Seafood – the most easily digestible amino acid of all whole proteins, seafood is ideal post workout. If not, then find something with a face and eat it!

6. Carbs – I wholeheartedly agree with this great guest post on PaleOMG about pre- and post-workout nutrition. I talk more about my consumption in this post and this podcast.

7. Salad – Veggies are super important, guys. No really. They are rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. They have helped me heal and I highly recommend everyone get on the #morevegetablesthanavegetarian bandwagon!

8. Bacon & Fruit – Strong women cannot live on seafood, salad and superfoods alone. One must have some tastiness… and I find that the salty fat of high quality bacon or fresh fruit (especially topped with grass-fed heavy cream) are my favorite ways to fill the special treat needs.

9. Fruit Sweetened Desserts – When fresh fruit just isn’t enough, I turned to N’Oatmeal Cookies, Butter Pecan Apples, and The Healthiest Ice Cream Ever to nip that sweet tooth in the bud. Afterall, sugar consumption create micro-nutrient deficiencies, which affects your body’s ability to heal and recovery from working out!

10. Fermented Cod Liver Oil – Technically this is a supplement but since we’re calling gelatin a food I’m going to call this one too. High in synergistic essential Vitamins A, D and K2 as well as Omega 3s – this is an essential part of my daily routine!

N'Oatmeal Cookies by PaleoParents.com

10 Things No One Will Tell You

11. Menstrual cups do not work – Despite what I’ve told you before about my love of menstrual cups, I’ve found out the hard way that cups do not work on heavy lift days. I don’t want to discuss the physics, but believe me when I suggest to you an alternative solution when lifting heavy. It’s not just me, all the ladies at the gym confirmed this is a legit problem that just kinda sucks. The best advice I can give is to double-up your protection my friends.

12. You will be embarrassed by your own bodily functions. A) You will pee your pants – I remember the first time I swung a heavy kettlebell and squatted deep with weight on my back. I remember them not because of PR excitement, but because I was fearful the entire box knew I’d just peed my pants. Although it has gotten better over time with improved muscle control, it still happens almost every day. It just happens with heavy weight, and I lift heavy weight everyday. Good news, it’s not just me or you. Every women (even those who haven’t had kids) have this problem. Good news: I’ve got a recommended solution in tip 42! B) Everybody farts – Tip #42 will not save you from the fact that you will also (likely) fart while doing these heavy lifts. The first time that gas escaped my body while I was squatting with a spotter behind me I almost died of embarrassment. However, after I got used to Tip 17, I kind of think of it as totally normal now. No, I don’t normally have gas. But, it’s completely normal when you’re putting 200+lbs on your back and getting into a deep squat and squeezing with all the muscles you have to stand-up. Guess what, your sphincter and pelvic floor are muscles too!


13. It’s going to hurt – As much as the bruises and scrapes are badges of honor, they also suck. It’s rare a day goes by of legit training where I don’t come out with some sort of hurt – usually a flesh wound, always muscular soreness and sometimes even emotional. Each and every one of them makes you stronger, and that’s why the sport is called what it is.

14. Tacky is disgusting – I’d like to tell you putting on pine tar and lifting giant balls of concrete covered in it gets better, and maybe your tolerance for it does, but it always sucks.  I get told that stones are quintessential StrongMan and to “suck it up buttercup” after joking that I’m a fragile flower. But really, I mean it. The only “advice” I can offer on this is that my preference has been to use athletic tape up my forearm and then wear a long-sleeved shirt, pushing the sleeves to the same spot that the tape goes to (ensuring no skin is exposed) before tackying. This also protects the skin from rips and tears against the concrete Atlas Stones. Also, make sure to use the restroom BEFORE applying tacky! That’s my only advice… the rest, is icky sticky. I’m a total girl about this. I’m not girlie about much and I do like the “toughness” of our sport. But, this is gross. And, it always messes up my nails.

15. Your nail lady is going to think you’re crazyI used to love getting my weekly manicure. It was the thing I did that was just for me where I was disconnected and got to pamper myself. But then lifting started ruining my manicures in less than 2 days instead of every week. So, I had to start getting shellac manicures to preserve the integrity of my girlie nails. When I go in at about 2 weeks and the nails are all peeling up with chalk caked into the nail bed and at least one or two broken nails I get the look that says it all…


16. Oil (Coconut, Olive or Baby) removes tacky better than any chemical hand cleaner could!

17. Muscular dudes will go from being hot to just being bros. Maybe it’s just me and perhaps I shouldn’t speak for all those that may be attracted to strong dudes. But, I can tell you from personal experience that the guys at my gym that my friends and mother say make them swoon… well, it makes me laugh. I see these guys everyday. They’re like brothers to me. I know they work incredibly hard for their incredibly toned and muscular bodies, but that’s how I see them – as tools. The same way I see my body as a powerful tool now. I no longer see muscles and think how hot a guy is, I wonder what kind of work he did to get that way.

18. You will cry, and that makes bros uncomfortable. OK, seriously. As I’ve mentioned in almost every blog post I’ve ever written about my strength training, I cry. A lot. Probably once every 10 times I work out. Sometimes it’s because I’m just having a bad day and all those hormones rushing in from working out get to me. Sometimes it’s because something’s hard and a coach says something that gets me to my core and shakes my spirit. Sometimes it’s because I’m emotionally thrilled or upset by achieving or not achieving a goal I set for myself. Sometimes I just lose it thinking about how far I’ve come. No matter what the reason, it’s likely that if you’re a woman in the gym eventually you will “sweat” from your eyes in addition to all the pores it’s pouring out of too. I suggest taking a moment and gathering yourself in the bathroom, outside or with a friend you trust. Because, girl, you don’t wanna make the bros all confused on how to react.


19. You will gain weight. I’ve fleetingly mentioned this several times and have talked about it multiple times on the podcast, but over the last year of cross-fitting and strongman-ing I’ve put on some weight. I think the number is about 10lbs. However, as I noted in my Whole Life Challenge results post, I’ve lost a TON of inches. Guess what that math means, ladies? I’m LOSING FAT and GAINING MUSCLE. Admittedly, my shoulders, butt and thighs are just plain bigger. But, my waist and hips are definitely smaller! I had to make a choice a few months ago: either I’m eating to fuel performance and gaining muscle, or I’m fueling to lose weight… I cannot do both. For me, I focused on the former and haven’t regretted it a bit. Interesting tid bit, when I went to my doctor for dehydration he noted I’d gained about 15lbs since 2012. But he kept looking at me and then the chart. And he said, “Are you sure these numbers are right? Your heart rate and blood pressure tell me you’re an athlete. You look great since the last time I saw you! But, the chart is telling me you’ve gained weight.” I loved being able to tell him I’d been training and put on muscle ♥

20. Almost all StrongMan lifts are WAY harder with breasts – I’m going to say it. I’ve never heard anyone talk about it before. And every time I mention it in the gym the boys shrug, as though their giant pectoral muscles can possibly be compared to the size H cups I’m sporting (I wish that was a joke). “Rolling” a giant metal log or huge concrete stone over a surface is just plain harder when you’ve got a giant obstacle (speed bump) in your way. When we were training with other women for the StrongWoMan contest it was nice to be able to discuss techniques around these obstacles. I, for one, have developed the technique of knowing that the metal log has to be in line with an exact spot on my chest in order for the log to get up without additional effort on my part. I’m also doing endless work to correct terrible form I developed (see Tip 24) with my elbows going around the chest instead of gliding up the chest on cleans, likely a result of the mental mind game of those obstacles. Even just today I heard laughter and a shrug from my male coach, as I struggled with getting stones to shoulder and referenced the giant obstacles I was overcoming that he doesn’t have to face when he performs the same movement. Ah well, I still figured out a way to beast mode it. I’m just feeling like being less busty would be a significant advantage in this sport, something the “little ladies” can feel good about!

10 Articles You Should Read

21. Alanna Casey: Strong Woman Champion gave me great insight into what to expect and some mental preparation for the competition.

22. This is what a real cross-fitter looks like, from an awesome woman we could all learn something from.

23. Body Image as a Female Strength Athlete and the referenced article on Perceptions of Fit Women, because, obvs! Couldn’t have written this better myself!

24. If you’ve got the problem I noted about your chest, or any other reason, creating bad form on the platform for cleans I suggest you read this article on The Reverse Banana and how to get over it.

25. I had a huge tangent about this on The Paleo View but if you haven’t yet, please read this on Gelatin as a PWO protein from Stephanie at Stupid Easy Paleo, author of The Paleo Athlete. She’s SO right on the reasons I DO list Gelatin as a super-food… but also why I eat meat with a face after working out (as noted, seafood is ideal).

26. Want more information on what to eat pre and post-workout? Diane from Balanced Bites has you covered!

27. Over the last couple of months I went from being someone who rarely rolled out after CrossFit to a person who HAS to spend at least 20 minutes rolling out and warming up before StrongMan. When you are using muscles regularly and pushing them to capacity and expecting growth that takes recovery. I started utilizing Matt for deep tissue massage (the kind that literally makes you cry) got 2 professional massages the 2 months before the contest and had a chiropractic adjustment that revealed one of my legs is longer than the other and therefore creating some hip mobility issues as I use those muscles more. As a result, a foam roller has become my new best friend. Read these What is a Foam Roller, How Do I Use it and Why Does it Hurt and Does Foam Rolling Really Work for more info.

28. In my quest for information I loved these articles on Robb Wolf about the The Female Athlete Triad and Females, Carbohydrates and Hormones.

29. Essential to all strength-based activities, the squat is essential. I highly suggest you do these Therapy Drills to Improve Your Squat – I do!

30. And of course, reading about carbs on Robb and Mark’s site helped me feel better about consuming them myself.


10 People You Should Follow


31. Stephanie from Stupid Easy Paleo, author of The Paleo Athlete (I suggest her Instagram)

32. Kristen Rhodes, although I can’t find media she’s active on, her Instagram is fun


33. Alanna Casey of Lift Big Eat Big is very active on Instagram

34. Gemma Magnuson is a previous winner, mother and gluten-free! She’s on Facebook and Twitter, too.

35. Gabby is a fellow gluten-free Virginia StrongWoman blogging at GabbysGFree. I love following her on Instagram.

36. Aimee at Love to Train came down from Canada to do the StrongWoman contest, we loved meeting her!


37. Maya Camilla Winters is another awesome professional StrongWoman.


38. Perhaps my favorite professional StrongWoman to follow is Asha Tracy. She’s on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube! Plus, she’s adorable and Australian!

39. My friends (can they count as one?): Caroline, Courtney, Aimee, Lucy, Vivian

40. NOVA Strength and Conditioning posts great material of all the athletes I train with on their Facebook page, videos on YouTube, pictures on Instagram and they even Tweet!


10 Products I Recommend

41. Paleo Kits from Steve’s Original – remember I said that protein with a face is the best choice post work out? Well PaleoKits makes STRONGMAN packs with fruit and nuts WITH the protein for the perfect post work out snack/meal if you’re on the go and can’t get a whole rotisserie chicken down while driving!

42. Dear Kate panties – Remember I said you were going to pee? This entire company is based off that fact! I love how elegant and pretty these protective garments are. I’ve got three different kinds and love all of them, but especially love the Rosa Brief for working out! They work very similarly to cloth pads in how absorbent they are, but yet elegant enough for every day. I know they’re expensive, but honestly I can’t speak highly enough of this company and the quality products they make! The great news is, your first order is 20% off if you sign-up for their newsletter!

43. Knee Socks – Knee socks are my trademark. I love them. They make me feel like I’m ready to go and I feel awkward without them. When I lift I’m often putting something against my shin and I love the protection they offer. I’ve tried out a bunch of brands of knee socks and LOVE the quality feel of WODGear brand.  Also, they fit my giant calves! We’re actually teaming up with WODGear to make some custom socks soon, so keep an eye out. In the meantime, follow them on Instagram to get notified of their awesome “humpday” sales, usually 15% off!

Stacy is NOVA Strongest HW Woman - Tire Flip - PaleoParentsStacy is NOVA Strongest HW Woman - Press Medly on PaleoParents

44. Wrist Wraps – I love my Muscle Driver cloth wrist wraps. I’ve tried a couple different brands of velcro wrist straps, and although MDUSA‘s version worked well among other types, the cloth wraps are the most comfortable for me and I much prefer them. To each their own, however, so get excited for what you’ll find in our giveaway from them – where you get to try out a bunch to see what you’ll like for yourself! I also sometimes wear knee sleeves and a weightlifting belt, but only very recently did I start including those and genuinely don’t think they’re nearly as important as how much the wrist wraps are for me.

45. Becoming a Supple Leopard – this is one of 3 reading materials we’re recommending. I know, it’s weird for a movement activity to have so much influence by text on paper… but this is like a text book on moving. It has incredible information, both in written and pictorial form. Awesome resource!

46. The Paleo Athlete – as mentioned a few times already, Stephanie has been a great inspiration and resource for me as I worked towards become a competitive athlete this year. I highly recommend you check out her eBook, The Paleo Athlete to learn how to fuel for performance as well as health.

47. Catalyst Athletics Weightlifting Guides – I first heard about Greg Everett of Catalyst Athletics when he began co-hosting The Paleo Solution podcast. At the time I wasn’t into fitness and would get so irritated when he and Robb would geek out over lifting talk. Now, I can only assume some of you feel that way about the blog and The Paleo View! The great news is, Greg has lots more to offer. He’s actually written several guides, an online magazine and even done videos for helping people perfect the art and sport of lifting. As a special discount for Paleo Parents followers, Catalyst is also offering an exclusive discount code for their documentary, American Weightlifting. The first 500 people to take advantage of this offer can recieve 50% off the download of the documentary for $7.99 (from $14.99), with code “paleoparents” at www.americanweightlifting.vhx.tv/buy/

48. Spider Tacky – this is the epic pine tar we use at NOVA to help us lift stones. It claims to be the strongest and best, and my n=1 research supports this belief. If you want to be a Strong(wo)Man, Atlas Stones is a quintessential event. Which means this stuff is always in my bag.

49. Foam Roller – I love the nubby stiff RumbleRoller that really puts a hurting on those muscles and gets blood flowing, but even a gentle one (available at Target) can be of great use. I highly suggest every person participating in athletic movements, especially strength-based, roll out before, after and in between working out. It makes a huge difference in my mobility!

50. Tape Measure – because you should be throwing your scale out! A tape measure is a great way to encourage yourself, see progress and not be beholden to some arbitrary number. Remember, even my doctor was befuddled by the scale! I talk more about this specifically in my Whole Life Challenge results post.

51. Bonus item: SHOES! Lots of ladies love shoes, and Strong(wo)men are no different. I actually wore three different pairs of shoes during my competition. I have Reebok Nanos for deadlift-type events (car deadlift, stones, etc.), Reebok Hybrid Olys as lifters for pressing events (from my cross-fitting days, although I’ll probably get true lifters this year when they wear out), and New Balance Minimus Trail Running shoes for events where I run a bit (farmer’s carry, yoke, etc.) – I find that extra padding with the flexibility of a minimal shoe is optimal for me.




strongman giveaway3

Many of the vendors I so dearly love are generously offering 1 lucky random winner the following items. Please show your support for these small businesses by visiting their site and social media, purchasing their goods or services, or just dropping them a note to say you like their company. May the odds be ever in your favor!

 5 Strongman Paleokits from Steve’s Paleo Goods

StrongMan PaleoKit 35 value

This Strongman PaleoKit is the XL version of the Original PaleoKit for those big appetites -
great after a hard workout of atlas stones, sled pushes, or yoke carries.

Weightlifting Gear from Muscle Driver USA

MDUSAA variety of awesome items from MDUSA, including the wrist wraps I use and MORE to get you ready for lifting heavy:
Elastic Knee Wraps, Loop Thru Straps, Cloth Wrist Wraps, Quick Lift Straps, Elastic Wrist Wraps

The Paleo Athlete eBook by Stephanie Gaudreau of Stupid Easy Paleo

  Stupid Easy Paleo ebook As mentioned many times: Eat. Perform. Dominate!

Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance


Improve your athletic performance, extend your athletic career, treat body stiffness and achy joints, and rehabilitate injuries—all without having to seek out a coach, doctor, chiropractor, physical therapist, or masseur. In Becoming a Supple Leopard, Kelly Starrett—founder of MobilityWod.com—shares his revolutionary approach to mobility and maintenance of the human body and teaches you how to hack your own human movement, allowing you to live a healthy, happier, more fulfilling life.


Catalyst Athletics Weightlifting Guides


catalyst collage

As a part of the giveaway, you will receive these three weightlifting guides, AND a year’s subscription to their online magazine. Don’t forget, as a special discount for Paleo Parents followers, Catalyst is also offering an exclusive discount code for their documentary, American Weightlifting. The first 500 people to take advantage of this offer can recieve 50% off the download of the documentary for $7.99 (from $14.99), with code “paleoparents” at www.americanweightlifting.vhx.tv/buy/


Wod Gear Knee Socks!

 Wodgear SocksThe very knee socks Stacy wore to win her contest and look like the bees knees doing it!



Dear Kate Lined Underwear

collage dear kateYou’ll get the choice of your preference from Dear Kate to the brand Stacy’s come to love!

And one of our Strong Is Beautiful shirts!

 tshirt collage Your choice of one of our shirts or tanks with my favorite, encouraging quote from Matt. ♥


GIVEAWAY: How do you enter? Simple!

To enter:

Up to 4 entries per person. No purchase required!

Remember Matt’s rules of giveaways:

  1. Please use a valid email address when entering. I cannot use my dowsing rods to attempt to find which bytes form your contact address!
  2. Please follow all the rules so I don’t get frustrated by invalid entries. Nothing makes more of a sad panda than picking a winner who I have to disqualify.
  3. Please respond within 48 hours or I will have to pick a new winner! I have a certain set of skills that make me a nightmare to people who don’t respond: the ability to randomly draw again.
  4. Please be a US resident (unless you want to pay for shipping). My mana is too low to cast a Teleportation Spell!

Giveaway will end on Sunday, April 10 , 2014.

About Stacy

Stacy Toth has written 371 post in this blog.

Stacy is the matriarch of the Paleo Parents family. After beginning a paleo diet and founding PaleoParents.com in 2010, she lost 135 pounds and found health and happiness for the whole family. The following three years have been a progressive journey with a mission to educate people about nourishing their bodies by eating real foods. Stacy can be found on all forms of social media as @PaleoParents as well as the top-rated The Paleo View Podcast and her two cookbooks, Eat Like a Dinosaur and Beyond Bacon.