I’ve always loved being healthy, and I really love being active. My parents went a bit crazy when I was younger, constantly driving me back and forth between every social sport you could think of: futsal, hockey and touch rugby were my favourites. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been involved in sport, even competing at State level in both field hockey and sailing in high school. However, nothing quite stuck with me except going to the gym and pushing my own limits, competing against myself. I even wanted to build a career out of it, completing a Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science and working with some pretty cool fitness clients. Now I lift weights literally every single day (even Christmas Day), and I am training for a bodybuilding competition next year.
When did you start hitting the gym?
I technically started going to the gym when I was 13, although I didn’t start lifting ‘real’ weights until I was 14, meaning I’ve been a gym rat since I was only a kid. I didn’t start going for any particular reason, except maybe that I’m a highly competitive person! Also the fact that I was the shortest kid in my year group meant I had something to prove. As I got a bit older, competing at the highest levels quickly became my main focus, so being able to increase my strength to be competitive was essential. My days playing contact sports came to an end about the same time as finishing high school, mostly because of injury. I also lost focus for a brief period, so in some ways I felt like I was back at square one. Through some big life changes (goodbye Perth, hello Melbourne) in the past 12 months, I’ve now realigned my goals and am taking my competition seriously again.
While it took a few months to plan and execute, I finally found a personal trainer who understood my goals and took me on in April this year. While my program has changed slightly (with rest days scheduled in), I still make it to the gym every day, rain, hail or shine, and am progressing through my program with the aim to get on stage in 2020.
What is the difference between bodybuilding, power-lifting and strongman?
Each of these types of competition are very different, although their training is quite similar– in the sense that they all involve lifting heavy things up, and putting them down.
The simplest distinction between the three is that bodybuilding focuses on the physical form of an individual from muscular size, symmetry and thickness amongst many other factors. Ultimately, bodybuilding comes down to how someone looks on stage.
Power-lifting (even Olympic lifting) and strongman competitions are much more similar, and both differ from bodybuilding as physical appearance is not a factor. The primary difference is that power-lifting focuses on the three primary lifts; Deadlift, Squat and Bench Press. Whereas, strongman competitions involve seemingly superhuman feats of strength, including; the Pillars of Hercules, the fridge carry and Atlas Stones. Physical appearance isn’t a criteria for being a power-lifter or strongman.
How come you need to go to the gym every day?
Think of my daily gym routine as therapy, rather than a physical chore. As I mentioned before, there is a weird sense of peace of connecting with yourself and pushing your physical limits. Whether you push yourself to failure or simply run through the process, it is meditative, and that helps me reset and reconnect with myself.
I won’t pretend there aren’t days when I just don’t feel like going to the gym. Everyone has their bad days, when they’re just not feeling themselves. However, I remind myself that it is simply about the process of going and doing what needs to be done. And when I arrive, pop in my headphones and focus on the exercise, I can escape for a moment and not think about the stresses of everyday life.
What was the hardest part with starting in the gym?
I’d say the hardest part about starting at the gym was the feeling of being watched and judged. I was quite young when I started and found the first few sessions incredibly intimidating. However, you soon realise that people are far too preoccupied with what they’re doing to care about what you’re doing - unless it’s not safe. I have found that in every gym I have been to, there are always people willing to lend a hand and help when asked.
If you still feel a little intimidated, an easy way to overcome this is to have a personal training session, or to take a friend when you go in. Your personal trainer will do their best to make sure you’re safe, give you the best advice for your goals and of course, provide motivation!
Apart from the obvious, are there any other benefits you’ve found from going to the gym?
Well, other than acting as my daily therapy, or helping me get really good at opening those pesky jars, the gym has been a great place to connect with like-minded people who want to push themselves and chase their personal or fitness goals. The gym has been a great source of meeting people and getting to know the city, whether it’s meeting up for a coffee or going for a workout at a park. This social side of the gym helped me keep going, with a great support network who are always happy to spend a few minutes having a chat.
What’s next for you, Oli?
Ultimately, I aim to take home the gold on stage! That means my goals are set extremely high, and may not even be realistic. But at the end of the day, it’s a dream of mine, and any closer that I get to that makes me happy. Plus it keeps me out of trouble!
If you want to shed those extra few winter kilos, meet some pretty awesome and inspiring people, or help you spend more active time with your children on the weekend, I’d highly recommend giving a gym a go. Who knows, you might even give me a run for my money on stage – I’m not even kidding! My mum would still outlast me in any workout!
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