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Support worker sets her sights on Europe's Strongest Woman

Support worker sets her sights on Europe's Strongest Woman

It takes a strong person to be a support worker in a homeless hostel, carrying the weight of residents’ problems on your shoulders and weighing up sometimes difficult situations to decide how to best manage them.

But one strong support worker from Ribble Valley manages weights of a different kind in her spare time.

By day Abby Carter helps people such as victims of domestic violence, people with drug and alcohol addictions and people suffering from mental or physical health problems, by night she lifts cars!

After competing in the Northern Qualifiers for England’s Strongest Woman, Abby, one of our support workers at James Street Project in Darwen, is training for the Europe's Strongest Woman qualifiers.

Abby said: “I have been working at James Street Project for nearly 10 years, and absolutely love my job because it means I can help people to overcome personal barriers and become successful in life.

“We support our tenants to become independent by addressing their individual needs which can be very complex.

“As you can imagine, it can be a stressful job, but it's also very interesting and varied. I am totally inspired by the tenants who come to James Street Project because they were homeless and living chaotic lives, but still manage to turn their lives around despite having so many obstacles to overcome. The success stories give me huge job satisfaction, and I feel really proud to have been part of their journey.”

Abby puts what she has learned during her training into practice doing the day job and conversely channels any stresses of the job into her training. She explains:

“I try to give advice on changes that our tenants can make to live a healthier lifestyle, and encourage them to have a positive attitude. Obviously there needs to be a certain amount of self-discipline such as getting out of bed earlier, taking the time to cook healthy meals and being more active. Being able to relax is also really important, because some of our tenants lead extremely stressful lives. Small things like breathing exercises, going for a short walk and switching off their phone for 30 minutes can help someone to feel less tense. All of the above can help to improve a person's physical and mental health, and they will reap the benefits, such as weight loss, fewer illnesses and improved sleep pattern - all without the use of medication.

“My job involves having to deal with some very upsetting and traumatic situations but we can't get emotionally involved and have to remain professional at all times. My answer to a stressful day is to go and lift something heavy - lots of times! Be it flipping a tractor tyre or running with a huge sandbag, they are my therapy.”

Aged 48, Abby only took up strength training last year. She explains how she got bitten by the bug:

“Physical activity has always been a big part of my life and over the years I have taken part and competed in various sports such as judo, karate, golf, running, and road cycling. I'm also studying part time at Accrington College and will qualify as a Level 3 Personal Trainer in July 2019. Hopefully I can use this qualification to encourage people to overcome any barriers to exercising regularly, and to lead a more active and healthy lifestyle.

“I joined a local gym early last year to concentrate on strength training (various gym instructors had mentioned that I was particularly strong, so I decided to work on improving it), and was introduced to a personal trainer called Rolonde Bradshaw. I knew he had already taken part in several Strongman competitions and his passion about the sport made me really curious to see what is was all about, so I decided to go along to his next competition - if only to cheer him on.

“I was totally blown away by the enthusiasm and friendliness of the athletes. One particular female athlete always sticks in my mind - she was really struggling to move a huge weight and was on the verge of giving up, but the other competitors gathered around her and their massive cheers of encouragement practically helped her across the line - that experience was so inspiring that I decided I had to have a go myself. This is what led to me entering my first strong woman competition in Bolton last year.

“I usually train once a week with my coach Rhiannon Lovelace, who is currently the World’s Strongest Woman (lightweight). She is preparing me to compete in a novice competition and also training me to enter the qualifiers for Europe's Strongest Woman, which will obviously be extremely tough. And next year I'm going to have another go at qualifying for England's Strongest Woman.”

She added: “Strong woman training is rapidly becoming more popular and it's a unique sport where no one wants you to fail and absolutely everyone will cheer for you. Also a year ago I would never have dreamed that I could deadlift 200kg, or lift a car, and I have achieved both of these challenges - with much admiration from the men at my gym!

“Besides the physical benefits such as building strength, losing body fat, burning a lot of calories, you will also gain confidence, improve self-esteem and you will also be welcomed by a new 'family' of strong women to support you along the way.

“My family think I'm 'mad' and my friends keep asking if I will move heavy items of furniture for them! Seriously though, they are all extremely supportive and think what I'm doing is awesome.”

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