This month we’re talking about G.O.A.T.s. Not the kind you find on a farm or on a hillside in a David Attenborough programme, but athletes who are considered at the top of their game – the greatest of all time. Those with gold medals, world records, shiny trophies and irrefutable discipline.
It’s no surprise then that we had to hear from one of the strongest women in the world – Farah Fonseca.
Farah won her first ever attempt at Strongest Woman in the World, and won England’s Strongest Woman three times – two years in a row. We couldn’t wait to chat to her about her journey to the top and what she’s learnt along the way.
“It’s been pretty chaotic…”
Farah was always pretty active. Just a regular gym-goer who was doing personal training at her local gym in Basingstoke. That was until her partner at the time suggested she enter a Strongwoman competition. To which she recalls responding “er, babe, it’s called Strongwoman like, you have to be strong in order to do it”.
After some consideration Farah was keen to bring some direction to her gym sessions and so intensive training commenced. Casually, Farah says “I won that competition” and was on to her next endeavour – another novice competition before her first England qualifiers.
“In 2016 I did my first England’s qualifiers, got through and actually won England’s that year, in my first year, which was amazing. Won it again the year after and then it kind of spiralled from there because then you can qualify for Britain’s, for Europe’s, you then qualify for Arnold’s and then worlds.”
“I went to the Arnolds in Ohio the following year. I did the amateur and ended up placing fourth which was amazing because the top four get given a pro card which means you can then compete as a professional strongwoman in America. So then I was able to do Strongest Woman in the World in 2018 – won that which was great.”
After diving head-first into the Strongwoman world, Farah felt herself losing some of her love for the sport, so took some much-needed time off.
“I took about 18 months off, as I thought I was kind of losing the love for the sport for a bit, because I just went in full throttle for about four years and it was really intense. So I took some time off, came back last year, did England’s again, won it, came back into it and then I’ve recently just came second at England’s and third at Britain’s. So, it’s been pretty chaotic!”
“You get a bit addicted to that competitiveness”
Farah reveals she tried just about every sport when she was younger, encouraged wholeheartedly by her dad.
“Growing up I was always doing football, netball, athletics, swimming, horse-riding, whatever it was, every night after school it would be a different after school club. My dad would be like ‘right Farah, got everything, let’s go’ – straight in the car.”
But when she went to college the community element of sport, that Farah valued so deeply, was lost. Farah was also craving the competitive element of sport that casual training couldn’t replace.
“I wanted to get back into that competitive element because I was just training but when you’ve always been competitive it’s nice to bring that out of you. So, as soon as I did that first competition, you kind of get a bit addicted to that competitiveness, trying to push yourself and wanting to see how much you can push yourself”.
“We’ve created such lovely bonds”
All of us need a support system. Whether it’s friends, family, or teammates, it’s invaluable to have people you can rely on. This kind of support becomes especially important when you’re training for something like Strongwoman. And Farah couldn’t be more encouraging of the positive atmosphere at her competitions, and the bonds she’s made with women from across the world.
“I’ve made loads of friends. It’s great to meet up because everyone’s from all over the country and obviously other countries when you’re going to the international competitions, you meet friends from America like even some of the comps that I’ve done I would stay with the girls who are American so we’ve created such lovely bonds”.
One woman in particular who Farah has created such a bond with is fellow Strongwoman Andrea Thompson – someone who’s provided both support and inspiration for Farah.
“She’s always just had so much composure, she’s naturally very strong. […] I think starting the sport at the same time as her, her being in a different weight class, we’ve just kind of become very good friends. I’ve always really respected how she competes and what she’s like as an athlete. So if we compete together, we’re very much together, we come as a package.”
“It’s just part of life now ”
Like most of us, even with support from friends, family and her coach, Farah still experiences hard days. Here’s some of her advice for getting through them.
“I think it’s just trying to keep pushing yourself, seeing how much you can get out of your body and your mind because your mind is the first thing to give up. So I think it’s about seeing how mentally strong you can be. And it helps to get something shiny at the end of it…”
Even in these tougher times Farah’s discipline never seems to falter. She manages to do this through pure routine. This is just her life now, there’s nothing more to it.
“I think the fact that it’s just part of life, it’s just become the norm. Like I was having a conversation the other day and I said I don’t understand how people just go to the gym now, because I’ve been on a programme for so many years, I haven’t walked into a gym and had an off-schedule session for ages. It’s just part of life now I think, it’s just ingrained.”
“There’s balance in my life”
When it comes to nutrition, Farah makes sure she gets everything she needs to ensure she’s performing at her best during competitions, but she never neglects to make room for her favourite foods.
“There’s balance in my life. Yes, I do enjoy exercise I love movement I love to be able to train, however, if I want to be able to go and see my family and have rice and peas and mac and cheese and plantain and jerk chicken on a weekend, I’m absolutely doing that because I’m not sticking to macros every single day of my life.”
Take home message
Farah is a breath of fresh air in the fitness industry, valuing the importance of mental health and enjoying life as well as embodying discipline to reach the pinnacle of her sport. When she’s not training, she dedicates her time to empowering women to start weight-lifting, and training them not only to lift, but to feel confident.
There’s no doubt that Farah is a certified GOAT. That much is clear from her mindset as well as her medals and trophies. We’ll be watching as she no doubt goes on to conquer even more of the fitness world and spread her positive vibes further.