Who Is She?
Leigh Holland-Keen is a young woman from Scotland, now living in Australia, who is unquestionably at the peak of strength and fitness – but she has taken a path not many other women do. Leigh is a strongwoman competitor and took the sport by storm – capturing multiple 1st and 2nd places in her first years of competition since 2010. Now 5 years into the sport, Leigh has competed all over the world and represented Australia in international competitions.
For anyone who doesn’t know can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a 26 year old registered nurse who lives in tropical north Queensland in Australia.
How did you get started with the sport?
Both my parents competed in the sport, after watching a few competitions, I decided to try it and instantly fell in love with the sport.
Do you think that your mother competing in the sport was especially significant?
Absolutely! I was so impressed watching my mum compete and thought if she can do it, so can I!
There is a big movement within fitness that ‘strong is the new sexy’, as a strongwoman yourself how do you feel about that and do you want to see more young women taking up the sport?
I love the fact that it’s now the ‘in’ thing to be strong. Its definitely a healthier way to approach fitness, and it builds confidence within yourself too. The myth of ‘ lifting heavy weights will make you huge’ is slowly dying, and I’m glad of that. Strongwoman is growing and its great to watch , seeing females join the sport and not only grow physical strength but mental strength is very satisfying.
You have achieved so much in the sport already – what has been your greatest achievement? What is your next goal?
My greatest achievement in this sport would have to be placing 3rd in World’s Most Powerful Woman 2012 which was held in Scotland. It was a fantastic comp full of friendly competitors, everyone encouraged each other which was great!
Lifting heavy is traditionally seen as something that only men do – do you think these stereotypes scare women away from the weights when they go to the gym? How can we change these ideas?
I feel like that tradition is very slowly dying due to the increase of females in the sport over the years, I do believe that many females still feel like they will become too ‘muscular’, which is so far from the truth, it takes A LOT of hard work to build muscle as a female!!
Any advice for women thinking of starting to lift heavy?
Don’t give up! Some people are naturally strong, others it takes a bit of extra training but that’s OK! Don’t compare yourself to anyone else, focus on what you want and remember even the best athletes have off days, pick yourself up and try again!
Can you tell us about your diet? What do you eat to prepare for a competition?
Now that a new weight class has been developed I have to be a little ‘tighter’ with my food. My diet consists of chicken, steak, fish, sweet potato, rice and vegetables. I have a big sweet tooth so I’ll admit I eat a lot of chocolate, but I’ll work it off in the gym. Preparing for a competition, I’ll cut my sugar intake back and go for lots of clean carbohydrates and high protein food. I increase my protein shakes and drink a lot of amino acids for good recovery.
How can women interested in lifting heavy adjust their diet in the right way?
Get rid of the junk! You’ll notice such a difference. If you’re a big eater like myself you can still eat a lot but won’t need to worry so much about increasing body fat due to the food having a lower sugar content. Eat butter, full fat milk, coconut milk, that’s all good fat just ditch the Mcdonalds, KFC, all fried nonsense ! If you have huge cravings for junk food, have them straight after a hard training session! Also remember to drink lots of water, sometimes the body can confuse dehydration with hunger!!
Can you share a workout or key exercises for women who are looking to get stronger and start lifting heavy but who perhaps have never tried before?
Deadlift, deadlift, deadlift ! I think it’s a great exercise that targets a whole range of different muscle groups in the one movement. You don’t have to start off heavy, concentrate on technique and gradually increase the weight.
How can people keep up with you?
I have my athlete page Leigh Holland-Keen – Strongwoman on Facebook, I also regularly post on Instagram leigh.keen . Also check out my sponsor’s web pages. International Protein and Beast Genetics, fantastic products that keep me strong in this awesome sport!
We want to say a massive thank you to Leigh for her wonderful insight into the world of competitive strongwoman and how to begin lifting heavy for beginners.