Written by Maya Winters
The Lightning Fitness Couples Challenge is a highly anticipated couples competition (Strongman) on the East Coast. Matt Mills, owner of Lightning Fitness (Windsor, CT) has promoted this competition for three years. You may also know Mills as a sponsored Lift Big Eat Big athlete, top level Strongman, and Vin Diesel lookalike. I had the privilege of being a part of this colossal meeting of East Coast Strongman splendor.
Here on the East Coast, we are saturated with high-level Strongman competitors. If you look at the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region, we have gyms like Punch Kettlebell (Norwalk, CT), Lightning Fitness (Windsor, CT), Ironmill Gym (Harrisburg, PA) and Brute Strength (VA) – just to name a few – that serve as homes for some top-notch Strongman athletes. My point in stressing the quantity of high-level Strongman athletes in this region is to also stress the depth of competition.
My partner for the competition was lightweight Pro Strongman and 2013 North American Strongman national champion Rob Kearney.
Going into the comp, we were honestly pretty anxious. Expectations for our performance were pretty grand. Rob and I were competing up a weight class. Typically, I compete at middleweight, and Rob competes in the LW pro division.
We felt the heat of pressure and expectations for other, slightly political reasons. Rob actually came out as gay within the past couple of months. Story upon story was written, providing all with access to his journey. More than anything, I think it was an opportunity to embrace an underrepresented group and make an encouraging gesture to those who may be struggling with making a similar proclamation. What does this have to do with lifting? Well, not too much if you choose to remove our identities as individuals. So you can say, “Ah, I don’t care what you are, just lift,” but at the end of the day one of the reasons why we compete is partially to engage with others. Me, I’ve been gay for ages, so I’m all “corduroy bear” in my homosexuality.
The events were:
Max Log Press
I shat the bed on this event. Back to the drawing board AGAIN to work on pressing. Rob hit a 360# log press, went for 400, and just missed it by a bit.
12” Deadlift with Chains
I believe Rob’s DL weighed 705 with chains. He hit a few reps there, and I hit 22 reps in a minute with 275 and chains.
Couples Tire Flip (1000# )
11 reps – our timing was a bit off and we tied for third in this event.
Sandbag Medley and Load
Atlas Stone Load
We faired pretty well in the medleys and loads. Overall, I was pleased with our performance for the day and we came out with the win!
My nutritional programming is being coached by Mike Mastell. I feel more energetic and powerful under his dietary structure. I’m consuming slightly more carbs than usual and I absolutely feel more lively. Following my heavier sessions, I’m taking in 45 grams of dextrose. Before, I was consuming those carbs at the start of my sessions. So far, so good.
I will also be working with Brandon Lilly for my powerlifting training. He’s running me through a program called Cube Predator. I’m extremely excited about this. Brandon has prescribed some back-building movements that will surely spread my current situation. Every session, I’m doing lat-building work. Look up Lilly shrugs. … You’ll thank me later. My goal is to build strength for a while, compete in a PL meet, and see where things go from there.
After a 13-year rugby career, Philadelphia area resident Maya Camille Winters began training for strongman events in 2009. Just three years later, she became the middleweight champion of North American Strongman, with a second-place ranking in the Strongman Fitness World Championship. Maya also holds an elite-level powerlifting total, as well as world and national-level powerlifting records in the 148-pound weight class.
Sponsored by Juggernaut Training systems, Heavy Athletics Nutrition and Frontline Crossfit, Maya continues to compete in strongman, powerlifting, and CrossFit. In an effort to share her fervor for heavy lifting, she trains athletes in heavy lifting disciplines. Currently, she instructs a strongman class every Sunday at CrossFit 215 in East Falls, PA.
Maya is an art professor at West Chester University and Cheyney University, where she teaches fine arts and art theory courses. Her studio practice has earned her national recognition and an extensive exhibition history.