Could your elementary school teacher lift a 500 pound monster truck wheel or put a 245 pound stone on a post? One Grade 4 class at McDermid Elementary School can probably take home the bragging rights for having the strongest teacher in the city.
Tracey Halladay recently placed second in the country at the Canadian National Strongwoman Competition in Quebec. Before she started power lifting in 2006, Halladay says she was not really a ‘gym’ person, but she got hooked on a sport that is all about strength, training alongside her husband Steve. In 2012 their daughter was born and she decided to try training as a strongwoman instead.
“I enjoyed it so much more than power lifting so I just went with it,” she said. “There was no competitions for women so my husband decided, well let’s put one on so my wife can compete. So it just kind of grew from there in our area.”
Strongwoman events include things like lifting tires and kettle balls or a Hercules hold where you hold up one pillar with each arm for as long as possible. Halladay says the training comes in handy because she never has to ask her husband to lift something for her around the house, she can lift it herself.
Sometimes Halladay shows her students short videos so they can see what she does on weekends.
“I know she likes to lift weight, I don’t know maybe 500 pounds,” said Abdifatha Ibrahim.
He guesses that she could probably lift four of him at the same time.
“I know she was lifting a monster truck wheel,” he said. “I think that’s really dangerous yet awesome. She could lift a boulder, I think.”
Halladay has proven she can lift a lot of weight in competitions across the country, but she knows girls everywhere have a different weight on their shoulders – the pressure of body image.
“Women are taught in the media, in magazines to look a certain way or they’re not worthy,” she said. “I think strong is definitely the new skinny and strong is healthy. I think women need to know that, little girls need to know that from a young age that they can look however they want to look and still be perfect.”
Halladay’s success in a unique sport is already inspiring some of her students to pursue athletics.
Mihkaila Sens is in Grade 5 now, but she was so interested that she went to see her former teacher at the Western Canadian competition in Regina. Someday she says she might want to train to lift weights too because she thinks it’s important to be strong as a girl for practical reasons.
“Because maybe you could lift a bunch of stuff and help people if they’re like moving or something,” she said.
Eisha Thakaurdeen is also impressed by her teacher’s strength.
“I thought it was really cool, it was really awesome to watch,” she said.
Thakaurdeen says she’s not really interested in weight lifting, but she is a dancer and that takes a different kind of physical strength. She knows how important it is to train and stay active.
“You can get better at things, get stronger and help people that are in need,” she said.
Ava Wikham also says it would be cool to build up her strength and muscles.
“So you can be like really strong and lift heavy things and if someone is busy you don’t have to bother them, you can lift it yourself,” Wikham said. “It just feels great because you could lift really heavy things and maybe fight in like boxing or something.”
For Halladay, the message of strength and power is one of the reasons she tells her students about competing and training for strongwoman events.
“It makes me happy that they think it’s really cool that I’m a girl and I’m doing that,” she said. “They’re like ‘oh you’re husband should be doing that,’ and I’m like ‘no, no, I should be doing that.'”
Halladay says the sport has taught her to be more confident and positive in every aspect of her life. She says she feels stronger both mentally and physically, and she doesn’t fit into any stereotype.
“Women can be strong and feminine and still nurturing at the same time. I’m a mom, I’m a teacher and I’m a strongwoman.”