WHITE HALL, W.Va. — Meg Ayers’ day job is as a dispatcher for Antero Resources in Bridgeport, but when she’s not working one of her 12-hour shifts, she’s competing in something that very few women in the country, let alone West Virginia, are.
Ayers competes as a super heavyweight in strongman competitions where she lifts, pulls and carries weight that many people could only imagine.
Now a professional, her journey started more than four years ago and is really just beginning.
One of the rowing team’s strength coaches suggested that she could try powerlifting and strongman-type training.
“I said, ‘Yeah. I’ve seen it on TV. I don’t know if I can do it, but it’s worth a shot,’” Ayers said.
That same summer Ayers enrolled in the strongman competition at the Mountain State Forest Festival in Elkins. Ayers did a lot of powerlifting and weight training in preparation for the event.
“I kind of got the itch from there,” Ayers said. “It was addictive. You just want to go on to the next one and keep training and see exactly what you can accomplish.”
Since then, Ayers believes that she’s competed in more than 30 competitions over the last four years, traveling to many different states and venues.
These competitions, however, are not ordinary weightlifting events.
Ayers competes in events like the farmer’s walks, the Atlas stone, car lifts, yoke walks, dumbbell pressing and lifting of things like circus bells, kegs and sandbags.
“It really runs the gamut,” Ayers said. “It’s three-fourth strength and one-fourth entertainment,” Ayers said. “It’s amazing to see some of the events people can come up with.”
A lot of these events are timed with each repetition or distance traveled counting toward a total.
“You want to be as strong as possible, but at the same time you want to be able to do it quickly and you want to be able to do it safely,” Ayers said. “It’s a challenge.”
In order to train for these unique tests of strength, Ayers, with the help of her trainer and boyfriend Dustin Davis, focuses on three main areas of weightlifting in addition to practice with the specific elements.
“We try to stick to the main three – deadlift, bench and squat – as our basis and then go off there,” Ayers said.
Each competition features a variety of grueling challenges, and full-body strength is a must to compete at the level Ayers does, Davis explained.
“She has to be as strong as humanly possible from head to toe with no chinks in her armor,” Davis said. “We incorporate a lot of endurance movements, power movements and body building. Pretty much any training for any sport that’s out there intermingles with (what we do).”
In addition to physical strength, Ayers has to focus on things like endurance, grips and other things that may be necessary in competition.
“You’ve got to be prepared for anything that possibly could happen at competition,” Ayers explained. “Say it starts to rain or you’re dealing with certain other elements; you’ve got to be prepared to make those adjustments if necessary. Your body has to be ready to accommodate that.”
As a result of the exertion that goes into each competition, Ayers is limited to competing in just one every two or three months, she said.
Ayers competes at 200 pounds as a super heavyweight, a division that features all women 198 pounds and above.
Recently, in a competition in Louisville, Kentucky, Ayers earned her pro card, something very few women have ever done.
She qualified for the Louisville competition by winning in a regional held in North Carolina, and competed against the strongest women around, all of whom were trying to grab one of these few pro cards.
“It’s something I’ve been working on since I’ve started,” she said. “Chasing that and finally getting it was amazing.”
By earning her pro card, Ayers claimed a space in a very small group of women.
“She’s the only pro woman in West Virginia right now,” Davis said, “and one of three professional strong women in the super heavyweight class.”
The governing body of the competition she earned her pro card in is the United States Strongman.
Another organization with a women’s division is the North American Strongman Corp. As women’s divisions in these organizations gain more notoriety, the World’s Strongest Man organization is once again fielding a women’s division.
“With as popular as they’re noticing the women’s divisions getting and people starting to show interest, they brought it back,” Davis said. “It was a huge success. We are already talking about the potential of her competing in that. It’s an invite only, but I have had correspondence with them.”
With her pro card she is eligible to get paid and get to travel outside the United States to help propel USS onto the world stage.
Ayers currently holds the North Carolina deadlift record and believes that she still has the Pennsylvania and West Virginia deadlift records for women in her weight division. Her next stop in competition will be in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in the beginning of December, where she will attempt to capture another record, this one in the log press. The current record stands at 200 pounds, and Ayers’ personal best is 250 pounds.
With as much as she has enjoyed competing in and training for strongman competitions, Ayers wants to encourage any other women who may be interested to give it a try.
“If there’s anybody who is interested in getting into the gym and seeing what it’s all about, we are here at Layne Performance,” Ayers said. “There are a lot of strongmen that have come through this gym. It’s a fantastic facility to utilize.
“Any girls that are out there, if they’re interested, stop by. I don’t mind taking a moment. They can find me on Facebook. It’s a great sport to get involved in.”
Email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SMcNamaraTWV.