Never underestimate an underdog.
Stephanie Clark’s rivals have certainly found out the hard way!
In the space of four years, she has gone from, by her own admission “a fat, lazy slob”, to England’s Strongest Woman.
And now she has her eyes set on the British title – and beyond.
Last month, she surprised herself by becoming England’s Strongest Woman at Tamworth Castle.
The previous year year she competed in the open category, and was the lightest entrant at 83kgs, but astonished fellow competitors and judges by taking fourth place.
Unfortunately, injury prevented her from competing in Britain’s Strongest Woman later that year, but this year, Stephanie qualified in the under 82kgs category.
The former Casterton Primary and Towneley High School pupil had promised her dad Rodney she would win as a Father’s Day present, and was as good as her word!
And she spoke about her journey to the title: “Long story short, in 2014 I was so overweight, 18-plus stone, very heavy, lazy, didn’t really do much with my time and ate a lot of rubbish.
“That year I lost five and a half stone, and the start of 2015 I lost another two and a bit. That was cleaning up my diet, not bingeing on rubbish, takeaways...I’ve always been a good cook but I was too lazy.
“My ex-ex boyfriend liked to eat as well, so we both got big together. Then I started at the gym, just walking on the treadmill, and I remember trying my first press up and I couldn’t do it.
“I couldn’t run for a minute, I was incredibly unfit.
“I did a boxercise class at Pendle Wavelengths, and the coach made you work. I threw up, cried, didn’t go again for 12 weeks, got a little bit fitter in the gym on my own, gave it another go, and became a class freak.
“I did about three or four classes a day, so my fitness went from not great to ridiculous.
“I was running circles around people by the end of 2014, and I was addicted to it.
“If someone asked me to go out, I’d prefer to go to the gym.
“I loved it.”
Then she built on her improved fitness: “I met my ex-boyfriend, and he was a body builder. I was really into cardio, and my endurance was incredible, but he got me into weight lifting.
“I went to the gym more. We went to Ironman in Preston, a very old school body builder gym.
“I was a powerful deadlifter, but didn’t have great technique. But he got my squat up and I really enjoyed it.
“Some of the strong men at the gym came over and said I was really strong for a girl, which I hate – no, I’m strong!
“But they asked me to train with them, and my strength shot up.
“Then they told me about a few competitions, so I thought I’d give it a go.
“All of a sudden I’m England’s strongest woman!”
Everything came together last year, though she had to do things the hard way at England’s Strongest Woman: “They have three categories, 63 kilos, 82 kilos and the open weight. I went in the 82 kilos category, but I was bang on 82 kilos on my scales, and when I got weighed at the qualifier, I was 2.4 kilos over, so I ended up in the open category.
“I qualified for England’s strongest woman, and on the day, the world’s strongest woman turned up, so I competed against her, which was fun! There were 13 of us at England’s strongest woman last year, and I thought to myself if I didn’t come last, I’d be happy, and I came fourth.
“I really surprised myself.
“I did the qualifier again this year, got into the weight category I was supposed to last year, and came third.
“Then, eight weeks later, I shocked myself and dominated the whole competition!
“I don’t know where it came from, I was first all the way through. I don’t pay attention to the maths, so I was asking people to work it out for me, and they were telling me I’d won.
“I won three events, was third in one and fourth in another, which was enough to finish five points ahead of everyone else.”
She won’t have the surprise element at Britain’s Strongest Woman on Saturday, July 28th at the Break the Bar gym in Leigh, however, as she admits: “I’ve got something to prove now I’ve won England’s.
“I was an underdog, but I’m not now. A few people were saying ‘Steph will come third or fourth like she always does’, and I actually won, I dominated it!
“It still don’t even know how it feels, it’s still not sunk in, I keep looking at my trophy and saying ‘that’s mine!’
“I didn’t expect to win, I went in to do my best and wanted to qualify for Britain’s. Top three meant podium and a trophy, but as long as I was in the top six, I qualified.”
Stephanie’s healthy lifestyle, in and out of the gym, continues in her line of work, where she makes treats as the Protein Queen (www.facebook.com/Theproteinqueen): “I started making protein bowls for myself, and went down the enterprise route and started my own business.
“Then in January, we saw really naughty high calorie pizzas, sweet treats, so I decided to make those, but healthy, and they’re flying out.
“I’m a qualified personal trainer as well and do quite a few people’s nutrition on line.”
Fitness and wellbeing has never been as popular, but while Stephanie had her own motivation, she hopes people get into it for the right reasons: “I don’t like to say it, but it’s fashionable now to go to the gym, get the latest gear, follow everyone on social media. But nothing is real on social media.
“All these models photoshopped aren’t positive role models for women. All these insta-famous people. I follow people who will show you their cellulite and tummy rolls, what a normal woman looks like, not where they look perfect all the time.
“People are getting eating disorders and everything because they think they should look like that. It’s not healthy.
“You’re given one body. You can change it and tweak it in the gym, but you’ll never look airbrushed in real life.
“Do this for yourself, don’t go to the gym because it’s fashionable. I’d still be a fat, lazy slob wasting my money on takeaways if I hadn’t started the gym, and eating healthily.”