Kaitlin Burgess is a Pro Strongman competitor who has lifted a 300 lb. stone to a 48 inch platform, can log press 200 lb. and deadlifts nearly 500 lb. But it was just a few years ago that Burgess was an out-of-shape new mom who was so scared and embarrassed that she couldn’t bear to go to a gym with other people in it.
So Burgess found herself in a CrossFit gym, going in between classes to work with the owner to avoid a group setting. It was immediately obvious that Burgess, whose dad was a bodybuilder and brother was a college football player, was really strong.
But when Pro Strongman competitor Bryan Barrett tried to convince Burgess to do one of his local competitions she blew him off. Again and again.
“Finally, we did try some real basic Strongman stuff and [Bryan] was like, ‘I’ll train you’,” Burgess said. “At the time, I had left my daughter’s dad. I couldn’t pay anything, and he let me.”
But the newly single mom didn’t just take an interest in Strongman.
Burgess also rekindled her old partying ways, as a mechanism to cope with depression. She was surrounding herself with people, drinking and socializing as a way to get back on her feet.
In reality, she was sabotaging all of those efforts.
“I remember Bryan broke me down. He said, ‘Hey, I’m not telling you how to live your life, but if you quit drinking and partying you’d be really good [at Strongman],” said Burgess.
“And within the first month of not drinking alcohol, I exploded. I wasn’t tired, I had energy. It was unbelievable.”
It’s even more impressive watching Burgess, who recently picked up two more pro cards at Strongman Corporation Nationals, when you consider all the things she now juggles.
In addition to working at an emergency room in Texas, Burgess bartends at night and gets up some mornings to train other athletes at Arlington Strength, at 5:45 a.m.
“People ask, “How do you do it? You’re a single mom with two jobs,” said Burgess, who has never missed a training session since Barrett’s talk. “Well, how do you get up and find time to change your underwear? It’s a matter of making the time. For me, it’s been a lifestyle change.”
And with that, a body-image change as well.
Burgess, who sits at 200-lb. training, competes as both a heavyweight and middleweight woman, depending on the level of competition.
“A lot of women are afraid of bulking. When I started lifting heavy weights, benching, learning to implement Strongman and putting weight on the bar and log, the fat melted off of me. I’ve lost like eight pants sizes, but I weigh about the same,” said Burgess, who will cut to around 180 lb. when necessary for competitions.
“I’ve lost so much weight, but the scale hasn’t really moved. I’ve lost size in my hips, clothes fit differently. That’s why I’m so passionate about [not getting caught up with] the scale. You can weigh 200 pounds and look great. Or you can weight 150 pounds and look great.”
And Burgess has no problem proving it.
A few months ago, after overhearing a guy say he “had a weight class” when referring to women he dates, Burgess took to her Facebook page to post a bikini picture with enviable abs.
“Hey bro here’s your 200 lb. weight class!,” Burgess posted.
“WOMEN DONT FOLLOW A SCALE. #Fyourweightclass.”
And she will get another opportunity to make a statement, this time in competition, as part of the first-ever Arnold Pro Strongwoman contest in March.
The historic event, which will finally put the women on the same stage as the men —who get to travel and are paid thousands of dollars — is a significant step forward in an emerging Strongman sport. And Burgess hopes it’s only the beginning in forging a new wave of female Strongman competition.
“I think a lot of people think Strongwoman [competitors] are all fat or bulky” Burgess said. “And there are some heavyweight Strongwoman [athletes] who are big and not exactly the fittest. But there’s [weight] classes.
The biggest thing is for people to not be scared. Go over there and pick it up. I have two girls in a training class, I told them ‘This weighs 135 pounds, let me show you how to do it. They tried and they had that sense of accomplishment. And you know what? They weren’t scared anymore.”