Siren’s Deakin University Intern Felicity Smith catches up with Victoria’s Strongest Woman, Alira Verity. Verity is part of the ABC’s brand new docuseries Strong Women.
Alira Verity is Victoria’s Strongest Woman—twice over. The reigning champion won first in 2018, and then again in 2019. She has competed in CrossFit competitions and is an International Australian Strong Woman Athlete.
It’s the beginning of the traditional workday and I’ve just reached the ‘awake enough to talk to people stage’ of my morning (the routine goes: get up, get coffee, scramble to makeshift lockdown-desk). Verity and I have an interview scheduled for 9 am and I’m excited because last night, I stayed up watching the new ABC iView Strong Women docuseries. The series follows women as they compete and empower each other to get stronger—both mentally and physically. Verity is one of these fantastic four women.
Her morning significantly differs from mine. She’s already taught a fitness class and assures me that today she actually got a bit of a sleep in, as opposed to other days where she gets up at 4am to either teach or train. Verity admits this wasn’t always the case though. She says she dropped sports after high school ended—an unfortunate and common occurrence for many women and girls in their late teens.
“I think there’s no guidance after school. It’s kind of like, you get told to do this. And then [schools] run events… because you’ve gone from having a group of people that you know, and that you compete with, or train with, to literally like, that’s it. It’s just nothing. And I feel like, yeah, if you don’t have that, you kind of don’t know where to go.”
Verity’s absence from sport and exercise, in general, took its toll on her, and she decided to do something about it.
“I had back problems because I had no muscle. I just genuinely hated it. I was just really sick and tired of feeling like that. I was like, alright, no one else is going to make any decisions for me. I need to make them myself. That’s when I started going to boot camps.”
The mentality behind heavy lifting
Verity has honed her sense of self over the years. As an athlete, she has a strong mental drive (again, note the regular 4am starts and her tendency to throw around massive weights like it’s no sweat). She credits this to her nature and a series of realisations along the way.
“It’s definitely something that I feel like I’ve had inside me my whole life—in the sense that I’ve always felt like I’ve needed more… I haven’t had the best life.
“As you would have seen in the Strong Women videos, I said a partner at the time would come over and I really didn’t want them to ever leave. I was just so desperate for that connection, and for someone to be there. When he left, I was just like, I have to do this for myself. And instantly in that moment, I made a promise to myself that I would never ever have to rely on someone that much ever again.”
She passes this strength onto others in her work, as a fitness professional, Verity highlights the importance of good self-perception when she trains her clients. As she’s had her own body image battles.
“I remember when I was younger, and I wanted to be able to see the ribs on the top of my chest, like near my collarbone. Like that was my goal. What on earth was I thinking?
“I coach over 300 people and you know—the women, they’ve got their muscles coming out when they’re working out. They love it.”
Making the transition from CrossFit to Strong Women
Balancing inner strength with a competitive edge, Verity continues to challenge herself.
“I love CrossFit—I still randomly do it here and there. But, it kind of got to the point where I could do all the movements, I just had to refine them to be better at them. But when I went to [compete in] Strong Woman, it was just so different! I was lifting such different things that it kind of sparked that competitive side in me—something new, something that I could kind of work on that I really wanted to master.”
Verity says that competing in strength competitions has altered multiple aspects. Altering her mentality as well as her athletic ability.
“It completely changed me as a person. I say this all the time. But it’s like, you look at a workout and you’re like, I can’t do that, and then you do it! It’s like, holy moly, I can’t believe I actually did that! And that correlates into life.”
All thanks to the community
A supportive community is something that’s constantly highlighted in the Strong Women docuseries. There are continued examples of the women working together even during competition time.
“Just overall [it’s a] sound, legit, excellent community, honestly. Obviously, you have people that disagree with one another. And, you know, that comes with sport and getting a group of people together, you know, how humans can be. You find your little tribe and you stick with them.”
Although she’s a strong campaigner for finding strength from within, Verity’s advice for others wanting to get into the scene, or even just back into an exercise routine, is to find a community to help motivate them.
“So the biggest thing I say is to just give it a go, and find a gym. if you don’t feel like you connect with those people go to a different gym. There are so many gyms, the first one that you go to might not be the best one.”
And if that fails?
“There is going to be someone trying to pull you down. So, you just have to ignore it. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. You know, people go through trauma in their lives that we can’t understand. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned, in my time of coaching and competing, are some people don’t even realise what they’re doing. They don’t realise that the way that they feel about themselves or the way that they think, they’re deflecting it onto you.
“Because there are going to be people everywhere that doubt you— you just can’t doubt yourself.”