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“We wanted to be real,” Mandy said. As a larger figured person with “big bones and muscles” Mandy and Awhina wanted to create a lifestyle transformation that was “achievable…for the real person.”
The thing I most remember about my former teaching colleague, Mandy Francisty, was her increasingly shrinking body when she was training for the International Natural Bodybuilding Association competition in 2010. She wrote a number on her hand to remind her how many days until she competed and I remember admiring her determination and commitment to her sport and very strict diet. At the time, we were working at the same school and I have to admit, I was a little jealous of her beautiful physique and motivation to succeed.
Mandy went on to win the Tasmanian title, came third in Australia and last year competed in the world titles in her family’s home country of Slovakia and has recently started a personal training business with her friend Awhina Matthews-Egnot. Heavy Lifting Hippies is a response to a culture where stick-thin models are the ideal. “We wanted to be real,” Mandy said. As a larger figured person with “big bones and muscles” Mandy and Awhina wanted to create a lifestyle transformation that was “achievable…for the real person.”
Both Mandy, 28 and Awhina, 25 shared a love of lifting weights and the same outlook on training and good nutrition and Mandy said that they thought they were finding happiness, but they weren’t, they needed balance but they were also aware that there was a better way. They started an Instagram page @HeavyLiftingHippies to share their sport and passions and were pleasantly surprised by the response. They set up the website and had a photoshoot and soon they were getting clients.
Their services are online and can be accessed anywhere there is Internet connection and they provide weekly contact with their clients as well as a detailed nutritional assessment. Mandy now works as the head Personal Trainer at Fitness Renegades in Perth, Western Australia and Awhina lives in New Zealand. “It’s based on a balanced lifestyle but still achieve a physique with flexible dieting…it’s really a lifestyle transformation…We teach our clients to work with the body,” she said. “It’s about having a happy and healthy body,” Mandy said.
As well as a love of surfing, skating and weights, Mandy and Awhina also grew up without a positive self-esteem and found that lifting weights was empowering and they want to share that passion with their clients. “Being a PT, you can see the results in our clients with an increase in their self-esteem,” and they encourage clients to accept their bodies as they are. “It’s more important to be fit and healthy…it’s very rewarding…inspiring other people,” she said.
It’s funny but both Mandy and I have moved away from teaching for similar reasons to do with the bureaucratic nonsense that exists in education, but mostly because it wasn’t where our passion lay. “I went overseas and realised that life’s too short, the world is massive and there are so many opportunities,” she said. Mandy is full of ideas and has another business in the pipeline, FitBooty, a line of female underwear for training. “I used to be stressed, but now I just relax and roll with it,” she said.
I find Mandy to be an inspiration and unfortunately I didn’t get to meet Awhina but I’m sure that their project will be amazing and continue to grow. I am inspired by young people challenging traditional beliefs about health and fitness and more importantly accepting their bodies as they are, inspiring others but also putting in a lot of love, time and macronutrients.
I avoided weight training for years because I thought that I would bulk up, but I feel fitter, stronger and more flexible than I’ve ever been in my life and Mandy and Awhina are right, you do need to work with the body you have and feed it quality food so it works the best that it can.
Six months ago I was in a job I hated. I went to the doctor who diagnosed me with depression. I then took a leap of faith and quit my job. I have been so much happier (and healthier) since. As always I am inspired by another two amazing women who are following their bliss and their passion and serving the world in a way that they can be authentically who they are and in that way, they are changing the world.
©Alyssa Curtayne 2015
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