By Shanel Scholz/UW News Lab
It was a running joke on her college swim team that Kristyn Whisman would someday become the world’s strongest woman.
Well, now the joke is a reality, because she took the title. Three times.
Whisman had always been in an athlete, specifically a swimmer, but as a college freshman she saw a Strongman competition on ESPN for the first time.
“Just seeing it on TV, I just thought it was so amazing and I really wanted to do it myself. I made a commitment to myself that I would find a way to participate,” said Whisman, who is the Dean of Corrections Education for Edmonds Community College.
Whisman began volunteering at 19 in the GED program at the state penitentiary in Walla Walla; she majored in sociology with a minor in psychology at Whitman College, according to Brian Soergel, a communications consultant for Edmonds Community College.
She became a GED instructor after graduation, doing that work while she earned a master’s in education at the University of Washington, Bothell.
In 2011, she began teaching in the GED program at the Monroe program, and became acting dean that year. She was named permanent dean one year ago.
In October, the 29-year-old will compete in a national championship in Denison, Texas, after qualifying in two Washington Strongman competitions this year: Washington Strongest Apple and Kings of Krush. She competed 10 weeks after giving birth to her son.
Whisman began laying the groundwork for success some years ago. After college, she found a trainer who focused on strength athletes and she pushed herself to compete. She won her first competition in May 2006.
Since that event she’s competed every year except 2009, because of a torn ACL, and 2012, because of a pregnancy.
That’s a total of 25 contests since 2006.
Each event is varied and features different contests and implements, and the athletes know ahead of time so they can train accordingly, Whisman explains.
Whisman’s favorite event is the yoke, which is an apparatus you carry on your back with the intent to run or walk (depending on the weight) a certain distance at the fastest time.
To prepare for these specific events, she does one day of Strongman training on the weekend at Imperial CrossFit in Kent.
“[They] have all of our strongman implements and so I actually train for the events that are going to be in the contest that’s coming up,” Whisman said.
If she had all the time in the world she would train a little differently: one day in the gym for squats and dead lifts, one day for pressing, one day for knee and back work and then a Strongman day.
But with a full-time job and a new baby, she instead spends one day on upper body training, one on lower body and another day training specifically for Strongman.
Whisman enjoys training and competing for different reasons, but her favorite part of the whole experience is the camaraderie and the friendships she’s developed with other athletes. She often meets athletes through training and competes against them at the events.
Clearly an athlete, Whisman is also a self-proclaimed nerd. With a bachelor’s and master’s degree already under her belt, Whisman still plans on going back to school some day.
“I actually had intended on going back to school right before I had my son, but then I soon realized that I was crazy to think I could go back to school, have a newborn and do all the things I wanted to do,” she said.
She hasn’t ruled out school quite yet. Maybe after a few more Strongman titles.
(Shanel Scholz is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.)