Inner strength powered Erin Murray to a world title in the Strongman Games
Wenatchee native Erin Murray was recently crowned the World’s Strongest Woman in her weight class, but what she accomplished was as much the result of developing inner strength and resilience as building physical strength.
She transformed herself from a college student struggling with a serious eating disorder into a world-class athlete who coaches others to overcome challenges.
Erin Murray today is the same kind, gentle, caring soul I remember her being as a young woman. But when she’s competing, she is a relentless warrior.
Murray, 28 and a 2011 graduate of Wenatchee High School, is also an entrepreneur who trains both professional competitors and ordinary women, some of whom struggle with similar body image issues that helped trigger Murray’s own eating disorder. “I kind of joke that I’m 20 percent coach and 80 percent therapist,” Murray told me.
When clients come to her with negative reasons to get in shape — to try to look better or lose weight — Murray challenges them to set positive reasons for training. That’s how lasting changes are made, Murray said.
Murray’s healing journey is instructive. Her mental health situation was so serious that she ended up in recovery, a component of which included martial arts training. That led to a healing shift from viewing her body in terms of how it looked to a far healthier mindset of viewing it in terms of what the body could do — a profound difference.
Martial arts training led her to strength training and then powerlifting. By coincidence, she entered a local competition at Central Washington University to support friends who were raising money to compete nationally, and she was quickly hooked. What makes the Strongman competition unique is that the events change with every competition rather than having standard events like, say, bench press. “You have to be well-rounded,” Murray told me.
As a Strongman competition professional, her single-minded focus has driven her to want to be the best. “I’m like a dog with a bone,” Murray said.
Normally, she competes in the 82-kilogram and under weight class, but this year a lighter weight division was developed — 73 kilos and under. Working with her strength and nutrition coaches, she methodically trimmed her weight over the past year, which required great discipline.
During the third day of competition at Dayton Beach on Nov. 14, the championship came down to who would win the final event — lifting a series of stones from the floor to a platform. Murray focused on doing her best and ignored what the other person was doing. When the horn sounded, she was one stone ahead and the world champion.
To achieve that goal, she did everything possible to put her in a position to succeed, including nightly drills that were tedious and boring but which ultimately helped fuel her success.
When she became champion, it was six years to the day that she entered her first Strongman competition, she recalled.
Murray’s ultimate goal is to become the first person in Strongman history to win world titles in two weight divisions. So with her coaches, she’ll soon begin training for next year’s world title competition in the 82-kilo class, which is her normal division. She’s looking forward to being able to eat bigger meals this time around, she said with a laugh.
We can learn so much about how to live more meaningful lives if we pay attention to the lessons Murray has learned and applied. We can set positive goals, view our bodies from the perspective of what we want them to do rather than how they might look to someone else, and stay relentlessly focused on making a difference not just for ourselves but for those around us.
Murray hopes that her example of overcoming a severe eating disorder inspires others who are facing addiction challenges to get their bodies moving and find their own goals to achieve in life.
Erin Murray has set a wonderful example of resilience, determination and helping others. It’s an example we can all learn from.