Iceland’s Strongwoman Þóra Þorsteinsdóttir – A Strong Heart in a Strong Body.

Icelandic Strongwoman Thora
Thora giving it everything!

Þóra Þorsteinsdóttir is one of Iceland’s Strongest Women, but she is so much more than that.

If you have never wanted to visit Iceland before, I think your mind may be changed by the time you finish reading this interview.


Icelandic Strongwoman Thora
Thora giving it everything!

Phil Burgess: How did you get into Strongwoman competitions?

Þóra Þorsteinsdóttir: In the summer of 2010 I got to know a now good friend of mine, powerlifter and superstrong woman, Rósa Birgisdóttir.

We decided to go to the gym together, where we realised that we were probably a bit stronger than the average woman.

Neither one of us had any experience in sports or training. Rosa then called Gemma Magnuson, awesome strongwoman, and we went to meet her for a training session.

After that training session we decided to sign up for 2010 Iceland’s Strongest Woman, just for fun and to have some kind of a real goal.

We had no idea what that decision started.

I “accidently” won Iceland strongest woman that year after only a few weeks of weights lifting, and Rósa came 4th. After that there was no turning back.

Phil Burgess: What is your proudest strongman contest result so far? And why?

Þóra Þorsteinsdóttir: I have very little experience so far, I have only competed in four strongwoman competitions.

Scotland’s Most Powerful Woman was held on the 14th of April this year, where I came second.

That competition was a last woman standing in every event, and I came to realise there, just two weeks ago, that I hold way more power inside of me than I ever knew.

I think that this comp marks a new beginning for me in this sport, because I am getting to know myself better as a real strongwoman. I also do the Highland games, and I must say that I was very proud last year when I won the title 2011 Icelandic champion in Highland games.

Phil Burgess: How do you juggle work, training and looking after your 3 children?

Þóra Þorsteinsdóttir: Actually I have 4 kids :), and I have found a fantastic way to take care of everything.

First of all I weight lift at home. My husband changed our TV room into a weight lifting room for me, where I can lift farily heavy weights. How sweet of him.

He also made me a hammer and weights so that I can train the highland throwing by the ocean, a very peaceful and powerful place, five minutes away from the house.

But the most awesome thing is that we all train judo. Our kids are 6-15 year old, two boys and two girls, and we all train together. The judo days where the younger kids train too are sometimes very long days, but we enjoy it. There is no feeling like sharing the training with your kids. Judo is a great way to increase strength and endurance so I really benefit from it to my strongwoman training.

Phil Burgess: What is the next strongwoman event you will be competing in? and how do you think you will go?

Þóra Þorsteinsdóttir:  I think that the next strongwoman competition is the Callander games in Scotland. I was there last year throwing, then they were only the highland games, but this year it’s a combination of highland games and strongwoman. I will of course do well, but I know there will be many incredible strongwomen there and I look forward to it.

I’m also competing in the Highland games in Germany in May, in Iceland in June and then in Glasgow in August. A great summer for me.

Phil Burgess: What are your strongest events, and what are those which you find more difficult?

Þóra Þorsteinsdóttir: I really don’t know yet where my real strength lies, but I really find deadlifting very stressful, because of my horrible technique… haha!!

My weakness has been until now I think in the core, but with the judo training I have gained a lot of abdominal muscle and mobile strength, and now being able to work hard with the weights.

Thora hand over hand pull

Phil Burgess: Who is the person you look up to the most in the world of Strongman/Strongwoman?

Þóra Þorsteinsdóttir: My very good friend Gemma Magnusson has had very big influence on me. I always go to her for advice, and she has taught me alot.

Her very inspirational positive attitude and awesomeness has touched me, and I wish to be the same inspiration for other women.

Phil Burgess: What is the best thing about living in Iceland? And not so good?

Þóra Þorsteinsdóttir: Everything is the best in Iceland!

We have clean and great nature all around. Within one hours drive from my house, or any house in Iceland really, I can go deep into a cave, dip my toes in the ice cold sea, plunge into cold water for diving, climb a mountain, hunt for birds, drive a jeep onto a glacier, see waterfalls and hot water springs and do just about anything I want. I just love it.

The only down side of Iceland is how expensive it is to live here, but it’s probably a small price to pay.

There are only about 300.000 people that live in Iceland and I live in a very small town on the south coast, with only about 500 people, where there is a school for the kids and a swimming pool with hot tubs and everything within walking distance. I just love it!

Phil Burgess: Jon Pall Sigmarsson once said that there are many legends about Strongmen in Iceland, what about Strongwomen?

Þóra Þorsteinsdóttir: Yes, we know the old sagas well, both icelandic tales and norse mythology.

The old Icelandic tales are full of extraordinary men who could fight and slay like no one else. But the tales of strong icelandic women are very few, and they always tell of women with extraordinary mental strengths, and they were often considered badly tempered and pushy.

Women in Iceland have always had to be strong minded, because this is a very hard and cold country. There are many stories of women who did men’s work despite the traditions.

One of my great grandmothers was a midwife in her county. She rode on horses long distances in all kinds of weather to help women in labour, and she did all kinds of doctors work, helping injured people and animals. She was for example considered to be very harsh and stubborn.

No wonder, she needed it to carry on her work. She also had a farm with her husband and 6 children…..

Another one of my great grandmothers was known in her county for running after a British soldier with a shovel, threatening to kill him. She had been working in her potato garden, when the soldier came along, and started teasing her by pointing his gun at her. He accidentally shot her, and the bullet went right through her thigh. She was also considered to be a hard hearted woman. T

Phil Burgess: What are your goals for 2012, and beyond?

Þóra Þorsteinsdóttir: Highland games make me very happy, so my goal is to get better with my throwing. Also I will continue with my strongwoman training.

I know that I have a whole lot more of strength in my body than I have been showing. I just need a little more time to train.

Icelandic Deadlifting

Phil Burgess: What do you do as a job? And what do you do to relax?

Þóra Þorsteinsdóttir: I am a radiographer at the local hospital. I take x-rays and CT scans.

For relaxing… that’s a good question, I never really thought about that one… I guess just going to bed early and reading a good book. I also feel great relaxation in going to the shore and watching and listening to the oceans deep power.

Phil Burgess: Finally what are your best lifts in the gym, in Bench Press, Log Press, Deadlift and Squat?

Þóra Þorsteinsdóttir: I really and honestly don’t know. I never train like that. But honestly, working full time, raising four fantastic and strong children, training a lot, being happy…. who cares about the numbers. After all training is about having fun and benefitting from it in your body and in your mind.

Iceland sounds like an amazing place, and filled with amazing people.  Thank-you Þóra for telling us about your heritage and your strong woman life.