The Strength to make a Difference – Liesl Schoonraad – South African Strongwoman

Strongwoman Liesl Schoonrad pulling a plane
Liesl pulling a Dakota Airplane

A TV Show on Cerebral Palsy changed the life of South African Strongwoman Liesl Schoonraad.

It inspired her to act, and that’s exactly what this effervescent lady did, setting herself AMAZING fitness and strength challenges, whilst raising money for the cause.

Here is her story..

Strongwoman Liesl Schoonrad pulling a plane
Liesl pulling a Dakota Airplane

Phil Burgess: Lets recap, how did it all start?

Liesl Schoonraad: At age 39 I became fed-up of not doing any physical activities and felt extremely guilty after watching a documentary on Cerebral Palsy one evening.

I joined the gym the next day and decided to do the Robben Island swim in Cape Town. While training with weights in preparation I was told by a few guys I am extremely strong. I never realized.

Phil Burgess: Wow the Robben Island swim how far is that? and isn’t that where Nelson Mandela was?

Liesl Schoonraad: Yes, it is where Madiba (Nelson Mandela) spent so many years.
I swam 9 km. The distance straight across is 7.5 km but I swam in a “V shape” to catch currents.
Swimming to Robben Island 9km

Phil Burgess: So when did you start training for strength and doing events?

Liesl Schoonraad: When I was told by most guys in gym I am strong I started believing it and asked around about competitions. The sport is so young in SA that there was no such thing. I did not want to stop at that and thought if I do some event maybe more woman will start coming forward.

I did my first event (by myself) by pulling a 10 ton truck over 32 meters and becoming the first woman in SA to do so.

I chose to do the event to also raise awareness around Cerebral Palsy as that was what got me off the couch.

Phil Burgess: Have more women come forward to compete in South Africa now?

Liesl Schoonraad: There has been a few who came forward. Many are wives or girlfriends of strongmen and competitions are held in other provinces for women now.
On Sept 1 and 2 this year we will have the first ever SA Strongest Woman competition on the same day as the men’s competitions.

Phil Burgess: So where do you go to for coaching advice for the different events, and do you know which events will be in the competition?

Liesl Schoonraad:  I am pretty much on my own here in Cape Town and most of my training advice I have had from watching WSM and their videos on training on the internet. I am a “watch and learn” kinda girl.

The South African Strongman Union has been a huge support to me. The strongmen who are members there are incredible people and always a phone call away from giving me advice. They have made the journey much easier for me.

Phil Burgess: So what are your best lifts in the gym?

Liesl Schoonraad:  Oh my lifts are just sad! 🙂
I did my very first deadlift in April this year.
I know…you are supposed to pull a plane after you have done some deadlifting 🙂
I did 130 kg on my very first lift and it is improving, let me put it that way
My legs and back are extremely strong and I just love the leg press.  My record leg press is 640 kg.  I train with between 300 – 450 kg when I train and that’s about 6 -8 reps
When I started training in April last year I did one arm rows with a 15 kg dumbbell and thought I was the bees knees lol,  I now train with a 65 kg dumbbell on one arm rows on strength days.

Phil Burgess: OK so which of your challenges are you the most proudest of?

Liesl Schoonraad: I think the Dakota Pull was the highlight. Knowing all that mass of steel is following you because of you is just such an empowering feeling.


Girl Power - Liesl Schoonraad warming up
Warming up for Plane Pulling

Phil Burgess: What is your next challenge and your overall goals in the sport?

Liesl Schoonraad: I am training my butt off (and it aint getting any smaller) for the SA Strongest Woman competition now which is in Sept 2012

I am hoping to introduce the sport to many more people in SA and also work closely with charities with strongman events.

Life is tough and there is no other sport that shows how strong you need to be to keep moving forward like the sport of strongman. I love this sport and see only a bright future for it in this country.

We wish Liesl the best of luck in South Africa’s Strongest Woman competition in 2012.