Local woman Bangma hoping to get to next level with great showing at ‘The Arnold’ this weekend

Christina Bangma, an amateur strongman from Huntington, heaves a keg of steel into the air during a recent training session at Champs Academy. Bangma will be participating in the Arnold Amateur Strongwoman World Championships at the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, OH, which runs from today, Thursday, March 2, through Sunday, March 5.
Christina Bangma, an amateur strongman from Huntington, heaves a keg of steel into the air during a recent training session at Champs Academy. Bangma will be participating in the Arnold Amateur Strongwoman World Championships at the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, OH, which runs from today, Thursday, March 2, through Sunday, March 5. Photo by Steve Clark.

Keeping Christina Bangma off the Internet might be harder than keeping her out of the gym.

As the amateur strongman prepares for the biggest competition of her career, the Arnold Amateur Strongwoman World Championships, she can’t help but hop online to keep tabs on her opponents heading into the event.

“I stalk them,” she says jokingly.

Checking competitors’ social media accounts to glean details about their training progress has become one of her routines, not unlike exercising at Champs Academy, in Huntington, or sticking to a strict diet to cut weight.

Ironically, it’s revealed as much about her as it has her opposition.

“It’s funny, because I think there’s two types of competitors,” Bangma observes. “There’s people who don’t want to know and people who overanalyze it.
“And I’m definitely the second one.”

With the Arnold Sports Festival, – the fitness event that hosts the competition – starting today, Thursday, March 2, in Columbus, OH, Bangma will finally have the chance to size up her opponents in person.

For Bangma, who’s been competing in strongman events for only a few years, it’s her first trip to the Arnold Amateur Strongwoman World Championships – or “The Arnold,” for short. In order to qualify for this event, which is named after bodybuilding icon Arnold Schwarzenegger and draws competitors from around the world, she had to either win or place highly at a national competition. Last October, she did just that, topping the lightweight division at the United States Strongman Pro Women’s Worlds in Louisville, KY.

While Bangma was ecstatic to have won the event, she was also exhausted from all the training that went into it. That fatigue informed her decision to not immediately jump into preparing for The Arnold.

“The mental and physical preparation required for me to get down to 132 (pounds) for pro worlds was lengthy and it was definitely mentally trying,” she admits. “So, after that was over, I was like, ‘I want to eat all the food and I just want to do whatever I want to do.’

“So, there was probably, like, a two, three-month period of time where I didn’t have anything specific going on. And I put on a good bunch of weight. Then I started my training specifically for The Arnold mid-January.”

That training has included the strict diet she’s employed to get back to her competition weight of 132. Adhering to those nutritional parameters, she says, can be as hard as lifting any weights.

“My boyfriend hates it when I can’t cheat, because he’s all like, ‘I want pizza.’ And I’m like, ‘I’m sorry! I can’t eat it with you,’” she shares. “Sometimes, I think that I make other people feel bad by the decisions that I make and, in turn, I feel bad because they have to suffer along with me.”

“He likes it when I eat cake and ice cream and pizza and all that stuff,” says Bangma of her boyfriend, Aaron Snider. “And so do I.”

In the gym portion of her training, a point of emphasis for Bangma has been getting acquainted with the implements she’ll be handling at the competition.

“Basically, it’s things that I’m not used to dealing with,” she says. “So, going into it, actually the focus has actually been more along the lines of getting familiar with some of the equipment.”

The competition kicks off on Friday, March 3, with the keg carry and press and yoke carry. After a break, participants will then have to execute the 13-inch axle deadlift and axle press. Those competitors who place highly enough will advance to the event’s second day, set for Sunday, March 5. That day of the competition will see participants tasked with completing the five-stone run, as well as a mystery event. Awards will be handed out afterwards.

At stake for the winner is a pro card. For Bangma and her fellow competitors, it’s a ticket out of amateur strongman events and to a whole new level of competition.
“So, technically, if I were to win The Arnold, I would become a pro and then my new avenue would be a pro strongwoman and competing with those people,” she explains. “Completely different realm. More along the lines of having two or three competitions a year as opposed to a bunch to choose from. And then it becomes paid, cash prizes.”

What’s particularly exciting to Bangma about the prospect of turning pro is that the Arnold Sports Festival has just begun offering a pro strongwoman competition, which she would have a shot to participate in next year.

“The Arnold pro strongman competition is probably, besides World’s Strongest Man, is the biggest competition in the world,” she says. “So, now we’re going to have a strongwoman version run alongside the men and that’s the first year that that’s ever happened.”

While Bangma feels confident going into the competition, she admits there are times where she can feel herself getting nervous. Her solution to managing that anxiety is simple: just tell a joke.

“A lot of these competitors are really serious. Very, very serious about their success at this event,” she observes. “I want to do well, but to be completely serious all the time is way more nerve-wracking than joking around.

“I’d rather be serious about it, but be able to joke around with somebody.”