Angie Cardinal can lift 400 lbs on her back. She pushes a tractor tire around for fun. Whether she’s talking about running a marathon or the training that went into her coming in first in a First Nations Strongman competition, she has an infectious enthusiasm for working out and pushing herself to her limits.
“I invite so many people to come work out with me. I invite them, they come. And I don’t know why – but they never come back,” she says, giving a deep belly laugh.
But it wasn’t always this way. About five years ago, after having children, the 6’1 Ashmont resident was pushing 260 lbs, and a doctor told her she was borderline diabetic, with full-blown diabetes looking like a possibility. This diagnosis, as with her son’s diagnosis of autism, had a big impact on her.
“It really affected how I carry myself. I had to be a stronger person not just for me, but for my kids,” she said. While she had always put her children first, she realized she had to care for herself first, in order to be a better, stronger, healthier person and a mother. “I started walking, I started running – I found a tire, a tractor tire in a ditch. I carried it, I picked it up and took it home, and it’s been with me ever since.”
“I’m so in love with my tractor tire,” she says, adding even in winter, she would go outside and push it around the yard or work on pushing her vehicle.
As a stay-at-home mom, she looked for ways and time to push herself without going to the gym. As she was at Saddle Lake’s rink all the time for kids’ hockey practices, she would run the stairs wearing a 40 lbs. weight vest. Twice a week last summer, she’d wake up to leave her Ashmont house at 3:30 a.m. to make it to the Commonwealth Stadium to join the November Project as they ran the stairs at 6 a.m., or she’ll brave the elements to go for a five mile run.
“I take advantage of things that are around me. I do a lot of crazy things,” she says with a laugh. With all her work, she dropped to 200 lbs, and while she says she’s not skinny, she packed on muscle and strength. “It took a long time, and I’m really proud of myself. Because I look back at my pictures, and I can’t believe I used to be that person.
“I’m in a better place physically.”
While getting stronger and healthier was her motivation for working out, when someone suggested getting involved in a Strongman competition, she was interested.
“I knew I could do something like that, because I’m crazy at home with my own workouts,” she said, adding when she saw the competition online, it clicked with her, seeing other people do the same intense activities she does for fun.
Last year, she took part in her first Strongman competition, but after getting disqualified on a lift, came in second. However, that experience led her to her next Strongman competition, which was held in Brandon this past January as part of Dakota Nation Winterfest 2017.
Getting to the competition – and preparing for it – was a long road, as Cardinal notes she didn’t have other support, or a coach to help show her how to train. On top of that, her training hit a bump last June when her then 10-year-old son got in a quad accident. The accident would break both his legs and put him in the hospital for a month, followed by another month spent in a wheelchair.
“He was so determined to ride his bike; he was so determined to walk; he was so determined to do what he did before his accident,” she said, noting her son is an athlete who loves to play hockey and baseball.
“I carried him through everything,” she said, adding for three weeks, she’d carry his 100 lb. frame through the house, since they didn’t have a ramp for him.
“He helped me achieve the goal that I set out to do. In a way, we did it together, because we both recovered, and we did it together – we pushed each other.”
While her son was able to walk through the doors for the first day of school on his own, and was able, eventually, to get back on the ice for hockey, Cardinal was able to get where she wanted to go to – the Strongman competition, held in Brandon, Manitoba on Jan. 29.
First Nations men and women from all over Canada took part in various categories, flipping tires, doing log presses, with Cardinal the only woman able to complete certain tasks. When all was said and done, she’d lifted a total of 600 lbs of weight throughout the day to push herself to number one, a feat she labeled as “pretty intense.”
But the trophy and the high of winning hadn’t quite set in a week later, she said.
“When I do things like that, I do it to better myself,” she said. “Honestly I didn’t think I was going to go there and win. I just gave it everything I got and went beast mode and got it done. All my training, all my exercise, all my effort that I put in for so many years showed.”
But now that she has shown herself she is capable, she doesn’t want to let her talent, her strength and determination go to waste.
“I would really, really love to find someone to help me, to coach, to show me how to be better. I’m really a committed person once I put my mind to it.”
While she’s setting her sights still farther to become a better athlete and Strongman competitor, Cardinal says she hopes her story serves as an example to others that if she can push herself to this kind of strength and fitness, they can do it too.
“I just want women to see if I can come through what I’ve come through in my life, it’s possible.”