Tug of War: Competing at The National Championships

This past weekend teams from around the country competed at the National Tug of War Championships– and my Army Ladies team was one of them! In my last post I explained how I wound up becoming a tug of war athlete. This week I thought I’d explain more what competitive TOW is like.

The Weigh-In

Tug of war teams are made up of eight people, and the weight classes are a total of all athletes. The women’s category includes weight classes between 500- 560kg. TWeighing in for tug of war is very different from any other weigh-in I have experienced. It’s very MMA style, where the weigh-in happens the day before the competition rather than a few hours before. So you can kind of afford to go to more extremes, because you’ll have the opportunity to re-feed once you’ve stepped off the scales.

For some people, getting ready for the weigh-in may mean sweating in a sauna for a while, with a few breaks for oxygen. We did this at the weekend and I really didn’t enjoy it. Even though I wound up looking incredibly shredded:


The quads reveal themselves

Before we hit up the Italian restaurant, I made sure someone actually had evidence of me at 67.5kg. I felt so light. It felt wrong. I usually feel strong and thick or swollen. I did find it quite hilarious I was competing in a lightweight category. Nobody ever saw me as lightweight. Someone would always comment on how much room I take up, or act reluctant to be my partner in a fireman carries exercise. And anybody who knows me knows I won’t share food.

After shredding and weighing in, the only thing to do was re-hydrate and eat. Loved that bit! So satisfying!

Here’s the evidence of calamari, pasta, potato wedges, scraps of somebody else’s food, cheese and chilli bread, pavlova, two bowls of Crunchy Nut cereal and cheese yogurt. My coach was quite shocked I got to the second helpings before him! I’m now known as “Hoover”. I usually sleep flat on my belly, but that was not possible after the re-feed. My body said “Stop eating, you’re hurting me!” My brain was telling me to keep going. I’m sure most have this problem.


Barrel of sexy.

The day and the match

So on the day, you pitch a spot for the team tent, sit on your chair and wonder what the hell is happening as they set up the arena. Another team mate and I decided to go to the van to sleep for a bit to calm the nerves.

They call you up to the arena just like they do in gladiators. With this sport there is a wonderful emphasis on sportsmanship that I love. You walk in together with your opposition. You always cheer them no matter who won or lost, you always shake hands after the pull, and you always leave the arena together.

Once your team is lined up on the course, the refs give the call: “Pick up the rope! Take the strain… steady, pull!” And then the match begins. Each “match” is referred to as an “end”. Each team is trying to move the centre of the rope four metres to their side to win the end. Refs can call out cautions for hands or bums on the ground or steering off course.

Here’s an example of what I will be doing in August as part of the England squad…


I can’t emphasise enough how much teamwork is involved in tug of war. It relies upon communication up and down the rope, feedback and know when to drive back in step together. No one person can decide to pull– it has to be together.

I couldn’t have asked for a better team to train with. There are many in the team with experience and strong leadership abilities so we worked well. We just did what we needed to do to make it work. And we wound up coming second in England to the very experienced Bedford Ladies’ team!

But most of all, the heart must be in it.

Here is Team Essence with our passionate and dedicated coach John Gracie (#doeswhathewants). This endeavour to represent our nation at the World Championships is not over.

Bring it!

For more information on clubs and fixtures, please visit the English Tug of War Association. We will be representing England at the UK National Championships on August 13th in Llandudno Wells, Powys, Wales. Come and watch real sport!


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