Sam Taylor and Sue Taylor-Franklin currently hold the title for the UK’s strongest couple, but their strength lies deeper than their passion for powerlifting. Before meeting and eventually falling in love with each other, Sam and Sue both faced their own individual challenges and moments of hopelessness.
The couple were nothing but warm and welcoming from the moment I got in contact with them and, luckily for me, they agreed to speak with me. It gives me great pleasure to write about their story here on The Inspired Narrative, I hope their story inspires you as much as it inspires me.
Sam shares what was a dark and lonely period of her life, a time that ultimately led her to where she is today, but was a challenging time nonetheless. The gym gradually became a building point for her and a space to get to know herself all over again.
“I went through a bit of a breakdown after leaving an abusive relationship. I fell into that trap of ‘well I’ve left that relationship now and everything will be fine’, and it wasn’t until a few months down the line that I realised I still had a lot to deal with – the aftermath of that relationship and moving on from it. It was a strange time, I wouldn’t say I sat there wanting to kill myself but I knew the inevitability of what I was doing, the potential of what could happen. That was the point where I turned a huge corner.
I had a few months off work, I took a few months to get to know myself again, in an abusive relationship you lose who you are and so those months were about learning how to live on my own and learn how to be me again. I needed something to get me up out of bed and out of the house. I chose a gym that was 24 hours a day, I used to go there at 1am so nobody could see me because I didn’t know what I was doing. And that’s where it started, my whole day was centred around going to the gym. It used to take me hours to get myself out of the house and into the car but that was a part of the process. Sometimes I would get to the door of the gym and I wouldn’t even go in, the anxiety would be too high but I would try and take the positives such as the fact that I had actually managed to get up and out of the house.”
Sue’s journey began on her mission to lose weight, at the time she was also going through a break-up whilst also caring for her son, she elaborates, “He was about four when I decided that the relationship wasn’t for me, I needed to get out of it but it was just getting the guts to do it. I was on this massive weight loss journey and I joined a local gym and, the same as Sam, I’d go at 5 in the morning. I went through lots of different training partners that didn’t have the passion and the need to do it like I did, and I plateaued on my weight loss. But one day me and Sam started talking to each other, I suppose we fell for each other and we started going to the gym together, I would never have walked into the weights area on my own before, it’s intimidating, there’s a lot of muscly men, or people looking you up and down judgementally but you have a right to be there, just like everyone else. We started training together and the rest is history. Even if we have a bad session we can discuss it and look at the pros and cons.”
From then on, Sam and Sue began training together and went on to enter a powerlifting competition. No matter how a training session goes, they will always return from the gym feeling positive due to the endorphins that have been released.
At 52 years old, Sue comments that her age inspires people and has encouraged older women to get involved in powerlifting, although she is looking to give up the weights in the next year, she won’t stop until she has attained her goal of a World Record attempt at a deadlift. She adds, “Next year  may be my last year of competing. You haven’t got to be 19 and in gymshark leggings to do it [powerlifting]. You can be fat and frumpy or whatever. Anybody can do it”
Ambitious and determined, Sam has qualified as a personal trainer and continues to do various other qualifications around sport, personal training and coaching.
Long-term, the pair are on a mission to establish their own strength centre where women can come to get physically active in a space where they are made to feel comfortable and safe. Sam discusses their ambition, “I don’t want to label it a gym because I think the word puts a lot of people off, people don’t like the connotations of a gym. We’d like to open a centre where we can encourage people like ourselves, people who want to go on that journey”.
Sue adds, “I think a strength centre to help people with their strength but also their mental health as well, certain groups of people – obviously you don’t want to eliminate anybody – but there are certain groups of people such as those from Women’s Aid. We want to empower them and show them that they can do something for them. It’s planting the idea of finding yourself again”.
Sadly, Sam and Sue have faced the harsh reality of showing strength and determination on social media, and when an ITV interview went live, the trolls got out their keyboards and moved in on the comments. Naturally, the comments took them by surprise, Sue recalls their thoughts at the time “Once we did the national ITV that interview, we had so many trolls in the comments. That day, for a little while I thought I can’t do this, I can’t have people telling me “you look like a man”, or “which one is the man” and I thought well no, this is my choice. I feel better mentally and physically than I ever have so what right have people got to judge us?”
They both look forward to 2021 with hopes of being the first married couple to head to head in the World’s Strongest Woman competition that was originally scheduled for 2020, Sam jokes, “Sue can’t retire now until she has done that!” Additionally, Sue will be attempting a World Record deadlift in February, an event that was also meant to take place in May Body Power last year, “It’s quite a prestigious competition within the powerlifting world and I’m really nervous but I’m determined to get the world record this year, I am determined to get it. I’ve got British records but I want a worldwide one.”
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