'So, what does your husband do for a living?' It's a question sometimes asked when making polite chit chat in a social or professional setting, often out of politeness and sometimes out of genuine intrigue. While the answer is simple enough, 'Er, he's a professional Strongman.' the resulting response varies greatly.
Those unfamiliar with the sport are often confused, with one person assuming my husband was part of a circus act. People that know a little about the sport will generally respond with something along the lines of, 'Like Geoff Capes?' While people that know and follow the sport become quite excited.
In my six years with Laurence Shahlaei I've been asked pretty much everything about him that you can imagine - From 'Aren't you afraid he'll hurt you?' to 'How big is his manhood?'
One of the most common questions asked is a variation of, 'What's it like living with a Strongman?' So here I am, ready to dish the dirt, dispel the myths and further avoid questions about the size of my husbands cock.
The Daily Grind
Having a Strongman in a new build home is always a little nerve wracking. One small slip and it could mean, 'Goodbye supporting wall.' It's probably thanks to their size that Strongmen tend to be clumsier than your average Joe. If you are in any way precious about material things and like your belongings to stay unbroken, then life with a Strongman may not be for you. I've learned to accept that we'll get through several toilet brushes a year, and that beds and sofas could really do with being changed annually. Anyway, I digress.
Athletes live and breathe their sport. It's not just a case of putting in the hours at the gym and then turning up on comp day - it's all consuming. Loz's average day generally consists of him spending a few hours in the gym, a few hours eating, a few hours working on some form of recovery (that may translate to a mid-day nap), keeping up to date with his online training clients and spending time with us, his wife and children.
Having a big guy like Loz in the house does creates extra work. There's more cooking, which inevitably means more cleaning and washing up. His throne room (upstairs loo) is visited frequently and requires proper maintenance. He showers a lot, so a large rotation of towels is essential. He also changes clothes a couple of times a day, and there's only so many XXXL T-shirts a girl can ram into the washing machine in one go.
Our days are full and busy, with us juggling my full time job, the children, his business, training, food prep and our needy rescue cat, Narla.
In our six years together, I've lost count of the amount of times Loz has been injured. It doesn't matter how or where it happens, if it's right in front of me on competition day or a text sent from the gym saying, 'Something pinged in my leg during squats.' My stomach drops every time.
While the physical set back of an injury is a huge inconvenience, it's not what concerns me. It's the mental and emotional toll it takes on him. While Loz will 9 times out of 10 be very positive about it on camera, away from the cameras is a different story. Injuries make him doubt his ability to compete. They make him feel weak and useless.
When you watch the person you love put in the planning, put in the training and then essentially have it all taken away, your heart breaks for them. You wish you could make it better or do it for them.
Below is a video of him tearing his lat during a deadlift world record attempt.
And this photo was taken a few days after tearing his tricep at World's the following year.
Loz's injuries have actually put quite the strain on our relationship over the years. He can fall into quite a depressive state. My job as I see it is to allow him the time to mourn the competition, support and reassure, and then give him the little push when he needs it. I know the other wives and girlfriends will agree with me when I say that Strongmen are an emotional bunch. I always figured it's because you don't have to act tough when you genuinely are tough.
You would think that comp days would be one of the best things about being a Strongman's wife. After all, I get to hang out with all the athletes at the hotel and in the athlete's room at the comp venue, I can move around freely in the family and friends area, and get as close as I like to the action, providing I'm not actually up there getting in the way.
But truth be told, I do not enjoy competition days. I get incredibly nervous for Loz, to the point where I struggle to eat anything after breakfast and spend the day feeling like I'm on the verge of an anxiety attack. I try to keep myself and my mind occupied by concentrating on looking after Loz and looking nice. The last thing I need to be worrying about is people in the audience saying, 'Shittin' hell, have you seen the state of Shahlaei's wife?'
I genuinely do not care where Loz places in a competition. All I want is for him to come away uninjured and happy with his performance. Loz always goes into competitions with personal goals for each event, and like he says, he can't control what the other athletes do. That said, there's no greater feeling than seeing him win.
While Loz has won a fair few competitions in our 6 years together, I'll never forget that feeling at Europe's 2016 when Loz was leading the competition going into the stones. I was trying to telepathically send him every ounce of strength I had to help him get them stones up. It was exhausting! They didn't announce the winner immediately, as while Loz had performed well on the stones, it was close at the top of the leaderboard and the scores needed calculating.
It was the longest 10 minutes stood on the sidelines, Loz's mum behind me clutching my waist, both of us wanting it so badly for him. Sensing my distress, long time friend and Powerlifting legend Dave 'Bulldog' Beattie approached, leaned in very close to my ear and whispered, 'Don't react, but he's won it' before sauntering away. Ever the pro, I kept my poker face strong, but inside I was screaming.
The Other Stuff
Having a spouse perform at a high level in any sport naturally means that they attract a fair amount of attention. While it's great to read all the lovely comments on social media praising your husband for their hard work and talent, there will always be the occasional negative person and the odd troll too.
Then there's the sexy private messages! Occasionally from women but more often from men, and sometimes men pretending to be women. That kind of stuff really doesn't bother me. Some of my friends have said they'd go mental if another woman tried chatting up their man - but what would be the point? Imagine if Victoria Beckham lost her shit every time David received a PM. She probably would have ended up on the psych ward long ago.
Loz also attracts quite a lot of attention when we're out and about. A lot of that is thanks to his size, as while he can look fairly 'average' on TV when stood next to the likes of Brian and Thor, he really is a big guy. Below is a fun pic of parents and their children forming an orderly queue for a photo with Loz when we took our children to soft play. In these situations I tend to hang back and giggle at him whilst thanking god that I remembered to brush my hair and put on clean clothes before we left the house.
Speaking of clothes, clothes shopping with a Strongman is particularly nightmarish. Most high street stores are a complete no go, and even when you find sizes large enough, the proportions tend to be all wrong. Loz's size even dictated how and where we got married. He was adamant that he'd die if he had to spend all day in a suit, so we booked a beach wedding abroad so he could wear something more comfortable. Even his wedding ring had to be custom made to fit his Frankfurter finger.
So to summarise, being a Strongman's wife comes with plenty of perks. The opportunity to travel the world for competitions, an unrivalled sense of safety/security, plus the neighbours don't tend to complain if you park your car a bit haphazardly. It also comes with lots of work and lots of worry.
Would I rather Loz had a normal job? No. I think so few of us are brave enough to truly and fully follow our dreams, instead taking a safer path or an easier option. While he still enjoys doing Strongman, I'll always support him.
Would I change anything about my life? Not in a million years.