We’re really excited to post our first update, and to announce our first ambassador, Aflie Poyser!!!
Alfie Poyser was the first athlete we interviewed – he’s an up-and-coming strongman and he also has ADHD!
Alfie is only 19, but recently competed at the UKs Strongest U23, where he placed 5th overall! He also came first in the unofficial U19s category!
Alfie's hard work and the connections he's made through training and competition have afforded him some fantastic opportunities in recent months. Since competing at the UKs Strongest U23, he’s been offered a number of sponsorship deals, and alongside some of his fellow competitors he's used this support to kit out a private training facility! Together, this group of strongmen and women are well on their way to becoming fully fledged pro's! The cherry on top is that we get to hang a Neurodiverse Sport banner in the gym!
Alfie’s next goal is to place top five at England’s Strongest U23, earning himself an opportunity to compete for the title of Britain’s Strongest U23. Yes – the various titles are confusing, but from what I understand, Britain’s Strongest U23 is where it’s at!
What we love about Alfie is that he’s so open to talking about his Neurodiversity. He doesn’t worry about stigma or discrimination, and he doesn’t let it ebb away at his own confidence. I think that speaks to his supportive family and friends and also to the inclusive culture of Strongman as a whole.
Alfie’s attitude makes him the perfect ambassador for Neurodiverse Sport. He’s open and honest about his struggles, but he doesn’t fixate on them. He’s always looking to progress and is prepared to work for it.
So, what does Alfie struggle with?
In general, focus. If he’s not hyper focused, he’s distracted. A 90-minute session can easily take 2-3 hours… not ideal when you have a job!
Around competition, his ADHD and associated attention issues manifest as obsessive thoughts and ‘red mist’. If you’ve never heard of the phrase, it describes an overwhelm of aggressive emotion. When harnessed, it can be very helpful as an athlete, but too much of it and extra effort can very quickly become inefficient and ineffective.
In terms of obsessive thoughts, Alfie might obsess about being ready for competition – about not working too hard at his manual job, or he might become very rigid with planning and hitting targets in the gym – emotionally effected if those targets aren’t met. Not only is this exhausting in the short-term, but it’s incredibly exhausting in the medium- and long-term too, because every thought we have requires energy, and if a person with ADHD for instance is experiencing x number of extra thoughts per second, plus the ever-changing emotions associated, they’re going to feel the impact eventually! By the time competition comes around, they’re likely to feel mentally and physically cooked. I say physically, because our brain, our nervous system, and our body are intricately and infinitely connected. A mental ‘issue’ is a physical issue.
For Alfie, he felt he over-cooked it this time. But he’s learning. He didn’t help himself by visiting the venue the night before, and in the future, he won’t. He’ll also steer away from ‘relaxing’ in the hustle and bustle of the main gym, because for him he needs to calm down before competition, rather than hype up!
Alfie had already identified visualisation as a possible management technique for his nervousness around competition, but I couldn’t resist making my own suggestion when we spoke. I made this suggestion after Alfie described a particular lift that didn’t go to plan: he was nervous, his attention slipped, he saw red, ripped the bar off of the ground, wobbled, and failed the lift because of it. It was a lift he had completed before and was fully capable of completing again – in fact he did when he got home to prove a point to himself! Something that helped me with my nervous inattention as an athlete was ‘grounding’ myself – giving myself one sensory thing to focus on… “how do my feet feel on the footplate? how do my feet feel on the footplate? how do my feet feel on the footplate?” For Alfie it might be that in the moments before a lift he thinks “how do my hands feel on the bar? how do my hands feel on the bar? how do my hands feel on the bar?” It draws scattered thoughts into one place, and if it’s been well rehearsed in training, it might just work!
A humble brag...
Just to humble brag on Alfie’s behalf, he failed to deadlift 300kg at competition, but did lift this weight before and after. In a lifting suit in December, he deadlifted 312kg!
At this most recent competition he also log pressed 120kg (over his head), threw a 22kg bag over 4m high, and lifted a 140kg (round and slippery) stone over 1.4m high!
According to Alfie, a few ‘silly mistakes’ cost him the competition... this time...