Her alarm goes off at 4 a.m. It’s time to start fuelling her body with the 5,000 calories required for the grueling day ahead. For the last week, Angela Houle, 40, has had butterflies thinking about competing in the 2022 Strongman Corporation Canada Nationals in Thunder Bay, Ont. Equipped with her moccasins and a red handprint across her face to represent Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, she ignores the nerves and heads out.
On the way, Houle reflects on how far she’s come in five years. She thinks about her husband, four children ages eight through 16 and all her supporters from the Whitefish Lake Band #128, for whom she is about to lift.
Houle turned to fitness—first flipping tires outside—to escape her thoughts. “I suffered from postpartum depression and a lot of trauma from my residential school,” says Houle. “I picked up a weight and that saved my life.” She now trains five days a week, starting months before a competition.
As her lifts got heavier, her mental state became lighter. “I lift some of the heaviest weights I never thought I could lift in my life,” says Houle. And she truly means heavy—Houle lifts a 600-pound yoke, deadlifts 400 pounds and holds a national record for the axel press. “When we go into these types of competitions, mentally we have to prepare for a lot of these lifts because it could easily snap your back,” she says.
On Oct. 22, 2022, Houle was handed her pro card. With six sponsors already and invitations to some of the most prestigious competitions in the country and around the globe, Houle’s platform continues to grow—and she has big plans for it.
An advocate for mental health and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Houle hopes her title of Canada’s first Indigenous strongwoman to earn a pro card will only continue to amplify her message. “It just hits so close to home because our numbers are so high. In almost every family we know there’s two or three women that have never been found,” Houle says. “I do it for them because they never made it home.”
Houle is currently training to compete at the 2023 Arnold Classic in March, and you can bet she’ll be in red face paint and her moccasins, ready to lift the voices of those forgotten.
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Photography by Joel Kingston
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