Interview with Daniella Means: What Is a Strong Woman?

What is a strong woman?

Strong is a word a bit like love. It has more than one meaning and application – some physical, some mental and some more existential and intangible.

One rather literal meaning for strong though, is being able to lift really heavy things and put them down, under control!

On that subject…

Resident strong-woman at our Hong Kong gyms and lead developer of Ultimate Performance’s EatUP meal prep and delivery service, Dani Means, was on the radio last month talking about food, femininity and being strong!

Catch the full interview here:

Dani with Vien Tsang: Freelance Sports Correspondent for RTHK

How does a strong woman measure up?

Dani is 62kgs, 164cm and 27 years old. She’s also holds the deadlift record in the under 63kg bodyweight category, having lifted 170kgs at the 2017 Hong Kong Deadlift Championships!

Dani receiving her trophy at the 2017 Hong Kong Deadlift Championships

How does someone like you get into a sport like that?

Dani competing at the 2016 Arnold Classic Asia strongman Competition

With a background playing rugby, competing in the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, the World Cup Asian Qualifiers and the Asian Championships, Dani started doing some of the basic powerlifting moves as part of her rugby gym training program. However it was at university in England, where she became increasingly interested in the gym and getting stronger.

As well as powerlifting, Dani also competes in strongman, liking these types of strength sports because they are black and white when it comes to competing; you can only lift what you can lift and there’s no subjectivity to it. This means that it’s a natural environment for camaraderie between competitors.

So she’s all muscle, sweat and spit?

There’s a running joke in Dani’s family that she’s stronger than her brothers (which she is). But she enjoys breaking the stereotype of strong women being ‘butch’.

Dani likes lifting heavy weights and is competitive, but she also likes dressing up and slapping on a pair of heels once in a while. She says, “It’s funny being able to have a sweaty, hard workout and then go into the changing room, have a shower, put on some normal clothes and people are, like, ‘who are you?’”

So how DOES Dani look so feminine AND get so strong? Surely those two things are incompatible? Not at all, and we’ll let Dani tell it in her own words:

“Focusing on the weight on the barbell increasing, rather than the weight on the scale decreasing, has been so empowering. How my body composition has changed, becoming stronger, and leaner, has been a byproduct.”

Does she just train all the time? Does she eat whatever she wants?

Dani doesn’t train for hours on end, or multiple times a day, “I have 5 weight sessions per week, and 1 or 2 cardio-based sessions depending on how I’m feeling.”

She also says that it infuriates her when people say she is lucky to have these genetics “I don’t naturally have a lean body type – I went through years of hating how my body looked.

I had to work for it, and learn how to eat properly to fuel my sessions and drop body fat to make weight in a healthy way for certain competitions.

Developing EatUP with Nick and the UP team was a joy, as it has given me the opportunity to put what I know in to something special and share our collective knowledge to a wider audience.”

Dani showing her feminine side. And yes, those are flowers and frills.

How popular is being strong in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is going through a fitness revolution. Just look at the increasing number of women who train at Ultimate Performance and the difference it makes to their lives.

Weight and strength training for women has also become more popular, so it’s only a matter of time before more women hopefully start competing!

What’s next for strongwoman Dani?

“I want to represent Hong Kong in powerlifting, and I want to lift triple my bodyweight by the end of the year!” And we think she will, too…..

So what’s Dani’s message to you, Ultimate Performance Woman?

“Celebrate what your body is capable of doing. It’s not just about aesthetics.”

For me what has been so empowering is focusing on the weight that’s on the barbell, rather than the weight on the scale.

“The way my body looks now has been a byproduct of consistent strength training, and good nutrition.

It doesn’t matter where you start, it just matters that you START. Heavy for you is heavy, and everyone is a beginner at some point.

Lift safe, learn in safe hands with those who know good technique, and you just might discover what an amazing thing your body is.”