Train like a lady lumberjack

Story highlights

  • Shana Verstegen is a lumberjack champion and ACE-certified personal trainer
  • Verstegen competes in the logrolling and boom run events
  • "It sounds absolutely silly, but it's a serious sport," Verstegen says
Shana Verstegen started logrolling when she was 7.
Her parents signed her up for a class at the local YMCA in Madison, Wisconsin, and she loved everything about it: the battle of strength, balance and agility between two opponents trying to stay on a log in the middle of a lake.
"It sounds absolutely silly, but it's a serious sport," Verstegen says.
Serious enough to make her a six-time world lumberjack champion -- and give her a serious six-pack. Verstegen became a professional "lumberjill" when she was 17, and has spent the last decade and a half traveling the world, competing in lumberjack competitions.
Next up is the Lumberjack World Championships in Hayward, Wisconsin, this week.
She'll be competing in the logrolling and boom run events. In logrolling, two lumberjacks fight to roll their opponent off a log that is 12 to 14 inches in diameter (depending on the competition). Evenly matched pairs can stay on for more than seven minutes, Verstegen says.
"You need every single muscle in your body ... if you get tired your technique goes out the door," she says. "One little misstep and its over."
In the boom run, competitors race across logs chained together on the water. You're allowed two falls in the timed event. It's one of the more dangerous lumberjack sports.
Logrolling, Verstegen says, is one of the safest.
There are programs dedicated to the sport across Wisconsin, and in other states such as Minnesota, Michigan and Oregon. Verstegen coaches hundreds of children each year.
"(The kids) don't realize they're exercising, they're having so much fun," she says. "And they're doing something totally unique."
It's a way for Verstegen to give back. Her mother was diagnosed with Huntington's Disease, a degenerative brain disorder, when Verstegen was 5 years old. Her parents wanted to keep life as normal as possible, so they told her to pick a few sports from a YMCA catalog. Logrolling became Verstegen's escape from being a caregiver.
"I was allowed two to three hours every day after school to just do sports and to be myself and to not think about my mom's sickness," she says. "It was never ever about winning. It was that time to go there, to be with my friends, to be stupid, to get yelled at by my coach. ... That kept me going through all those tough years."
During competition season, Verstegen is on the water nearly every day. She also does resistance training several times a week and hill sprints to increase her endurance and speed. She sticks to lean meats, produce and good carbohydrates to stay energized.
Verstegen knows not every child will fall in love with lumberjack sports like she did. The key to fighting childhood obesity, she says, is to find something that inspires them, whether it's logrolling, rock climbing or ballet.
"When they see fitness they immediately think (of) lifting weights, running marathons -- doing things they don't enjoy. But the options are endless."