Meet Nicole McMillan: nurse, weightlifter and Ireland's third strongest woman

Three years ago, Nicole McMillan had never taken part in a weightlifting competition. 

Now she holds the title of Ireland’s third Strongest Woman, after competing against the island’s best in Limerick.

She first discovered the sport during lockdown; and used weightlifting to help overcome her mental health struggles.  

“I suffered a good bit with mental health,” she said. 

"It's a mental challenge as well as a physical challenge, to get my body into a bit better shape and then you’re mentally in better shape as well.

"It keeps me consistent and it keeps me focused on something that I want; whether it’s Ireland’s strongest woman, Europe’s strongest woman or the world’s strongest woman in the future.

"It just keeps me focused and grounded.” 

Nicole trains four times a week in Belfast, but she also works full time as a nurse, and sees her training sessions as a way to release stress. 

“I think if I didn’t have the gym to go to, to take the pressure and stress off from work I don’t know where I would offload. 

"I work four days so I’m full time working and full time training and trying to juggle both can be a struggle sometimes.” 

Nicole is coached by her husband Martin, who first encouraged her to enter weightlifting competitions, and he believes she’s destined for the top. 

“You can see it’s just a matter of time, of consistent training and she’ll be at the right level,” he said. 

“She just wants it now, but that’s not how it works, weightlifting teaches you patience.” 

“We’re back in the training cycle again for the next Ireland’s Strongest Woman,” Nicole added. 

“We’re in an off season now for a wee while so I’ll just build on getting stronger and the next aim is to win Ireland’s Strongest Woman.”

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