Mariaan van Zyl, SA Strongwomen Champion – #StrongWomen

Mariaan van Zyl has always been tough; a bit stronger physically than most women, and this is what enabled her to follow her passion and pursue a career as a real strong woman. In fact, Mariaan is the current South African under 75kg strong woman champion! We catch up with her to find out what motivates her.

Tell us more about yourself and your journey.
I am a teacher at a special school in Bloemfontein and currently departmental head at this school.  My husband has always been my biggest motivator, support structure, coach and training partner. Sport has always been a part of my life. I have competed in many disciplines; gymnastics, athletics, hockey, motocross and triathlon.
My recent journey started last year when I competed in my first strongman competition, where I qualified to take part in African Strongman competition which took place in Rustenburg Nov 2016, where I placed 3rd. During this time my training mostly consisted of 100m and 200m sprint training (masters athletics) in the afternoons and HIIT at my husbands studio.
I decided to turn my focus to only strongman training as I felt really good about what I can achieve in the sport. I suppose my hard work and genetics play a big role in my success thus far.
Mariaan van Zyl
What has been your triumphs and challenges during your journey?
My biggest achievement has to be the title I gained at the Rand Easter show: New u/75kg strongwoman champion in South Africa. This is a great honor and I am definitely busy preparing to defend my title next year. I am going to compete in other strongman competitions throughout the year and as a supplement to my training, compete in powerlifting competitions as well.
Mariaan van Zyl
There has also been some challenges to my fitness journey. I have had a knee surgery (tore off all the ligaments) and because of this I sometimes suffer from tendinitis. But this has never stopped me. Work is sometimes time consuming and mentally drains a lot out of your body, fighting the urge to have an early night – NO, I have to train. Weakness is not an option.
Training equipment is the biggest obstacle at this stage. I do my training program in the gym but what I also need to have is the strongman equipment we use in competitions. Having the right equipment helps you train the skill needed to work the equipment. During two of my qualifying competitions I knew that I could have done better if I could have practiced the skills better. Being strong and having good skills go hand in hand.
What does being strong mean to you?
I have always known that I was different from other girls/woman; always a bit stronger, less afraid and more adventurous. I am competitive by nature and I’m always looking for a way to push my body to see what I can do that puts me above the rest.
People will sometimes ask me, why are you so strong, do you like it? My reply is; why are you so weak? I am fit and healthy, use your body. Nothing feels better than crossing the finish line or lifting a personal best in the gym. Knowing that you have done better – it is a high you cannot get from any drug (I believe).
I want to inspire more women to be who they should be, to be strong for themselves and to inspire the girls I teach, to reach for dreams but also to work for it.
Mariaan van Zyl
Who inspires you to be strong?
I have a few people in the fitness industry I follow (Facebook/Instagram). Each one with a unique feature that inspires me to be my best.
Marius Pudzianowski, Nicole Wilkins, Lauren Fischer, Dane Lin Baily and many more.
What is your favourite #StrongWomen quote?
Do better than yesterday, be better than yesterday, rise above them all.

Share your #StrongWomen moment!

Nominate your candidate to feature in our new #StrongWomen series. Tell us how she inspires and/or motivates you through her actions and passion, and we’ll share her story with the world.

  1. Daily #Strongwomen. Your #StrongWomen nomination can be featured in our daily post.
  2. 5 of the #StrongWomen candidates will go on to have their full features published in Fitness magazine
  3. You too can win, with a Caribbean Tan & Boost Gymwear hamper worth R2,660 up for grabs to those who nominate their #StrongWomen

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Share your #strongwomen moment with us. Nominate your #StrongWomen by posting a photo, magazine cover moment or strong moment on social media and tagging us. You can also email your nomination to

1. Who inspires you to be strong?

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We’re giving away a pamper hamper to the nomination of the best #strongwomen story. Hamper contains Caribbean Tan products and Boost Gymwear goodies worth R2,660.

Author: Mariska du Plessis

Mariska is the editor of Fitness Magazine, Bootcamp Instructor, Writer, Photographer and Wellness Blogger.

Follow her on Instagram: @justmariska_