Arthur Strongwoman finds strength after trauma


Arthur, IL (WCIA)– Nancy Plank is a mother, world-class weightlifter, personal trainer, and trauma survivor. She’s an Arthur resident who says that weight training has allowed her to cope with her difficult past and look toward a brighter future.

Plank grew up Amish in Pennsylvania and Michigan. She’s the oldest of seven brothers and four sisters.

As a young teenager she struggled with depression. “I felt like I was different. I didn’t belong. I didn’t fit in. So I tried to commit suicide and I failed,” Plank said.

Weeks after her suicide attempt, church ministers seperated her from her family. “They thought something was wrong with me,” she said. During the following year, she was sent to live with four separate families.

Eventually, she moved back in with her biological family. But before her 22nd birthday, a twenty pound cylinder tank exploded and destroyed her family home. The fire severely injured her sister and mother, who passed away after three months of fighting infections from her burns.

“I went from being a sister to also having to fill that spot of…taking responsibility for everything else,” Plank said. “And after that I was raped the first time… I felt even more worthless.”

At the age of 23, Nancy decided to leave the Amish community. She had survived physical and sexual assault, but was struggling to cope with her past, turning to food and alcohol.

When doctors told her she was pre-diabetic she decided it was time for a change. Plank hit the gym and six weeks later she lifted 200 pounds on a deadlift.

“That was enough confidence that I needed to keep going,” Plank said.

In 2015 she signed up for her first strongman competition and won. Later, she broke a state deadlift record and competed at Nationals.

“I have big goals, I have little goals, I have weekly goals, I have hourly goals. My goals don’t stop,” said Plank.

This October, she’ll compete at Worlds in Austin, Texas. Plank is also a certified personal trainer with the goal of creating programs to help other trauma survivors.

She told ciLiving Storyteller, Erin Valle, that if there was anything she could tell her 13-year-old self it would be this:

“You did it. You survived. You’re a warrior.”

If you’d like to follow Plank, she’s documenting her fitness journey on Instagram (@321_golift) and Facebook (Nancy Joann– Athlete).

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