I was diagnosed with depression when my eldest child was two. It hit like a train during my pregnancy and pulled me into a black hole for a long time. Training stopped me from sinking beyond redemption. It was my lifeline and kept me able to function and deal with daily life without totally falling apart.
Without further ado, I present to you The Caveman Athlete Of The Month April, Kirsten Tulloch AKA LittleTank.
Name: Kirsten Tulloch
Speciality: Kettlebells & functional training. Mace Athlete in training.
Steve Maxwell KB L1 & 2 and Fundamentals of Human Movement Certified
IKFF CKT 1 & 2
Personal best: As a bodybuilder that would be placing at NABBA World Champs in ’98 and making Universe selection in 2007 (NABBA). Numerous bodybuilding titles in both Figure & Physique classes. In my own training I’ve deadlifted 165kg (363lbs) and regularly press and do Turkish GetUps with a 32kg KB.
“Strength is never a weakness.”
Kirstin is also available for Q&A, make sure you check it out.
I was diagnosed with depression when my eldest child was two. It hit like a train during my pregnancy and pulled me into a black hole for a long time. Training stopped me from sinking beyond redemption. It was my lifeline and kept me able to function and deal with daily life without totally falling apart. I post many motivational/thought provoking images and quotes on my Facebook Training page and I do that because I know that there are many out there struggling with their own darkness and demons. I have been there and won. I believe the human spirit can overcome anything and strength training in my mind is key in battling depression. After a hard workout, the world can seem less dark and mountains smaller. I agree that training is not the be all and end all in dealing with depression or depressive tendencies. But in my case, it saved me and my sanity and its power should never be underestimated.
Why the name LittleTank?
I lived in New Zealand for a long time and back then I was still a bodybuilder. I was kinda striking to look at as being only 5ft 2, my legs and back used to enter the room before the rest of me did! One girl in the gym said I was like a little tank, a few people laughed and it kinda stuck! After that I would arrive to train, and would be greeted with “hey LittleTank”. It has been my nickname ever since.
The story behind your tattoos?
There is a story behind every single one and i am sure everyone with ink can relate to that. I have a Superman & WonderWoman sleeve which is nearing completion. Superman I’ve loved since childhood and to me he represents strength, honour, stability & kindness. WonderWoman is the ultimate take no prisoners chick who stands on her own merit. Both their traits inspire me and I see myself in them. I have song lyrics on both arms which inspire me and also the famous quote from Rocky Balboa. If you’ve never seen that movie you need to! To me having those characters inked on me reminds me of my own strength and individuality. Each has strength and character, together they are unstoppable.
“You look like a man!“ What do you say to those people?
Oh heck if I had a dollar for every time I heard that one, I would be a millionaire! When I was young it bothered me ( I started training at 16 and competing in bodybuilding at 17). Part of the reason I stayed in the Figure class for so long was to try and “stay feminine” and avoid such criticism. I came to realise though, that doing so was limiting myself. I was stopping myself from reaching my full potential. I love to train and yet I was holding back to avoid “getting too big”. At my very last Figure comp in 2001, I was marked down for being “too big”. The judges told me I was in the wrong class and to basically get my arse into Physique. This was the wakeup call I needed. I stopped caring about the hangups of others, embraced my strength and ability to gain muscle. I learned to train with a passion from my heart and I allowed that to show through. When I eventually competed in Physique in 2007, I blitzed it. I did so in the way I wanted and in my own style. I presented a hard, muscular physique yet one that moved with grace and femininity, and my presentation was on point. Back then NABBA Physique still had a bad rap for being like “men in drag”. I turned up with my Figure traits and skills on a Physique body and changed the face of what people had grown used to. I am very proud of that.
To those people (men and women) who criticise women for developing their strength and bodies I say this. You seriously need to get a life. While you are over there criticising, I am over here working. One of us is moving forward and it sure as hell ain’t you.
“even coaches need coaches” tell me more, I agree.
It’s so easy for complacency to set in when one has trained and been a trainer for a long time. It is also easy to remain a one trick pony. I have seen many trainers and coaches come and go in my time . Many quit when they feel injury has finished them. When in fact it hasn’t. They have finished themselves with that mindset. We all have the ability to remain current and avoid self limitation. I seek out those who live what I aspire to be. I love to train and for me it is a process of evolution. I started as a bodybuilder, moved into kettlebells, moved into functional movement fused with kettlebells and now my new love, The Mace has entered the room. I never do anything half-assed. If I do it, I do it right. And that means learning from those who light the way. I am a master to some but always a student in the ongoing journey.
Who inspires you?
I have been heavily influenced by Steve Maxwell. I have trained under him many times and I am proud to call him my friend. He has taught me not only skills but ways of teaching and communicating which have made me the coach I am now. I am Maxwell KB L2 and he also certified me in The Fundamentals of Human Movement.
I also trained under Steve Cotter and the IKFF (I attained CKT 2 status) and that man is a joy to watch. His movement and grace inspires me.
On my Mace Journey, Mr MaceMan is THE man. Rik Brown is my Coach and guide. I am part of his online private coaching group and I feel I have found my calling along with kettlebells. Rik’s passion for The Mace is infectious and his movement and grace has to be seen to be believed. If watching him doesn’t inspire you then I think you are probably dead. His teachings have taught me much about myself so far. I had been feeling like my years of bodybuilding training had taken their toll on my mobility and movement. I knew I could reverse this but I wasn’t sure how. Now I know how. And it is incredibly exciting.
I started training at age 16. I left school after years of bullying and torment over my weight ( I was an obese teen) and lack of confidence and joined a gym to take charge of my life. After the weight loss phase I realised I was actually pretty good at the whole weights thing and competed in Figure age 17. I never looked back.
My training changed when I became a mother at age 30. I no longer had the desire to compete as a bodybuilder. I literally went to the gym one day and there were 2 kettlebells in the corner, all dusty because nobody used them. I did a bit of research, started playing with them and was hooked. Before my daughter was 2, I attained IKFF CKT 2 status and I guess the rest is history.
Unconventional training is so far removed from where I started and I thrive on the challenge. I was so focused on aesthetics for years that I had no concept of how powerful I actually am. I love realising what my body is actually capable of and showing others their capabilities also.
In kettlebell training its the Turkish GetUp. I can do them all day! I just love it. I often do 10 minute sets for a light/moderate weight and I regularly go up to 32kg for reps. There is something very “Rocky” about getups. Getting up and down under load and tension is mentally as well as physically engaging.
In the gym, the squat. I can squat all day! Love it.
With my Mace currently standing 360’s is my favourite move. My shoulders feel amazing after a while on those.
Your training program?
I currently train 5 or 6 days a week. I train my legs twice a week in the gym (I squat, deadlift, etc), I do 2 KB sessions a week at home and I have 2 sessions each week which are Mace focused. In all honesty though, I use my Mace almost daily. After training when I am already warm. I have short 10-15 minutes practise sessions then too. There is something incredibly therapeutic about swinging a heavy bell and mace with grace.
I have a thing about heavy kettlebells! I regularly swing with my 36kg (I used a 48 at my friends gym in South Carolina, but I don’t have my own yet), I do heavy presses and getups with one of my 32’s. I love conquering heavy weight. There is just something very empowering about that. When I do heavy presses I will generally go for 2 or 3 reps on each side and the same with getups. I am not a one rep max kinda girl. That does not impress me.
I am into timed Turkish GetUp complexes. For example I will work non stop for 10 minutes and combine getups with windmills, overhead squats etc. I have a thing about double Turkish GetUps too. I find those to be a blast.
Oh and pistol squats. I do those a lot. I am very big on ankle mobility. I spent a week at Donnie Thompson’s gym in South Carolina last year (SuperD) and one quote of his sticks in my head, “the ankles are the most important joints in the body.” I took that to heart and keep mine in a good way.
What do you eat for performance and recovery?
I don’t go as heavy on protein as I did in my bodybuilding days. I simply don’t need that quantity anymore. I tend to eat frequently throughout the day (5 or 6 times) and I am not afraid of carbs. I do not follow hard and fast rules. I could happily exist on peanut butter on wholegrain toast! But fish, chicken, rice and veggies are pretty much always there. Old habits die hard 😉
I am very big on supplementation through. My job for years was sports nutrition and supplement sales and advice, I believe there are certain things we should all take to safeguard our health as the food chain is pretty screwed up. Personally I use everyday a high strength multi vitamin, vitamin B complex, calcium/magnesium/zinc, probiotics, digestive enzymes, fish oil and DHEA.
Some of your personal bests?
Well, I won the following Figure titles:
- Ms Granite City ’97
- Ms Caledonia ’97 (NABBA World Qualifier)
- Runner Up Ms Scotland ’97 (British Finals Qualifier)
- 5th at NABBA World ’98
- Ms Bay of Plenty Open & Overall Physique Champion 2007 (I was selected for NABBA Universe after that win)
I have done some pretty cool lifts in training but I tend not to go on about them as I feel it is only what one does in the competitive arena that really counts as it has been witnessed.
You’re the proudest of?
First and foremost my kids. My daughter is 8 and my son is 2. They are amazing human beings and I thank God everyday for them.
Professionally I am proud of having helped create positive change in the lives of many wherever I have lived and taught. I have met people who were lost and looking for that “something” to pull them out of the darkness. So being the catalyst for their change and sometimes reinvention makes me proud. Seeing the progress of my clients inspires me and keeps my drive alive to keep progressing myself.
In bodybuilding, my Physique win hands down is my proudest moment. That entire prep I had a clear and unwavering vision of how I wanted to look on that day. I knew the title was mine and in my mind it was a question of how big the winning margin would be. I trained like a demon and when I power walked for cardio I was told I looked like the devil was chasing me. Nobody was ever going to beat me. And they didn’t. Straight firsts and a Universe Invitation. And I did it my way. Mission accomplished.
I want to compete in Mace Competition. I know that many of you here will know who Kelly Manzone is. I watched her performance at the last Arnold Classic in The Vintage Strength Games and I said out loud, “That’s where I am going.” I am just drawn to it. I feel a pull towards it and I know this is the direction I am meant to be going in. I have the best coach who has belief in my abilities so it is game on.
Some motivation for everyone?
Get it clear in your head what you want to achieve. Get your thoughts and desires for yourself out of your head and onto paper. Whatever is in your head, get it out. Once you do that, circle the things that mean the most to you. There is your list. And from your list will come your plan. That is the truth. To get anywhere in anything requires honesty and truth and it must start with yourself. And if your list confuses you, then that is where people like me step in to help it come to life. Also become aware of the excuses you tell yourself for lack of action and accept that they are indeed bullshit. We are all capable.
How do you spread the word?
I currently teach strength & conditioning classes where I live, in the Shetland Islands of Scotland. I put together what I call a Conditioning Camp 2 years ago and it has been very successful. Alongside my classes, I also teach Beginner and Next Level Kettlebell Workshops and I see people privately for training and nutritional guidance. I also work with clients online.
I want to teach seminars around the world showing people who want to learn how to get stronger, maintain their strength and develop their current strength using unconventional training. I feel my passion for The Iron Game is too strong to be kept in any one place and it is my desire to reach people everywhere. Thanks to the internet and social media we live in a much smaller world now and it is my intention to help others create the change they seek. To become the version of themselves that they knew was there but couldn’t reach.
I have been that person who thought she had ‘hit her peak’ when in actuality I was only just starting. In the last 23 years I have learned a hell of a lot about what to do and what not to do. I feel it is my purpose to share this with others.
Who would you nominate for Caveman Athlete?
Steve Maxwell. I have much to thank that man for and he never fails to inspire me. He is the ultimate “Caveman Trainer”, permanently travelling and yet maintaining a strong and resilient body. The kettlebell movement we know and love today is where it is largely in part to his involvement and influence.
If you agree with Kirsten, and want to see Steve as the next Caveman Athlete, let your voice be heard on this post here.
Favourite video from your Youtube channel?
Favourite video from Cavemantraining channel?
I feel that this clip goes a way to explaining the benefits of mace training without being too complex. We all want strong yet flexible shoulders and this clip shows this perfectly.
You can find or contact Kirsten on:
- Facebook profile www.facebook.com/LittleTank78
- Facebook page www.facebook.com/LittleTankTraining/
- Instagram www.instagram.com/littletank/
- YouTube www.youtube.com/channel/UCLOIEO-qTnO0pIPXrJR0TXw
- Twitter twitter.com/KirstenTulloch1
 “You look like a man!” http://www.cavemantraining.com/obesity/why-does-a-woman-want-to-look-like-a-man/
 Join the Q&A and ask Kirsten a question, she’ll be available for questions during the month of April
Check out all other Caveman Athletes of the Month: