How Steph Sanzo Found Strength From Within – SWEAT

How I Found Strength From Within

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How I Found Strength From Within
Steph Strength Within

There was a time in my life when I thought lifting weights was as simple as picking things up and putting them down. How hard could it be? Pretty hard, I soon learned. Especially for someone who’d avoided exercise like the plague for most of her life.

Through learning about technique and channelling my inner strength, I eventually made powerbuilding part of my everyday life. And I’ve never looked back.

Started from the bottom now I’m here

There are plenty of stories about people who’ve always been fitness fanatics, like those kids who loved sports at school and were clearly born to work in the industry. This isn’t one of those stories. But I’ve never been one to do things conventionally.

I used to be one of those people who’d park as close as they could to the supermarket door just so they didn’t have to walk far to get there. Yeah, I was that person. I wasn’t interested in health and fitness, and I didn’t know much about it.

Having children really changed things

It was at the age of 21 that I started my fitness journey. I’d just given birth to my first child, my son, and I wanted to feel fit and healthy again. But it wasn’t just about feeling fit.

I wanted my confidence back. I wanted a fresh perspective on life — to focus on my family, my career, and myself. I wanted to feel good from the inside out.

After years of working in retail and living an unhealthy lifestyle, I realised I was ready for a change. I signed up to a personal training course in the hope of honing my technical expertise. I wanted to understand the relationship between fitness and my body. It was foreign to me, after all.

While studying, I began running 10km every day. I was a cardio bunny. At the time, I had a limited understanding of fitness, and cardio seemed like the best option for me. I soon realised it wasn’t.

Everything changed when my second child came along. I suffered from a pelvic prolapse during childbirth, and I could no longer run. At a time when I was discovering my love of fitness, it felt like a massive setback. What the heck was I supposed to do?

Finding a style that worked for me

After researching what was safe for my body, I decided to give weight training a go. Bodybuilding, powerlifting, Olympic lifting, circuit training, HIIT training. You name it; I tried it.

Several years on, after lots of experimenting, I realised what I enjoyed most was bits and pieces of different styles. I also realised I loved the pump. There was nothing quite like the feeling of smashing lifting goals and feeling my muscles burn.

I still remember the day Jamie, my now-partner, introduced me to powerlifting. I’d been working out at his gym, experimenting with heavy lifting and starting to gain strength. One day, Jamie challenged me to deadlift 100kg. There were loads of people watching, and I was terrified. But inside, I knew it could do it. And I did.

By this point, I’d completed my personal-training course, and I understood more about fitness. I’d developed a keen interest in heavy lifting.

Taking lifting from passion to career

In 2013, I started training other women and amping up my workouts. I also started researching different lifting styles. I wanted to develop a heavy-lifting program that was designed by women for women — one that catered to performance and technique, instead of placing the entire emphasis on aesthetics.

In 2018, I finally released my powerbuilding program BUILD, which combines bodybuilding and powerlifting, in collaboration with Sweat. It took six months of blood, sweat and tears (and lots of hard work, and research). The key was to really understand the female lifting community and give them something they hadn’t seen before.

I wanted the program to be advanced but built in a way that was accessible to all women.

Learning about myself through lifting

Pushing through challenges and setbacks

Launching my powerbuilding program was one of those insane life experiences you look back at and go, did that actually happen? But it took lots of hard work, and my health problems didn’t suddenly subside. I wish.

The damage done to my pelvis during childbirth is still around today. But I don’t let it limit me. I find ways to manage it.

I used to jump straight into the main lift, but now I really take the time to get in the zone. I have a regimented pre-workout routine, which includes warming up before every single workout.

I’ll always find a way to make things happen.

Learning about myself through lifting

Heavy lifting has taught me more about my mind than my body. Don’t get me wrong… I’ve learned that the body is capable of amazing things when you push it to its limits. But I’ve also learned that lifting requires much more than a strong physique.

You need to develop emotion, creativity, technique and discipline.


Learn how to control your emotions to break physical barriers. Anxiety is my biggest barrier to picking up the bar. My thoughts can spiral out of control and before I know it, I’ve lost confidence. Breathe. Trust in your ability. You can do it.


There’s really something in the power of imagining yourself completing a task before you do it. If you can harness creativity and envision your desired outcome, it’s a lot more likely to happen. Trust me.


You’ve got to commit to developing and perfecting your lifting technique. It’s frustrating when you can’t get it right. But over time you’ll learn and grow, and you’ll be safer and stronger for it.


Good things come to those who wait. (I wish I’d known this when I was younger.) Discipline will help you push through discomfort and remain consistent with your efforts.

Understanding my purpose and living for it

Looking back, I realise I got to where I am today because of two things: dedication and resilience.

There were plenty of lessons to learn, but I was dedicated to finding something I love and changing my body for the better. Being strong and powerful is about so much more than muscles. I know that now.

So, what did I learn?

  • Surround yourself with people you want to be like, people who do things that inspire you.

  • Make the decision to do something, and commit to it regardless.

  • Limit the pressure you put on yourself, it will only psych you out.

  • Be grounded. Know who you are, and what you want.

  • Set goals and build your life around them. Commit to them 100%. Put everything into them.

  • Understand that everyone starts somewhere. We all find our way eventually. Be prepared to learn and try new things.

The single and most important thing is that you actually start.


* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.

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