- Associated Press - Monday, June 2, 2014

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) - When Krystle Neves works out at Anytime Fitness in Beaufort, guys sometimes drop what they’re doing so they can stare at her.

They’re not being creepy. In fact, Neves doesn’t even notice the attention.

The 29-year-old has only one thing on her mind, and that is to squat down and raise 315 pounds inch by inch by inch until she’s standing upright with the full weight of it resting in the palms of her hands.

It’s something most men can’t do. And that’s what stops them in their tracks.

Occasionally, they’ll catch her as she’s adding weight to her bar.

“They’re like, ‘Ummm … What’s going on? Are you about to lift that?,’ ” Neves said. “It’s a cool feeling to see people be impressed by what you do.”

Neves - along with six other teammates from Anytime Fitness __ are training for South Carolina’s Strongest Man and Woman competition. Competitors will demonstrate their strength by pushing and pulling a truck, completing a ground-to-overhead medley with a keg, a log and a circus dumbbell, and other feats.

The local team was formed by Neves‘ fiance, Dan Puccini, who is a trainer at the gym and has taken part in more than 20 Strongman competitions nationally.

The contest is a full day, but each event is only 60 seconds. Contenders compete in five events. That’s three months of preparation - of 4:30 a.m. workouts while balancing two and three jobs; of flipping a 250-pound tractor tire in a dark parking lot, using the satisfying thud of it as inspiration to flip it again; of making a thousand little adjustments to their form so they can eke out a personal best - for five minutes of competition.

“It’s a fever,” said team member Rondell Blue of Beaufort. “You keep pushing yourself to the limit. You set a lot of personal goals and you knock them down.”

The team trains together, but it is every man for himself in competition, albeit in an encouraging atmosphere.

“One of the things I like about Strongman,” Puccini said, “is that it’s a true brotherhood. The other four guys I’m competing against are right there cheering me on and giving me advice. If they see my grip is wrong, they’ll tell me.

“Rather than see me do something wrong, which would mean they’d win, they help me improve … for the pure love of the sport. Everybody’s there for everybody.”

Blue, a veterinary technician at Alpha Genesis in Yemassee who played football and basketball through high school, noted the difference between traditional team sports and Strongman.

In team sports “they play the best guys first,” the 39-year-old said, “and everybody else gets a few minutes. (With Strongman) everybody gets an equal amount of time in the game. … There is no failure. There is no loss.”

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