The following is an interview with Shannon Hartnett
Conducted on November 16, 1998
ASL: Would you care to share with us some statistical and biographical information?
Shannon: My name is Shannon Hartnett. I am 5 foot 8 inches tall and weigh 120 pounds. Ha! Ha! I weigh 150 pounds. I am single, but I have one "child"-a dog. it is a pitbull named Athena. I was born on December 18, 1964. My best lifts include a 405 pound squat for reps and my bench is between 210 and 225 depending on how much throwing I am doing. I never do one rep max.
ASL: What is the name of your gym and what is the concept behind it?
Shannon: The name of my gym is Body Central. It is an all women gym. We were looking to open a co-ed gym but we couldn't find property big enough. We found a building that was smaller so we decided to do all women. Our concept behind the gym is to make women feel comfortable when they are training. They don't have to worry about how they look, or feeling intimidated. We offer a lot of alternative classes such as Tai Chi, Yoga, Belly dancing, Kick Boxing, Self-Defense, and the usual aerobics. We have a lot of Seminars in Nutrition, Breast Cancer, Self Empowerment, and stress reduction classes. We have tried to make it a full wellness center including mind and body enrichment. Another thing we do every month is waive initiation fees, by doing turkey drives for the homeless, we have toy drives for the underprivileged cat and dog food drives for stray animals, and donations to the womens' crisis center too.
We opened a year and a half ago, and this year we were voted number one gym in all of Sonoma County. So it has really been a success and people love the concept.
ASL: Are you a professional highland games athlete/bodybuilder or do you have a business or job also?
Shannon: I am a professional Highland Games Athlete, but that is not my main source of income. As well as owning a gym, I am also a personal trainer. I am also a working Marine Biologist. I first got my degree in Marine Biology but could not find enough work in my specialty(Marine Mammals). I, then, went back to school and got a degree in exercise physiology, and a masters in sports physiology.
ASL: Have you ever competitively powerlifted? If so, how did you do? If not why haven't you?
Shannon: I have never competed in powerlifting, but have always loved the sport. I just have so much going on I have never had a chance to train for powerlifting the way you need to. Most of my training is powerlifting based, and the guys I train with are powerlifters. I like the sport because it is so basic and raw with little attitude in it. Even when I competed in bodybuilding, I did all powerlifting training. I could not stand to do all the little isolated muscle group lifting which seemed so petty and useless. I would much rather go to a gym and do cleans deads and squat and call it a night.
ASL: Were you always strong and as a great thrower as you are now? When did you start lifting and competing? Did you play any sports as a kid or in college?
Shannon: I have always been very involved in sports ever since I was young. As a Freshman, I began playing Varsity basketball and my coach started me lifting at 14 so I could keep up with the bigger women. I have been lifting ever since. I played Pop Warner football, Little League and any sports that the boys were doing.
ASL: Who were your heroes/idols when you were growing up?
Shannon: I have never been much for having heroes or idols, I always assumed everyone was equal, but some peoples talents were more recognized. The only people that I really respected were Billy Jean King, and Martina Navatarolova. Both women are strong and speak their minds. I respected Billy Jean for saying that men and women are like apples and oranges, yet she took on Bobby Riggs and beat him.
ASL: Could you name some highland accomplishments or feats of strength (e.g., ripping phone books in half) that you have done?
Shannon: I have been competing in the Highland Games for nine years. But only in the last couple of years have I taken it more seriously. In the past, I have always tried to go out and blast every event. Now, I try to use technique and grace if that is possible in this sport. I competed in bodybuilding for four years, but I do not consider bodybuilding a sport. It is more of an art form, always trying to re-sculpt your body. Anybody can sit in a gym all day and lift, but it is going out and applying it to a sport that is difficult. I learned a lot about my body and its capabilities. But when I was bodybuilding, I was also competing in Highland games, the women's national fast pitch softball team as well as two man volleyball tournaments.
ASL: Do you plan on continuing to do highland games and bodybuilding contests?
Shannon: I plan on continuing in Highland games, but I think I am going to concentrate on them more rather than spreading myself so thin with so many sports. This year I stopped playing softball. I didn't kayak all year. So, my upper body wasn't exhausted all the time.
ASL: I understand that you have some very definite views on the environment and animals would you care to share them?
Shannon: I am very environmentally active and fight for animal rights as well. I work 20 hours a week volunteering at an animal rescue center feeding and doctoring animals to get them back into nature. I am also active with many animal rights groups to try to stop animal testing, animal product use, and animal abuse. I am also involved with environmental groups where we protest and demonstrate for different causes. I feel as a society we do not look to the future enough, we tend to be very self absorbed. Yet if we do not take on these causes there will be nothing left for our children to enjoy.
ASL: I also understand that PrimeTime Live has done a segment on you. Any idea when it will air and what it might include?
Shannon: Last year, Dateline NBC did a segment on me. The segment was about being a woman breaking into a male dominated sport. They filmed me at home and followed me to Scotland to see how I would do being the first woman to compete against the men on their home turf in Scotland. I will contact you when it is supposed to air.
ASL: If there was a "World's Strongest Woman" contest would you do it?
Shannon: I would compete in the Strongest Woman Competition. I am not very strong(compared to the women who compete in these competitions), but I will try anything once and what I like I will try again. Plus when my dog grows up I will have something to tell her.
ASL: Is there any advise that you would like to give to any aspiring women strength athletes?
Shannon: My advise for aspiring women strength athletes is: Cross-train! Don't let idiots advise you! Don't give up on your dreams!
ASL: Shannon thank you so very much for the interview. I will go out on a limb and predict that you will be a very big hit at American Strength Legends. Thanks again.