Published on: 9 September 2021

Rock-lifting fitness sessions on the beach have resulted in wins after a team of workmates took home a host of titles in a strongman competition.

As the gyms remained closed but lockdown began to ease, South Tyneside District Hospital porter Chris Hetherington set up the socially distanced dawn weightlifting classes on Littlehaven Beach.

Now the efforts of the group, who work for South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust staff and train under the name South Shields Stone Lifters, have paid off, after a series of successes at Wolsingham Show at the weekend.

In the over 100kg novice category, porter Michael Scott took first place, endoscopy technician Bradley Wall took second and porter Stuart Robertson took third as they made their first venture into competing.

The challenge at the Weardale event was hosted by Elite Strongman Promotions and comprised of five challenging events, a 90kg overhead log press; a 100kg in each hand farmer’s walk over 40 metres; six 14kh keg toss over 4 metres in height; 70kg stone-to-shoulder for reps and a back-to-back Tug of War.

Chris was on hand to lend his support alongside Bradley’s dad John Wall who is Head of Clinical Engineering, Medical Device Safety Office and lead scientist at the Trust and also got involved in the training sessions.

John, who is a coach for Sunderland Ladies Rugby Team, said: “The gyms were still closed due to Covid these are some big lads and were really struggling without their training.

“Chris organised the stone lifting sessions down at Littlehaven, so we were down there at 5am and there are some pretty big rocks down there to lift.

“It has been such a big part of helping their mental health and it was fantastic of him to do it.

“We are phenomenally proud of them, it’s amazing what they have achieved at the weekend.

“It was great to go to the show and they were so proud to represent the NHS.”

As it is the end of the season, the group are now looking to follow up their success and put the preparation ready to compete again.