Becoming Canada's first Indigenous professional strongman helped Colten Sloan lift away the burdens of anxiety and depression.
The athlete from Whitefish Lake First Nation, about 300 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, recently earned his pro card after placing second at a national competition.
"It feels great to break that barrier for people like me so that they feel comfortable coming into the sport," Sloan said while on on CBC Edmonton's Radio Active.
Strongman and strongwoman competitions are growing in popularity globally. They are composed of events where athletes move the heaviest weights possible, such as lifting cars, flipping 600-pound tractor tires and carrying giant rock boulders.
Sloan watched the World's Strongest Man competition on TV growing up and it sparked an interest in the sport.
It was a natural fit, he says, because he lived on a farm where there were plenty of heavy things to lift, push and crush.
"The strong man shows are just farm chores for fun," Sloan said.
It was Sloan's wife, Ashley Albert, who pushed him into the sport. Albert later competed herself, even after a cancer diagnosis. But she has paused training, as chemotherapy and surgeries are taking their toll.
"She's Wonder Woman," said Sloan. "I think she would definitely have become a pro before me otherwise."
In just a few years, Sloan has managed to make a name for himself in a sport where there are few Indigenous athletes.
The heaviest item he has lifted so far weighed 900 pounds, but he has moved a 26,000-pound truck roughly 20 metres.
"That's pretty standard for professionals," he said.
Leading up to competitions, Sloan eats 7,000 calories per day. His breakfast will feature six eggs and rice, with half a package of bacon, one cup of fruit and perhaps some yogurt.
Dinner is usually a pound-and-a-half of chicken with potatoes.
Becoming a professional strongman has opened many doors for Sloan, including the annual World's Strongest Man competition — his goal.
Beyond the physical benefits, he credits the sport with giving him the strength to battle anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.
"I've had a very difficult life. A lot of things from childhood, things I couldn't deal with," he said.
"[The sport] definitely turned me from an awkward social person and fly on the wall that stands in the corner. Now I can talk to anybody."
Lifting weights, however, was only a temporary solution. But the sport gave him the confidence to seek professional help and attend counselling.
LISTEN | Meet strongman Colten Sloan: