“MY RITUAL IS FOOD!” – YAZMIN ZAMMIT STEVENS

Fortify meets Yazmin Zammit Stevens

the historically first Maltese person to go to the World Championship and the first female weightlifter to go to the European Championship; to name just a few of her well deserved titles.

How has the pandemic affected your athletic career?

2020 meant to be the year of the Olympic Games. We prepared four years of intense training, intending to wrap it all up in the summer of the same year. But the pandemic taught us that anything could happen to our plans, and we had to extend our efforts by another year! Working this hard led to two major injuries, one of which lead to surgery. It was tough, but it looks like everything is settling down finally, and the Games should be happening this summer 2021. I’m excited to see the qualification results!

When are you going to know if you have qualified for the Olympics?

The final list will be out in one month or so. Unlike in the other weightlifting competitions with the qualification based on a specific bodyweight group, only fourteen athletes are selected to compete in this leading international sports event. With that in mind, it’s very challenging for someone from a small country like Malta to get a place in the Games – competing in my discipline. We are still hopeful nonetheless, and I’m still training the same way as if I was to compete in Tokyo.

Do you train for the end result or rather for the joy of sport?

I’m a competitive person, and I always intend to win in sports, but if I only trained for the Olympics, I would be very disappointed not getting there. Instead, I believe it’s essential to be openminded and to set smaller goals. I started with achieving a personal best and then a national record, and so on. Setting goals helps with motivation but enjoying the process of training is equally important. I love training, and I’m pleased with what I’ve achieved so far. Olympics or not. 

What's the secret behind your mindset?

I was lucky to grow up in a very motivated and supportive family. My father is an incredibly dedicated athlete who trained on all occasions, including Christmas. Everyone in my family is passionate about their ventures. There have been many ups and downs in my career, but my family always got my back and helped me think positively on bad days.

What do you do on a typical training day?

I usually wake up at around 6 am, but because it’s essential for me as an athlete to get good sleep, I try to extend it for at least two more hours. My first training session of two hours of weightlifting starts at 10, followed by some bodybuilding exercises. Next up is stretching and any necessary rehab exercise. My second training session starts at 5 pm and is usually more intense than the first. After each session, I get some meals and rest to refuel and refresh myself. Sometimes I include spa days for extra recovery.

That sounds both exciting but also quite repetitive. In his bestselling book Atomic Habits, James Clear explains that the difference between a professional and an amateur is how they deal with boredom and repetition. What’s your secret to show up on bad days and make the same moves over and over again?

What a great question to ask (smiles)! It really is a boring routine sometimes (laughs). Still, I’m passionate enough about what I do, and I love it so much to find the routine interesting anyway! Depending on the amount of weight I’m lifting, it always feels different to me. Extra weight requires a different approach. Different competitive phases (the preparation phase, strength building training etc.) might all look the same, but what I’m working on mentally constantly shifts. That’s what keeps me entertained and motivates me to work even on bad days.

Do you have any ritual that helps you push through the uncomfortable feelings and still perform?

My ritual is food! That’s what affects my daily routine the most. It’s way easier to show up on a bad day after having a good meal, especially in the morning. If I don’t fuel my energy with a suitable diet, everything just feels so much heavier and slower. When I don’t have proper meal prep done, I might slip for something fast and less nutritious and risk over or undereating. That will affect me in all aspects, including my mental state and my overall performance.

Do you follow the 80/20 nutrition/training rule? Do you think it's accurate?

I train because I am an athlete and want to compete; however, nutrition is a 100% winner for me. I compete in different weight groups, so I always need to consider my body weight. If I don’t focus enough on my nutrition, gaining extra kilos is unavoidable regardless of how much I train. Losing and maintaining weight has little to do with exercising but a lot with proper eating, in my opinion.

Would you say that Fortify Meals helped you with your goals?

Yes, hundred percent! For a professional athlete who needs a lot of rest after all training, cooking meals according to all macro requirements is extra. I have to eat around six times a day which is very demanding on time! It’s impossible to manage all the planning, shopping, preparing, measuring, cooking and eating, so many times a day. Trying to do so in advance for a whole week, I ended up eating chicken for every course, and I wasn’t enjoying that much (laughs). With Fortify, all I need to do is open the box full of perfectly measured meals, heat and eat the content. It’s just great!

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