Behind the Scenes with 45kg Weightlifting National Champion Gretchen Villa

We asked 45kg Olympic Weightlifting & 2019 National Champion, Gretchen Villa, to give us the real, real on training and daily life as a weightlifter.

Here is the behind the scenes look at what her day to day looks like leading .

The meet: you have 6 lifts, 6 minutes in total, to show the months, weeks, and countless hours of training and preparation. You can imagine the emotions and nerves involved in wanting to perform well. This is the chance to prove to yourself that all the hard work will pay off. The hard work is not just lifting the weights, it is the discipline and preparation required in the months leading up to a meet. My name is Gretchen Villa and here is what my training and day to day looks like!

My teammates and I have 8-9 training sessions per week, that last around 1.5-2 hours each. Three days a week are double sessions, meaning I will train in the morning and in the evening. Personally, I love double session days because I get to start my day early and keep my body moving so I don’t feel so tight. Usually, the morning session is light and intended for us to get moving and prep for the evening session. Before I head to my PM session, I always have an alarm to do RomWod. RomWod is a yoga/stretching type video for strength athletes. I like to use the time after RomWod to relax, do something breathing techniques and clear my mind.  When I get to the gym, I generally start with band work as part of my warm up before I pick up a barbell. Some of the band work that I do includes, glute activation like monster walks, seated banded hip abduction, and standing hip abduction. I have a tendency to favor one hip when I get to heavier weights and these warmups help activate and strengthen my hips and glutes. 

Being a competitive athlete in the lightest weight class (45kg/99lbs), nutrition is extremely important. Olympic Weightlifting is a weight class sport, that means I must weight in 2 hours before I compete and the scale needs to be 45.00 or lower. This is where things can get tricky. I need to make sure that my body weight aligns with the different cycles of training and competing. I generally will weight 1-2 kilos over my weight class during heavy training and as I get closer to competition I will shift to cut my body weight. The goal is always to stay as strong as possible while staying close to my weight class and cut most of the weight the last week or so. As I mentioned, it can be a little tricky. Meal prepping works best for me. I always meal prep on the weekends, as it makes food choices easy and convenient for my busy schedule. I cook two to three different proteins and a variety of veggies.

During regular training cycles that are not close to competition time, I am more flexible with my nutrition. I love noodles - they are my weakness, along with boba tea and ice cream. However, when it comes close to competition I cut these things out because it is extra calories that I do not need. I find when I shift my diet to eating more nutrient dense foods during my cut phase, there is a difference in the way I feel in training. During the summer months, especially in Arizona, I will make smoothies or Acai bowls with Xendurance Protein for a refreshing treat. This helps curb those weaker moments when I want to cheat and still provides me something nutritious!

Most people think that to get stronger or better, you just keep working out; a no days off type of approach. Honestly, recovery is one of the most important aspects of this sport. Sleep is our biggest recovery tool. I have an alarm for 9:30PM that reminds me to start getting ready for bed. By 9:45PM, latest 10PM, I am in bed because I try to get at least 9 hours of sleep everyday. By now you might see a pattern with my alarms. I have an alarm for everything because it helps me stay on track with my day.  Thursdays are our off days. On Thursdays, I take advantage of the “free” time and make this a recovery day. I will take ice baths and focus on minimizing any physical activity. During these days off of training, I like to listen to podcasts, anything from real estate investing to saving and finance. I love to learn new things and am always looking for ways to learn a new skill. On the weekends I schedule my body work, massage and acupuncture, are a few of my favorite types.

Being a competitive Weightlifter can be a full-time job, every aspect of your life and your day is dictated on your training and how your body feels. All of this for just a few moments to shine. No pressure, right?! Being a Weightlifter is not just about being strong, but also being disciplined and taking care of areas outside of the gym that will support and enhance your performance on the platform.