Weight class: 63 kg
Gwen is a weightlifter, wife, mother, business owner,
and an MIT graduate. She's awesome!
We thought training full time and going to school full time is hard. Tell us about your typical day.
Yes. First, I think a lot of people don't realize that I have quite
successfully advanced in a career in the defense industry. Specifically,
from 2000 - 2010 I was either going to college and/or working fulltime. My
latest college experience was graduating with my Masters in Aeronautics
and Astronautics from MIT last year. It was an amazing experience,
however, incredibly draining. My last spring I had to finish my Thesis
weeks before the University World Championships. I lost so much sleep and
was stressed out. This is evident by my schedule: work at my job, work on
thesis, work out, check on business, work on thesis, sleep a few hours.
It pretty much killed my physical recovery.
Do you think about your business while you're at practice? If so, does it effect your training?
Yes, the hardest thing is focusing 100% on training. Since my husband,
Ivan Rojas, began working on the business fulltime, it has helped me a
lot. My best practice is not to check customer emails or answer calls on
business deals less than 1 hour before training.
Do you prefer to have your family at your competitions? How does it feel when they do?
Family as in my husband and daughter -- yes, absolutely. It was the
awesomest feeling to compete in the "elite " session at the Arnold, then
see my daughter win the 35kg weight class the next day.
As a teenager, sometimes it was awkward having my family watch me as they
weren't as into the sport and always seemed to, unintentionally, say the
wrong thing. Nowadays, I'm less self conscious and more focused, so I
would be glad to have my parents and extended family around. Performances
should be celebrated.
How are you able to keep up with everything you do? Teach us mortals your secrets!
Compartmentalize and deconflict. Because my husband and daughter are on board with what I do, we get much more intrinsic value out of weightlifting. Operationally speaking, you got to commit certain times in
the day for lifting, work, and business.
What lessons have you learned as a mother that has transferred over to your business and your lifting?
Everything. In Risto Sports, its helped me deal more effectively with people and find the win-win in stakeholder relationships. In lifting, it would be mental toughness, increased work capacity, and self reflection. I would like to add It has helped me progress so much in my career. At first, I would get a lot of passive aggressive comments on leaving work to pick-up my kid at day care, etc. Later, when I managed profit and losses, I really leveraged my mother skills to balance multiple priorities at once as well as attain value recognition with my customers .
You've encouraged your daughter to lift weights. How old is she? What words of advice would you give to parents when it comes to letting their young kids do weightlifting or strength and conditioning?
My daughter is 7. I am so happy she decided to lift weights last November. The advice I would give is find a competent coach. At this age, technique is everything. Also, encourage your kids to train---some kids love to
train, other kids love to compete. My daughter would be the latter. It has been incredibly beneficial for improving her physical condition and self confidence. With just a month of training, she was the top kid in her
school gym class, outperforming little boys and girls in activities such as running. Early training pays tenfold, and it's an excellent family bonding activity.
How has weightlifting helped you in your life? (mentally, physically,emotionally, etc.)
has given me such great intrinsic value. When you have a great meet, you feel invincible. If you can lift a weight you never thought possible, then you can lift anything. This is a huge mental boost. It is also a very emotional or even spiritual high. When you get into the zone, you reach this state of mental flow. I have only felt this way when taking a really hard test or working on an intense problem at work.
Physically, I never did any real physical activity before weightlifting. I think I'm like 10 years behind most lifters just out of the fact I didn't do sports (not even soccer) as a small child. Weightlifting transformed
my body and unlocked my physical potential. I never knew how fast and explosive I was until I lifted. With my latest training regimen, I have reduced my bodyfat to about 12% with no dieting.
Finally, the fact that weightlifting brings my family closer together and is my husband's career is amazing. Through our weightlifting equipment and services company, ristosports.com, we have done so much for our community and improved the lives of our employees.
I think exporting our shoes to other countries and hiring someone from our local community is the most American thing we could have done during the economic recession.
Would you like to encourage other working moms to try weightlifting? How can it benefit them?
I think it is a great idea. If you really want to weightlift, then do not view working or being a mom a barrier--find away to integrate it into your life. Involve your kids and spouse if possible. I see a lot of moms
attempting to get fit by jogging or some other cliche activity -- why do that when you can weightlift and compete.
To learn more about Gwen, weightlifting, or Risto Sports
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