It’s about more than lifting: The Yessica Martinez Interview
We came across Yessica Martinez on the powerlifting circuit and through her sponsor EliteFTS, and needless to say she stood out to us immediately. Yessica’s drive and determination are inspiring, and she’s setting an amazing example for strength culture and for female strength athletes. We’re honored to bring you her story, and we know you’ll be just as captivated by message as we were.
What inspired you to train and compete in powerlifting and strongman as opposed to other sports? I came from an athletic background, I played basketball and volleyball in high school. Once I graduated, Saturday practices and two a days were over, and I still wanted to keep an active schedule. My brother trained at a gym called Idolmaker Physique and Performance and told me about the different type of training and outside work they do there. So he took me with him one day, and that’s where it basically all began. I started off doing the physique/bodybuilding training. Most of the girls there were competing in figure, so that’s where I started learning about dieting and what not, but I always caught myself watching the guys (football players and powerlifters) train. One day, Randy Scoates, owner/trainer, approached me and said “you know, you’re pretty strong, would you ever consider powerlifting?”
It’s funny thinking about it now how much I didn’t know about the sport of powerlifting. I think not knowing was what inspired me to do it. This new venture required a lot mental and physical toughness which is what I needed at the time.
The diversity of the athletes at the gym exposed me to different training philosophies which lead me to discover the conjugate method. After 2 powerlifting meets, I began to grow curious about other strength sports; strongman in particular. Mike, who is my training partner now and owner of the Battleaxe Gym, was getting ready for a strongman competition. Eventually, I started picking his brain and was eager to just compete in one for the sake of it. What drove me to train and compete in strongman was its challenge to adapt constantly, and I took that as an opportunity to learn and grow as an athlete.
In addition to being a competitive athlete, you’re a student at Florida International University studying psychology and social work. How do you balance your time between academics and athletics? If I wasn’t working, training, and going to school, quite the contrary would happen. I would feel unbalanced if I didn’t do all those things. Of course, there are times when I feel overwhelmed or stressed because I’m lacking effort in one of those areas, but I know I’m also human. As long as I’m doing what I need to do, and what I want to do, usually things fall into a happy medium. I’ve learned that through hard work and patience.
Strength Advocate promotes strength athletics because we see it as an opportunity for anyone, despite their socioeconomic background, to self-actualize. If someone can affect a positive change in their body, we believe it affects a positive change in their confidence and in other areas of their life. What is your take? Do you think you’ll be able to draw insight from your experience as a strength athlete should you pursue a career in psychology/social work? Most definitely! I often catch myself stepping back (figuratively speaking) and really looking at the grand scheme of things; from where I started to where I am now to where I’m headed. I’ve learned and matured so much through lifting because I think it’s about more than lifting. This reminds me of a log I recently did. I mentioned one of my favorite articles by Henry Rollins “Iron and the Soul” and although the whole article speaks so much value, certain things stood out to me:
“Learning about what you’re made of is always time well spent, and I have found no better teacher. The Iron had taught me how to live. Life is capable of driving you out of your mind. The way it all comes down these days, it’s some kind of miracle if you’re not insane. People have become separated from their bodies. They are no longer whole.
…I believe that when the body is strong, the mind thinks strong thoughts.”
I think whether you lift or not, people can relate to this message, and in psychology terms, this pertains to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in a sense. It’s the theory of human motivation: we must do what we need to do; we must be open minded in order to be receptive to things to achieve human growth and self-actualization. We learn about ourselves through different stages and different situations. But I think what leaves people “no longer whole” is how they accept or view those situations. Everything is a learning experience and what we take from it is entirely up to us. It can either make you or break you.
“When the Iron doesn’t want to come off the mat, it’s the kindest thing it can do for you. If it flew up and went through the ceiling, it wouldn’t teach you anything. That’s the way the Iron talks to you. It tells you that the material you work with is that which you will come to resemble.
…I learned that nothing good comes without work and a certain amount of pain.”
You’re sponsored by EliteFTS and AtLarge Nutrition. For readers who are interested in one day being sponsored themselves, can you tell us about some the responsibilities that come along with sponsorship? I believe the biggest responsibility, whether you are a sponsored athlete or not, is character and respect. You want to represent a company that shares your same values. It’s not about getting free shit. I think if you have those motives, you aren’t really giving back to the community that has gotten you to this point. The best way you can give back is to live, learn, and pass on (EliteFTS trademark). Sharing my training, experience and what I have learned through my experience is part of it, as well. Luckily, I have had mentors and coaches I’ve learned so much from that I am able to share it with those who may benefit from it. The ultimate goal is to contribute and help the sport grow.
Who has been the most influential person in your life (whether in athletics or in general) and how? The most influential person has to be my great grandmother. She passed the day of my championship game in 5th grade, I’ll never forget. I was young and my memory is terrible, but she was the glue to our family. She represented strength, honesty, and love. Till this day, I think of her often, especially the moments when I try to find strength and encouragement.
For bravery, I think of my brother. He’s always one to say “all in or nothing.”
People can influence you in different ways. Some you want to emulate and those you want to be nothing like. It’s your perspective that determines the influence it has on you…
What is one of the biggest misconceptions about women competing in strength athletics? The biggest misconception about women competing in strength athletics is that they have to be an elite or world record holder to step on a platform. I started off knowing very little about the sport and I think wanting to improve my lifts and technique, trying to beat my previous numbers and overall performance, is the real competition. It is a sport that is you vs. you. As long as you have the innate desire and will of challenging your abilities and the curiosity of how far it can take you, anyone can achieve success and greatness through that.
What would you say to someone who looks to you for inspiration? Be your own inspiration. Have confidence.
Whether you think you can or can’t – you’re right.
We all work hard to be winners, in whatever form that may be. We should never settle, and that’s what always makes us hungry for more.
For more information on Yessica, go to:
Sponsor: Mass Till Death
If you like Strength Advocate, please consider adding us to your Facebook news feed here: www.facebook.com/strengthadvocate