Name: Yessica Martinez
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
What does being a Girl Gone Strong mean to you?
It’s more than just being physically strong. It’s about having a strong sense of self. This reminds me of something I read a long time ago, and it resonated with me. I’ll never forget: “Please, be proud of the pieces that make you you. Embrace the oddities and hold on to them with everything you have. These strange little quirks belong to us, and only us, and they are absolutely vital in creating the bigger picture that is who we are. Be proud of yourself, because if you are, it never matters who else is. Because when you are, the inevitability of other people believing in you and being proud too, is such an amazing bonus to the strength you already possess.”
When you know who you are, nothing or no one can really touch you. You become unstoppable. That is what being a Girl Gone Strong means to me.
How long have you been strength training, and how did you get started?
I’ve been strength training since I was 18. Competitively lifting since I was 21. I had just graduated high school and my brother was training at a small gym called Idolmaker Physique and Performance in Miami, FL. This was not your typical local gym. They had a monolift, specialty bars, bands, chains, and an atmosphere that was unparalleled. I started training there to maintain athleticism. I played basketball and volleyball since I was young. At first, I was training for aesthetics. I wanted to lean out, look good, feel good. My strength and numbers kept increasing, and my trainer then, Randy Scoates, asked me if I wanted to powerlift. My reply was, “What’s powerlifting?” I started training with the guys, learning about technique and training methods, specifically the conjugate method, and just wanted to get strong. After that, I never looked back.
What does your typical workout look like?
I train three to four days per week. My boyfriend, Casey Williams, is currently doing my programming. (He’s part of Elitefts and has the #6 all-time record in the 242-pound weight class with a 2088-pound total.)
Monday – Bench
Wednesday – Deadlifts
Thursday or Friday – Extra Assistance
Saturday – Squats
Each lift varies. I’ll implement accommodating resistance in a two- to three-week wave. I’ll alternate bench with spoto presses or floor presses; conventional, deficits or block pulls with deadlifts; and implement specialty bars off a box with squats. Sounds like a lot of mumbo jumbo, but each week varies depending on how training was the week prior. After the main lifts, I’ll do supplemental work (assistance work that will help with the main movement I’m doing that day). On my extra assistance day, I’ll do bodybuilding-style training. Light-weight, high-volume sets. I guess I could describe this training method as a combination of 5/3/1, conjugate, and anything that I’ve learned along the way that specifically works for me.
Whichever is the most challenging and most frustrating. Each meet prep is different. Currently, it’s deadlifts. It’s about breaking that mental barrier. I psych myself out at times because I’m too frustrated. I know what I need to do; I know I’m strong enough. It’s just a matter of executing — connecting mind with body.
Most memorable PR:
When I broke the 200-pound bench club. I believe we had a few of our Elitefts team members come in to train one weekend at the compound. We probably had some event or seminar going on. When I PR, it’s usually on a day when I have no agenda and let training take its own course. If it feels good, I keep going. I attempted 200 and missed. My teammate, Brandon Smitley, gave me a few technical cues, and next thing you know, I benched 205. I’ve been wanting that for years.
Top 5 songs on your training playlist:
Top 3 things you must have with you at the gym or in your gym bag:
Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?
Preferably with others. Having training partners there for support and feedback makes a huge difference for me. It also creates an environment in which everyone has a common goal and everyone is accountable to one another. Seeing yourself improve is great but nothing compares to seeing others improve, too. To witness someone’s celebratory moment, having achieved something, especially when one couldn’t think it was possible, that really puts the icing on the cake for me.
Most embarrassing gym moment:
(I’m laughing just thinking about it) It’s more funny than embarrassing. I was living in Miami and training at The Battleaxe Gym. My brother came to train one day, and he was floor pressing. Mind you, I’ve spotted guys with more than 400 pounds on the bar. While he was floor pressing, something tweaked and I couldn’t tell if he was stapled or wha,t but I panicked. Everyone at the gym was watching. As I grabbed the football bar, I couldn’t lift it and it was moving towards his face. My brother is a jokester, so he’s yelling, “Not my face!” all the while laughing. I vouched to never spot him again. He did not die under the iron, if you were wondering. Mike and Vinnie came to help.
Best compliment you’ve received lately:
My co-workers recently described me as fearless.
Most recent compliment you gave someone else:
That they have the ability to do anything. I try to recruit girls all the time to try out any strength sport. I like to turn hesitation into excitement. This compliment was not the most recent, but a gist of how I try to approach everyone I encounter.
Alaina had a background in lifting but eventually gave up because she didn’t want to put in the time. After five years of not touching a weight, she had the itch to lift again. When I first met her, she seemed hesitant and uncertain. I kept encouraging her that this is a “you vs. you” sport. What was the harm in competing and giving herself a base to work off of? You just need to put yourself out there. I told her to pick a meet and just train for it. Alaina ended up joining the IPA Federation and picked a meet. She went 9/9 on her first competition and PR’d on all her lifts. I reached out to congratulate her, and this is what she had to say: “I had lifters congratulating me on a perfect meet and telling me how amazing I did. To have incredibly experienced lifters compliment you is one of the best feelings in the world. I achieved my first powerlifting goal and that was to compete. Now, I’m going to work on an elite total! I’m definitely looking forward to stepping on the platform again.”
I think we’ve all been there where our mentality has hindered us from reaching our full potential. But once we break that mindset, it really is an invigorating feeling. Sometimes a little support and encouragement can ignite the passion and hunger we have inside us.
Breakfast. Anything that involves bacon, avocado, potatoes, and French toast. And, coffee.
Favorite way to treat yourself:
I consider dedicating a day to hanging out by myself a treat. Breakfast, coffee in hand, reflecting on the present moment, and an afternoon nail appointment. The nail salon is conveniently located in a mall, so it’s a two-for-one. But when it comes down to it, it’s the little things. Quality time with my fam bam. That’s a treat I don’t take for granted.
“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in the lonely frustration for the life you deserved but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won. It exists. It is real, it is possible, it is yours.” — Ayn Rand
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
What inspires and motivates you?
My vision. I have these thoughts about my time on this earth. The time I have with the people I love. The small interactions I’ve had with strangers. Questions I ask myself: Did I help someone? Did I make an impact? If I was gone, what did I leave behind? It motivates me to be a better person. To evolve. To grow. To learn. To give.
What do you do?
I currently work for the sister store of Lululemon, Ivivva. I am a key leader which is equivalent to a manager role. It’s a very community-involved company, and that’s what I love about it. Our main focus is to connect with young girls, support, and get involved in their activities and pursuits. We offer dreams and goals workshops and complimentary athletic classes. Through these events girls get to connect and celebrate each other, pushing their boundaries, and knowing that falling and getting back up is all part of the journey.
In my life, outside of work and training, I practice yoga weekly. I’ve grown to really appreciate it and find it challenging on many levels. I’ve also picked up an interest in photography and have a deep desire to design training apparel. I’m planning that in my vision and goals. My hobbies are to love on my dogs and take too many pictures of them. We have two English mastiffs. They make us better humans — remind us to not sweat the small stuff. For fun, I like to try different coffee shops and restaurants, and plan trips and places to visit. Recently, Casey and I started a YouTube series, Coupled in Strength, in which we share our ups and downs and breakthroughs, talking about everything in life, love, and lifting.
Describe a typical day in your life:
My work schedule varies each week. I either work at the store or out in the community. I wake up relatively early. Casey wakes up at 5 a.m. every day, so coffee is always made. I make breakfast which usually consists of egg whites and two slices of organic sprouted bread with grass-fed butter. Lunches are already prepped. We crock-pot everything and that gives us enough meals for most of the week. If my schedule permits, I’ll train either in the morning or at night. If I’m at the store, we plan our goals for the week to either make new connections, clientele, or plan events. If I’m in the community, I’ll sweat at a studio, stop in to visit girls who come to our store frequently and build relationships. It’s brand awareness but also partnering up with people in our community who share a common vision and goal. Days usually run long, so I’m home at 8 or 11 p.m. I attend to the wagging tails at the front door, head upstairs to shower, then go to bed. I try to get in six to eight hours of sleep. Days are structured which I love. It’s easier for me to get things done and eat my meals consistently.
Your next training goal:
I gave myself two goals last year: Qualify for the Arnold in powerlifting and qualify for the Arnold in strongman. I want to be exceptional in both sports. I have a strong passion for both so why not? To do it simultaneously will be the challenge.
What are you most grateful for?
Which three words that best describe you?
Driven, perceptive and sassy.
What’s a risk you’ve taken recently, and how did it turn out?
I was raised in Miami. I went to school there. My friends are there. I was working at an outpatient mental health facility. My degree was in psychology and social work, so gaining the experience I needed for my future was great. I was in a relationship. I had a cute, little efficiency. I was comfortable. Then, one year it hit me that I wasn’t happy with being comfortable. I didn’t want to settle. And if I wanted change, change had to happen. I ended a three-year relationship, I put in my notice at work, and I asked my brother to pick a date, and that would be the day I would move. It was sometime in December. I decided on Ohio because there was a support system there. Elitefts was there, and I had a few friends living there. Once I started packing my furniture and moved it into storage, that’s when it sunk in that everything was really happening.
People thought I was crazy because, why would I leave Miami for winter? It’s different living there rather than taking a vacation there. I was scared, anxious, nervous. This was something completely out of my element. I like structure and this was the complete opposite. It’s been over a year now, and I’ve overcome some ups and downs. I defeated self-doubt because I came to terms with failure. That if it didn’t work out, at least I took a chance. Once that happened, I became more open. More understanding. That led to growth and opportunity. As I’m writing this, I can say that I’m in a good place. I share a home with the best person I know. Even though it could have gone the other way, the route that didn’t lead to this point, we took a chance.
What’s the coolest “side effect” you’ve noticed from strength training?
Confidence — and nice delts.
How has lifting weights changed your life?
It’s made me value lessons. We dedicate months of preparation for a few hours on the platform. Henry Rollins wrote: “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.” If we didn’t experience failure. If we didn’t experience pain. How could we ever truly appreciate success?
What do you want to say to other women who might be nervous or hesitant about strength training?
There’s this misconception that you must be super strong or must know everything about training. I didn’t know what powerlifting was, and I tell people that all the time. If you have an interest in something, pursue it. What people don’t seem to realize is that starting is the easy part. The really hard part is when things don’t go your way. Stay the course. Don’t compare yourself. Don’t envy anyone. It’s about building yourself. Finding out what you’re capable of and where it may lead you. Once you’ve started, you’ll soon realize that it’s about building yourself and helping others. That it’s a privilege to train, not an obligation. You’re meant to have fun with it.
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