Grand Slam Journey

73. Mona de Lacey︱Mental Game of Champions: Overcoming Challenges, Resilience and Winning

April 14, 2024 Klara Jagosova Season 3
73. Mona de Lacey︱Mental Game of Champions: Overcoming Challenges, Resilience and Winning
Grand Slam Journey
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Grand Slam Journey
73. Mona de Lacey︱Mental Game of Champions: Overcoming Challenges, Resilience and Winning
Apr 14, 2024 Season 3
Klara Jagosova

Embark on an inspiring journey with Mona Pretorius de Lacey, the karate world champion turned Olympic weightlifting powerhouse. She shares the mental fortitude that propelled her to the pinnacle of three sports: Karate, Olympic weightlifting, and CrossFit. Her candid revelations about tackling the psychological hurdles of Olympic weightlifting and the versatility needed to switch disciplines serve as a masterclass in mental resilience. Mona's narrative is a testament to the indomitable spirit of female athletes everywhere as she weaves through tales of personal triumphs and societal challenges.

This episode is a deep dive into the transformative power of strength, both in muscle and mind, that defines Mona's approach to life and coaching. She poignantly discusses the early stigmas and obstacles she faced, drawing on her own experiences and the influence of her father's sporting background. Empowerment and self-love take center stage as Mona recounts opening her own gym, fostering an environment where women can not only lift weights but lift each other up through every stage of life.

Listeners, prepare to have your understanding of training and mindset in sports elevated. Mona's insights into adaptive training methods for athletes, the crucial role of visualization in preparation for competition, and the art of building a symbiotic coach-athlete relationship are profound. Her strategies aren't confined to the weightlifting platform—they're life lessons in harnessing the power of a strong mindset, perfect for anyone seeking to uplift their personal journey.

Connect with and follow Mona: 
📧 mona@liftbigeatbig.com
https://liftbigeatbig.com
www.youtube.com/@Strongbymona
https://www.instagram.com/strongbymona
https://www.facebook.com/monapretorius
https://twitter.com/MindsetMona
https://www.tiktok.com/@strongbymona

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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

This content is also available in a video version on YouTube.

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with someone who may enjoy it as well, and consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. You can also submit your feedback directly on my website.

Follow @GrandSlamJourney on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and join the LinkedIn community.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Embark on an inspiring journey with Mona Pretorius de Lacey, the karate world champion turned Olympic weightlifting powerhouse. She shares the mental fortitude that propelled her to the pinnacle of three sports: Karate, Olympic weightlifting, and CrossFit. Her candid revelations about tackling the psychological hurdles of Olympic weightlifting and the versatility needed to switch disciplines serve as a masterclass in mental resilience. Mona's narrative is a testament to the indomitable spirit of female athletes everywhere as she weaves through tales of personal triumphs and societal challenges.

This episode is a deep dive into the transformative power of strength, both in muscle and mind, that defines Mona's approach to life and coaching. She poignantly discusses the early stigmas and obstacles she faced, drawing on her own experiences and the influence of her father's sporting background. Empowerment and self-love take center stage as Mona recounts opening her own gym, fostering an environment where women can not only lift weights but lift each other up through every stage of life.

Listeners, prepare to have your understanding of training and mindset in sports elevated. Mona's insights into adaptive training methods for athletes, the crucial role of visualization in preparation for competition, and the art of building a symbiotic coach-athlete relationship are profound. Her strategies aren't confined to the weightlifting platform—they're life lessons in harnessing the power of a strong mindset, perfect for anyone seeking to uplift their personal journey.

Connect with and follow Mona: 
📧 mona@liftbigeatbig.com
https://liftbigeatbig.com
www.youtube.com/@Strongbymona
https://www.instagram.com/strongbymona
https://www.facebook.com/monapretorius
https://twitter.com/MindsetMona
https://www.tiktok.com/@strongbymona

8 EIGHT SLEEP
Save $200 on 8Sleep and get better quality and deeper sleep with automatic temperature adjustment

LEORÊVER COMPRESSION AND ACTIVEWEAR
Get 10% off Loerêver Balanced Compression and Activewear to elevate your confidence and performance

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

This content is also available in a video version on YouTube.

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with someone who may enjoy it as well, and consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. You can also submit your feedback directly on my website.

Follow @GrandSlamJourney on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and join the LinkedIn community.

Mona:

This is something that I felt like over time, I mastered a lot more and more as well, and I think, even as an athlete, if something doesn't go according to plan, say, for example, I thought I'm going to be called up in three attempts time, which gives me roughly like three minutes before I step on stage. And in weightlifting there's a lot of technical things that happen behind the stage as well and tactical stuff. So sometimes coaches would change the numbers that the athletes would lift on the actual platform at that time. So then all of a sudden, if I thought to myself, I still had maybe one more warm-up attempt to do, now all of a sudden they call my name because coaches have now changed what their athletes are starting, and as an athlete, you cannot panic. So the first thing you need to do is what I've noticed over the years is like I ground myself. I tell myself, whatever happens, I'm ready. So if I'm one warm-up short, it doesn't matter, I'm gonna step on stage and I'm gonna do this weight.

Mona:

So the first thing I do is I always make sure that I will always focus on the positive. I will always focus on the positive. I will always tell myself really motivational things like I'm strong. I did the work. I also walk at the back with a different kind of presence as well, because I find that if I'm sitting there because I'm also a very introverted person if I just sit in between my lips as well and my shoulders around it, I automatically feel less confident and I feel smaller and I just feel like all these other girls around me are lifting all these big weights. Am I actually worthy of being here? So I walk into that backstage and not arrogant, but I walk in there knowing that I'm ready. Whatever weight's going to be put on the bar, it's me and the bar.

Klara:

Hello ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Grand Slam Journey, where we discuss the Grand Slam journey of our lives sports and life after sports, including lessons we have learned from sports and how we apply them in the next chapter of our lives. My guest today is Mona de Lacey. Mona holds an honors degree in sports psychology and has spent 22 years of her life representing South Africa on the world stage. She's competed at the elite levels in three sports karate, crossfit and olympic weightlifting. She is a six-time karate world champion, crossfit games competitor and Commonwealth Games medalist in Olympic weightlifting, which is Mona's favorite sport, and has competed in the longest, having won many major international competitions such as the African and Commonwealth Championships. Through her this time, mona has also worked as a weightlifting coach and sports psychologist. Throughout this time, mona has also worked as a weightlifting coach and sports psychologist. Sharing her expertise and helping her clients work through difficult mental barriers is what drives her, and that's exactly what we're diving into in this episode. We talk about Mona's journey through sports Olympic weightlifting and we specifically dive into the mental aspect and what it means to be a female athlete. If you enjoyed this conversation, please share it with someone you believe may enjoy it as well, don't forget to subscribe so you don't miss the next episode, and consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts, spotify or any other platform you use to listen to this episode. This episode is also available on my YouTube channel, grand Slam Journey.

Klara:

This is your host, Kl ara Jagosova . Thank you for tuning in, and now I bring you Mona de Lacey. Hello, mona, welcome to the Grand Slam Journey podcast. Great to have you. How are you, hi Klara?

Mona:

Thank you for having me. I'm doing really well, thanks, how are you?

Klara:

All good here and I'm so thrilled to dive into so many topics with you. I've been privileged to have many strong women in my life and I love meeting strong women like you actually not only physically, but also mentally through all the sporting things you have achieved and also having a degree in sports psychology, and you're helping athletes achieve and maximize their potential through strength, but also mental skills and mindset. So I would love to dive into all of that, including, obviously, you being a six-time karate world champion, crossfit Games competitor, commonwealth Games medalist in Olympic weightlifting and, as I mentioned, having a degree in sports psychology. So that's a quick intro for me as far as what listeners may expect, but I'm curious where this conversation takes us. Anything you want to add, mona, in regards to your background and you would like listeners to know about you?

Mona:

Well, regarding my background, you pretty much nailed it. If I had to put it all in a nutshell, I've been doing sport my whole life. I grew up in quite a sporty home. I had a dad that guided me from a very young age, because I've had a lot of people in my life say to me how did you start Olympic weightlifting at like the age of 12? And I'm like, yeah, I would have never, ever have chosen it or found it or anything like that. I was quite happy, just like doing my own thing and being like a sporty child.

Mona:

But it was through me training for my karate and competing at a high level that my dad then found Olympic weightlifting as a sport to help enhance my power, my strength and just kind of take me to that next level, which it actually did. And then it was through some time that I actually started to fall in love with the sport when I got chosen to compete for the South African team. That's when kind of the whole Olympic weightlifting door opened for me and I kind of had like a bit of a switch over from the karate to the Olympic weightlifting side. But I also wanted to add like, with all of that as part of my background.

Mona:

I'm also a mom. So I'm a mom to a beautiful little girl. She's 13 months old now and I'm also currently pregnant now with baby number two. So that's quite an adventure. We're going to have two under two, so it's going to be crazy but amazing, and I think that also kind of all just ties everything in together with my sporting background and then being a mom and the different challenges and you know, also coming back from pregnancy to training again.

Klara:

Yeah, and hopefully we have some time to touch on that, because I love that addition. Thank you, congratulations on the second baby. I had a chance to meet your little girl virtually last time and seems like she has plenty of energy and you're leading her to sports early on. Actually, at 13 months Seems like she's already involved with gymnastics.

Mona:

Yes, that's right.

Mona:

Both my husband and I, you know, are big believers in teaching our little ones from a very young age, and not to a point where we want to push them into a competitive sport at that age, but just helping them learn the valuable skill of using their body learning how to climb things, learning how to roll, learning how to, you know, even when they fall off certain obstacles and things, which, with Mia, she's extremely active.

Mona:

She's walked since before she was one. So it's stressful as a parent to see when you kind of know that, okay, they can climb off things and do it properly and their body is kind of strong enough to handle it. It definitely helps a little bit with the stress not a lot, but it it does help, um, and it's also a great way for them to just kind of get rid of all their energy. Um, and like now she's because she's so active, like it's been amazing She'll do the gymnastics and then she'll nap after and that gives me a time to do things like this like a podcast or fit in some training and stuff like that.

Klara:

Yeah, I often think about happy child is also exhausted child. That is reflecting on my own upbringing. I've had so many different sports, including tennis, which I never realized how demanding tennis is because you run a lot on the court. The yellow tennis ball is a great distraction to forget how many miles you actually put in chasing it. And I always say I've never been a teenager because I've been always so tired and so when you get your energy out doing whatever sport, I feel like the grownup is so much easier. And so, yeah, just reflecting back, I've been grateful for my parents leading me through sports as well and not really having any other energy, even mind energy, to think about other things like trouble, things that I could get to and that other people or kids may have, if you don't have full schedule of activities.

Mona:

Yeah, I definitely agree with that. I've seen this a lot as a coach and I've seen this a lot. Even when I used to do Olympic weightlifting back in South Africa, there were a lot of kids that came from underprivileged homes and a lot of them are in situations where they could go either way. They could go the sporting route and create a future for themselves, or they could go into gangs. That's what ended up happening a lot of the times. Or some of them might start sport, but because there's not a lot of support and help in especially, uh, south africa when it comes to the financial support and even with nutrition etc.

Mona:

These kids end up starting sport. They are extremely talented and then they end up because of what's going on. They end up having to maybe find a job or quit school early or, um, you know, they fall into the trap of like doing bad things, like what their siblings did and potentially going into drugs, etc. But I've always said that sport is an amazing place. If it's done properly, it can be a safe place for these kind of kids. It can be a place where kids can come together and they can learn valuable, valuable skills, not just how to be an athlete, but you learn communication skills and leadership skills, and skills that I think you don't just use in sport, but then you end up using in your education and in your work one day, and some of these kids become extremely good with working with other people themselves and they create opportunities and open up doors through sport, and that's the amazing thing that I love to see that sport does for kids.

Klara:

Yeah, 100% agree, and actually this podcast is just about that. I've had my tennis is what I call my first career. I've done it for 15 years. One could say that I've learned much more from the sport than from anything else, including school. I have my undergrad and grad degree, but I would say taking the skills. I don't know why this. I want to say thumbs up. I saw the thumbs down.

Klara:

Taking the skills I've learned from my athletic has really been the thing that helped propel me in my second career and conquer with everything you said, even gaining confidence being a big kid early on. I've never been big like size, big but tall, so I never really fit in, so that confidence from the tennis court or whatever sport you practice kind of translates over to the next chapter, including like schools, kind of translates over to the next chapter, including like schools. Standing wasn't always easy, and you mentioned cultural diversity and just awareness, whether I've been traveling internationally, or just the diversity of kids. When you're at a sporting event it's beautiful because there's people and kids from all walks of life. So that literally sparked my enthusiasm for just having international friends, including international guests, on this podcast, like you, and so I love that.

Klara:

You brought up that point and I want to dive in maybe even a little bit deeper to your background. How was it? Growing up in South Africa? It seems like your dad led you through that sporting route. But what made you uncover your passion in karate? It seems like that was your first sport and then, if you can explain a little bit more and I find it actually it's hard for people to explain how they find their passion. But how did you kind of transition through the different sports?

Mona:

I love this question because it kind of takes me back to my childhood as well and the way I started karate is I've always been a person, like I said, I've been really active and I just remember my dad having a whole bunch of books in his like. He had this library of books that was just like either bodybuilding or some sort of a sport, and I remember finding these martial art books that he had and it was of Bruce Lee actually and I started going through them and I was about like seven years old, because I started karate when I was eight and I just remember going through them and showing my one friend that lived next door, because he actually started karate the same time as me as well, and we were just like how cool would this be to learn a martial art? And I don't actually even know how it came about. But then, you know, we both went to our parents. We were like, you know, we want to start karate. We ended up starting karate at the same club as well. It was one of those things that I loved doing. I loved, again, the culture behind karate. It just looked really cool. Like I said, from a young age I would either read the books, or I would watch martial art movies with my family and stuff. I actually started my karate career then when I was eight years old, and actually it wasn't as amazing as what I maybe thought it would have been, and I ended up actually failing my very first grading that I ever did.

Mona:

Now, for those that don't really know karate, it's like a belt system. So you'll start off with everyone starts off with a white belt and then you'll go from a white belt to a yellow belt and from a yellow to orange and green, et cetera, et cetera, and it's very rare for a kid to not pass a belt. So I must have been extremely bad to not even get my yellow belt. And that actually led my dad into saying that, okay, listen, if you want to do a sport, you know he's extremely competitive himself. He's very driven, like he wants his children to do good in sport. So he was like, okay, I'm going to take you under my wing, I'm going to start training you. This is the last time you're ever going to fail a belt. And that's kind of when my serious training started, and even though I was just eight years old at the time, it taught me many valuable lessons that I've now carried over into my life as well.

Mona:

Training under my dad, it was tough. I didn't have a chance to say, oh, I'm tired or I want to quit. It was like now we're going to start sacrificing. So when your friends are playing, like if I had to be forced into doing something like that, like I actually ended up loving the training and I loved doing well, I loved competing and, like you mentioned, you know, with all of that then I became a six-time karate world champion.

Mona:

And then, with all of that training, came then when I started the Olympic weightlifting that my dad found or he actually found a coach for me. And again it was really hard because in South Africa, especially at that time, it was around the year 2000. Especially at that time, it was around the year 2000. It was also the very first year that females competed at the Olympic Games in Olympic weightlifting and it wasn't a sport known for girls to do. It was like a male dominant sport. So if you did it, people looked at you like why are you doing a male sport? So there was a lot of stigma around it.

Mona:

When I started off, people would tell me you're going to start looking like a man and you're going to build these insane muscles and, like what you were mentioning earlier, then fitting in became really hard to a point where I felt like when I was at school I didn't fit in with the normal school kids, but when I competed and I traveled overseas and we were on training camps, it felt like this is home. I felt like this is where I belong, this is where I'm thriving, this is the place that I feel like this is my safe place and I think if I didn't have that my safe place and going on training camps and traveling overseas, I might have not liked Olympic weightlifting as much as what I did, just because as soon as I went back to school, it was teachers and kids that were teasing me doing a boy sport, etc. So it was really hard for me navigating the two at the end of the day, and to a point where even when I won medals, when I would be called up stage for them to hand over my medals at school, I felt shy about it and I felt embarrassed about it, because every time I would win medals it would feel like I'm putting myself in a position where people could tease me and people could pick on me and, like I said, especially the boys, and even the teachers mentioned it too they were like what kind of parents would put their kid into Olympic weightlifting? Like she's going to break her back by the age of 18. Like it's so bad, et cetera.

Mona:

And it's so crazy to think how time has evolved, because now it's such a popular thing for females to lift weights.

Mona:

Like females want to be strong, females want to feel powerful. Like I even remember when I opened up my own gym back in South Africa, I had a bunch of women that started and they were saying we love the CrossFit side of things, but we just don't want to lift the heavy weights. And at the end of the day they were the ones that came to me and said Mona, we want to start Olympic weightlifting, we want to start lifting heavy weights, we want to feel that powerful feeling. And every time they did and they would hit a new PR or they would compete, they would love it even more. So, yeah, that's just kind of how I grew up and how I've had to navigate, growing up in a situation where I loved my sport. It was amazing, I achieved a lot, but then, as a kid, it was a struggle because you have to deal with people teasing you or bullies and, like you were mentioning earlier, like then, fitting in was hard.

Klara:

I love so much of what you mentioned and I resonate with a lot of it. But first I want to ask was your dad an athlete? Because it's so impressive that he led you early on through actually something like. You mentioned Olympic weightlifting and I want to dive into the aspect of what you mentioned more. But yeah, did he have an athletic background?

Mona:

Yes, yes, my dad was actually quite a good rugby player himself. He played like provincial rugby back in South Africa, which is really big, and he's always been very good at what he does and he was very talented. So for him, because he was such a big sport lover, he wanted to make sure his kids would do good in sport as well. And my dad was a bit extreme to a point where he would be like, okay, if my child comes like second or third, he's like don't even say you're my child, like you need to be a champion. Some people are like, how could your dad be like that?

Mona:

But you know I now I like over the years I've come to notice, you know, like this was my dad, this was his personality, but it's also it opened up a lot of doors for me again and he guided me into situations where, like, if there were ever situations where I did fail, quitting won't even be an option for me, I would just be like, okay, I'm just gonna pick it up straight again, I'm gonna go back to the drawing board and I'm gonna see what I did wrong and I'm gonna fix it for next time.

Klara:

And I love the aspect of resilience. I've read and listened to some of your podcasts. You talk about that and I do want to tie into what I would call the tough love upbringing, because I've had sort of the same thing. My parents, I feel like, were always tougher on me than anybody else. They were like the first to point out what I could do better. We actually still laugh at it. I just came home from Czech Republic yesterday and my mom always got to remind us this isn't perfect or this isn't, but it's her way of showing us her love.

Klara:

And it can be hard for people at some point, but once you kind of grow through that point, I'm so grateful for it, because that resilience and not being even afraid of feedback and what other people tell you it's always how it's been framed in our family. If somebody's telling you truthfully what they mean and what you can improve, it means they care about you. So I always had coaches who yelled at me. There were many kids that couldn't handle the coaches I've had and they would scream and yell at you, sometimes like bad words, to kind of push you to and pass 100%. But I find it is so helpful as you kind of grow through the life and then it does need some refining, I find, later on in life. So I'm curious how you've taken that concept to more of like. I think at some age you got to be able to switch to I don't know if I would call it like this kindness and appreciation of your body and yourself to not push through pain and train accurately, because I think it can create more injuries if you constantly have that mindset pushing your body through and past limits at.

Klara:

I do love also what you mentioned about the weightlifting. I do Olympic sorry, not Olympic lifting, more powerlifting for a workout, and my mom and dad always were reminding me you're going to be so big. There's this stigma associated with once. Instead lifting heavy weights, you're going hard to grow muscle and be strong and it requires discipline and daily repetition and refinement of skills, including nutrition.

Klara:

There are so many aspects that goes into building strengths and so I also love your perspective and background and I find there is more women now. For sure they're open to it. I still think we need to push a little bit more and explain women that getting strong is important, especially as we age through life, because that's one thing I found. I can't run as much anymore, being close to 40. And so I've been adding incrementally more the several years, more weightlifting to my routine. To now, I actually mostly lift weights and do some like four five zone cardio now and then, but weightlifting has now become my primary way of how I stay in shape. So I want to just hand it back to you and I know I said a lot, but whatever comes to mind, what's your view on that?

Mona:

Yes, firstly, I love it that you are into a strength sport now because, like you mentioned, a lot of people don't know the benefits of strength training, especially as you get older, because then that's when it becomes even more important to do those kinds of things, especially for females. As we age, you know, our bone density decreases and things like osteoporosis is, you know, on the table. So it's like you need to do those kinds of things to actually help increase bone density and to be strong in general. Like the woman that I've seen who has done some sort of a strength training their whole life, like some of them are like in their eighties now and you won't even say it, like they are walking around, running around. They look really good. You can see a difference in the way they present themselves, in their posture. Everything about them just looks strong compared to if you've seen someone who potentially haven't lifted weights for maybe their whole life, maybe they've been sedentary. You can see how those kind of people age compared to the ones who's done strength training and what you also mentioned earlier about as you get into those certain stages of life.

Mona:

I know this is kind of like what you mentioned in the beginning. You know, as you said, you kind of have to get into a point where you have to have more like self-love for your body and, like you said, if you over push yourself, you can push yourself into injuries etc. And I find that, as an athlete who's been competing for over 20 years at an international level, it's definitely something that I've struggled with and it's something that you know. I find like I would be able to get to a point where I'm like, okay, I'm showing my body self-love, I'm doing the right stuff, my body's recovering really well, and then all of a sudden, you know I would have a mindset shift and then I would like really push my body again and you kind of just go through these like ups and downs in your sport. And I think, push my body again and you kind of just go through these like ups and downs in your sport. And I think you know that's kind of the beauty of being an athlete as well like it's not just linear. You know linear progression it is you go through ups, you go through downs. The same thing with your, your mental side of things as well. You know these are kind of things that you just you have to learn to navigate. These are kind of things that you just you have to learn to navigate and these are kind of the things that creates those like extra challenges as well. But then I think it's also important to have the right people in your corner as well, and I must say I've had the most amazing people in my corner growing up, as you know a kid going into then adulthood, and then also the same thing with just developing, and as a female as well, your body starts to change, you go through puberty, so there's a lot more. I think that comes into play when those kind of things happen as well, and I've seen this myself as a coach. I've seen female athletes or girls how they mentally change during that kind of time. And as a coach, you have to be able to be very sensitive around those times as well. And, like you mentioned, you can be a hardcore coach and there's some athletes who will be able to be resilient and they'll be able to push through. So you were one of those athletes. I feel like I were one of those athletes. I feel like I was one of those athletes as well. You know, I was always treated as if I was part of the boys, so I was constantly pushed. You know there was no such thing as like oh, your menstrual cycle started, so let's go a little lighter. I mean, I wouldn't even tell anyone, you know, I would just train through it. If let's go a little lighter, I mean, I wouldn't even tell anyone, you know, I would just train through it. If I felt like junk, it wouldn't matter, you know, I would just show up, I would do my best, I would just come back to the gym the next day and, you know, do better, et cetera. And that's the kind of mindset I had, but that was also because there was a lack of information back in the day as well. I feel like it's becoming a little better, where athletes, especially female athletes, are starting to talk about this more as well. They're starting to talk about menstrual cycles and they're starting to talk about the importance of how you need to take care of your body also during those kinds of times as well. Honestly, I was one of those athletes who overpushed my body so much because I always wanted to be the best and, again, I wasn't educated and competing in Olympic weightlifting. You compete in weight classes as well, so I ended up and it might be around 2010, that I ended up losing my menstrual cycle. So for two or three years I didn't have a menstrual cycle at all, and at that time I just thought and this was because my body fat percentage was so low and I was competing in a weight class and again, I had no one guiding me at that time. I had no one telling me this is unhealthy For me. I just saw it as oh, that's nice, I don't have to deal with this now monthly, but without even knowing how I've educated myself over the years and things that I've learned about the body, et cetera. Now I know how important that part of the body actually is. That is a way of showing you are either healthy or you are unhealthy. And when this starts to become troubles and this is what I picked up later in life, because then I struggled to fall pregnant I ended up with endometrial polyps, I had to go for surgery, those kinds of things, and those are the kinds of things that I only years later realized that how much damage I was doing to my body. But again, if there was the proper forms of education and females were educated and coaches were educated, because back in the day we only had male coaches. So men, naturally, it's not a topic they feel comfortable with. I feel like nowadays, some males are a bit more inclined to know a bit more of it, and I was actually lucky my weightlifting coach that I found I think it was around 2011, 2012 as well he would ask me these questions. He would say to me is it that time of the month, especially if I was hitting really high numbers and potentially my technique wasn't looking good or I was feeling a little off? I started to realize then, okay, this is actually important and it does play an important role in my performance as well. But, like I said, I just feel like there needs to be a lot more education out there. And female athletes they are trying, they are talking about it, but I feel like it still isn't taken very seriously Because, again, it's a way of showing your body is either healthy, you are on track, like you know, when a female ovulates, like that's the time, she's also the strongest, but we don't know these things. I only started knowing these things when I started to, when my husband and I were trying for a baby, and it blows my mind because there's so little research out there and there definitely should be more.

Klara:

Yeah, I agree, I've also recently started seeing some of my friends now that are retiring in tennis, talk about it just because they're having babies and actually conquer with everything you said. I haven't had a regular menstrual cycle, I think all the way through college and I always seen it like you, I was like good, I don't have to deal with it and just the amount of training you put in, right, it just kind of changes the body and the tiredness and what it needs to focus on the body and the tiredness and what it needs to focus on. But I also think about the connection of the menstrual cycle to mindset and think about like peak performance and so, looking at it back then I think again I'm really grateful that we've been kind of pushing and training through it because in some ways when it comes to competition, you don't pick on which day the competition is and I actually truly believe my hypothesis.

Klara:

Sometimes, when you look at women's sports at least, especially in tennis, there seem to be more ups and downs on the women's side than on the men's site, and I actually truly think that there is this aspect of like recovery and readiness. Obviously that's on both sides, but that menstrual cycle and where we're at at certain point can create much more variability. There are people that are starting investing in the apps or in some more research about kind of that, including now kind of the menopause, which is really great that I see more books and more things come out. Hopefully more and more will continue to come up to kind of see that there's the biological and hormonal differences that require us to pay more attention to certain things.

Mona:

I definitely agree with you. I think again, it's a struggle, I think, for females, and people don't actually realize the things that we have to deal with because, like you mentioned, there's a positive to it that we never made it a mental thing so when we would compete we wouldn't mentally psych ourselves out because we knew we were going to potentially have our cycle at that time. And there was a time and it was so funny because I felt like every single international competition I had was the exact same time my menstrual cycle started and I was just like man. You know, it's just something you have to deal with. Like you said, if it's competition day, you can't be rocking up there and just being like, oh, you know, I've got my cycle, so it's okay if I'm not performing at my best. You know you can't have that mindset Like. You have to compete and give your best, especially if it's at such a high level and you've got so much at stake. You've got potentially sponsors, you've got your coaches. You just have so many people behind you, and yourself as well, in order to show up. Like you said, you can't choose the day that it's going to be your competition day, so sometimes you just have to put it aside and be like okay, I have my menstrual cycle. Normally it is a time where I don't feel my best, but I've personally, as an athlete as well, I've had some of my best competitions during that time. And again then it causes this mental conflict of like okay, does it become a mental thing, like you said, because you mentally start telling yourself okay, when I have my cycle, I know I already feel off and I think you start to train yourself that during that time you're mentally going to feel off. But as an athlete, I think it's also important to, during even like training sessions and when you're building up towards competitions, to just make sure that even if it happens on a training day, you can still train through it. You might not feel the best that you possibly could be feeling and again it could even be affecting your confidence or just even how you present yourself, because you might just not feel as strong and powerful. But again, when it comes to the mental side of things, you have to in your mind, you have to rephrase it, you have to turn it into a positive. It's competition day, I have to show up, I have to give my best, I'm fully prepared, I did everything I needed to do. So just think of all the things that were in your control leading up to that competition. So I think those kinds of things help as well.

Mona:

And again, having your menstrual cycle that's an uncontrollable. I know there's doctors out there who's given athletes you know, who'll put them on the pole and they'll be able to, like, skip their cycle and et cetera, et cetera. But again, I'm not an expert in that field and I'm not one to want to promote doing those kinds of things, just because I know hormonally, when athletes start messing with their hormones, how it can affect things later on in their life. Like I mentioned, I only started taking the hormones and stuff like that seriously when my husband and I were starting to try for Mia, and it took us a year and a half to fall pregnant, with two miscarriages in between as well. So it really opens up your eyes to how important those kinds of things are.

Mona:

But again, as an athlete, you do push your body to the limits and you do do things that a normal person would look at and be like. Why are you doing this to yourself and that, again, sometimes make the champion? They sacrifice certain things. Like I said, they push themselves to the limits. They are resilient when it comes to certain things. If there's certain downs in their life, you know like they, they use it to feed themselves, to become better athletes, etc. So there's there's that. I guess that there's a positive to it and a negative to becoming more educated about these things.

Klara:

Yes, yeah, on that note and the note of resilience, I've been reading on your Olympic weightlifting journey and I know it has taken you 18 years to actually stand on the podium of the Commonwealth and you've tried many times. And on the note of overtraining, it seems like maybe the couple of times before you had the opportunity and competed in it, you had injuries, and so I'm curious if you could share a little bit about your journey for listeners who obviously haven't heard it yet. But also, what are some of the key things that you have taken away? Like when you compare the first two times that you qualified and you competed with an injury and then the third time, it seems like you actually changed and tweaked your mindset a little bit. That then helped you get to the medal.

Mona:

Actually that was the fourth time. So yes, you are exactly right. Like it took me 18 years to stand on the podium to win a Commonwealth Games medal, and especially for those that are based in the USA. Just to kind of explain what the Commonwealth Games is Now, like you have the Olympic Games in. You know all sports compete, etc. Commonwealth Games is the second biggest event to the Olympics, so it's one step down to the Olympics and it's normally the athletes who also end up doing really well at Commonwealth are also the athletes who end up doing really well at things like Olympics, et cetera, and Worlds. So it's a very big competition. It's really tough. It's only once every four years, so if something ends up happening and you are either injured or things doesn't go well on the day, it's another four year build up towards the next Commonwealth Games.

Mona:

And what ended happening with me was in 2006,. It was my very first Commonwealth Games. I might have been 18 at the time, or 17, but I was really young, I was still a junior athlete. I ended up coming either fourth or fifth and they kind of put me like on quite a pedestal because I competed. I was still a junior, I competed against senior athletes. I was beating most of the senior athletes as well. I was holding South African records in both the junior weight classes and the senior weight classes and winning a whole bunch of international medals in between as well. I won University World's medal. I won at the Youth Olympics, I ended up winning silver and I became the first South African to ever have done this at such a young age, and still the only athlete who's ever won a medal at a world event. So there was a lot of hope for me going into the next commonwealth games and with that four-year build-up going from the 2006 commonwealth games to the 2010 commonwealth games, the build-up itself was really good. I'd, but that was also the time I was studying to become a sports psychologist. Like you mentioned, I've got my honors degree in sports psychology and I had a lot on my plate. I had my studies, I had my internship, we had our thesis that we had to do Um and I had to work as well during that time to get like intern kind of hours so that I can become a sports psychologist.

Mona:

After my studies, et cetera, and leading up to the 2010 Commonwealth Games, like I said, the preparation itself felt really good. I just I had a lot going on at that time, but I've always been one to be like. I thrive under pressure, so I didn't even use it as an excuse. I didn't see it as anything bad. I just knew I had to wake up earlier in the morning If I wanted to get two sessions in a day. I have to train at five o'clock in the mornings and then come home and sometimes at like six seven o'clock at night do my second session and it was full on day, seven days a week. Second session, and it was full-on days, seven days a week.

Mona:

And my 2010 Commonwealth Games. I ended up going into the competition feeling really good and I pulled my calf muscle. I think it was the 2010 one that I ended up pulling my calf muscle on the day. Yes, we were in India for that Games and I ended up getting my snatches. But in Olympic weightlifting, if you don't get either your snatches or your clean and jerk, you end up bombing. So they give you a total of zero and, because it's one of those competitions as well, it's on national tv. You have the whole country supporting you. Um, it was a very big thing for, like my family and my sponsors etc.

Mona:

And bombing at the 2010 commonwealth games was mentally extremely hard for me. I felt like a failure. I felt like I couldn't show my face. I felt like my whole world kind of collapsed and I I went through this. You know, I had my calf injury. I immediately got back from india and I started my rehab and I got straight back into training and it took me a little while of just mentally having to like kind of deal with what happened, but I went straight back to the drawing board and got straight back to training and I saw myself as not, like I said earlier, like I don't see myself as a quitter.

Mona:

And then I ended up training for the 2014 Commonwealth Games and again, leading up to that Commonwealth Games, things again went really well. My training went good. I might have had quite a few little niggles at that time as well, but again, I would just push through it and I think I was battling with a wrist injury at that time and, very similar to what happened to the 2010 Commonwealth Games went into it over, pushed my body just mentally. I was just depleted when it came to the 2014 Commonwealth Games. So I didn't even end up enjoying the competition. I felt like mentally it was a struggle. Physically it was a struggle. The weight cut was a struggle, but again I said to myself I'm not going to use this as an excuse. But then my body ended up failing me on competition day. Like I said I mentioned, I had another injury, as well in 2014. And then between 2014 and 2018, as well in 2014.

Mona:

And then between 2014 and 2018, I went through a big mental shift, and more so because I also then ended up deciding in 2015 that my coach is American. I'm going to prepare with him in America for three months for the world championships in 2015. I want to give it a try. I want to train with him. I've barely ever trained with my coaches, unless I was in training camps, so I I saw it as like this is an opportunity that if I don't take this now, I I'm probably never going to be able to do this. And as an athlete as well, as you get older, your career only gets shorter and shorter. So I knew this was the time. I also had a crossfit gym that I owned back in South Africa at the time crossfit and weightlifting gym. So I had to just make sure I had good coaches running the gym. I had a good manager, things were still gonna go as planned, so that when I go to America for three months to prepare for my competition, that my gym wasn't going to fail. So you kind of have the whole stress of the business side. But then you are also an athlete at that time, and preparing in America with my coach was probably the best thing that I could have done. It made the world of difference.

Mona:

I competed in the 2015 Worlds. I got six out of six. I broke South African records. I made a huge total. I actually ended up going up a white class as well, which was the best thing I could have done.

Mona:

I just felt so much stronger and the environment itself was so amazing, to a point where, when I came back in 2015, I knew that I wanted to move to America. I just saw it as this is a place where there's so much opportunity. This is a place where I can see saw it as this is a place where there's so much opportunity. This is a place where I can see myself growing. This is a place where I can just see myself evolving. And because they took sports so much more seriously than what they do in South Africa, especially when it comes to Olympic weightlifting.

Mona:

I wanted to give myself that opportunity and I knew if I didn't, I'd probably end up regretting it, even though I'm a very introverted person, when I know in my heart that this is something I need to do in order to grow or to get to that next level, either in my sport or in my career or in life, I need to do it. I put my mind to it and I'm like nothing's going to stop me. I'm just going to do it to it and I'm like nothing's gonna stop me. I'm just gonna do it. And, yes, I ended up moving to America.

Mona:

I then opened up a weightlifting gym in a CrossFit gym as well, in Austin, texas, and I ended up working with quite a few special forces athletes, special forces guys, and I ended up also opening up a youth weightlifting section as well, and that's when I created, like this whole youth weightlifting program, which again was amazing, because training kids is just one of my big passions and just being in that atmosphere and I think, taking that next step, it put me in a place where I was closer to my coach and we could work more closer towards, you know, my actual goals. And during that time he actually said to me that, mona, I think instead of training twice a day because you always have so much on your plate, you're always so busy, because you've been injured the whole time, you're constantly sick we need to take it down a notch. I think we need to train once a day and we need to trust in the process that you are going to still perform as well or even better, by just being able to recover more. And it was a big mental shift because I was always a believer of, like, yes, quantity over quality. But for an athlete going from two trainings a day to just one I mean, you go from like how many sessions I had about like 10 sessions a week, from 10 sessions a week to now doing potentially just six it was a big change for me. And mentally I didn't know if I was ready in the beginning because I thought you know what if I get weaker? You know I need to put in the extra work, et cetera. But I also knew that I 100% trusted my coach and I trusted in the process and I said you know what, let's do this, we've got nothing to lose. And immediately I started to feel so much more energized, I started to feel mentally so much more like recovered. Feel mentally so much more like recovered. I started to feel like I could focus more on like my body and my recovery and just being more me and enjoying my sport instead of actually just like breaking my body down every single time.

Mona:

And, like I mentioned, leading up into that 2018 Commonwealth Games, I went into the Commonwealth Games with no niggles. Mentally, I just felt so much more ready. I felt excited to compete. I felt that hunger again and I just had a different feeling going into it. I was like, whatever happens, I just feel ready and I went there. I felt so much more confident.

Mona:

I wasn't just fatigued all around and, yeah, I ended up having my base competition day, got six for six again broke South African record, stood on the podium, probably like made history for South Africa, because I was the second female ever in Olympic weightlifting to win a medal at a Commonwealth Games. So it was an amazing moment and I always forget, unless I look back at what I've achieved and it was just such a special moment. But, like you mentioned, it took a lot of resilience and hard work. But also there's a time in your life where, if something isn't working. You have to change things and you have to have that mindset shift and you have to do things differently, because otherwise you just do the same thing over and over again and get the same result, and that's just when you know, okay, things need to change.

Klara:

I love so many things about your story and what you shared. Curious, curious though, how old were you when you were training for the last one and you realized you need to dial down the amount of training I?

Mona:

think I might've been 28 or 29. I was close to 30. I've already then been doing the sport for close to 20 years. And you know, in my 20 years of training, close to 20 years, and you know, in my 20 years of training, I never changed the way I trained. I just pushed, push, push. And you don't realize, like training the way you did when you were 12. Comparing training, you know, the same way at 27 it's just not the same thing. Mentally, physically, recovery takes 10 times as long. So there's just so many more factors to look at.

Klara:

I laugh because I've gone exactly the same route. I think mine actually started earlier my hypothesis and kind of would love your opinion on it especially women because we start I say we start aging sooner, because we stop growing a little bit sooner. Right, I actually think that the re-evaluation of the amount of work that needs to happen should start at least in already, like early twenties, that's where.

Klara:

I actually over-train a lot because I would be used to training six, seven hours a day from 13 to 20 in a tennis academy and in tennis there's like a lot of things. So it's not just obviously tennis skills, but you have the conditioning, you have some strength, agility, like there's many components of the game that you can train individually, separately. And then when I came to college I was like, oh, this is like normal. I used to train this much and you don't realize how much more where you're getting, including if you're not getting enough sleep because you're studying, so your body can recover, because you're up and you have exams, and so you have to take all of that into account. And the recovery at the university actually wasn't as good as what I was used to before.

Klara:

So what I'm trying to say, it's really important also what it seems you had in this instance, a coach and people who pointed out to you and help you navigate that mindset shift, because I've gone through it myself and I was like I was so stupid If I trained less, I could have been such a better athlete because I wouldn't have all the injuries.

Klara:

So I always had in my mind I need to push the body to and past the limit, and when it started breaking down, it usually breaks down when you're close to at least your level of perfection, right, when you think everything is going good and you push just a little bit, it's typically as you actually had experience before the biggest competitions because you're trying to be perfect or as good as you can to build up towards that. Because you're trying to be perfect or as good as you can to build up towards that, it's just one little thing that happens and it kind of breaks, so you almost feel it like your body broke down and you're mad at the body. Instead of just reflecting, maybe I should dial it down. And so it was really great that you had that coach next to you and, again, you train with him so he could observe that and help you navigate. Less is more.

Mona:

You need to step back, and I think, especially for athletes or people who are used to driving, that pulling back is so hard it is and I feel like it's something that you, as the athlete, it's much easier if a coach tells you to do that, and that's why I always say you know it's something that you, as the athlete, it's much easier if a coach tells you to do that, and that's why I always say you know it's so important. It doesn't matter how good you are in your sport, you need a coach. Because I feel like if we didn't have coaches, if we had to take control of the wheel, like you mentioned, like we would just be going full force all the time until our body just physically and mentally, we just break down and our bodies is just like nope, we just can't carry on yeah, and so maybe going back a little bit more to the mindset, because you described quite a bit of the mindset and changing mindset in many different ways, but especially in olympic lifting.

Klara:

I love watching o Olympic lifting. It's just so impressive the amount of weight you are able to lift in just such an elegant way. But, like, what I'm watching is like, oh my God, like how can they snatch or clean and jerk that amount and from my own, more of a powerlifting. Now I've done some Olympic lifting. Actually, when I was at a CrossFit gym you may know Joanne Ada and Max Ada. They were part of a CrossFit CSA, so they taught me Olympic lifting technique. I find it's a beautiful sport to move the bar in such an elegant way.

Klara:

But you also only have that one lift. So when you get on the stage, I always look at the facial expression and the body expression, like everybody. When they walk, they have their little different routine, even how they grab the bar, or it seems like you're going through so much in your mind so that probably translates to all different parts of your life. What do you want to share, mona, about that? Your preparation for for it, the mental side, and how you've taken that to different aspects as well, or to your other athletes that you now coach?

Mona:

yes, I, I think that's such an important question, uh, clara, because you know, I also think that especially when people start the sport of olympic weightlifting them starting it, like you know they have this like thing in their mind of like what they want to achieve. And then they realize, well, olympic weightlifting is actually really hard. And I always say, you know it's really hard, but you know you have to break down the movements and once you start mastering the skill of doing the movements, then automatically your body starts remembering and that's when you also start to feel like super proud of yourself. You're like, wow, I actually know now how to snatch, I know how to get under the bar, and even as an athlete, it's constant growth. It's constantly like technical things will come up. So you will find that, even if you've done the sport for 10 or 20 years, like your coach will always pick something out and be like, oh no, you need to pull closer, or you need to push more with your legs, or you need to get full extension, or you need to be more aggressive with your punch or something. Um, but it's also, again, it's the beauty of the sport, because there's all these like little challenges as well. But when it comes to the mental side of Olympic weightlifting, I feel like it teaches a lot of patience. It teaches you to also have that mind muscle connection.

Mona:

But then again, when it comes to training and competing and I think this is sometimes where athletes tend to go wrong or when they start to compete they have a whole different approach when it comes to routine than what they do in training. Now I always say you know, the way you train is the way you compete. So you need to make sure that mentally, you do the same thing that you are going to do in competition. Physically, you need to do the same thing as what you're going to do in competition, because the end of the day, when you compete, there's a lot more things that come to play. Like there's there's nerves and there's adrenaline and there's now you are the only person on a stage, potentially with a whole bunch of people in front of you, like now there's judges and you need to know where to look and not get distracted. And you need to know where to look and not get distracted and you need to walk onto that platform and a hundred percent believe that you know you can do this weight. I think we spoke about it a little bit in our conversation that we had prior to the podcast we talked about. You know like if you go and do that weight, you can't have an ounce of doubt. You need to 100% believe. And the thing also about weightlifting is, even though there's so many components to it, you can't overthink it. So then when you step onto that platform, you might have one or two cues that you think about, but that's it.

Mona:

What I normally do is, when I step onto the platform at international competitions, et cetera, I'll chalk my hands up and stuff, and I've got my little like routine. That I do is like I'll walk up and down, but during that time, even when I walk up and down, I will literally just focus on my breathing. And this is something that between 2014 and 2018, I really started to focus on as well, because I'm an athlete that I can do really well in training, and then sometimes, when I would compete, my nerves would just take over that when I stepped on the platform, I would literally feel numb, I would feel like I'm not in my body and when I touched the bar, things would just feel out of sync. And I then learned over time that that was also because then when I walked onto the platform and I was so nervous, my breathing wasn't in sync. So that was one thing that I really focused on going into the Commonwealth Games was focusing on grounding myself, focusing on getting my breathing properly, and that helped me not just feel more focused, but it also helped me feel stronger when I did my actual lift. But again, that's something that it took years and years and years for me to be able to master and even once I mastered it, there's still competitions after that where I wouldn't get it perfectly.

Mona:

But again, it again starts with training. So if you find something that works, I always say stick to your routine. Make sure you do it in training so that when competition time comes you're not doing new things, you're not all of a sudden now, because it's competition time, you're eating different, you need to sleep more, you need to focus on different things. If you're not used to listening to music in training, don't go into competition now all of a sudden listening to music, because it could distract you, it could mess with your whole way of doing things and sometimes when athletes do that, they end up over-psyching themselves and then, like I mentioned earlier, you go into the platform and the energy that you were supposed to use for that lift at that moment tends to be gone. So you need to make sure that you reserve all that energy for that split second that you are going to do that snatch and everything is just going to come together. So, yeah, that's a little bit about the mental side of the training versus competing.

Klara:

Yeah, love it. And again, as I listened to some other podcasts you were on, it seems like you had quite elaborate routine. I actually used to have quite elaborate routine in tennis too, to a point where I think maybe it was just way too much like a whole two, two and a half hour thing that I kind of had to go through and then I found, oh, two and a half hour is not effective in college, because in college you're like the whole team and the whole team can't adjust to like my own routines. I had to figure out how to refine it and make it shorter and more effective. But I would love to dive in even a little bit more to your routine on stage. Can you lead us in? You said you put a chalk in. What do you do from breathing technique? What do you tell yourself? Do you have some cues that really helped you focus? I'm curious about it.

Mona:

Yes, and again, this is something that I felt like over time, I mastered a lot more and more as well, and I think even as an athlete as well. If something doesn't go according to plan, say, for example, I thought I'm going to be called up in three attempts time, which gives me roughly like three minutes before I step on stage. And in weightlifting there's a lot of technical things that happen behind the stage as well and tactical stuff. So sometimes coaches would change the numbers that you know the athletes would lift on the actual platform at that time. So then, all of a sudden, if I thought to myself, I still had maybe one more warmup attempt to do. Now all of a sudden they call my name because coaches have now changed what their athletes are starting, and as an athlete, you cannot panic. So the first thing you need to do is you need to like. What I've noticed over the years is like I ground myself. You know, what I've noticed over the years is I ground myself. I tell myself, whatever happens, I'm ready. So if I'm one warm-up short, it doesn't matter, I'm going to step on stage and I'm going to do this weight. So the first thing I do is I always make sure that when I'm at the back, I will always focus on the positive. I will always tell myself you know, really motivational things. Like you know, I'm strong, I did the work. I also walk at the back with a different kind of presence as well, because I find that if I'm sitting there because I'm also a very introverted person if I just sit in between my lips as well and my shoulders around it, I automatically feel less confident and I feel smaller and I just feel like all these other girls around me are lifting all these big weights. Am I actually worthy of being here? So I walk into that backstage and not arrogant, but I walk in there knowing that, like I'm ready, Whatever weight's going to be put on the bar, it's me and the bar. I don't care about what anyone does around me, because my coach is the one who will say to me okay, it's now time to do this warmup lift or that warmup lift, etc. So I only focus on the weight itself.

Mona:

Now, one thing I also do is I've got like a training playlist that I listen to, and sometimes I will only have like one or two songs that I will choose and I'll play them on repeat, over and, over and over again and I don't get bored of them. They always motivate me. It's so funny, but those are the songs that even when I walk onto the platform at the back, I'll play those songs in my mind, because it tends to make me feel confident, it makes me feel happy and it makes me feel like man. I'm going to do this weight and it's so crazy what music can do. And I know there's some athletes out there that they don't listen to music. They're perfectly fine just sitting with their own thoughts. But I don't want to sit with my thoughts because I don't want a negative thought to creep in. So I'll listen to my music until I step on stage.

Mona:

Like I mentioned earlier, the way I walk onto that stage, I already try and walk on there as if I know I've already got this weight. You can't walk onto that platform having any doubts. I visualize as if I've already done the weight as well. So I'll chalk my hands up. I do my little well, walk at the back, like once or twice. I then will close my eyes.

Mona:

I'll do a quick visualization of me actually completing the lift and seeing how I want that lift to be done. I speed it up a bit because obviously I don't have. You only have a minute to walk onto the platform and do your lift and I go to that bar. I, again, when it comes to my breathing, I do nose breathing in by my nose, out by my mouth, and I tend to just wait until I feel like, okay, my heart rate is regulated, and then I go and I do that lift. So, again, there's not a lot of thoughts that happen between me and doing that lift. I have maybe one or two things, but it's more my approach, my breathing, and then just like being super aggressive when I do that weight.

Klara:

I love that because I've had similar kind of routine in tennis and perspective and I find in those moments, the less you can think the better. So if you can actually get to your zone of just having no thoughts, it's almost the best. And it seems like you've also studied the mindfulness and just trusting that movement and trusting that body. It knows how to move. So if you just get in and let it do its thing without any doubts, that's when you can be the best. Just think positive.

Klara:

And you also talked, um, about visualization and the power of visualizing, which, um, I've also done in tennis. So actually, on that note, I find it's really important for coach and athlete to find this fit. You've given some examples from your career and I think it's important in the skill of the sport, but I think in the mental aspect even more so, because everybody is a little bit different, everybody's mind works a little bit differently, and so we need to find almost our own routines and things that work for us to rewire our thoughts from the negative or restrictions and anxiety to performance and this almost empty space of letting our bodies just flow to perform the movement accurately. Do you have any tips on that, mona, or how do you find that athlete match, kind of coach match, and how do you coach your athletes through that mindset shift.

Mona:

Yes, definitely. Again, through my years, even though my coach wasn't like a mental performance coach or a sports psychologist, he was really good with knowing how to ground me and he didn't panic. And again, for me I feel like that's really important with a coach that you know things aren't always going to go according to plan. You're not always going to win all the medals, so when that happens you and the coach need to be in sync. But I think the first thing that needs to happen, there should be a really strong trust bond between you and your coach, because that's when you believe that if your coach tells you you can do this weight, even if your coach isn't a sports psychologist, you need to know that my coach won't tell me I'm going to do a weight if he doesn't really believe I'm not going to do that. I still remember there was one competition where I almost clean and jerk double body weight. I clean and jerked 120 kilos and it was the first time I've ever done that weight. The plan was to go into that competition and do 115. My coach said you know, we're're just gonna go up to like 90 95 percent super light compete. And then my coach just said to me like you're looking really strong today. Let's just put 120. And at first I was like, because my coach's name was Dutch, I was like Dutch, that's firstly, that's not 90 percent like that. That means like we're gonna do a super heavy competition day because. And then my coach is like you know how to clean and do it, like you know what's the issue. I was like, yep, he's right, I'm just going to, you know, psych myself up. I know I can do this. That won't tell me I can do 120. If he doesn't believe I can do 120, even though afterwards he was like he took a big chance but he also knows that I'm a very gutsy lifter. So if he shows a lot of confidence in the fact that he knows I can do it, I grab from that confidence and I automatically believe then that I can do it and I think that's a really strong dynamic that if you have that with a coach, you, you guys, are probably going to go a long way for a really long time.

Mona:

I think the problem is when you find a coach and maybe you are dealing with some mental things and maybe you don't have a sports psychologist that you see, but you are looking for the mental help from your coach and your coach isn't able to give that to you. Or maybe you you are looking for someone that you could potentially trust and in like a competition time where your coach said one thing and then all of a sudden he changes to another thing and you maybe, as an athlete, picked up like there was doubt or your coach didn't believe that you could do that. I think that's where trouble normally comes. But yeah, I also think that even though a coach should be really good on the mental side as well, I also believe that if the coach is not an expert in sports psychology or mindset training, you shouldn't be scared to refer your client to a sports psychologist, because, at the end of the day, he's an expert in his field and a sports psychologist because, at the end of the day, he's an expert in his field and a sports psychologist is an expert in their field. Sometimes just having the two of them could make a really good team.

Mona:

I've seen some really good dynamics where there are athletes who have sports psychologists and having the sports psychologist on the side has made a huge difference in the way they perform. It's made a huge difference in even their communication with their coaches, because I think often what ends up happening as, like an athlete, you don't share every single thing with your coach. And it's important if you do want to have that really strong bond and you do want to get to the next stage, like in competition, or you want to reach high levels, you and your coach need to have, like I mentioned, that trust bond and you need to be able to share certain things with your coach. And I think if you can do that and there's a really good way of you know just being able to communicate with your coach, then I think you're going to go quite far with your coach. But it's definitely it's unique to everyone else. You need to kind of just assess how things go.

Mona:

Sometimes you find a coach and it's a perfect match, and sometimes you find a coach and it just isn't. I mean, I've gone through a few coaches, like in my sporting career as well. Luckily, I didn't have to actually like leave coaches, but going from national team to national team, like coaches just changed, so it was like a normal thing. But when I ended up choosing my american coach, I knew like the first agreement we had is like he said to me I will be your coach and I will be there 1000, just because we, because we are so far from each other. I'm in south africa and he's in america. He said I don't want you to f around on the program. He's like if this is what I'm saying, you are doing, you need to do exactly this, and if you can't, we communicate about it. But that's the only way this is gonna work.

Klara:

yeah, I love you highlighting the trust and just having great communication, or something I definitely reflect on and conquer from experience. You can't push somebody or inspire somebody to go and pass their limits or potential without really them trusting the coach, trusting in the athlete as well chest thing in the athlete as well. Anything else you want to highlight, mona, when it comes to that connection, psychology I know we're running kind of on time here, but I just love your experience and you've talked about again the resiliency routines. What comes to mind that you think people might want to focus on more in even 2024, as we're coming to turbulent times, that you think they can take from the athletic mindset and performance of a top athlete like you to their personal lives.

Mona:

I think you know one of the important things is, like you have to realize that when it comes to your mindset, you have to train it the exact same way as what you would train your physical side mindset. You have to train it the exact same way as what you would train your physical side. I think a lot of people think automatically you are just going to have this either really good mindset and it's going to stay good, and you're going to stay confident. And that's one of the things as an athlete that I learned. You go through a lot of ups and downs. You go through stages where you're confident. Then you go through stages where you just really doubt yourself, especially when injuries come or there's certain obstacles in your way. Then you go through stages where you just really doubt yourself, especially when injuries come or there's certain obstacles in your way. But again, you need to take those as learning experiences and when it happens, like I mentioned, you have to continually train your mind. So if you want to learn how to visualize, you need to train visualization the same way as you would train your physical skills. If a certain situation happens, like, say, you are an athlete who have to think really fast, if you have to quickly change your mindset, there's certain like little techniques and things that you can do to help you quickly change your mindset, but again, you have to train it. And then again you have to make sure that all of this happens in training so that when it comes competition time you've already mastered those skills the physical and the mental side of things so that when you come to competition time you can just literally take all of those skills and be like okay, I'm taking the whole package and now I'm just putting it all to the test.

Mona:

And, like I said, sometimes it will work. Sometimes you will get competitions where it just won't go as good, but it's really good to reflect afterwards. Go back to the drawing board and you know sport, like anything in life, it's a learning experience. Like I said, you're going to go through ups, you're going to go through downs, but sometimes, when the bad things happen, you have to take it with a grain of salt. Sometimes, when the bad things happen, you have to take it with a grain of salt. You have to move on and you just have to believe that these obstacles are there to make you stronger yeah, 100% and conquer with all you said.

Klara:

Even reflect on my time is the hardest time. That always refine my skills the best and seems like what you've shared from that experience. When it came to my competition, I had a similar approach to where, when I got to the tournament or the court, obviously that it counted the most. All I had to do is like I just want to play the same way in practice. So if you're, you make your practice the same way like the competition and you go in with the same mindset. My goal's always been if I just do the same thing like in practice, I'm good, so that it seems like you had the same approach in life.

Mona:

Yes, that's great.

Klara:

Anything else for people who want to reach out to you, maybe have some tips for how to navigate their mind and even their weight training to grow on all aspects. What's the best way to reach out or follow you?

Mona:

Mona grow on all aspects. What's the best way to reach out or follow you, mona? Yeah, so, um, I, a little while ago, I just changed quite a few of my uh social media account names, just so it's more in sync, um. So if you want to find me on instagram, I'm um strong by mona, um, the same thing with my tiktok. The same thing with my youtube, where I post you, you know, I post training tips. I post a lot of things postpartum now as well, um, and getting back into training, obviously, post baby, but I post a lot of mindset things as well. Uh, and yeah, those are probably the three main platforms that you can reach me. Um, and if someone wants to personally contact me, they can either send me a DM or they can email me me at mona, at liftbig eat big dot com. Um, because lift big eat big is the website that my husband and I have as our, as our business. Um, so, yeah, that's the way to contact me excellent thank you.

Klara:

I'll add those to the episode notes so people can easily find you. And thank you so much. It seems like we could talk for hours. Maybe we can do a round two at some point, mona, because we didn't get everything. I wanted to into this time Awesome. Thank you, Laura.

Mona:

I love being on your podcast.

Klara:

I want to ask you to please do two things that would help me greatly. One, please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts, spotify or any other podcasting platform that you use to listen to this episode. Two, please share this podcast with a friend who you believe might enjoy it as well. It is a great way to remind someone you care about them by sharing a conversation they might be interested in. Thank you for listening.

Empowering Female Athletes
Navigating Challenges in Athletic Pursuits
Female Athletes and Self-Love
Olympic Weightlifting Challenges & Triumphs
Adapting Training for Athletes
Importance of Mindset in Athletic Training
Athletic Mindset and Visualization Techniques
Building Trust and Communication in Coaching