Q+A with Olympic Weightlifter Zoe Smith

September 12 2018

Name: Zoe Smith

A little bit about you/bio: I’ve been doing Olympic weightlifting for 12 years and competing internationally for 11 of those. My greatest achievements to date are competing at the London 2012 Olympic Games and winning bronze, silver and gold medals at 3 Commonwealth Games!


How did you get started in Weightlifting?

I used to do gymnastics as a kid, and was fortunate enough to attend a club which also had a weightlifting gym downstairs. My coach at the time suggested I might give weightlifting a go as I was naturally quite powerful (but had none of the grace or elegance that lends itself to gymnastics!) so off I went. Turns out I was OK at it!


What is your training like? Do you have a set goal per day or per week?

I train 5 or 6 days a week, often these sessions will be split in two to allow for another commitments such as work and college. Each session will usually be snatch or clean and jerk focused, with additional assistance exercises for building strength and general conditioning. I don’t generally have a weekly goal; all my training is geared towards preparing for a specific competition. I’m currently preparing for the World Championships in November.


Can you give us an idea of what your diet is like?

Not particularly clean if I’m honest! I sit quite comfortably in my weight category (64kg) so I don’t have to be particularly fussy with food. My main focus is on getting enough protein in, which I admittedly could still be better at. I mostly use shakes or protein bars to do this.


What does your daily meal plan typically look like?

It varies daily. In the morning I’ll usually have something like egg on toast or protein porridge (or sometimes just a protein bar if I’m in a hurry). For lunch, I often make a big batch of couscous or pasta salad at the beginning of the week so that lasts me a few days, then have that with different protein sources through the week, e.g. chicken, beef etc. Dinner varies – it all depends what I’m in the mood for but I do enjoy a good steak with lots of veg. I try to get a shake or protein bar in at some point through the day to make sure I’ve hit my protein goal for the day.


How do you stay healthy during your practice/training schedule?

I find this difficult! I’ve previously been ridiculously prone to picking up injury and illness so I’m trying to do better. I’m really just trying to make sure I’ve got the basics on point, so getting adequate recovery (enough sleep/rest), staying hydrated, getting enough vitamins and minerals through food. I’m also making sure I stretch and do all of my assistance/prehab exercises before and after training.


What is your post-competition routine versus pre-competition?

Pre-competition, a lot of weightlifters will be focused on their bodyweight. We have to weigh in 2 hours before we compete to make sure we’re competing in the right weight category. I used to lift at 58kg, which meant I’d have a lot of weight to lose. This could mean I’d be in the sauna for hours the night before, trying to get every last drop of water out of my body! After weigh in, you want to fully rehydrate so most of that 2 hours is spent chugging water and refuelling with food before you go to warm up.

Post-comp, you’re (hopefully!) going to be celebrating. At the end of a championships, it’s nice to get together with the team, have a few drinks and celebrate everybody’s success.


What does your recovery routine look like after a tough workout?

I’ll normally go home and make a protein shake, do a stretching routine and have dinner before flopping on the sofa and watching TV for the rest of the night!


What music do you train to?

Usually, whatever is on in the gym. I’m not too fussy!


What is your favourite gym exercise?

Back squats.


What is your least favourite gym exercise?

Deadlifts/high pulls.


What is your favourite kit to train in/gym must have?

My SBD knee wraps, I think I’d fall to bits without them.


Who was/is your mentor?

My coach, Andrew Callard has been a huge influence on my career from when I started aged 12 right up until now, 12 years later.


Who’s your biggest fan?

Definitely my mum. She has a Google Alert on me.


Who is your support network / how important are they in your performance?

My support network is lots of people – from my family, friends, teammates, coaches and heaps of others that I don’t even have space to list here! They’re so important not just in my performance on the competition platform, but for making sure I’m in the right headspace for training all year round.


What ambitions do you still have?

I’d love to compete at another Olympic Games. A medal is obviously the dream so that’s what I’m working towards.


What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

Competing at the London 2012 Olympics or medalling at 3 Commonwealth Games.


What sets you apart from other athletes in your sport?

I’m good at performing under pressure, which is a handy skill for those do-or-die moments that you often get in competition.


What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Not advice per se, but something that has always resonated with me is what my coach told me at my first competition. I asked him to wish me luck, to which he replied “you don’t need luck, just the opportunity”.


What advice would you give to someone wanting to take up Weightlifting?

Find a good coach. Weightlifting is really hard to get right, and even more so if you’re self-taught. It’s almost impossible to be objective about yourself! It’s also heaps more fun if you do it as part of a team.


What’s next for you?

The World Championships in Turkmenistan this November. This is the first of 6 competitions I’ll need to compete at to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics so it’s important that I get off to a good start!

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