By David Burton
It takes a certain level of physicality paired with a persistent mentality to pull off sets of squat cleans, sumo dead lift high pulls, hang snatches and push jerks. But for strength and conditioning coach Lindsey Valenzuela, these strenuous lifts are not a problem; they are routine.
While playing setter for the California Lutheran University women’s varsity volleyball team, Valenzuela, initially had no intent of pursuing professional weight-lifting. Toward the middle of her college volleyball career, Valenzuela considered weight-lifting as a sport.
“I did ordinary lifts; all of the standard lifts for college volleyball,” Valenzuela said. “On the side, I did have a personal trainer to give me an edge in volleyball, but he also motivated me to start lifting competitively.”
Although Valenzuela took an interest in weightlifting under her personal coach Bob Takano, a Hall of Fame professional weightlifter, she was unable to pursue that interest because of the possible risk of injury, which could keep her out of volleyball.
Valenzuela had a successful volleyball career. In her senior campaign she was named Cal Lutheran Athlete of the Year, AVCA All-American second team, first team All-West region and made it back-to-back first team All-SCIAC selections in 2007 and 2008.
She is still one of only four players in CLU history with more than 2,000 career assists as a setter.
Upon graduating from CLU with a degree in exercise science and sports medicine, Valenzuela became an assistant coach to the women’s CLU volleyball team and concurrently decided to pick up her weightlifting training and possibly start competing in tournaments.
The USAW is a subdivision under USA Olympic sports, which handles all affairs in regards to men and women’s Olympic style weightlifting. They sponsor meets and events throughout the year as qualifiers for the national Olympic team.
Valenzuela’s first meet was the 2008 USAW open qualifier in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Although she faced nerves in her first competition, she still totaled enough points in her two lifts to move on.
“Nerves are natural, but when you train right and have a positive mindset, your adrenaline sets in on the platform and allows you perform above any anxiety you might have,” Valenzuela said.
Since her first meet, Valenzuela has qualified for the USAW open in Missouri for the 69-kilogram weight class, and recently qualified for the USAW Nationals in the 75-kilogram weight class.
Athletes’ weight class is determined by their body mass indexes. Due to her intense training and lifting ability, Valenzuela prefers the heavier weight class.
Valenzuela does cross fit training and Olympic weight training five days a week with Takano at a gym called High Voltage in Burbank. Also training at Harvard-Westlake at times, Valenzuela says that the school’s facilities are top notch and have everything she needs to train.
Some may say that society has set a standard for how a woman should look and what she should do, and weightlifting is definitely out the norm.
But Valenzuela has never faced these judgments, stereotypes or discrimination because she surrounds herself with a supportive friend group that also do cross-fit and Olympic style weight training.
“It is empowering for a woman to lift a lot of weight, and it’s important to have self assurance internally in order to succeed in anything you do,” Valenzuela said. “Media often gives girls the wrong perspective on what they should be, when in reality they can be comfortable with anything they want to be.”
Valenzuela encourages female students at Harvard-Westlake to pursue their passions with energy, while teaching them how to maximize their full physical potential through weight training.
“I like not only teach how to lift, but give people perspective on any experiences that they may be going through.”
Valenzuela recently gained sponsorship from a cross-fit training clothing line that sponsors professional Olympic style weight lifters called Life as RX (Life as Prescribed).
“It is a great feeling to be sponsored because it shows that my hard work is paying off,” Valenzuela said, “but at the same time it is motivation to continue to work get stronger, and get better.”
Currently, Valenzuela is USAW National meet in July.