Interview with New Zealand Record Holder Hayley Whiting

New Zealand record holder Hayley Whiting (81kg Cat) spent some time with Velaasa Athletics discussing her training and background as she prepares for the 2023 World Weightlifting Championships next month in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. You can support her efforts by saving with code HAYLEY15 and root for her on Instagram

How were you introduced to Olympic weightlifting, and what was it about the sport that captivated you from the beginning?

I was introduced to Olympic weightlifting in 2013 when I started CrossFit. I very casually did CrossFit for 3.5years whilst completing my university study before the love of the barbell overtook any desire to burpee. 

I initially loved the feeling of being strong. Being able to pick up heavy weights is empowering. Over time this has also developed into loving the challenge that learning the technical aspect of the sport brings and the personal growth it requires to continually strive for more. 

Of all your achievements in weightlifting, which one holds the most emotional significance for you and why?

My most recent return to the platform in March holds the most emotional significance. This performance was my first under my new coach Spencer and the first since taking the commonwealth games stage.

I felt I had a lot I wanted to showcase but most importantly I wanted to love being out there lifting heavy weights. Which I did! Ticking off IWF worlds qualification in the process! 

Can you walk us through a typical day of training leading up to a competition?

As weightlifting in New Zealand is minimally funded I still work 30 hrs per week so until I travel my schedule is: 

Wake up, breakfast, work (4-6hrs hours normally) as a physiotherapist, home for lunch and rest, walk my dog (Frank the sausage dog) along the beach then head to training from 4pm and I normally finish up around 6.30-7, dinner and bed! 

I train 1x day 5 days a week. 

How do you manage recovery, especially after particularly intense training sessions?

I prioritize lots of food, sleep, stretching and walking. 

I attend chiro 2x Week and do some self physio work (yes, I dry needle myself sometimes!) 

I sauna (especially during winter leading into international comps in much hotter climates). 

Mental strength is crucial in weightlifting. How do you prepare yourself mentally before a big lift, especially at international competitions?

I am a big believer in bringing my best every day at training - no matter what that looks like. This gives me the confidence to step onto the platform knowing I have done all I could have. My self-talk is then strong - “there is no reason why you cannot make this lift”. 

I think there is huge importance in trusting the work you and your coach have done, also knowing that they believe in you and have set a plan which is totally within reach. 

The snatch and the clean & jerk are the two primary Olympic lifts. Which one is your favorite, and why? Can you also share your best ever snatch and clean & jerk?

My favorite often switches between the two. Currently I would say it is the snatch, there is nothing quite like nailing a perfect line of your snatch catching it in the bottom and knowing you have done it. 

My best ever snatch is 101 and cj 125 

Are there any weightlifters, male or female, from the past or present, who you've looked up to or who've inspired your journey?

Within NZ I was very fortunate to have women who inspired my journey - firstly Kanah Andrews-Nahu who I competed against throughout my career. She really set the bar for what we should be capable of and I am grateful for that. Another kiwi who inspires me is Megan Signal. Her dedication, drive, and how she carries herself throughout all life's challenges is admirable.

Internationally I look up to a few different women, some of whom are (all Velaasa athletes!) - Jourdan, Solfrid and Mary! I think I respect all of them for slightly different reasons but they all demonstrate huge work ethic and great values.

How do you approach nutrition, especially when you are preparing for competitions? Are there any specific foods or diets you swear by?

I spent the last few years trying to be an -87 athlete for the 2022 commonwealth games, which was a struggle for my frame - although tall I never managed to fill out to 87 despite eating around 4200 cals a day! 

I now eat around 3800 and maintain 81kg perfectly. I eat a good range of meat, vegetables and carbohydrates and try to keep it as balanced and enjoyable as I can. I am dairy free but otherwise ensure I am fueling for performance! 

Around competition I do my best to maintain a normal as possible food intake, which can be difficult when traveling internationally but I do my best! 

What are your future goals, both in the realm of weightlifting and outside of it?

I would like to continue competitive weightlifting as long as my body allows and as long as my love and enjoyment are high. My longer term goal would be to medal at the next Commonwealth games in 2026. Otherwise I will continue to attend world championships and reach my personal best potential in this sport. Potentially a shift to coaching in the future! 

Outside of weightlifting I would like to continue to develop my physiotherapy business and personal life from there! 

To live a happy, healthy, fulfilled life! 

Looking back, what's the most valuable lesson this sport has taught you, not just as an athlete, but also as a person?

It has taught me to follow my passion fiercely. Take risks, do what lights you up inside. 

Weightlifting has taught me resilience, hard work and how to fill my life with what is important to me. 

For young girls or boys who aspire to take up Olympic weightlifting, what advice would you give to them?

Find a FUN, supportive training environment. Be sure to balance your training with other things you enjoy in life. Take your time and enjoy the process.

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