This week’s athlete spotlight is Gina Aversa (@ginahalfwolf), a 22-year-old San Diego-based powerlifter. Although she claims to have been raised by wolves, I was able to interview her to understand her journey and current fitness practices from diet to training. Her impressive lifts have brought her to easily dominate her sport. However, her lighthearted attitude and blunt humor make her one of the most relatable athletes I have come across. In under one year of focused lifting, Gina has become a sponsored powerlifter. If that isn’t inspiring, then I don’t know what is.
Why did you begin powerlifting?
I was familiar with lifting weights and used to incorporate bodybuilding type workouts into my routine but I had never tried to lift heavy and I don't think I had even deadlifted until about a year ago. Super cliche *eye roll* but the guy I was dating at the time was into olympic lifting. We'd go to the gym together a lot and he pushed me to see how heavy I could go for squats and deadlifts. It’s funny because now I can squat more than he does. We're still good friends and he's man enough to handle it (shoutout @stocktonbds). Within the first week or two of trying, I hit 235 squat and 265 deadlift and I remember being insanely proud of those numbers. From there, I slowly started incorporating heavy powerlifting type workouts into my routine, it wasn't until about June 2015 that I solely focused on powerlifting specific training.
What intimidated you most about getting started into lifting? What would you say to someone that aspires to lift as much as you?
What intimidated me when I first started out (and still does now) is having a lot of eyes on me when I'm lifting. It probably sounds weird since I'm always posting my lifts online for everyone to watch, but I usually have my best training days when I'm alone in the gym and can be in my own little world. I'm definitely more comfortable with it now.
Start lifting! The only way you're going to get better and get stronger is to start doing the damn thing. A year ago I couldn't squat 225 for 2 reps and now I can squat 325 for 4 reps easily. If you would have told me that I'd be where I am now a year ago, I would have laughed in your face. Who knows where you could be a year from now.
What do you do for cardio? What is your diet like?
I currently have no cardio in my training schedule. Every now and then, like once or twice a month, I might get a random urge to do some. If that feeling lasts more than 5 minutes, I'll either go do some hill sprints, or go eat ice cream and wonder why I would ever have thought to do cardio when I could have been eating ice cream instead.
I eat whatever I feel like eating, it’s pretty simple. But that being said, I believe it’s extremely important for everyone to be well educated about the nutrients that are in the food they're eating. I used to count macros for a long time, so even though I don't count now, I still understand the general breakdown of nutrients that I'm getting from my daily diet.
What are the keys to your success?
I read this quote once that said "when you know you're destined for greatness, your potential haunts you. It keeps you up at night, you won't feel complete until you succeed". It’s the idea of how far I want to go and how far I know I can go.
The most important thing to do is to constantly be tweaking technique. I've seen a lot of improvement in my squat because i've made a lot of small changes to my technique that at the time didn't seem significant. They were small changes but they've all added up to make a big change overall. Another thing that is usually pretty obvious from my training videos - having fun and not taking lifting too seriously. I know a lot of people who choose to lift by channeling their anger and aggression. I used to do that too but at a certain point that becomes unsustainable. Depending on that energy and using it as a crutch is going to lead to inconsistent and sloppy lifting, especially if you ever plan on competing.
If there is one thing you could change about the fitness industry now what would you change?
Hmm this is actually a hard one because there’s a lot I'd like to change. I’d say my biggest problem with the fitness industry is how fitness idols portray this image of perfection. In a sense I get it, because you're supposed to be this 'idol' so you're the example of what people want to be. On the other hand, no one’s perfect. Everyone is going to slip up on their diet or have a bad workout and I think that too many people who look up to these idols feel discouraged and like a failure when they have 'human moments'. I think if more people were as open about their struggles as they are with their successes, it would help those who are currently struggling to keep going and to know that they can succeed too.
If you enjoyed her interview, check out Gina's journey by following her on Instagram @ginahalfwolf