Becoming an elite athlete and competing not just nationally, but also worldwide is the "dream" of everyone who competes competitively, and sometimes because of various factors, it might feel intangible. If you're looking for an inspiration to start lifting or becoming a successful competitive athlete, our interview blog with one of Australia's strongest, Jess Sewastenko, might be the spark you need.
VPA Athlete, Jess Sewastenko, a world powerlifting record holder shares everything we need to know in her journey as an elite powerlifter- how and when her passion for powerlifting started, her advise on how to become a successful athlete, how she conquered being anxious and how how powerlifting improved her way of living, and her recommended supplements that assists her and keep her moving like a champion that she is.
1. You’ve come so far and now recognized and respected as an elite powerlifter - can we go back and rewind to how your fitness journey started? What was your life like before diving into powerlifting sports?
Looking back, I would have never expected to find myself so obsessed and in love with feeling strong. Prior to powerlifting I have always found myself competing in sport – I was part of the Australian Karate Federation (AKF) team for many years and competed nationally and internationally for 10 years prior to finding powerlifting. My powerlifting journey began in 2015 when I was back at university doing an exercise science degree. We began learning about coaching and had some practical lifting classes and I was hooked once I began these! Once I began picking up weights, it started to become addictive, and I became obsessed with lifting more and more.
2. Out of all the variety of sports and competitions to join, why did you gravitate towards powerlifting?
When I began training, I never invested in a coach early on, so I found the transition into powerlifting (squat, bench and deadlift) much easier to self-coach myself with. I knew a friend who was a member of Powerlifting Australia and he encouraged me to give it a go. I began a 12-week online strength program and signed up for my first comp in 2017, and I never looked back!
3. What was your first competition like? What’s your biggest challenge then as an athlete competing as a beginner?
My first competition was in 2017 in Canberra. I put competing off for a few months originally because I felt I wasn’t strong enough. In hindsight, I wish Ihadve just jumped in earlier (and realistically we never feel strong enough to be ready). Being my first comp, I kept myself calm and reminded myself that I needed to just have fun and enjoy the experience. The best decision was entering a competition where I didn’t know many people, therefore I could lift somewhere different, meet new people and just enjoy the experience without the pressure of too many familiar faces around watching me (I’m secretly quite an anxious lifter lol).
4. Can you share with us your more recent personal bests?
How did it feel when you landed your first win/title? What do you consider your best practices or the key to your wins?
My best competition experience was last year at the Fitness Expo in Sydney in April. I lifted as a 57kg lifter which meant I made a 7kg weight cut in the lead up and was feeling very strong. I had a plan set a couple of weeks out, and we stuck with it on the day and executed one lift at a time. I ended up squatting 147kg, benching 91kg and deadlifting 194kg – which gave me an Australian deadlift and total record, I won the 57kg womens weight division and was best lifter of the competition. That is by far my most memorable comp because I felt everything had come together (weight, lifts and I had so much fun). Trusting the process throughout and sticking to our game plan were huge successes on the day.
5. From the struggles and wins you’ve faced and conquered, what’s the most significant lesson you’ve learned from it that you apply to your daily life?
I have gained so much resilience from powerlifting. Not just with lifting, but I find myself so determined to stick with things which challenge me and I refuse to give up. I have also found that powerlifting has indirectly helped me develop such a healthy lifestyle – I have my same training time and routine which allows me to get going for the rest of my day. Prior to lifting, I was quite an anxious person too with not too much confidence, and lifting has allowed me to open up and be confident in general day to day.
6. For an athlete with your training intensity, what VPA products do you recommend for competitive powerlifters?
What are your favourite VPA supplement must-haves?
I take so many products!!! My necessities are the WPI, creatine and casein products. VPAs WPI (choc banana is my favourite) allows me to get my post-workout protein shot without needing to worry about excessive carbs or fats – perfect for my weight cuts! The casein is a massive must coming close into comps as it allows me to have a good shot of protein prior to bed which is slow absorbing through the night, allowing me to recover better and feel full through the night.
7. You have competed and won in numerous competitions, what was your favourite or the most memorable one?
My competition at the Sydney Fitness Show last year was definitely my favourite and most enjoyable experience. I set a few records, PBd a lot of my lifts and to this day I am sure that it was the comp that people first started to hear about me and my potential going forward. It was a game-changing comp for me where everything came together on the day.
8. As someone who has set a record in the women’s division of powerlifting, what is your message to those who are aspiring to be a successful athlete?
Enjoy what you do! I would not be able to train 6 days a week unless I enjoyed my sport, so find something you love. Listen to your body, we all have injuries and need time to recover sometimes so remember to trust the process and enjoy the ride (it’s a marathon, not a sprint). Finally, stay persistent and positive! You will have really good sessions, but you’re going to have really bad ones too. Learn from those and use them to get stronger and be a better athlete!
9. What are your plans or goals for 2021?
Right now, I am having a bit of a break away from powerlifting currently but am having a throw with weightlifting. I competed last weekend and qualified for Australian nationals in September. I am hoping to hit some big numbers then and see where that takes me this year!