How World Weightlifting Champion Kate Nye Is Facing Setbacks

"For every downfall, the comeback is going to be that much better."

Kate Nye is an American weightlifter — a World Champion, Pan American champion, and Junior World Champion competing in the 71 kg category. Now, she’s one of the Team U.S.A. hopefuls for the Olympics, which have been postponed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, making her one of the many athletes gearing up for another year of focus and training while managing the disappointment of postponement.

As the youngest female weightlifting world champion in history, she knows what it takes to accomplish a goal, but her journey wasn’t easy. Even now, she continues to face setbacks. In 2019, Nye shared her diagnosis of bipolar disorder Type 2. “I felt weak for thinking I needed help, but honestly it has taken a weight off my shoulders knowing what I have to do to feel like a functioning human being. I’m excited for the future of having a healthy mind and body,” she wrote.

Nye now says that taking that time to prioritize her health helped her to focus and become even better — a mindset that’s a valuable lesson for us all in these challenging times. She shares with Thrive her journey from surviving to thriving — and the tools that help her achieve her goals. 

Thrive Global: What is your morning routine? 

Kate Nye: I wake up and my husband makes us breakfast, and we take care of our puppy. I always start the day off with a healthy meal and try to chill out for a little bit. I’m not a morning person, so I prefer to start the day slow and go from there. And that doesn’t change with training. Since I generally work out in the afternoon, I will spend the morning studying, doing homework for school, and walking the dog.

TG: Being a part of a competitive sport, how do you mentally prepare to not get overwhelmed?

KN: I try to keep things in perspective and remember that everything I’m doing is towards a bigger goal. At the World Championships, I wanted to win, but the real goal is getting a good enough total to qualify for the Olympic Games. So it’s not so much thinking about the event, but moreover where you want to be.  

TG: As a professional athlete, it requires a lot of drive to train and compete. What are some of the ways you motivate yourself to keep at your goal?

KN: Motivation comes naturally because of my strong passion for weightlifting. I always want to put in the work. If I’m not feeling it that much, I tell myself to suck it up, as it’s a privilege to be doing what I’m doing. I never want to lose sight of that as so many people wish they could be lucky enough to have such an opportunity.

TG: Can you share a time that you lost your motivation — and what you did to bring yourself back?  How do you focus? Are there some small tips or tricks you use to maintain your focus?

KN: In training mode, I will play a ton of music, and use a timer to make sure I’m not getting off track. Music and making a schedule for myself are the keys. I have ADHD, so I get distracted easily and try to take on too much at once. I’ve found if I rely on my planner and write everything down schedule-wise, it helps quite a bit!

TG: What does your body need to perform at its best?

KN: I focus on having a lot of protein in my diet, a good amount of carbs at the right time, and strategic fats throughout the day.

TG: How does sleep impact your game? Do you require a certain amount?

KN: One of the perks of being a full time athlete is prioritizing sleep. I get 10 hours of sleep each night. Obviously depending on “life things” that can change, but I rarely get under eight hours of sleep.  Sleep is the number one mode of recovery for any athlete.

I feel like a zombie if I get less than eight hours. That is the athlete side of me participating in an elite sport. Without it, I feel weak — not energized and ready to go. It’s probably one of the biggest factors in success for training.

TG: What was one of the most impactful things that has happened in your life?

KN: I was diagnosed last summer with bipolar disorder. I thought it was just depression and anxiety, and went to a therapist. We figured out that I was sleeping three to four hours a night and functioning as an elite athlete, and those were manic stages. We figured out I have bipolar disorder Type 2, hence those swings in my mood. I decided to get it medicated, and it changed my life completely. Instead of being controlled by how I’m feeling day to day, I feel stable.  

TG: We hear a lot about athletes’ physical conditioning. What about mental conditioning? How do you keep your mind strong in addition to your body? Meditation? Breathing exercises? Journaling? Something else?

KN: I really like this question because it does affect a lot of people and how they approach their training. I kind of do my own thing, stay in my own head, try to visualize a lot, visualize a competition, visualize what numbers I want to hit on stage, visualize what my technique should be, and practice positive self-talk. I believe in what I want to do.

TG: How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do?

KN: I’m pretty good at this as a very driven person. I ask my husband to take care of the dog more than usual, stuff like that. I really buckle down and make sure I get my training done in a timely manner and go straight to studying.  

TG: What causes you stress and how do you alleviate it?

KN: If I’m falling behind in my standards of training and it’s not going as well as I’d like, that really stresses me out. I like to be in control of where I am in life. But life accomplishments come in waves, and for every downfall, the comeback is gonna be that much better!

TG:  When you are not training or traveling for work — what do you do to unwind? 

KN: I like walking my dog, watching a good show on Netflix, and spending time with immediate family.

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