‘Faith is to be certain of the uncertain.’ Zara Northover – Olympic athletes interviewed Episode 71
Zara Northover, Olympian 2008 shares how she lost 3 loved people in her life within 6 months and maintained faith, how she got injured prior to her Olympic participation, why she believes the athlete inside her never dies and how this helped her to make a successful transition into business life.
Furthermore, we discuss
- How she got into Shot put
- Her darkest moment
- Her best moment
- Her advice to a younger Zara Northover
- Her success habits
- Her morning routine
- How to prepare for important moments
- How to overcome setbacks
- Her role model
- How she describes her Olympic teammate and friend Usain Bolt
- The best advice she has received
- Her advice to young athletes
- A typical training day in the life of an Olympic Shot Put athlete
- Her motivation to start the project ‘Field To The Real’
- Her interview nomination
- Where can you find Zara Northover
Christian: Today I’m joined by Zara Northover. Zara is Olympian 2008 representing Jamaica in the shotput.
Zara: Thank you. Thank you for having me, Christian.
How she got into Shot put
Christian: Zara, how did you get into shotput?
Zara: It’s actually a very fun, unique, little story, I’ll keep it pretty short. I was a three-sport athlete in high school. I actually played volleyball, basketball, and softball.
At 5 feet 4 inches [163 cm], I wasn’t the tallest basketball player, even though I managed to foul out regularly. I was pretty strong, but track and field was not on the radar, but a friend of mine actually needed a partner in the shot put relay.
I was pretty strong, but track and field was not on the radar, but a friend of mine actually needed a partner in the shot put relay.
They were doing some kind of relay contest and she was the only shot putter on the team, so she had asked me if I would do it with her. I was like, “What the heck!” I love helping people so I just did it.
It turned out, I actually threw actually 32 feet [9,75 meters], my first time throwing from just a standing throw, learning on the spot how to do it, and ended up winning. We won this gold relay thing with her throw and my throw combined. I threw pretty much just further than any other high school student-athlete.
I was in 11th grade when I was first doing it. So when that happened, the coach told me that they needed me on the team. They needed me to do the shotput because they said I could help them to get points. So that actually started my career.
It wasn’t on the radar throughout high school. It was a friend that needed help and I threw it and then just kept throwing it. I joined the track team but mostly did sprints and other things because that could help me in softball and I still played softball that spring season.
So, I actually was a dual-sport athlete in high school; track and field and softball. Then I realized that I was obviously good enough to get a college scholarship. So I knew that that was going to be my ticket into college, even though it wasn’t the sport I loved the most.
I knew that that was going to be my ticket into college, even though it wasn’t the sport I loved the most.
Christian: And 11th grade, what age is that?
Zara: I was about 17 that year, then in 12th grade I was 18 and then you entered into college.
Christian: Okay, interesting. You basically started your career at the age of 17 years.
Her darkest moment
Christian: In your life as an athlete, what was your darkest moment?
Zara: My darkest moment was between 2006 and 2007, my senior year of college. I ended up getting injured and it took me a year basically to recover.
I remember going into my fifth year at Northeastern University in Boston Massachusetts; that’s where I graduated from. I was starting to throw and I wasn’t hitting the marks and I just didn’t know what to do.
I went from being one of the top throwers and breaking records to all of a sudden now, the mark is not going further than 50 feet [15,2 meters]. So at that time, it was tough, but I remember the words of one of the coaches on the team, Dion Gardner.
I wasn’t hitting the marks and I just didn’t know what to do. I went from being one of the top throwers and breaking records to all of a sudden now, the mark is not going further.
She told me the story of a donkey in a hole. She said that every time the dirt keeps going into this pit, the donkey just pats the dirt down, and then eventually he’s going to rise out of this dark hole.
So she told me that right then, I should focus on the practice. She said that I should keep taking throws after throws and strengthening myself and doing the small things and by doing the small things, then I’m going to get out of it.
And I was able to get out of it, come back and break my school record and really have a successful senior year. Then I went into my first year out of college training for the Olympics.
I don’t think people are quite prepared for what going into the professional workout circuit looks like. You’re not really a professional until you’re like Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell sponsored.
You’re struggling, you’re trying to work, you don’t have sponsors, you’re trying to make rent, you’ve still got responsibilities and you’re no longer in school, so you’re not even necessarily getting all that support.
I don’t think people are quite prepared for what going into the professional workout circuit looks like. You’re struggling, you’re trying to work, you don’t have sponsors, you’re trying to make rent, and you’ve still got your responsibilities.
So the year training for the Olympics, I got free help here and there and unfortunately, I got a free chiropractic offer to get worked on and it worked out to be for the worst. During that time, I ended up hurting my back. It was my L5 and S1.
I guess the adjustment didn’t go right and they were telling me I was going to need to have surgery. It was like a big crazy thing and it’s the year of the Olympics. I was blessed to have had another friend that told me that they know someone that practices Acts of Release Therapy, ART, who could help me.
He said that I could just come and see him to do 12 sessions and I would not need to have surgery. I had no choice but to try, and my back got better, and then after I got better, then the same thing happened.
Another person wanted to help with strength and conditioning and long story short, had me jump off this 5-foot box [152 cm] to do this drill, and out goes the knee. I could not win for the life of me. And the same thing happened.
The Release Therapist, at this point, who was such a silver lining, told me that they could help with that too. He was able to help and I muscled through it. I just had this vision of myself being in China to compete at the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
But those dark moments were realities of injuries that you can’t control. They happen. It was tough. It was really, really a tough time, but I never, ever, ever wavered in faith.
It was tough, it was really a tough time, but I never ever wavered in faith.
That’s when Moving in Faith for me as a brand came around because I never wavered in faith. No matter how many tears, no matter how many down days, I just knew that it was going to be something I was going to overcome and I was going to make that team.
We had an obstacle after obstacle I could go on about. But those injuries that you never prepare for; you just don’t. It happened, but it’s because I had such a sound, strong, determined mindset, that my body had to fall in line with the mind.
Because I had such a sound, strong, determined mindset, that my body had to fall in line with the mind.
Christian: And do you think you have been in your best shape at the Olympics?
Zara: I was not. If I’m being honest, from having the knee injury, I never actually got back in good shape. I had a couple of options.
I could have either had a knee replacement done, which would have taken two-three weeks in order to probably come back, but then I would have to do a knee replacement in ten years. They would have just taken out the cartilage.
So we ended up using what they use for the jumper’s knee and we just literally basically cut the circulation off every time I competed. You put it on top of my knee. I was a makeshift athlete by the time I got to the Olympics, but it was the dream and the goal to be present; to be in the space.
I was a part of the team when Usain Bolt broke the world record in 2008 the first time. Nothing takes away from that experience to represent my country and be present, especially in the shot put, a sport that wasn’t known for Jamaican’s having a lot of shot putters. Now we have amazing shot putters, but back then we didn’t have that many.
Her best moment
Christian: What was your best moment?
Zara: I tell people all the time, walking in the Olympics during the Olympic ceremony. We are at war with each other around the world on an every single day basis for something.
Here you had hundreds of thousands of athletes around the world with one common goal and that’s just to compete. We didn’t even speak the same language, but people were just lighting up when you asked for a picture.
You had hundreds of thousands of athletes around the world with one common goal and that’s just to compete.
You understood the ‘how to’ take a picture and we were taking pictures and laughing and knowing that millions or billions of people around the world had all eyes on you.
Nothing will ever take that moment away. It was definitely unreal. I light up and I feel the tingles and the shivers every time I even think about it as it was so surreal.
Christian: What did you learn from that moment?
Zara: My love for people has always been strong, but at that moment, it was even stronger. I’ve been blessed to compete at the Pan American Games in Brazil. I’ve competed in Cuba, Guadalajara Mexico, in India for the Commonwealth Games and the one thing that you feel from all of these opening ceremonies is that we’re really all one people.
The color of our skin and the sound of our voice might be different; how we look, how tall we are, but at the end of the day the blood that runs within us is all universal. Nelson Mandela said it best. Sports is a universal language.
Everybody understands how to kick the ball around and throw a shotput when they see it. That’s the one thing that connects us and it’s a beautiful thing. That’s why it’s very important for sports programs to still exist.
The color of our skin and the sound of our voice might be different, but at the end of the day, the blood that runs within us is all universal. Everybody understands how to kick the ball around and throw a shotput when they see it. That’s the one thing that connects us and it’s a beautiful thing. That’s why it’s very important for sports programs to still exist.
Christian: Yes, and in addition to that he also said it has the power to change the world.
Zara: Absolutely, and it has.
Her advice to a younger Zara Northover
Christian: If you could travel back in time 10, 15, 20 years, what advice would you give a younger Zara?
Zara: I love this question. So if I could travel back 10 to 15 years, well let’s just say 15 years because I would be about 20 years old and I would actually have been in that dark time. I would have been a junior sophomore in college.
If I could travel back and tell 20-year-old Zara, a piece of advice, I would tell her to keep being authentically herself. I was probably at my most fearless stages. You couldn’t tell Zara at 20 years old anything.
I would need to tell me something today because whatever it is she desired, she went after it. Whatever it is that she wanted, she accomplished. She was very, very driven.
She worked extremely hard, probably too hard sometimes, but it was because of the nature of the circumstance. I didn’t have the greatest coach at first when I came to Northeastern University in Boston. I did choose the school, not necessarily based off of athletics, I chose it based on the academics and as a result, I had to work harder.
I did choose the school, not necessarily based off of athletics, I chose it based on the academics and as a result, I had to work harder.
I had to find ways how to teach myself how to throw the shot put and lean on my teammates. Derek Anderson and Vinnie Tortellini, actual teammates of mine, really stepped up to keep me under their wing to coach me.
I really would have loved on them more. I would really have talked to my head coach sooner about the experience and what I would have needed.
I especially would have encouraged myself to transfer into the type of program that probably really could have fostered me beyond the level where I was. But I honestly wouldn’t tell her to change a thing.
I would tell her to keep being fearless and being authentically herself. Actually, I’ll give her confirmation that her future is going to be bright because of the way she is today because she is the reason why I am who I am today.
I would tell her to keep being fearless and being authentically herself. I’ll give her confirmation that her future is going to be bright.
Christian: That’s a really powerful message. Do you think you have not been authentic throughout your career?
Zara: I was authentic. Throughout my career, I have always showed up like myself. I wasn’t a sponsored athlete. I didn’t have much money. There were times where I was literally sleeping in a car or in a friend’s couch because that’s all I had at the moment.
I think another dark moment which caused me to feel inferior was when I was sitting in a state that I wasn’t raised in. My bank account is negative $10 and I didn’t know what to do. Somebody who is normally independent is now in a position where they have to reach out and really ask for help.
Somebody who is normally independent is now in a position where they have to reach out and really ask for help.
Chelsea Hammond, the girl that years later ended up being announced silver medalist at the Olympics because of the drug issue that took place, I remember her sending me some cash. So I think that in those moments, I wonder if the authentic me was not present because I didn’t want to ask for help.
There’s a lot of athletes that don’t want to ask for help because of pride or for whatever reason, you almost pretend that you’re okay when you’re not. That is something that hurts us in the long run because there are a lot of people that want to lend helping hands to support.
There’s a lot of family members, friends, team members, that would probably help if they really knew what your struggles and needs were. Those are the moments sometimes where I wondered if I probably should have stood up more for myself and just ask.
The worst that could happen is no and people know that I’m a genuine person, so I wouldn’t be asking if I didn’t need to. But pride will get the best of you sometimes and you don’t. But I was blessed. I’ve had tons of help along with my career.
That was actually a defining moment that made me realize people need to be a part of this journey because we’re not on it ourselves. When I’m a champion, they’re a champion because they’re championing for me. That is the individual team I’ve gained on this athletic journey.
Her success habits
Christian: What are the habits that make you a successful athlete and person?
Zara: Persistence and determination are really two words that you hear from me all the time and I am no longer a collegiate or Olympic athlete, but now I’m a corporate athlete. That’s what I tell people all the time.
In the corporate and entrepreneurial world, we’re still athletes. The athlete in us doesn’t die. If you’re not determined and persistent or if you don’t push your body and minds past their limits, then you’re not going to achieve anything.
In the corporate and entrepreneurial world, we’re still athletes. The athlete in us doesn’t die. If you’re not determined and persistent, if you don’t push your body and minds past their limits, then you’re not going to achieve anything.
You will be status quo and you’ll get stuff done. But those people that excel on an elite level in whatever area of their lives, I strongly believe that at some point, they either were athletes.
Whether it was an athlete on the track or on the fields or just an athlete at the mind because it’s all a persistent and determined mindset with a whole lot of faith. So faith for me, some people take it religiously.
I have religious beliefs in God, but for people that don’t, I always tell them, we all have faith in something. Whether it’s your grandmother, your dog, or Jesus or Buddha or whatever, but faith is to be certain of the uncertain.
Faith is to be certain of the uncertain.
We are always uncertain of what’s going to happen next, but you got to be certain that it’s going to be positive. So when you have that positive mindset, when you’re persistent and you’re determined, that is what levels you out for success.
When you have that positive mindset, when you’re persistent and you’re determined, that is what levels you out for success.
Christian: It’s understandable that you should have faith, but for everyone, there will be phases in life where faith dissipates a little bit. Things don’t go your way and it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. So the question I like to ask is how do you make sure you keep the faith?
Zara: There is such thing called an unwavering faith and at the end of the day, even those individuals that lose faith, I don’t think they entirely lose faith. Your flame will get blown away and you’ll start to see smoke.
But what normally happens if there’s like a slow breath that literally goes on that leaf, that’s like the fire and the flame is starting to crumble. What ends up happening is the fire starts to pick up slowly again and it starts to get bigger again.
Unfortunately, that’s how the forest fires actually keep going. Typically, it’s because somebody thought they put out the flame, but it was never really put out and that’s how I like to think of faith.
We may think that we don’t have it, but it’s still there. It just needs to be triggered or nurtured or reminded by someone else. That’s why it is very important for you to have a strong system.
You have to allow people in your life to continue to influence you and continue to be there for you, whether you want to hear it or not. Because ultimately the minds do want to go down a dark path once it’s already down that train.
But who wants to live in darkness for the rest of their life? If you have one match in a dark room, it’s going to be light. You’re going to see some sort of light. You’re going to see that speckle and that’s what faith is.
The minds do want to go down a dark path once it’s already down that train. But who wants to live in darkness for the rest of their life? If you have one match in a dark room, it’s going to be light. You’re going to see that speckle and that’s what faith is.
It’s okay to embrace the darkness for a moment and to be sad, but you just have to push yourself past that dark moment and know that it’s okay for your coach to help you out of this. It’s okay for your teammates to help you out of this.
It’s okay for you to read that article about Nelson Mandela being in prison for years, for decades and this man still came out and just did amazing things for the world. What makes him any different than you or me or anyone?
So I think it’s okay to allow yourself to be upset in a moment. But just remember if someone else can, then you can too. Someone always has a worse situation than you do.
Her morning routine
Christian: Do you have a morning routine?
Zara: The first thing that I do in the morning is definitely praying because I’m so grateful to have life when I wake up and another breath. Clearly, as we’re seeing in the midst of this pandemic, and it’s not just the pandemic, it’s every day. Every day somebody could lose their life.
The first thing that I do in the morning is praying because I’m so grateful to have life when I wake up and another breath.
Then after I pray, I’m not the best at this now that I’m not an athlete anymore, but I really try to force myself to exercise in the morning. I’m beating myself up to get more of a routine, but typically it’s I pray and then I shower and then I get myself ready.
Half the time I don’t eat breakfast until I’m in the work or on my way to work or at the office. But typically the first is pray, shower, and get ready to go and do something, that’s if I don’t get my workout in beforehand.
How to prepare for important moments
Christian: How do you prepare for important moments?
Zara: This might make you laugh, I prepare for important moments the same way I actually did when I was competing in college and at the Olympics. It was my coach, Joe Donahue, who passed away before the 2012 Olympics who told me that every time I compete or practice, he wanted me to look in the mirror and tell myself that I’m great and I’m going to do great things.
It was my coach, who told me that every time I compete or practice, to look in the mirror and tell myself that I’m great and I’m going to do great things.
So funny story, there’s a job that I really, really wanted. I applied 77 times to this company. When I finally got an interview, I remember getting in front of the mirror and I was telling myself that I got this! I was pumping myself up like I’m an athlete again, in my business suit.
Then I told myself that I was great and I was going to do great things. Before any important moment, that is one thing that I still do to this day.
I called my mother for every single track meet. I called her before every single major moment. I still call her and we pray together. So those are the two things that I do before every and any important moment of my life.
How to overcome setbacks
Christian: How do you overcome setbacks?
Zara: How do I overcome setbacks? I’ve come to realize actually now being 36 years old and really looking back on my life, setbacks only set me up for comebacks. They were really lessons in my life that I was able to learn from because there was either something that I could have done differently or there was a lesson in the midst of whatever took place that happened.
So I actually don’t look at necessary setbacks as failures or downfalls. I look at them as lessons and opportunities. I can give an example as to what it is that I do when it happens.
Setbacks only set me up for comebacks. I don’t look at setbacks as failures or downfalls. I look at them as lessons and opportunities.
I always tell people now that it’s like I live my life with this baseball bat in my hands. I know that every time that a pitch comes my way, that it potentially could be a ball or it potentially could be a strike or it potentially could be that I’m not going to hit it at all.
But no matter what, I have to be in my power stance. I have to be ready to swing and hit because if I don’t swing at all then I’m never going to be able to hit anything. So that’s how I prepare for setbacks.
I prepare for whatever comes my way. I prepare to be in my power stance, being as healthy as I possibly could be, being sharp mentally as possibly I could be and ready to strategize no matter what comes my way.
So if it’s a great contact or it’s going to be a strike or a home run over the fence. If it is that the ball wasn’t the one, the pitch wasn’t the one, then it’s going to be a strike. I’m not going to hit it. If it’s a ball, then not every opportunity is the right opportunity for you.
Not every opportunity is the right opportunity for you.
Sometimes you might look and then you say that you are not swinging at that one and it turns out to be the best thing because potentially if you get all balls, you’re going to make it to first base. If you strike out, then you’re going back to the pit.
But if you go back to the pit, you’re going back to the pit mentally preparing for the next thing. So that’s how I observe life and setbacks and obstacles and successes.
Christian: You have some really cool analogies. I will certainly remember this one and the one with the donkey in the hole.
Her role model
Christian: Who’s your role model and why?
Zara: I have so many. This is really a tough question. So I’m going to give you just three quick ones because they are all different. So my first role model, first and foremost, is Jesus; not even necessarily God.
The reason why I always tell people Jesus is because there are certain things that I see that we learned in the Bible talking about Jesus got hit and he just gave them the other cheek. I really think about that when I think of how life really throws setbacks and obstacles our way.
We can either continue to be upset and have that derail us, or we could just turn the other cheek. So that is the way I lived my life.
When life really throws setbacks and obstacles our way, we can either continue to be upset and have that derail us, or we could just turn the other cheek. That is the way I lived my life.
I really try to live my life striving to be more like Jesus every single day, wholeheartedly. I know that if I stay the course, then great things are going to come to pass and I’m going to impact people along the way. So I would say that first and foremost, that’s my first role model.
But real life, it is my father who passed away April 28th of 2012, which was the year of the 2012 Olympics. This man is 4″11′ [149 cm], so he’s a very tiny guy; short guy, but major personality.
One of the quotes that he impressed in us on a regular basis, he would say, “Zara, a man is not a failure because he tried and failed, but because he failed to try.” right in his Jamaican accent. He was just so persistent and I know that that’s where I get it from.
One of the quotes that my dad impressed in us on a regular basis, he would say, “Zara, a man is not a failure because he tried and failed, but because he failed to try.”
All these stories and a lot of these analogies also come from him because he was just very driven and he was very successful in his life. May he rest his soul and he’s with me every single day.
Last, I just can’t leave my mom out because she’s like my guardian angel. She’s still here with me today. She’s just always reminding me to never forget where I’ve come from and that keeps me grounded.
To be humble in what we do and no question is a dumb question when others come to us because her coming up here to America a Jamaican citizen, she didn’t know a lot. She didn’t have a lot and still struggles with a lot of things.
Because of her and her reminding me to simplify is why I’ve been able to be very successful in sales and rise within my own company and impact people. All she says is, “Make sure you treat them like you’re treating me.”
I’m able to really break things down for people to understand and feel comfortable. That is a true success when it comes to any corporate or entrepreneurial job. So those three would be my top role models.
How she describes her Olympic teammate and friend Usain Bolt
Christian: Talking about role models, in previous interviews, a few people have mentioned the name Usain Bolt as their role model. So we’ve all seen him competing. We’ve seen the awesome things he did, we’ve seen the personality. You have met him and you have been on the Olympic team with him. How would you describe him?
Zara: Usain is a ray of light. He’s a ball of fun and he was my peer. He was a friend. He still is a friend; he’s not past tense, he’s still here. He reminds me of the epitome of truly being authentic in spirit.
Usain didn’t allow the way of the world, the theme or anything to change him. He was still friends with his friends, no matter what level they were or they weren’t. He still made sure that he gave back to his country on a regular basis and shared what he had and his principles are just very sound.
Usain is the epitome of truly being authentic in spirit. He didn’t allow the way of the world, the theme, or anything to change him.
That’s what makes him, for me, that ray of light that I expressed that he is because I’m very proud to be able to call him a friend. I’m proud to know him, but I’m even more proud now because of his accomplishments. I’m prouder because of the human that he is and who he is to people.
The best advice she has received
Christian: What is the best advice you received and who gave it to you?
Zara: One of the best advice that I’ve ever received, I would say came from my coach, Mohamad Saatara. He’s now a Divisional One shot put coach at UCal Berkeley.
The year of 2012, when I was training for the games, my coach, my former coach had passed away from cancer in October of 2011. My brother was shot and killed in Jamaica in January of 2012 and then my father died of heart failure in April of 2012.
It was a lot, like mentally because they were prominent individuals in my life. I remember one day that I was sitting on the floor by the circle just crying at the University of Michigan. My coach came and sat next to me and he put his arm around me.
He said that he knew that I was at a pivotal point in my life and if I wanted to stop, then no one would blame me. He said no one would fault me and everyone would understand. He told me that I could choose to overcome the obstacle, the setback, the downfalls and mishaps, and push forward, but if I decided to push forward, then I would have to give it my all.
My coach came and sat next to me and he put his arm around me. He said that he knew that I was at a pivotal point in my life and if I wanted to stop, then no one would blame me. He told me that I could choose to overcome the obstacle, the setback, the downfalls and mishaps and push forward, but if I decided to push forward, then I would have to give it my all.
I think of that every single time that something happens, someone passes, because it put me in that moment where I am living to lead others legacy; to continue on someone else’s dream, as well as mine.
So I won’t allow death or things, especially outside of my control to deter my movements. I feel like that piece of advice, especially on that day because he was so right. No one would be upset. Everyone would understand if I allowed that to be the end of my career or the end of just training for 2012.
But I made the option to push forward and I pushed forward as hard as I could and I still fell short not making the team physically, but I actually was a part of the team because I ended up being the journalist.
I did an internship for TeamJamaica.com, @TeamJamaica for Instagram and I wrote beautiful articles on our Jamaican athletes. I did a lot of great work, so even though I wasn’t in London, my work was speaking for these student-athletes. A lot of them even gave me great feedback saying that was the first time they had an article that felt like it was them.
Because I remember being an athlete thinking that sometimes I don’t feel like my voice is actually being portrayed when you do interviews and articles because people slice and dice and make it whatever it is. So I made sure I wanted to be true to that when I was representing these athletes.
I remember seeing Moving in Faith, like what I’m wearing now; my brand. People were wearing Moving in Faith shirts and goodies and I still sent Moving in Faith bracelets to the teams that they all wore. Some still wear it today.
So even though I wasn’t in London, I was and I believe that it was really because my coach, Mohamad Saatara had told me that “I can allow this to deter me or I could allow it to propel me,” and I allowed it to propel me.
Christian: That is really cool.
Her advice to young athletes
Christian: Let’s think about you having to give advice to younger female athletes. Some sports always have this idea that there might be a challenge with body image, so your sport shot put, is one of them.
You have to develop your body in a certain way to bring the best performance out, but that development and the way it looks is not necessarily aligned with what is common. What would be your advice to younger athletes?
Zara: Body images are something that women on a whole, regardless of athletics or not, all struggle with. Even to this day, it’s still something that I struggle with; being happy with the size that you are, the way that you look, but I would always say, as I still do now, I am alive and I have the ability to transform.
As a woman, when you bear a child, your body literally transforms in front of you, and men can’t do that. Now they can, but now, there are all sorts of technology that can allow that to happen, but really we were blessed as women. We were blessed with that gift to be able to transform it into whatever it is that we desire.
So life is always about choices. If your choice in this moment and in this phase of your life is to be an amazing shot putter, then the work that you’re doing, regardless of what your body looks like at that moment, is for the choice to be a shot putter.
Life is always about choices. If your choice in this moment and in this phase of your life is to be an amazing shot putter, then the work that you’re doing, regardless of what your body looks like at that moment, is for the choice to be a shot putter.
When you’re no longer a shot putter and you decide that you want to lose 50 pounds, you can go ahead and do that. It’s going to take hard work, it’s going to take determination, it’s going to take effort, regardless of which angle you go, but it’s still a choice and a decision that you are enabled to have as a woman. That is the most powerful thing that you can have, is that choice to transform and to make a change.
So for women that are on the verge of “I don’t know if I want to do this”, because I was that girl in high school. I didn’t want to do the shot put because I was worried about what they look like. They were just bigger, looked scary and they didn’t have the Coca-Cola bodies.
I would always think to myself that there’s so much power and strength and grace in what they do. You don’t know it until you just decide to make the choice and commit to the action of what it is that was.
I knew I wanted to be a star athlete. I knew I wanted to not have my Jamaican mother pay for college and that shot put was my ticket around the world and my ticket for free education and that in itself was worth the 30 – 40 extra pounds of muscle that I gained.
I knew I wanted to not have my Jamaican mother pay for college and that shot put was my ticket for free education and that in itself was worth the 30 – 40 extra pounds of muscle that I gained.
Some women don’t want to walk around saying, “I have a 525 deadlift and a 475-pound squat.” That does intimidate some men, but the reality is that was my decision to do as an athlete to make it to the elite level.
Christian: I definitely like the point of “it’s a choice.”
Zara: It’s a choice.
A typical training day in the life of an Olympic Shot Put athlete
Christian: Back in the days, how did a typical training day look like?
Zara: I’m going to talk about the just after college days, because I do think that there is this stigma that’s not talked about often. That is the true hardcore rigid work it actually takes to be an elite level athlete.
There is this stigma that’s not talked about often. That is the true hardcore rigid work it actually takes to be an elite level athlete.
When you’re not sponsored, it’s a completely different route than when you’re being paid $70,000, $80,000 or even $50,000 to do what you love to do. When I graduated from Northeastern University in 2007, I ended up taking on a volunteer track coach position at Northeastern. Therefore, I would have the opportunity to be able to use the facilities.
I volunteered my time in order to be able to train. I also took on a position, a paid position where I worked at the university as well, but it was a full-time position, so I had to have work from 8:00 to 5:00.
I volunteered my time in order to be able to train.
So I’m not only just training all day, but I have work from 8:00 to 5:00. So for me at that time, I would wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning. I would have training sessions, at whether it was 5:30 or 6:00 a.m., with Dan Boothby, my strength and conditioning coach at the time.
I would train before work, then I would shower, go to work at 8 o’clock, and then maybe at lunch, I would take that time to change and to stretch and to make sure I’m working on my muscles.
I had to prepare them because you’re sitting down all day or you’re walking around all day for work and then right after 5:00, I would head to practice from, let’s say like 5:30 or 6 o’clock. I’m ready to go from 6 to sometimes at 9 o’clock at night.
I’m in there throwing and going through drills and dealing with rehab and dealing with everything and then to potentially get home at 10 o’clock at night. That is the day of a working professional athlete or a working amateur athlete on the rise and that’s a true replica of the day.
That’s something that we don’t necessarily talk about in the Olympic world a lot. You have to work around an actual work schedule and you have to find ways to get places to train because that is always a struggle for athletes that aren’t supported.
Her motivation to start the project ‘Field To The Real’
Christian: What’s going on in the life of Zara at this moment in time? In the pre-interview chat, you told me a little bit about the project you’re running, which is really cool. Tell us more about that?
Zara: All right, so Zara 2020 during this great pause as I call it; we are in the midst of the great pause where people are staying home and staying safe. Right now, I just got promoted within my own company to a Project Manager, so definitely excited about that journey that I’m embarking on.
However, let me tell you about the passion project right now. In the midst of this pandemic COVID-19, I, unfortunately, did lose my brother April 6th to COVID-19. Nothing will ever replace losing a family member or friend or anyone to this ridiculous, crazy disease.
Because of this disease, it’s caused a lot of us to have to remain indoors around the world for precautionary measures to flatten the curve. One of the things that I know, I may have lost a brother, but there are so many student-athletes out there and they are my heart.
I think of the fact that so many seniors have lost their collegiate senior year. This is the year that maybe they were looking to show up, show out and break records and make nationals and championships.
So many juniors and people that were coming off of an injury that was excited to go into their season lost that. Just because it’s not a person, like a death, it’s still a very big impact on you and mentally that could throw a lot of people off. This is not like anything we’ve ever seen ever before.
Nothing has ever caused sports to cancel and sports are now canceled. I am doing a project with an organization called Field to the Real. We want to make sure that we create a show on a platform where we’re providing resources for student-athletes.
This is not like anything we’ve ever seen ever before. Nothing has ever caused sports to cancel and sports are now canceled.
We’re talking to student-athletes and allowing college student-athletes around the world, regardless of what sport you’re in, to speak about their feelings in this time. They are talking about some things that they’re doing. So they could be sharing tips and tactics and things.
In the midst of this madness, it’s also an opportunity now where I’m seeing more people communicate. More people are taking more time to connect and that is a beautiful thing. So if you want to look for a silver lining in is this pandemic, it is actually causing us to work together and to communicate more virtually and that is becoming viral.
So that’s what we want to do on this platform. This Field to the Real is going to bring collegiate student-athletes from around the world, where we’re going to be talking about tips. We’re going to be bringing former student-athletes to talk about what they would do because now, that’s advice that they could take.
If I was in this situation if I could imagine myself in college, what would I be thinking? How would I be handling this situation because maybe that’s going to be the thing that helps them?
Because the thing that I don’t want to see is depression and anxiety taking over because even though this is detrimental, it’s not the end of the world. If you still have breath, you still have an opportunity. We want to make sure that student-athletes know they’re not alone.
There are other former student-athletes in this family around the world that care about them. That is universal. We want to make sure that we see them through to be successful in whatever the new normal is going to be.
It is going to be a new normal when this is all said and done. But we are going to get through it champions on the other side.
Christian: That is really cool. Can you repeat again, where people can find that project?
Zara: So Field to the real is on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/fieldtothereal/ and the website https://fieldtothereal.com/ . You could always DM me at Zara Northover to get more information.
We will be putting out content and probably starting in the next two weeks, where individuals will be coming on and talking. If you want to be a part of it, this really is a platform for you.
It is for all athletes and student-athletes, former, past, and present. We want to bring people together to start having more conversations. Hopefully, this is the thing that will provide those senior student-athletes jobs, that are looking for internships and opportunities now.
Companies or people are going to be aware and now they’re going to hear these student-athletes and provide for them. So we’re hoping that this grows and becomes a platform that connects student-athletes around the world.
Her interview nomination
Christian: Do you want to nominate someone to be interviewed?
Zara: Of course. I have a laundry list of people. Chelsea Hammond, I mentioned her in my interview. She’s the one I said that sent me money when I had none.
She actually was the Jamaican long jumper from 2008 who came third in the end, because there’s one person, that had come in before her who tested positive.
So she had come in fourth at the Olympics, but she did medal and they just gave her that medal two years ago.
If she would have won that medal that year in 2008, that would have changed her whole life trajectory, because the sponsorships would have been very different. Everything would have been different. Her life would have been different.
I think it would be cool to hear her story. I also don’t know how many people have interviewed her or how many people have sponsored her. She lost all of that when she didn’t get that medal that she deserved and that she really did get.
Where can you find Zara Northover
Christian: Where can people find you? You mentioned Instagram. Any other places where people can get hold of you?
Zara: Yes. I have a website too, Zaranorthover.com. But on Instagram, I check my DMs, so you can follow me on there at Zara Northover. I do have another Instagram at Moving in Faith because that is a global empowerment brand that I do have and that I wear with pride.
Zara Northover’s social profiles
That’s where you’ll find me most. If you type in Zara Northover, all my stuff probably is going to come up on Google. I always tell people you have more information on me than I do about you.
Christian: Zara, that was really cool. Thanks for sharing your powerful messages, and thanks for your time.
Zara: Thanks, Christian.