Tonya Verbeek made her name as a freestyle wrestler, representing Canada a number of times on the world stage and bringing home Olympic Bronze from Beijing in 2008 and Silver in both 2004 from Athens and 2012 from London. Tonya hails from Grimsby in Ontario and has been training in wrestling since her grade 11 year. She didn’t look back, going on to be an 11 time national champion to add to her Olympic accolades. Oh and if being a top tier athlete isn’t impressive enough, she also holds a Masters in Education from Brock University.
What made you get involved in wrestling?
Wrestling practice was always right before my jump rope team’s practice at the local high school. For years, I would watch the end of the boys wrestling practice. Girls weren’t wrestling at that time. In Grade 11, on the morning announcements, the high school coach Dave Collie opened up practices to the girls for the first time. I am still friends with Dave now! He gave me the opportunity to try a sport that girls weren’t recognized to participate in. I was hooked right from the start.
What adversity have you had to overcome as athlete?
There are always lots of ups and downs for athletes. My struggles or adversities helped me build my strength of character and made me learn a lot about myself. My biggest challenge was my mental approach during competition especially at the National Championships where it was a qualifier to go to the World Championships. I had a hard time believing in myself; that I could be the one to win. I worked very hard at overcoming this by training my mind to accomplish this goal. I did so after 8 years and when I made the first Olympic Games Team for Women’s Wrestling in 2004 and went to Athens, Greece.
How often did you train during your wrestling career?
I trained twice a day, 5 days a week, once on Saturday and took Sundays off. Training consisted of mostly on mat wrestling sessions, strength and conditioning, Pilates, yoga and cardio.
How often do you currently train and for how long?
I exercise 5 times a week or so now. I get on the mats here and there still, enjoy running trails and hills, Pilates and some weight training.
What advice would you give to athletes wanting to avoid injury?
Listen to your bodies! More doesn’t mean better but being smart with your training and take preventive measures will definitely help.
What is your #1 fitness tip?
Enjoy what you are doing! Be eager to push yourself and believe that you can!
Lorne’s Take – When an athlete with Tonya’s resume gives advice it makes a lot of sense to listen. She makes a terrific point when she says “listen to your body and be smart with your training”