Next Stop, Tokyo with Dag­mara Woz­niak

with Dag­mara Woz­niak

Athleisure - - Contents - @Dag­maraWoz­niak

Our Au­gust Celebrity cover fit­ness ed­i­to­rial is graced by 2 X Team USA Olympian who bronzed in Rio, Dag­mara Woz­niak. We talk about how she fell in love with the sport, pre­par­ing for the Games and how she’s there to in­spire other ath­letes!

This month's cover is a 2 X Team USA Olympian, Dag­mara Woz­niak who won a Bronze Medal in fenc­ing as a mem­ber of the Women's Saber team. With the the Olympics a lit­tle less than 2 years away, Ath­leisure Mag is excited to turn our at­ten­tion to the up­com­ing sum­mer Olympic games that will take place in Tokyo 2020. Our shoot took place at the Man­hat­tan Fenc­ing Cen­ter where she has trained with her coach since 2005, and we talked about her goals for the up­com­ing sea­son, what drew her to the sport and the im­por­tance of bring­ing pos­i­tiv­ity to the game.

ATH­LEISURE MAG: When we met you at your shoot, you made a great anal­ogy to what fenc­ing is - can you share with our read­ers?

DAG­MARA WOZ­NIAK: I look at fenc­ing as a sport with three dif­fer­ent weapons (Epee, Foil and Saber) and you spe­cial­ize in one be­cause the tac­tics and train­ing is so dif­fer­ent in an of it­self. I com­pare Saber, the one that I do as the Sprinter of the sport. If you look at the sport like Track & Field you have sprint­ing, hur­dles and marathon, it’s com­pletely dif­fer­ent. You may have some ath­letes that do both, but you’re work­ing on spe­cific tech­niques for the sport it­self which is very sim­i­lar to fenc­ing. Peo­ple think it’s one sport and that we just change weapons, but it’s like 3 mini sports within the sport. It dif­fers by tar­get area, dif­fers by tac­tic, and dif­fers by train­ing, so it’s very spe­cific and dif­fer­ent then what most peo­ple think.

AM: What drew you to fenc­ing ini­tially and then the dis­ci­pline of saber?

DW: I ac­tu­ally started off with the orig­i­nal weapon which is Epee when I came first. My dad just took me to a fenc­ing class one day and it was at the Pol­ish Cul­tural Foun­da­tion and I think it was more to keep me busy and to help me prac­tice the lan­guage as my coach was Pol­ish. It was an af­ter school pro­gram kind of thing and I did it once or twice a week and I just started fall­ing in love with it.

AM: What did you like about it af­ter you started play­ing in the sport?

DW: I liked how dif­fer­ent it was. Peo­ple laugh, but I was def­i­nitely a tomboy, still am and beatng up kids and not get­ting in trou­ble was great. I did karate be­fore that and I had a lot of fun with that. I had friends who were in it with me and when I had to go up to get a new belt or what­ever, they would say, “don’t hit me too hard.” I was very ready to go all out. There is some­thing on the line, “sorry we’re not friends right now.” The whole as­pect of com­bat sport is just very ap­peal­ing to me and I liked it a lot and it’s chal­leng­ing. One of the things that I have grown to like about it is that there’s a lot of un­pre­dictable fac­tors. You might know what some­one gen­er­ally does and let’s say they are having a bad day or they’re fenc­ing much bet­ter than they have ever done be­fore, you need to be able to ad­just to things like that. So the fact that you’re not sure how some­one is go­ing to nec­es­sar­ily com­pete, you can make a plan, but that’s not what’s go­ing on and you need to ad­just or you are go­ing to lose.

So not to take away from swim­ming or track and field, but the ground is never go­ing to move from you, the wa­ter is never go­ing to dip and be­come a crazy wave. It’s the fact that it’s re­ally a bat­tle against you and your­self. And fenc­ing and com­bat sports is a bat­tle against you and your­self and you have the vari­able of some­one else who also has a brain and can adapt to sit­u­a­tions and make mis­takes as well and cap­i­tal­ize on your mis­takes. I like the cliché way of ex­plain­ing fenc­ing that it’s a phys­i­cal chess game and it’s spot on. I love that about it.

AM: So what was the mo­ment that you went from en­joy­ing this per­son­ally to

re­al­iz­ing that you could com­pete pro­fes­sion­ally and go to an Olympic stage?

DW: It came very late for me I guess! It was only when I qual­i­fied as an al­ter­nate for the Beijing Olympics that I even thought about it be­cause peo­ple said that that would be my next step to go to the games and I would say, “you’re crazy.” But in the end it was like, if I wasn’t gun­ning for the Olympics then why the hell was I train­ing so hard? For me it was the whole idea of want­ing to be the best and do­ing some­thing that I was good at and I loved it. I was never up­set or felt forced that I was go­ing to prac­tice – I was excited. The losses were so per­sonal for me that I would cry for hours and keep telling my mom that it would never hap­pen again, but even though it did – I was just driven to it with­out having a goal. I just wanted to win and that was the first goal. But then when I was grad­u­at­ing high­school, I had some teach­ers that were like, “you know what’s next – the Olympics,” and I was like, “no my God, don’t push it.” But shortly af­ter that, my coach was like you should start think­ing about it and I thought, “wow I didn’t know that this was pos­si­ble for me.” Once my coach and I kind of made a plan, it was up from there.

AM: Your first trip to the Olympic Games in Beijing 2008 was as an al­ter­nate, how did that af­fect 2012?

DW: I qual­i­fied in 2008 as a re­place­ment ath­lete and the only way that I was able to com­pete is if some­one from my team got in­jured. That didn’t hap­pen and they got the Bronze medal and be­cause I never set foot on the ac­tual play­ing field, I went home with noth­ing. I re­mem­ber a lot of peo­ple were say­ing that that was as far as where I could po­ten­tially reach and what was I ex­pect­ing and why I was so up­set. They kind of wrote me off from ever be­ing an ac­tual Olympic ath­lete and I told my mom, "I was there for the experience and I saw how it was and th­ese next 4 years it will be dif­fer­ent.” I made sure that I made a plan that was go­ing to get me there as an ac­tual com­pet­ing ath­lete. So qual­i­fy­ing for the team for the Olympic Games in Lon­don 2012 was a high­light and so much more mean­ing­ful be­cause of the peo­ple that said I couldn’t do it.

AM: We know that you have a 4 year gap be­tween each Sum­mer Games. There are a num­ber of cham­pi­onships and tour­na­ments that you do in a given pe­riod of time to get onto the team for your sport (the process is dif­fer­ent for each of the Olympic sports). What is that snap­shot like for you in terms of qual­i­fy­ing when you are get­ting into the next Team USA as we’re look­ing for The Road to Tokyo 2020?

DW: Right so there are many sports that just went to one com­pe­ti­tion closer to Rio and it could be as soon as just a month out! But that’s just what they are used to and it’s a com­pletely dif­fer­ent stress­ful sit­u­a­tion. For us, it’s a year long process so when we start the ac­tual Olympic year, we go to about 10 In­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions where we com­pete and we get points based off of that. Be­cause now, all the

But in the end it was like, if I wasn't gun­ning for the Olympics then why the hell was I train­ing so hard? For me it was the whole idea of want­ing to be the best and do­ing some­thing that I was good at and I loved it.

team events are al­lot­ted un­der one big medal, be­fore in 2012, our team event was ro­tated out so the IOC didn’t al­low all of the events to com­pete at the Olympics so 2 of the team events – all of the in­di­vid­ual team events were there so that’s 6 events and then we only re­ceived 4 team events the - re­lay. So in 2012, Women’s Saber got ro­tated out and we only got to qual­ify in­di­vid­u­ally. In 2016, we had the op­por­tu­nity to qual­ify as a team and we did. It’s a dif­fer­ent qual­i­fi­ca­tion process, but now we have team events for ev­ery­one which is amaz­ing and ev­ery­one has the op­por­tu­nity which is more chances for Team USA as we’re do­ing well right now and we can bring more medals home, and it’s great for fenc­ing, the sport and the devel­op­ment.

The qual­i­fi­ca­tion process is dif­fer­ent. We go to com­pe­ti­tions, we get points based on how high we rank and it’s the first 4 teams that qual­ify au­to­mat­i­cally and then to fin­ish the bracket it goes by zone!

AM: So your Olympic year would start sum­mer of next year. But yet, you are still do­ing cham­pi­onships and com­pe­ti­tions lead­ing into that.

DW: Yes.

AM: You’re having a well de­served rest.

DW: Right. Our sea­son typ­i­cally started in Oct and then we have 1 com­pe­ti­tion ev­ery month. It was ok, but then I felt like it never gave me an op­por­tu­nity to nec­es­sar­ily peak. Now, they're giv­ing us quite a bit of an off sea­son which is go­ing to let us have more com­pe­ti­tions con­densed to­gether, but right now there is an op­por­tu­nity to kind of change the train­ing style, to change the sched­ule and to be able to cap­i­tal­ize phys­i­cally and men­tally and then just to ride out how much work you have put in through the sea­son. You won't feel the need to play catch up and your peeked and you're ready to go.

AM: What is your train­ing like when you’re pre­par­ing for a typ­i­cal tour­na­ment, an Olympic one and then just main­tain­ing in gen­eral?

DW: I don’t nec­es­sar­ily treat the Olympics any dif­fer­ent then any other com­pe­ti­tion. I just think that you can’t treat it dif­fer­ently be­cause of the en­vi­ron­ment be­cause that is when you are go­ing to put the pres­sure on your­self and I know that there are dif­fer­ences as there are more peo­ple, there’s more press and more points – ev­ery­thing that’s for sure. That’s why go­ing into the Olympics for Lon­don 2012 which was my first time com­pet­ing, I told my­self that I wasn’t go­ing to do a lot of in­ter­views be­cause we don’t usu­ally get a lot of that stuff usu­ally dur­ing the com­pe­ti­tion and I know that that’s at least how I work as an ath­lete as I would get dis­tracted by try­ing to give ev­ery­one a story and all of that. I felt that if the re­sult was go­ing to be there, then peo­ple would want to talk to me af­ter.

I fo­cus on pre­par­ing just like I would for any other com­pe­ti­tion. I know that a lot of peo­ple func­tion bet­ter when they are ex­posed to some­thing for the first time. I’m not go­ing to say be­gin­ner’s luck as they go in with no ex­pec­ta­tion and for me, it’s the op­po­site I put more ex­pec­ta­tion in when I am do­ing some­thing for the first time. Now if I qual­ify for Tokyo which I am very con­fi­dent that I will and that it’s go­ing that way.

I feel more con­fi­dent the more times that I have been on the Olympic stage. Through loss, through heart­break, through ev­ery­thing all to­gether it’s learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences that make me stronger.

AM: What does your work­out look like?

DW: Right now, I’m not fenc­ing so I am

tak­ing a small break from that, but I am work­ing with my trainer on cap­i­tal­iz­ing on en­durance. Fenc­ing dur­ing com­pe­ti­tions lasts through­out a whole day. There is a lot of stop and go! You com­pete and sit around for an hour and a half, then com­pete and sit around for an­other hour and a half. Not nec­es­sar­ily un­til you get into the fi­nals you win and keep go­ing and you have about an hour and a half and maybe even 2-3 hours be­fore the next match. So it gets te­dious in terms of keep­ing up the en­durance, the stamina and the fo­cus. What we have been do­ing right now as you can’t re­ally sim­u­late an ac­tual com­pe­ti­tion, but we have been train­ing re­ally early in the morn­ing, I have been do­ing a lot of cross­fit lately and ca­ter­ing more to fenc­ing spe­cific stuff. I’m not go­ing re­ally crazy with the weight, but fo­cus­ing on build­ing short mus­cle and fast push mus­cle – go­ing down and up. I am driv­ing re­ally fast up and again fo­cus­ing specif­i­cally on what will ben­e­fit me and my sport, but at the same time, having the in­ten­sity of the class and the timer. The repet­i­tive­ness is all there and that ben­e­fits me. I like to change things up when I feel that I am push­ing my­self a lit­tle too hard. There was a good por­tion of the time that I was do­ing pi­lates with the re­former and some mat work. What’s great about fenc­ing and in fit­ness in gen­eral. Your body is al­ways chang­ing whether you’re in your 20’s, 30’s, a women, a male, come down with a sick­ness etc – there are so many things that are con­stantly chang­ing. I never re­ally like to stick to some­thing all the time and kind of plateau. Keep­ing the body not in a rhythm in terms of a work­out which is why I like cross­fit so much as there is al­ways a way to chal­lenge your­self. It’s not more weight in terms of tak­ing more time if there is a 12 minute gap, so maybe you get less rounds in or you put less weight and you gauge how many rounds you get in and next time you can keep the same weight and just try to push how many things you can do to fit in the time frame. I like pi­lates, I was spin­ning for awhile but it’s about more sport spe­cific stuff. Mak­ing sure that the right mus­cles are fir­ing.

AM: What are three go to foods for the gym and what are your splurges?

DW: You say splurge foods and it’s the first thing that comes to my mind! I love donuts – I have loved donuts for­ever and if you give me one, I can’t re­sist. The home­made ones are amaz­ing. I love how pretty they are and how cre­ative they can be. I’m not a fan of cup­cakes or cake, but donuts – yes donuts are my thing. It’s first, sec­ond and third. I can’t choose ha!

My go-to in terms of what I’m eat­ing when train­ing. I like protein shakes. They are some­thing that I def­i­nitely in­clude post work­out as a meal re­place­ment. There is a com­pany I like, Ath­letic Greens and they are safe for ath­letes to use and they have de­hy­drated greens that you can throw in your smoothie as well or in your shakes and it’s easy on your stom­ach and doesn’t have a metal­lic af­ter­taste like most of them do. I’m all about safety and a clean sport. Having a trusted prod­uct like that makes me feel great and since I started us­ing that which has been awhile now – maybe a year. I have re­ally de­creased how much cof­fee I have been drink­ing. I love the taste of cof­fee but some­times I for­get when the last time was that I had it be­cause the pro­teins and the greens give me so much en­ergy. Thats what I'm about.

Clean food yes – I think I’d have to say that I am a Pa­leo/Ke­to­genic diet – ob­vi­ously not Keto like what peo­ple are do­ing out there lim­it­ing carbs etc., as I think af­ter what I have read a lot about as ath­letes, it's not the best things es­pe­cially for women. But keep­ing high protein and high fat and carbs is some­thing that I have found has given me the op­ti­mal train­ing and re­cov­ery.

AM: We en­joyed shoot­ing at the Man­hat­tan Fenc­ing Cen­ter. How long have you trained here and do you have re­spon­si­bil­i­ties there as well?

DW: There aren’t nec­es­sar­ily re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, but I do think of it as a help­ing hand in terms of talk­ing to my coach about ath­letes and my opin­ion. I am more of a men­tor. My fenc­ing gym is my sec­ond home. I’m a big stick­ler for or­ga­ni­za­tion, clean­ing up af­ter or or­ga­niz­ing the lost and found and even small tasks. I love to be re­spect­ful of it and take care of it. I hope that oth­ers do the same.

I’ve been with my coach since 2005!

AM: Beyond your sport, what else are you in­ter­ested in do­ing?

DW: For me, I feel like I have def­i­nitely got­ten in­volved in and in­ter­ested in clean eat­ing and watching doc­u­men­taries about pro­cessed items that are in our foods and how we are slowly killing our­selves with the items that are in our foods. Like a bunch of fries that are re­ally fill­ing is $1 but healthy veg­eta­bles for a lit­tle snack pack is $6 or $7. A fam­ily that can’t re­ally af­ford too much will go for McDonald’s and fast food stuff. It breaks my heart that there are all th­ese mon­sters in our coun­try that are de­stroy­ing food. So healthy food has been a huge work­ing area for me. I love learn­ing about it and I am very in­tu­itive with my body. The sec­ond I eat some­thing, I can feel how up­set my stom­ach is and I know it's not good for me. It sucks be­cause donuts have a lot of sugar, not just in terms of weight gain, but it up­sets my gut bac­te­ria and I am in tons of pain. Just see­ing that I want to spread the knowl­edge be­cause even healthy peanut but­ters are ac­tu­ally not healthy. Peo­ple think that they al­ways have to work out and work out to do so 2-3 times a day to get to what­ever your fit­ness is, but there is so much that can be achieved through diet and what you put into your body. I’m pas­sion­ate about that.

In terms of ath­lete prepa­ra­tion, I would like to be a strength and con­di­tion­ing coach my­self and it has be­come dear to me. Not nec­es­sar­ily just for fenc­ing. I think be­ing able to com­pete at the high­est level men­tally and phys­i­cally – I may not al­ways do it, but be­ing there and known what it takes, and having that knowl­edge be­cause of my experience, I would like to take that step and pre­pare those ath­letes that want to take it to this level and if not higher.

AM: You travel a lot. What have been your fa­vorite places?

DW: I get that ques­tion a lot and peo­ple are al­ways sur­prised at my an­swer. I have fallen in love with Bel­gium. I’ve never said that I could re­tire and live in Europe but it’s the first place I went to when I was like, I could see my­self liv­ing there in terms of the food, the cul­ture, the peo­ple are so nice and the ar­chi­tec­ture is beau­ti­ful. There’s a cof­fee shop and then there is a cas­tle around the cor­ner, you don’t get that in the United States. It’s very in­ter­est­ing to see that kind of setup. This past sum­mer, we had a train­ing camp in Ja­pan be­fore our World Cham­pi­onships in China and I have to say that Ja­pan is such a cool place. The peo­ple are so cool and it's just a dif­fer­ent world over there! I en­joyed my time in Ja­pan and you know, my heart is in Cuba and I love that place and it's the top three of where I would love to go to.

AM: Where can we find you eat­ing and shop­ping?

DW: The things that I love about Jersey City and Hobo­ken is that there are a lot of bou­tique places in terms of cloth­ing that you can find great stuff and I'm not into la­bels, but when I do shop for that, I love All Saints - they're rugged and raw with col­ors that aren't too bright. I love denim with raw ma-

teri­als in terms of dress­ing up. So I love jean shorts and a black tank top which is my go to. I'm about com­fort while still be­ing able to ex­press my­self.

There are a lot of cool cafés here. Re­cently, my boyfriend and I got in­ter­ested in some re­fresh­ing drinks, cheese and meat plat­ters which I love. There is a place called The Archer which has a great se­lec­tion of this. Down by Grove there are a lot of cool restau­rants. We don’t go out too much be­cause we try to just fo­cus on eat­ing healthy and when we go out, I love out­side din­ing and the gar­dens. There is a lot of that here and it’s fun to jump around.

AM: Do you do any phi­lan­thropy?

DW: I find my­self get­ting in­volved with the ath­letes in my club and giv­ing ad­vice. I have worked one on one with girls in my club. The pres­sure of be­ing a fe­male ath­lete and it’s in­ter­est­ing as ev­ery­one al­ways deals with their prob­lems and I don’t nec­es­sar­ily show­case what is go­ing on with me as I have gone through some trou­bled times. When they talk to me and say, "how do you seem so calm and con­fi­dent?" I'm like, "woo you have no idea! That's so far from the truth." I am a thank­ful that I come across that way and ev­ery­one is deal­ing with their is­sues and I try to im­part some wis­dom on the girls and the guys at the club.

I talk to my mid­dle school in Avenel, NJ and I have done a few high school talks in terms of set­ting goals and how many times that peo­ple have come and said I couldn't do some­thing. If you lis­ten to what peo­ple say, you're just go­ing to dig your own hole and never crawl out of there. Es­pe­cially when you're do­ing well, peo­ple seem to have more things to say. I think I did a lot of lis­ten­ing to those peo­ple for a long time and at 21, I thought that I had it all fig­ured out, by 26 I thought I knew more and now at 30 I'm like, "damn I'm so far from when I thought I did have it fig­ured out!" Life is a con­stant learn­ing experience and be­ing able to walk away from peo­ple that aren't good for you and are neg­a­tive – I just get in­volved with the kids at my club. I have had the harsh talks with other coaches on what I am ca­pa­ble of and am sup­posed to do but when you fol­low your own plan, that’s when you can re­ally blos­som!

AM: What are your goals for the Sum­mer Games?

DW: I’ve set the goal of com­ing home with 2 gold medals for in­di­vid­ual and the team. It’s that goal or no goal for me. Maybe it’s my last time com­pet­ing or I go an­other 4 years, who knows. I’m do­ing ev­ery­thing I can now and not look­ing back to say shoulda, coulda, woulda and I have a new game plan now. I don’t have in­juries, there are a lot of things that are dif­fer­ent then when I was train­ing for Rio than how it is now. I may not be the kid that went to ev­ery Olympics and medaled in ev­ery one, but I have the op­por­tu­nity to go out there and do some dam­age with an in­di­vid­ual gold medal and team gold medal - even if it's one time. That's very im­por­tant to me and that puts the ic­ing on my cake in terms of a ca­reer.

Lis­ten to our con­ver­sa­tion with Dag­mara Woz­niak on an up­com­ing episode of The Road to Tokyo 2020 on Ath­leisure Stu­dio, our mul­ti­me­dia pod­cast net­work.

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