At 22 years old, Los Angeles native Mikaela Mayer is a force to be reckoned with. She is an Olympic-style boxer ranked No. 1 in the world. Only a few years earlier, she was set on the modeling track but found boxing was more her style. At 17, she began her fighting career by training in Muay Thai — winning all her early fights — but soon transitioned to boxing and immediately won two national titles. Mikaela was the Olympic alternate in her weight class for the London 2012 Games and is training to win the gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
In this exclusive HellaWella Q&A, Mikaela discusses her love of the sport, her training regimen and how she unwinds after a long day of ass-kicking.
How did you make the switch from modeling to boxing? What sparked your interest in the sport?
I dabbled in modeling in my teens thinking it was the path I wanted to take but never pursued it like I did boxing. I was in high school, not very happy with the path I was on and decided that I had missed out on sports and school activities and wanted to pick up something new. There was a Muay Thai gym by my house, so I took my last $100 from my bank account and signed myself up! A few weeks of training and I was obsessed. I discovered what true passion really meant.
How did boxing change your life?
Boxing changed my life in so many positive ways. I became hungry for success. With that drive and passion for the sport, I learned about discipline, hard work, dedication and sacrifice. Most of all, I learned that if you want something and you’re willing to work hard for it, anything is possible. It sounds cliché and we’ve all heard it as kids from parents and teachers, but to prove it to yourself through trial and error is a life-changing experience.
You may have seen Mikaela in this Dr Pepper commercial:
How does a champion boxer train for the 2016 Olympics? Take us through your typical training day.
This is a lifestyle! The first thought on my mind in the morning and my main obligation is getting to my workouts. I’m in an amazing place in my life because I am blessed with being able to focus solely on my career and chasing my dreams. When I’m training for a major tournament, I leave LA and go to camp with my coach and teammates. My training schedule for the week will vary according to how far out my competition is, but for the most part I will train two to three times a day. A typical day of training will start around 8 a.m. with a run or sprints. Boxing workouts are in the middle of the day around noon, and strength and conditioning takes place in the evening. So my day consists of sleeping, eating, training, Facebook, Twitter, sleeping, eating, training and repeat.
How often do you train? What do you do to cross train?
When in camp, I train six days a week, two to three times a day. Peaking yourself at the right time is important, so a whole six-week camp is scheduled ahead of time and altered a little as you go but only by my coach! I don’t get to make the rules. I love doing CrossFit-style workouts that are fast-paced, intense and focused on functional movement. I will also swim a couple times a week to switch it up and give my body a rest from all the impact.
What do you usually eat to fuel up throughout your day?
I have recently been focusing a lot more on maintaining a performance diet. I try to cut out all simple carbs. I will sometimes eat the same thing every day all week long! Meat, salads, lots of avocado and tons of sweet potatoes. My coach and I will cook food for the week so it’s already prepared and ready to eat after my workouts.
What’s on your playlist when you workout/train?
I actually don’t listen to music when I train! I really try and focus on the movements that I’m doing and why I’m doing them. I think it’s important to stay completely conscious and not go on autopilot. Practice does not make perfect; PERFECT practice makes perfect. My workouts are just as mentally draining as they are physical.
How do you pump yourself up before a match?
Before a match I just try to focus on the game plan that my coach and I have come up with for my opponent. I remember that I have trained hard, I’m in shape and that I am the one.
What do you do to cool down after a match?
This would depend on the outcome! Obviously when I win I’m all smiles and anxiety-free for a couple hours until I have to crack down and get focused for the next fight. When I don’t get the decision, it’s rough. When all you do is train to win these fights, losing can make your whole world come crashing down. However, the only thing to do is keep your head up, figure out what you did wrong and go back into the gym to fix it and get better.
What do you like to do when you’re not training?
When I’m not training, I love getting together with my girlfriends and hitting up the pool or the beach to catch a tan. I’m excited about the simplest things! Spending time with my sisters as often as I can is important to me as well, since I’m always on the road.
Watch this video for even more insight into this young Olympic hopeful: