competing in 3 different sports With A PhD in engineering: meet CatErina Stenta

Hello, Caterina, we know you are in the North of Italy and in total Lock Down at the moment. It’s a tough time for everyone but for someone like you who is used to pushing your limits in all sorts of outdoor activities and endurance sports, it must be especially difficult. What do you do to remain sane in these days? 

Hello everyone. Yes, I am now in my hometown in the northeast of Italy and we are in lockdown since the 11 of March. For a few days actually we are allowed to go out and train within 500m from our houses, so that tastes already like a little freedom, because before that here in my city, we couldn't go out at all apart from for groceries and pharmacies. The first thing I told myself when this lockdown started, was that I needed to stick to my training plan, in order to keep the routine, don't lose the training but most of all to try to make the most out of this time without getting crazy. So I bought some bike rollers to do some cardio training at home, and now I go out to do intervals in short distances. I have a long term plan with my trainings and that helps me to maintain the focus, I know that I can't stop training otherwise I will lose months of work, so I've just changed the routine but I keep up the work.  It is difficult to not be able to enjoy the outdoors and run or paddle, or ski far away from home and for a long way, but I see this time as mental training for resistance. I think if I am able to train in 100m like a hamster up and down the stairs, or road around my house when I will be able to run and paddle free again, I will enjoy it more and be more motivated. So once I have accepted this circumstance I am seeing it as a time to strengthen my mind. I have just focused on training and using time wisely. I think running is helping me in this situation. In the windsurf I am used not to windsurf for long periods, so at the moment I miss it, but I already had long periods with no sailing, so that's kind of okay.

You come from a family of sports addicts and you yourself have competed in a few different kinds of sports. What are they? And what you like most about each?  From my family, I learned windsurfing and ski mountaineering and most of all to enjoy nature and to be passionate about these sports. My first sport was ski-mountaineering, I started skiing with three years old and I have been doing it all my life. These past 6-7 years I didn't do much ski, as I was always abroad traveling for windsurfing, but recently I tried to find some time at home and got back to it a bit more.  I started my first competitions with gymnastics, that I did from 5 to 17 or so.  At 16 I got really passionated -almost obsessed- with windsurfing and since 2014 I am following the PWA Wave World Tour. For three years I started competing internationally as well in SUP Race, and I found a new way to use my energy in an endurance sport. I love windsurfing a lot, but to compete in an endurance sport is another feeling and I love it. About these sports I love the feeling to be connected with nature, in windsurfing I love the feeling of riding waves, it's maybe similar to skiing in fresh snow, but more challenging as there's so much to learn and you never stop improving and dreaming. In Sup Race I love the endurance aspect, the fact to push your body to its limits and discover that you can be stronger than what you think. Ski mountaineering is just pure freedom, to be able to climb up the mountains with your legs is satisfying, and the landscape and nature you are immersed in, are amazing. The silence, the peace I find there is not comparable to the rest!

Pro Windsurfer, Pro Super and before the Lockdown you were about to enter your first skimo competition. It seems that you really enjoy the competitive aspect of sports. What is it you like about the competition mindset? Yes, I try to compete in every sport I do :) ! In March I wanted to try one local ski mountaineering race in Veneto, close to where I live, but Coronavirus stopped my intentions. I don't really know where this competition mood comes from but I love the race feeling, especially in SUP Race, where you need to race against the other competitors, in windsurf wave you are more like sailing for yourself and the competition feeling is different. In Sup Race I love this adrenaline at the start line, to be surrounded by other amazing athletes that share the same passion and to compete in the ocean in some amazing locations. I like competitions to meet and share time with other passionate people, many of my good friends are from the competitions world.  Most of all though, I think I like training, and competition is just an excuse to push hard and train every day 🙂

Finally, not many people know, but besides being pro athletes you also had quite a long academic career, are you still working at university? What was your job there? I was working as a Ph.D. researcher in a University in Catalunya, Spain, after finishing my master's degree in Materials Engineering in Lisbon and Berlin. I was doing research on organic solar cells. So I was a lot in the lab and then analyzing data. I did this for 4 years and in 2018 I finished it and I didn't continue in my academic career. I just wanted to dedicate myself to the sports and to see If I would be able to increase my level. So at the moment, I am not working anymore in that area.

What’s your best advice or recommendation to girls who are learning to windsurf or looking to progress? I think the most important thing is to have fun. Whether it is flat, windy, light, wavy, the key is to enjoy the fact to be in the water and try to play with the equipment in every condition, this will give you a good knowledge that you can use then when you improve more. Then if you want to progress, I think it's important to spend as much water time as possible, so if you don't live by the ocean, maybe thinking to move for a time somewhere where's there's good wind, like moving for the studies or university in a windy place.

To Follow Caterina on Facebook or Instagram: @Caterinastenta

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