Sophia Rizzuto is putting her own unique twist to the traditional powerlifting world. Her story is grounded in her background in veganism, with her goal of proving that vegans can be just as competitive as their non-vegan counterparts in competitions. Currently training for this summer’s National Championships, Rizzuto sat down with Virus to discuss her powerlifting ambitions, her dedication to daily progress, and the mental side of dealing with injuries.
Sophia Rizzuto’s powerlifting career is defined by consistency. Her focus on daily improvement through hard work seems simple on the surface, but underneath, is driven by the passion and dedication she’s internalized over years of competition. From her vegan diet to low-key lifestyle, every facet of her life is geared towards progress as a lifter.
Rizzuto competed in a variety of sports growing up, including gymnastics, basketball, and softball. And while she worked out regularly in high school, she initially had reservations over taking up powerlifting due to her body image. Despite her doubts, she connected with the process of lifting and the seeing the progression of adding weights or reps week after week.
She became fully hooked on powerlifting after completing her first competition in college. Not just in the moment, but for the long-term.
“A theme in my workouts was linear progression and focusing on adding weight or reps every week to all the movements I was doing, so I believe I’ve always had the drive to get better at whatever I ended up doing”
Today, Rizzuto prepares for competitions by training at high levels of intensity. She especially emphasizes the mental aspects of competitions, adding that she does not train with that same focus every day due to mental exhaustion. But even when she isn’t in the gym, she still visualizes herself performing at competitions to keep herself mentally sharp.
She gets into “the zone” for competitions by turning the focus back toward herself. She uses music as a tool to shift her mood before visualizing her lifts.
“As an introvert, ‘the zone’ for me is dialed in with headphones, not talking much, and visualizing a lot,” says Rizzuto.
Rizzuto adds that she still gets nervous on competition days, accepting that those nerves will never completely disappear. Instead, she uses the competition day jitters to re-focus herself until her first lift, when she can finally relax.
Consistency is an essential component to her career. She follows the same nutrition plan all year long, counting her macros and calories to make sure she stays within her weight class. She also uses nutrition as a means for recovery.
Rizzuto offers a unique perspective amongst her peers due to her vegan background. She wants to dispel common myths surrounding veganism in powerlifting, including the idea that she will be weaker due to a lack of protein. Her goal is to show that with proper macronutrients, vitamins, and amino acids, vegans can be just as successful as non-vegans in competitions.
“The most common misconception is that you won’t get enough protein and somehow you will be weaker because of it. As long as you’re getting the proper macronutrients, vitamins, and amino acids (that non-vegans also need) you can be just as successful”
The vegan lifestyle taught her the discipline required to be successful in powerlifting. She observes that since she was a vegan before her powerlifting career, training from that standpoint was always normal for her.
“It’s so normal to me that I don’t even feel like I’m doing anything different, which is great. But most importantly I feel comfortable knowing morally I’m doing what in my opinion is the right thing,” Rizzuto adds.
She has high ambitions for her career. Her goal is to win the National Championships in both her weight class and the open division, then eventually compete in the World Championships. She describes competing at the World Championships as a junior as her proudest moment so far. And even though she did not perform her best, the opportunity gave her a renewed focus in training.
“My dad’s work ethic and strictness was something I hated as a kid but love and am grateful for now”
Rizzuto credits her dad’s strictness for her work ethic and determination. Powerlifting also reinforces his lessons about the importance and eventual payoff of hard work. She hones in on the connection between progression and every day work, though she adds that improvement is not necessarily a linear process.
“You also need to understand that it’s not linear and not every day is going to be perfect or better than the last. You have to look at it objectively and be confident that the work you’re putting in will bring you success in the end,” says Rizzuto.
Social media also plays an important role for Rizzuto, using the platform to hold herself accountable in training and connect with other powerlifters. With powerlifting an individual sport, she says that those connections with peers “really can change people’s lives.” Social media also represents an opportunity to scout opponents in the buildup to competitions.
Due to the strict rules of powerlifting, her go-to Virus piece is the classic singlet. Rizzuto appreciates how Virus compression fit clothing works with an athlete, especially in fit and comfort.
Virus’ philosophy towards pursuing your passion suits Rizzuto’s commitment to her daily regimen. She wouldn’t be able to handle the ups and downs of training, the injuries, and the lifestyle without dedication and love for the craft.
And not only is powerlifting Rizzuto’s passion, it’s become an activity that she cannot live without.
“Passion to me is something that you can’t live without doing. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I couldn’t do what I’m doing now. It becomes part of your identity,” says Rizzuto.
That drive and determination has become even more important as she focuses on getting past her injuries. She notes that injuries are more taxing mentally than they are physically, but she handles the adversity by looking at her situation through an objective lens.
“It’s easy to tie your emotions into your lifts when you care a lot about it, but the first step is to accept that you have this injury that’s preventing you from giving 100% right now, and that is okay”
No matter where her powerlifting career takes her, Rizzuto is in no rush. She concludes that “you have your whole life” to keep developing as an athlete through consistency. Whether it’s her focus on progress, her diet, or her visualization techniques outside of the gym, there’s always a path for daily improvements. Those small daily gains may add up to a World Championship one day.