Tag Archives: FitMentality

How To Use Headphones In The Gym

Does the headphones cable ever get in the way of your workout? It used to happen to me all the time. Not anymore, once I discovered this nifty trick! Yeah, I said “nifty.” You read it right.

FitMentality on Instagram

FitMentality on Facebook

Tagged , , ,

The Road to Professional Volleyball | Interview With Ysabel Zulueta

Ysabel Zulueta


Ysabel Zulueta is a volleyball player on the brink of going pro. For most of us, at some point, we wanted to grow up to play a professional sport. Again, for most of us, that ended up not quite being the case. Ysabel, on the other hand, has that chance. She is working towards getting to go to play professional volleyball in Slovenia this fall.

As soon as I heard about her journey, I immediately thought about how cool it would be to share her story with the fine readers/followers of this website. Many of us have had “what if” moments. What if we had pursued this? What if we had pursued that? Ysabel gets to answer her own “what if I had the chance to travel all around Europe, while playing professional volleyball?”

This interview is not only meant to share a glimpse into her story, but it provides an example we can all gain inspiration from in terms of doing what it takes to pursue our goals.

FitMentality: When did you start playing volleyball?

Ysabel: I started in middle school because of my good friend. Her mom was the coach, so we got all our friends together to play and wanted to try something new.

FM: Describe your high school volleyball experience

I was on the freshman team my first year of high school. I was doing a top spin jump serve; which is rare. If I missed a serve in practice, the consequence would be to run about 5 laps per missed serve. There was a lot of pressure because of that serve. My coach saw potential in me as a player and wanted me to excel. Especially in that serve, because it was an advantage for my age group at the time. 

 My sophomore year I moved up to varsity. I was one of the main hitters with the upper classmen.  It was a lot of fun, but of course a lot pressure. You can’t forget about the rivalry for positions; especially if a cub takes a spot of a mama bear, haha. But that’s how it always is in sports, no veteran wants to lose their spot to a newbie.

FM: What’s your favorite memory from the time?

The best game I can remember was during my senior year versus Monta Vista. We were rivals and had the same amount of wins during the season. This game determined who won league and who advanced to CCS (Central Coast Sectionals). We were down, I want to say about 15 points. The pressure was on, I definitely thought we were going to lose because the team looked like they gave up and the game hadn’t even ended yet! Monta Vista had the home advantage and the crowd was so energetic! The environment felt like a college game where the external factors either make you or break you. Coach called a timeout and gave us some motivational words. We sided out and it was my turn to serve. I had never been under so much pressure and made sure to not only keep my serve in, but make it tough and effective so the other team could not terminate the ball.  I served about 8 serves and we won all those 8 points. I must say (that I can remember), I have never been so nervous! I visualized each serve going over (plus it doesn’t help when your coach is staring at you on the side lines as he bites his pen!) Then, after a good run, I missed a serve and Monta Vista received another point – a point closer to winning the game. Somehow the team pulled through and executed everything we did and WON THE GAME! Our team ran to the floor and we were jumping and shouting “We won! We did it!” To experience that was the BEST FEELING OF MY LIFE. When I see moments like that on TV, I literally tear up because I know how that feeling is – It’s definitely a ONCE IN A LIFE time feeling and I am truly lucky to be one of the few who’ve experienceed that moment. Now moving forward in my career I thrive on wanting to experience that feeling again.

FM: What about college?

I played two years at San Jose City College. Starting outside, all League MVP, and First Team Coast All Conference.  I was also ranked number 6 in the State of California for hitting with girls who were 6’0 ft+ (which I definitely felt accomplished with the height I am at) I was also ranked on the state list for digs and serving aces.

During my freshman year, mid-season, I tore my knee and fractured my ankle on the same night, during a game. I was so eager to come back, that I didn’t do rehab because I felt like I couldn’t miss the opportunity to play. I got right back on the court.

My sophomore year, I got a concussion. Haha tell me about it, right? These injuries never stop. As me and our right side were switching positions on a serve, somehow her shoulder and my head collided. It knocked me out! I never felt that kind of force! My vision was impaired and the only part of my vision that was clear was if I were to roll my eyes up as if I was looking towards the ceiling. Side view and lower vision looked like a TV with no cable and all static. It was game point and the set was going to me. I went up to hit a middle set and I blacked out! When my vision came back, I saw myself getting blocked and we lost the game. My vision was really limited afterwards and my head was throbbing badly. I saw a trainer after the game and got asked a few questions, which were procedure for a concussion. The question I remember till this day was when I was asked “What year is it” and in my head I said 1994, but I caught myself and said the correct year, 2009. I was rushed to the hospital to get a cat scan. I was supposed to take three weeks off, or at least until my head stopped throbbing (which of course is weeks) but only took a couple days off. I lied to my trainer and my coach that I was fine. I didn’t want to take time away from playing because your sophomore year is so important to be noticed from 4 year schools and racking up last minute awards that would make your volleyball resume stand out from others.

FM: What was it like playing at the university level?

I was being recruited and offered scholarships at both out of state and in state schools. Sadly, those offers got pulled. I ended up being recruited at California State University East Bay. There were a lot of girls playing the same position as me, so I had to work hard every day at practice and fight for the starting position or make the traveling team. You definitely felt pressure to be noticed by the coach because you wanted to travel with the team. Division II NCAA is one of the highest levels besides PAC 12. Sometimes it felt like I didn’t get a fair shot (and that is my personal perspective). It was frustrating and felt like I reached depression. I felt like it was a sign not to play anymore. I used to view it as a fun competitive sport, but I think it became more of a job and I wasn’t going anywhere with it at the time. This also affected my schooling. I lost my drive in everything. During the off-season, I played with some guys and tore my lateral collateral ligament by swing blocking. At that time, I was noticed by NDNU and WJU and was looking to transfer there for volleyball. I was not only recovering from an injury, but I couldn’t afford the schooling even with the scholarship they offered. After that, I decided to stop playing and focus on school. I felt depressed and it was a sign not to play anymore.

About a year after all that happened, I started playing in indoor leagues again. It was hard getting back into the “fun” aspect of volleyball with friends because I was more competitive than everyone else and wanted to win so bad. I think it had to do with my experience and wanting something so bad.  I realized I needed to just enjoy the game and the time with my friends. Once that kicked in, I noticed that I still had a passion for the sport. This is how being a coach started. I wanted to show players the kind of opportunity they could have. I wanted to share my experience with them and show them what it takes to play at the college level, since no one ever showed me. I wanted to train them in ways I wasn’t trained and make sure they had a fair shot at the next level. I coached at Milpitas High School (where I went to school), Foothill College, as well as a few clubs teams around the bay.

FM: What did you learn after sustaining so many injuries?

From what I learned while getting my BS in Kinesiology is YOUR BODY IS IMPORTANT. As well as rehabbing an injury is very important! That’s what I try to do now with players. As bad as they want to get back on the court [after an injury], it’s better to cool down and fix things correctly. If not, you will end up re-injuring yourself and setting yourself further back than where you initially started. With the knowledge I have, I wish I had when I was younger or had someone explain the concept to me and made it sink in. Not rehabbing definitely caught up to me over the years and till this day it’s still an issue. Muscle imbalances, some muscles won’t fire when doing a specific exercise for a certain muscle, and also compensation. Training for this tour is a little difficult because I cannot do certain exercises like I did in high school. In rehab, I have to modify everything until I get stronger.

FM: When did you know you wanted to make volleyball more than a hobby?

I want to say, when I started coaching at Foothill College. The competition out there and how passionate our head coach was about making our players better and showing them the correct steps to contact coaches and sending film, etc. When I saw our sophomores receiving offers from 4 year universities, I said to myself “Izzy you can do this still!” I mean, I can’t go back to college and finish my career, but I can still have a career in volleyball with my competitiveness and drive I have within. It’s something I had to do for myself and finish unfinished business.

FM: Describe the physical training you do.

Right now, it’s mostly rehabbing my spine. I have a 3 herniated disc, resulting in numbness in the legs. I do basic lifting and stability stuff. Nothing too serious. I’m focusing on the importance of building stability and strength.

FM: What’s the toughest part of your training?

I’ll say, when you reach exhaustion. My motivation right now, is thinking about Christmas. The top teams send their players back home for the holidays. I want to go home to my family for Christmas – the holidays are very important to me and to my family. That’s my motivation, that’s my drive when I feel like I can’t push any further. I’ve never had motivation throughout my volleyball career that meant as much as this. You don’t know what you have until you lose it, type thing. Meaning, I never thought I wouldn’t be able to spend the holidays with my family. I have to work for that luxury because at the end of it all, I want to see my family every chance I can get while being in Europe.

FM: How do you prepare before a big match?

In high school, I didn’t prep that much. It had to do with the mentality of being young. I mean, I was regular kid who went to school, did my work and was pumped by 6th period on game day. Sometimes on the bus ride to the school, I would listen to my music and block everyone out. But then I thought to myself  “why so serious- it isn’t game time yet, enjoy the time with the team” so I switched it up to hanging out with my friends on the bus and chatting, cracking jokes, and being kids!

 At the college level, it was similar, but a few days before a match I started doing imagery during practice. Immediately before games as well. I still use imagery before tournaments now. I learned it from my high school coach. He always said “see yourself doing it then you will. If you see yourself messing up then you’ll mess up” – Jeff Lamb. I always understood the gist of what he meant, but it didn’t really make sense to me until I got older and started competing at a higher level.

Usually, a few minutes before a match, I like to be by myself and listen to music to pump me up but also calm me down at the same time. I like listening to House, Dubstep, and Reggae. It’s a good mixture.  I also like to watch the opposing team – how they warm up – specifically what are their weak areas on passing or where they choose to always hit during hitting lines. I like to study the competition.

FM: What is your nutrition like as a high level athlete?

I pretty much eat six meals a day. My nutrition is based on body weight. I’m not looking to lose weight, but gain muscle and get stronger.  Even if I’m competing, ill still eat foods I enjoy like pizza, or a burger, or ice cream. There is no point in eating things you don’t enjoy in life, honestly.

FM: When did you realize you needed to adjust how you ate in order to be at your best in your sport?

When I went to East Bay, we were forced to eat healthier. We had double days – four hour practices in the morning, then team lunch at our dinning commons, another 3 hours of practice afterwards, then team dinner. Which helped, because during the lunch break, if you didn’t eat well, you couldn’t practice at a high level because you’d feel sluggish after break and could not perform at your best.

FM: Tell us about the opportunity you have to play in Europe

While coaching for Foothill, I met an international coach at a tournament, who referred me to another coach. The downfall about going on this tour is you have to pay for the expenses yourself, to get out there. That’s how I started the GoFundMe fundraiser. It’s a 2.5 week tour, that meets in Slovenia and travels to different countries to play against their teams.  When we aren’t playing against a team, practice will be like college where it’s double days. In this case, while you are at practice, you have coaches and players traveling from all over to see you play.  My mindset is to execute everything I do while I am out there and play my best along with enjoying this once in a life time experience.

Depending on what team you sign with, it determines your pay. The higher level the team, the more you get paid. I know people that play on both the higher level and the lower level teams. There are different accommodations between the two levels. Those factors play a role in my motivation.

FMWhat has the experience been like as you work to make this a reality?

It’s tough.  I mean, I don’t want to sound like a baby but having to work at 5am during the week drains me out. I can’t just train for a living.  It’s tough to do both. My manager made a very nice gesture to cut down my hours, so I wouldn’t get burnt out for this upcoming tour; but I don’t have room to make less money.  It’s challenging to balance work – rehab – training – and down time. Nothing comes easy in life and it’s something I really want, so it’s something I have to work my butt off for.

FM: How can FM readers help you get there?

FM readers can go to my GoFundMe page. It’s a website I saw from one of my professors who was raising money for her dog. GoFundMe is a way for people to see what I’m fundraising towards and what my financial goal is. I have to pay for my flight and the tour itself, so any donation helps, even if its $5/month until I leave. Donating money is a great gesture, but sharing my site and story on social media also helps.  

I just want to say thank you for taking the time to listen to my story, thank you to the FM family for giving me this opportunity to share my story. Lastly, thank you to everyone who is supporting me on this journey. It’s definitely a dream come true to be this close and now I just have to execute this dream and make it a reality. 

For more information on her journey, as well as an opportunity to support, check out her GOFUNDME website!

Tagged , , ,

Don’t Act Your Age



Cute video, right? That’s not just a random cute little kid video. That is my good friend’s niece. I was in the kitchen, and she randomly started running circles around me. I thought it was the funniest thing, so I tried to pull out my phone as fast as possible, and record what was left of her Nascar (reverse direction) race. As I chuckled at how silly she was being, something struck me on a deeper level.

Young kids have a blast being active. They jump, they crawl, they run around; just for fun. There is no other reason for them to be active, other than the enjoyment of it. They have something built in that makes this so. Sometimes kids seem to run around with no clear purpose or end goal. They just run in circles for the heck of it. This is meaningful to all of us.

For many of us, we lose the joy of running and jumping and crouching and rolling around. Why does this happen? At what point does being active become a chore. At what point does it begin to be something you SHOULD  do, not something you WANT to do?  It’s unfortunate, but this often happens to many of us, at different points in our lives.

Our bodies are built for movement. We were made to be active. Literally!  We often (excluding injuries or illness) choose to, or at the very least, allow ourselves, to get out of touch with movement. Yes, life happens. Long days at work. Stressful situations, etc etc etc. The excuses can be endless. But be honest with yourself. Do you really prefer to sit on the couch all night after work? Do you really prefer to be in one place all day during the weekend? Or is it because you allowed yourself to get to this point? If this wasn’t by choice, but maybe more so because life happened, this is a great time to reevaluate our health and activity level.

This isn’t a nagging article about joining a gym, or a demand to start Insanity of P90X. This is a friendly reminder to take a second to remember what types of activity we enjoy. When you remember what that is, why not return to it? That basketball can be pumped back up. That bike can be dusted off. Those swim trunks are waiting for you. Or maybe venture out and find new activities you might enjoy. You don’t know until you try.


Let’s not act our age, and have fun being active again.



Tagged , , ,
%d bloggers like this: