Every year, thousands of people dream of working in fitness and health. To embark on a career that takes discipline and determination, University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) undergraduate Kenah Garcia knew exactly what to do to convert her dreams into professional goals.
Garcia, always the go-getter, began taking small but tangible steps toward making her dreams come true.
As a biological and physical science major at UHD, Garcia entertained the idea of becoming a doctor of physical therapy. To determine if this was the right career choice, she volunteered at Premier Performance Physical Therapy of OakBend Medical Center — a physical therapy clinic in Houston.
“I recall my first day of volunteering and immediately knew this was it…a natural fit,” said Garcia. “When the opportunity arose, I was hired in fall 2015. The best part of my job is being able to interact with the patients and seeing their progress. I also enjoy working with talented and phenomenal physical therapists, who are so generous about sharing their knowledge with me. They are always happy to teach and give me advice.”
She is also a member of the UHD Scholars Academy. She credits the faculty mentors for establishing successful roots for her academic endeavors and accomplishments. Garcia cannot say enough good things about the faculty mentors, and how they go the extra mile to facilitate their students’ success. She’s extremely grateful for UHD natural science lecturer and research mentor, Dr. Hamida Qavi, who helped her land an internship with Eye Excellence in the Texas Medical Center.
“The physicians and the experience I gained also led me to choose a career in physical therapy,” she said.
Garcia differs from her fellow students in one major way—her passion for powerlifting. The UHD senior is a national powerlifter, and the co-captain of the UHD Powerlifting Club. The 2017 USA Powerlifting Aggie Showdown Female Collegiate Champion has won numerous regional and national powerlifting tournaments. In July 2017, she represented team USA at the North American Powerlifting Federation (NAPF) Pan American Championships and earned a second place win.
“As a petite person, I’m always perceived to be weak and fragile,” she explained. “I wanted to show that size does not matter, and I felt that powerlifting is a perfect way to showcase my strength.”
So, what’s next for Garcia?
Garcia spoke with Skyline News and discussed upcoming competitions, training routines and future goals for strength sports.
How did it feel to place in the 16th Annual NAPF Pan American Championships competition?
Garcia: It was such a humbling and memorable experience! Although I expected more from myself, I still felt extremely accomplished for being able to place against ladies who have been powerlifting for years with more experience than me. It definitely ignited the competitive side of me; and I look forward to more powerlifting competitions in the future. The next competition will be in December 2017 for Texas Collegiate & Open Cup—a national qualifier meet.
What is your current training routine?
Garcia: I train five to six times a week. I work full-time, so I have to work my training around my work schedule. I do squats and deadlift only once a week with heavy weights, less reps and more sets. Bench is my weakest lift, so my coach has me training bench twice a week, with one of them being a heavy weight day like deadlifts and squats. The second bench day is mostly light weight with high reps and lower sets. Even though its not incorporated in my program, I still do light cardio and stretching.
How can fellow UHD alumni and students support your powerlifting efforts?
Garcia: I have a GoFundMe account, where people can help me cover my traveling expenses via donations.
Do you have a psychological philosophy that makes you as strong as you are?
Garcia: I believe in the saying, “Mind over Matter.” With powerlifting, you truly have to believe in yourself and not think about the weight that is in front of you. If there is anything I learned with this sport, it is the use of willpower to get through the lift. As the saying goes, “The body achieves what the mind believes.”
What is your diet?
Garcia: Since my training has started, my diet consists of carbs, protein, and healthy fat. I prep my own meals, so I base my meal portions on what I will be training that day. For example, my heavy training days will have meals that are high in carbs and protein. I don’t count macros or calories, as I feel that it will cause me to have a bad relationship with food. Eating is so important, especially when you are working out. My coach always tells me that food fuels my body, which is exactly what I need when I’m lifting heavy weights.
How does your family feel about your powerlifting success?
Garcia: Most of my family members are extremely stoked about my powerlifting success! Especially when I was offered a spot to represent team USA. They’ve also been very understanding and supportive with my new active lifestyle.
Tell me about the UHD Powerlifting coaches. Do they inspire you?
Garcia: Coach John Hudson has definitely inspired me and pushed me to be a better athlete. I started powerlifting without a thought that I could improve so much. The times when I was at my lowest, he always reminded me of how far I’ve come and reminded me of what I accomplished in such a short amount of time. He reminds me of my value as an athlete, and always knows what to say in order for me to regain my confidence. He was one of the few people who believed in me, before I was able to fully believe in myself.
What are your future goals for strength sports?
Garcia: A year ago, my goal was to be recruited as a national athlete and represent Team USA. I had no clue that it was going to come true so quickly. So, I guess the only other goal I have set for myself is to break some records. That will take time, but I hope to accomplish that one day.
What keeps you inspired?
Garcia: My family migrated from the Philippines to America to live the American Dream. To us, the American Dream meant getting a better education and having a brighter future. This keeps me inspired. I keep this thought in my head whenever things get tough at school, work, training, etc. Achieving that goal is also a way for me to repay my parents for all their hard work.
How do you define success?
Garcia: Success to me is setting a goal for myself, planning for it, and being able to accomplish that goal.
Garcia is on track to graduate in December 2017 with a Bachelor of Sciences in Biological and Physical Sciences. She is currently applying to various Texas-based and out-of-state physical therapy programs.
The UHD Powerlifting Club registration is now open. To learn more about UHD Powerlifting, contact Coach Hudson.