Today's guest is an athlete who is in the game for a long time, the two times World Champion and four times National champion from the Netherlands Melanie Driessen. We're talking about her tips for competitions, the development of Calisthenics and her story. | MELANIE DRIESSEN | How to become 2x World Champion | Interview

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August 06, 2020 25 min read

MELANIE DRIESSEN | How to become 2x World Champion | Interview | The Athlete Insider Podcast #19

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The text of the interview (translated automatically): 

it's been crazy because the the biggest change for me is that i've been traveling all over the world yo gorillas welcome to the next episode of the athlete insider podcast by GORNATION my name is phil and today we have a really special guest again a really really special guest the two times world champion the four times national champion from the netherlands melanie driessen i'm really happy to have you here and to talk about with you about your story about your workout advice welcome to the show melanie thank you so much and thank you for inviting me so i'm really excited for this conversation and let's go let's go yeah that's true so for the people who don't know you or just are interested how you present yourself you are on a birthday party and somebody approaches you and says hey who are you i'm frank uh who are you and how do you present yourself oh well i would just say my name is melanie and i'm 27 years old from the netherlands depends on what kind of birthday it is but this is going to be an international birthday so yeah i'm i'm a full-time athlete training but also besides that i'm working in a restaurant because i need to pay my bills of course and since i'm not doing that with the sport i'm just doing a little bit of work in the in the restaurant okay so yeah that's it so that already brings up uh quite an interesting topic because uh like uh something that we are all working on i guess in the sport right now is to make it possible that somebody who's a world champion somebody who dominates the the dutch calisthenics community or like like the competitions let's say like this um isn't able to to live from the sport um so yeah like what um what is uh what is calisthenics from your eyes like right now how do you explain the sport how do you explain that you have to work besides in a restaurant i think because the sport is so new we don't really have any sponsors or some big companies that that help us grow the sport i think that's the whole problem and because we are a new sport so people really have to get into this new sport and hopefully in the future they'll be like oh this sport is so amazing i want to spend some money on it you know but for now um yeah we it's a shame actually that as an athlete we have to work besides it because for me personally it's really hard because i work in the evening so i'll like finish work at 11 then i go home before i sleep it's already midnight and then the next day i have to train again so it's not ideal but yeah you have to go you have to do it sure so like what does your typical day look like you wake up at what time normally i would wake up at 7 30 um so then i'll just wake up get a tea or coffee and most of the time i go to the gym around 10 11 something like that and it depends on the day because some days i'm working uh in the day but some days i'm working in the evening um and then also i'm training sometimes during the day or sometimes i'm training during the evening so my days are really different mostly i go just with the flow and i'll see like if i wake up i'm thinking okay today i really want to train on this then i'll just go go with that okay yeah nice and i always see you training in different gyms like a lot in primitive gym but also like uh you switch gyms a lot or how do you do it yeah because we have so much different gyms um for example primitive it's quite far for me so i have to go by by my car um but we do freestyle most of the times there so if i'm not freestyling i'm just focusing on strength or flexibility i'm just going to one of the local gyms here and there's a few gyms that i can train at so it depends really on what again what i feel like or what my plans are than the rest of the day where i'm going to train but it's really nice that i have so much opportunities and places that i can can be training at so that's true that's a win yeah that's true like do you train also outdoors sometimes or yeah when it's like sunny we i have now a bar like two minutes walking from my house so that's perfect and we train in amsterdam outside we have a lot of parks in the netherlands so it's really good actually here yeah nice good for you okay um so let's get a few steps back um how did you get in touch with calisthenics what did you do before and how were your first workouts competitions of street workout or calisthenics yeah i started in 2014 um before that i was a gymnast for 11 years yeah 11 and then i switched to fitness for two years but fitness was kind of boring for me and i was always the person that was uh doing some exercises on the mats you know i would never use the the machines or anything because i i didn't understand anything and i wasn't really excited so i was the one doing tabata workouts or just some push-ups or something like that but i got so bored and then i saw a group that were doing a lot of pull-ups and push-ups and just all the basic calisthenics exercises so i was like okay what is this what are you guys doing and they say yeah this is calisthenics uh and i said okay is it possible for me to join and it's funny because first they were like kind of laughing because there was only men in that class and then they were like oh no but we know you were an ex-gymnast i think you you can do this you know so they were like oh yeah yeah you can you can join of course so i joined for like a half year i did a lot of basic workout and then in the newspaper there was like um a story of competitions coming up in the netherlands in a new park and i was like is there competitions in this sport like i didn't have any clue so i just went there and just i was like okay let's check this out and then i saw everybody swinging on the bar and back in 2014 it's really funny because the level was so different than now so it was like grown-ups playing in the in the playground you know and they were trying some cool things but it was totally different than now but still i was really excited when i saw this because it was kind of looking like gymnastics but a little bit more urban so a little bit cooler in my opinion and then after a month i was doing the first world championship so it went really quick from there well and what was the experience like between uh your training group in the netherlands your first few trainings your first week's month of training and then the world championship how was this contrast well the the world championship back then was also kind of lame you know what we were doing one arm l-sits uh hanging l-sits you know maybe the maximum weather that we did was like a 360 from uh muscle position but overall there was not so not crazy tricks maybe i know owner kevela from finland she was doing a switchblade so that was like wow she just what did she do you know okay but after like years and years and years the level just went like like sky-high it's not it's like crazy it for me also was really hard to always keep on uh on level because you have to work so hard because every time new people coming in and yeah the level is growing and growing so that was really awesome to see that's true like you also saw that we uploaded an old battle from 2016 from the the queen of the bar competition and like i remember everybody was hearing when you did a muscle up you know like people were like oh she didn't laugh and even me i was like wow i've never seen a girl doing a muscle up so like the the level is crazy how it changed uh but it was so funny to see that video because of course i remember the competition but i couldn't remember what what i did in the competition and then when i saw myself i was like it's so funny because i feel like back in the days we were way more creative because we didn't have a lot of tricks so we had to be creative to fill the time you know and now because there are so many tricks the create like a lot of people are not really getting any like really creative anymore because they just choose okay i'm gonna do a ginger 360 540 and okay that's that's it you know so yeah would be cool if uh people are getting more creative again yeah and like uh also remember because for me this is the same you know i i have to yeah come up with some new things maybe yeah and like it seemed more relaxed when i watched the videos from from early on um the the athletes had some time to cheer up the the public like in in between of the sets and right now like the athletes have so many tricks so they want to fit in their uh they planche their ginger their everything so they don't have any time left to like uh yeah to talk with the crowd or to communicate with the crowd that's true yeah yeah they're more like focused on their self yeah but i think also because the elements and the the tricks are getting a lot harder so you have to focus more it's kind of hard if you really have to do a hard trick and then you are focusing on the public you know of course yeah sure so let's talk about your first uh championship world championship how did it go out for you what was your experience there i remember i was super nervous because i go in this new sport i'm doing calisthenics freestyle for like a month now and then i have to join the world championship so i was like i was so nervous i didn't know what's what was going on and my my rounds if i go if i look back at it right now i'm laughing at myself because it doesn't make any sense what i'm doing right there you know and then i'm also failing but in the same time i'm trying to act a little bit cool because you know we are a new urban calisthenic style so it's yeah it's really just it's just a laugh just to watch it but but it was fun okay let's put it there so what what would you give to someone who is just in front of his first competition and who or somebody who is thinking about competing what would you give him like as an advice from your experience now i would say just like go in the competition prepared so don't go in a competition like okay i'm really gonna freestyle my competition because most of the time that's when it goes wrong so if you come prepared and you just enjoy and be in the moment i think that's the most important thing okay nice so like yeah get it okay let's switch back to the to the um present so uh you're quite successful and you're the current uh world champion um so like uh crazy last year for you uh like um how is it how is it like like right now like how did it change your life uh how how did the sport influence you from the when you look back like doing fitness on the mattresses and tabata workouts to now yeah it's been crazy because the the biggest change for me is that uh i've been traveling all over the world like i've in one year i traveled like maybe 16 times so it was it was insane right now because of the corona virus it's not a lot of traveling going on so hopefully that will get back because i really enjoy doing the workshops and everything around the world but yeah it's been it's been some some crazy years and do you feel like stress on your body like also talked with other competitive athletes like tony garcia like he also did a lot a lot of competitions then uh last year um but like how does it affect your body like traveling so much competing so much right now i'm not competing that much because um maybe competing like four times a year i just choose the competition that i really uh want to go to so that's well uh the only thing that's yeah what makes you really tired the travelings are really nice but it it's really tiring because you have to wait on the airport you have to wait on the plane then most of the time in the country you have to wait more so it's really good for an experience but sometimes i was like okay i'm just gonna stay home for just two months because i need to recover from the flights you know so yeah okay and also if i'm competing i'm um mostly i'm not traveling the months before that so i just can stay here and and get prepared for the competition get it and something that also went into my head when i prepared the competition uh the competition the uh the interview um i also thought about um like the the last competition where we saw each other uh at uh like in the netherlands from royal bars uh the uh the cup where you competed just out of fun um oh yeah yeah against men and i it jumped into my head when you said that you began training with with men only um so what what is it like like as a female calisthenics athlete do you compare yourself to other like male athletes uh what is it like in such a like calisthenics is more a male sport right now like unfortunately but uh how do how does it affect you in the beginning i remember that the level was still so low so for example in the dynamics i was always comparing myself with the guys because i saw guys doing new things but back then and the new move was a shrimp flip so i tried to do shrimp flip and i succeeded so i could level up with the guys in in dynamics but after a while the level went up so high that for me it was impossible to to like compare myself with the guys because they are already starting to do 720s and everything you know so but i'm still getting inspired by males and females and i think that's just you just have to check what is suitable for you what move you would like to do but i think it's always better to set your goal higher than uh then always try to compare yourself just with a lower level you know okay so what does it what does happen in the in the mind of of melanie does it motivate you when you see someone like really doing crazy crazy stuff and when you compare to someone who is like really superior on a superior level or is it like just uh is it demotivating you or are you like i will get it like i will be the first female athlete who does this and this it's it's uh changing because sometimes i get really motivated but i think it's it's not really about the videos it's more about myself you know because i have times that i'm super motivated and everything is going really well and i have times that i'm really looking for motivation and then my level is going down and yeah then whenever i see a crazy trick i'm just like oh that's cool but i'm not really like okay i have to try that you know but yeah so it goes up and down but i think that's normal for most athletes okay and what was the the most uh intense and successful moment in your career what is the the one moment uh that you that you're keeping your heart right now uh i think that's the winning this world championship because the last one yeah because i remember in 2016 um i also won but it was the win was totally different for me because after this year i got injured for five months then i went back in 2018 to compete and then i failed two times in the world championship so i had a year of injury then i had a year of failure and then i had a year that i was winning so this win for me was really emotional i remember i couldn't believe i just started crying because i was like what because there was so two years of a pretty hard mental time for me and then feels like everything was worth it in the end you know well didn't expect that i expected that it was the first one you know like uh i thought the first win at the world championship is the thing but uh like yeah makes sense um okay like uh what is the the the move the hardest move that you've learned so far well i learned it but i don't have it anymore does that count yeah let's say let's see i think that would be the muscle up 540 because um i was like four years ago or something i would be able to do it and i i have been trying to get it back and get it back but i i don't know how but i can't get it back so i find that the hardest move because it's so hard to to do it right now to do and to keep okay yeah um yeah so like my next question would be what is your advice to someone who wants to learn this move uh but like that's hard because you could give your the advice maybe to yourself even but you know like what what would be your advice if somebody asks you hey mel i saw the muscle up for 540 how do i learn it for me i think it's really important that you just um start on the low bar or something you know because you have really have to understand what's going on in this movement because you have to stay on top of the bar and that's the scary part of this move because sometimes if you don't go high enough you can maybe hit your back on the bar or like i seen some people hit their arm or like it's kind of shit if you don't land it well or your rip because i have no small spot and he also injured his rip during this move um but i think just do it a lot of times and that's with every freestyle move you have to uh do it over and over and over because only then it gets uh perfect okay so yeah start small maybe with some mass and then just do it one million times and when you feel more secure then you can go higher or harder or just like that but i think most of the time if you go crazy on one move the thing is that you or you can get injured or you get really scared because maybe you feel really bad and then you you are like i don't want to do this move anymore so just start slowly and build it up from there what is your plan now to get it back um see i think yeah i think i'll just uh hopefully the gymnastics will open soon and like there's the foam pit and everything so maybe i'll just do it there or primitive have a foam pit as well so i just have to keep on trying that's it never give up yeah and how do you pull up that's something that i will also jump back to in a second um but how where do you keep this motivation like where do you get this motivation from to to keep going of course you say you're a professional athlete it's your job in some way um but um how do you keep the motivation to not say yeah fuck it i'm gonna uh i'm gonna just learn another hard move like how do you why do we want you to get this move back well it goes same with that it goes up and down because some days i'm like okay i'm not gonna train this move again and then i forget it for a month or something you know so it's not that i'm really focused on it so maybe if i would it would be back already but yeah it's always hard because now also there's so many moves that you want to learn and so many moves that you need to maintain so it's like you don't have enough time for doing all the moves so you have to choose so sometimes i'm just like okay i'm gonna let me try the muscle of 540 again and then i tried maybe 10 times or something and i'm like okay it's not gonna work today okay next next training okay okay some uh like the the situation how we met each other um was 2015 where we launched our calendar and we looked for the the the strongest the most good-looking athletes of course to fill the calendar and i also wrote a message to you i still remember it because i didn't expect you to to write back but i was like yeah maybe she answers maybe she wants to uh be featured and uh yeah it was like uh it was really really nice to to have you there um and to to get back to me and also i remember the 2016 bar warrior in in bremen uh because you also uh you were all this is like it feels like a lifetime ago you know it's been yeah that's so crazy yeah and it's it's crazy how everything changed like the sport um also we as a person uh like uh the whole thing because i still remember like i found it a few weeks ago uh first i found your uh your melanie shirt uh in because we we changed t-shirts i gave you a never give up only pull-up shirt and you gave me a melanie like you with a crazy design you know melanie bars on the back like you know yeah i think with the with the front lever and the planche right i think so i think so yeah yeah yeah yeah and like a quote there was also a quote on on the yeah what was it um bosh bring out the beast him yes yes that was it yeah and i just i just found it so yeah that was quite funny because uh like um the question that i have how how did the person melanie change since then like what what happened uh in your your personality in your like in your life we already said but in your personality what would have changed well i think i got um if i look back then i was how to say that like i think back then i was living more in my ego you know because i remember back then uh when i was doing competitions i don't know i was always um like in the competition acting like a little bit cool and tough and everything you know and i'm not even like that you know i'm just i'm just me and i'm not that person so i feel like uh throughout the years i just get more and more myself and yeah i'm just still enjoying the sport and yeah but overall not i don't really had a big big change or something okay yeah but i can imagine like the i bet you like everybody is insecure a little bit when he does like his first competitions etc so maybe it was your your strategy to to overplay it to uh to hide it um and i think everybody has its own uh strategies because yeah you see a lot of athletes doing that and it's not bad but you see it's not the person like it's it's a shy person it's a calm person or something but he's acting exactly yeah yeah that's that's what happened and i think that that's a lot of people that just starting they're acting like this because probably out of insecurity because you don't know how to act and you're on the stage and everybody's looking at you and everybody's cheering on you so you just be like yes i think it's just gonna be like that and then after the years you get more comfortable in competitions well i'm still really nervous but overall it's like it's better than before yeah okay what advice would you give your your let's say 2014 self when you started right now um oh i would just say like what i said before in the in the interviews like get more prepared for competitions because i would go into a competition like most of the time not really prepared or i didn't really train my move that often so when i look back at it i can see myself failing a lot in competitions so i think that would be a good advice okay and what are the main arrows or like uh yeah mistakes that you see young athletes do right now in the scene yeah that's that's the thing i think i think i see a lot of people rushing through their rounds so they don't finish the moves they don't finish the aesthetics it looks kind of um a mess so i think if you look at the the really pro athletes they really they look really calm in their in their competition they finish the move everything looks really smooth the statics hold are clean and three seconds so that's what you can what i see is a beginner or a pro okay and what are your goals for 2020 now what what are you working on right now i'm working on just getting my level back and my strength back because i was like i just came out of a little motivation problem because i think also during the coronavirus thing going on that's really got my motivation down because i was preparing for fibo and everything was going really well and then i heard the competition is cancelled and then i was like oh well that was my full motivation and then i was thinking okay maybe world championship in july and then that got cancelled so yeah in the last months it was kind of hard but now i start to build my strength again and get motivated again to get ready for 2021. okay so this year is preparation and next year is uh competition and show time yes nice like um i think we talked about it once um but i still want to to share with the people what is your mindset when you go into a competition is it um i want to crush the other person i want to show the public that i'm better i want to uh make a show for everyone like what is your mindset when you go into a competition well first of all i'm super super nervous when i go in competition like if people saw me backstage they're gonna be like what's going on with her because i'm walking i go to the toilet and i go back and i i'm just like stressing out because in my rounds i don't want to make any mistakes anymore because i i've done that and then now i feel like i want to go into my round and do everything well and when i prepared well the i'm a little bit less nervous but still overall i'm always super nervous but when i go on stage it feels like i just snap out of it and when i start everything is fine but it's just the way through going into the competitions that it's just like uh so yeah now i'm just mostly i'm just focusing on myself and on the rounds that i prepared well and i wanted to to do that so i'm not really focusing on other athletes at the moment then okay get it like um if i were a girl or even like i even think it as a as a boy but like um how is it possible to to have the performances that you have like what is the special thing about you is it that you train harder than everyone else do you have the crazy genetics do you have the like do you commit 100 to it what is the difference that's that like you your training makes that you perform as you do and that you have the results that you do yeah i think it's a mixture of experience in competitions training of course um and just no like i always make sure that i know the rules well so that i can make my rounds based on the rules and i think that's a good advice for everybody because a lot of people just go into a competition and they haven't even uh go through the rules so they really don't know what's going on and then they're like well my rounds were really good but how come i get so less points you know so yeah okay and did you have competitions in gymnastics before yes so you have the the experience also from there exactly yeah because in genesis uh gymnastics it's more structured right like the everybody reads the rules or the rules are known to everyone or how can i imagine it in in gymnastics you have have a really big system of the rules because when you're young and a young gymnast they just have a routine that everybody have to do the same routine but then when you get older you pass a certain age you can come up with your own routines but there are certain rules for example you have to do a minimum of eight elements um you have to do three combinations uh and it should be existing out of this kind of uh level element and this kind of level element and then you get a bonus so it's like a big puzzle that you have to solve and then you can just choose whatever element suits you and what you like but yeah in my opinion this is not really a nice way because you're not free at all because yeah the only thing you're free at is choosing your elements but overall yeah it's not it's not so much fun like calisthenics is it uh not only like is it less fun competing or is it also less fun watching than with these rules well i don't like i think both okay get it so it's not only the music that makes calisthenics interesting but also like the rules and the the yeah actually not the rules it's more like the freedom that we have and the freedom of making your own moves and coming up with your own combinations and everything okay get it perfect um one question before we go into the quick questions quick answer session what does your nutrition look like what does the nutrition of a world champion look like well for me it's like when i go to come into a competition i will really focus on eating a lot of vegetables getting my proteins but normally i don't really look at the nutritions maybe i take some extra vitamin if i don't forget it or i'll just focus on the protein but it's like i don't really have a strict line and that's also my problem because when i'm not out of competition most of the time i'm gaining weight like so quickly because i'm eating pie and i'm eating chocolate and then it's just like yeah not so well okay so you're more a person that gains easier weight than uh like losing weight no i'm losing weight easily also but i have i have to work for like i have to change my my way of eating of course like yeah what is balance you know yeah that's true and so yeah nice so we start with the quick questions pizza or burger pizza uh are you a dog or a cat person gets cats okay and uh your favorite location for holidays uh italy italy a specific city because of the okay a specific city or island or like just in general italy yeah i just love the culture there like the people are really nice and yeah i just like the kind of uh that country yeah okay nice and there's a little bit more sun than in the netherlands i guess a lot more i think what would you work as if social media just disappeared or what would change for you um if it just was not there anymore yeah i don't think it's gonna change whatever i'm doing okay so still competing doing workshops um okay yeah nice um do you have a favorite athlete or like a hero from early on maybe even today it's really hard because there's so many athletes right now and a lot of really high level athletes so everybody have their own style um but if i have to choose one i would still say eric ortiz because i really like his style and he's really he's really creative still you know and he's super strong and he's like og so yeah if i have to choose one i would say him okay nice um do you have a favorite book are you a reader no i'm not a reader at all okay skip this question best calisthenics event you've ever been at oh it's gonna be fibo people yeah world bar heroes one of my heroes okay not so not even like the uh the the old days like the king of the bar baristy days but uh the now nowadays with world of war heroes yeah the ones like the ones that i still haven't been able to compete at because every time i'm injured or something happens or it gets cancelled but like it looks so cool with the with this with the scoring and the lightning and everything and they're organizing it so well so it's like yeah i can't wait to finally compete there okay nice so hopefully next year maybe in two years we'll see like we we don't know last question aesthetics or dynamics dynamics dynamics and that's not just because my aesthetics is like i love statics i'm not gonna lie about that because uh i think it's really important to have both of course because you're uh athlete but i just love the way of swinging and and flying through the through the air okay get this nice so um yeah if people want to get in touch with you and uh or find you learn from you how do they find you you have uh instagram youtube tick tock i saw like where where did they found you find your best i think it would be best i'm most active on instagram and tick tock is more i put some push-up challenges and everything so maybe people are um excited to to join those kind of challenges that they want to do something like that then they can follow on tick tock but youtube i'm not really uh on yeah i saw that but uh yeah maybe like like instagram you reply to your messages and like if people want to uh yeah get something from you like or reach you in a kind way instagram is the best favor right yeah i try to uh react to the to people but it's hard sometimes because there's most of the time a lot of messages so i'm just choosing sometimes to what what to answer and what not to answer nice okay so random perfect um yeah we're coming to an end um before you can say uh goodbye and end the episode i want to thank you melanie for your time like uh for taking uh the i don't know like 50 minutes where or 40 minutes so uh yeah thanks a lot for that and thanks for everyone listening to this till the end i'm really happy for everyone like taking this time because in in nowadays it's like a lot of time 40 minutes to sit down and listen to something so yeah i hope you were able to take some things with you um if you liked this episode like comment and subscribe and yeah say subscribe to melanie all her links are in the description and thanks everyone and you can have this the last words goodbye and ciao thank you so much everybody and hopefully you get really motivated and excited to start training or if you're already training never stop only pull up