A seven-time WWE champion, Trish Stratus ruled the ring for the better part of the early aughts, and was recently inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. After retiring from wrestling, the former fitness model and York University biology student turned her attention to a decidedly calmer athletic endeavour, opening her first yoga studio in 2008. In her new DVD – Stratusphere Yoga – Stratus shares the workout regiment that maintains her rock-solid body. Here, some of her other secrets to success.
The calm in the middle of the ring
Wrestling is a crazy lifestyle. No off-season, travelling 300 days of the year. I had been with the WWE for about two years when I got a herniated disc in my back. It was degenerative disc damage, based on the fact that I was basically giving myself whiplash every day with the wrestling moves I was doing. I was champion at the time and they sent me to have surgery, but I wanted to explore physiotherapy instead. That didn't work for me, so I decided to try hot yoga based on the recommendation of another wrestling friend who tried it after she broke her neck. (I know – it's not the safest job.) I walked into my first class and it sounds cliché, but even after that first session I knew this was going to be something I would stick with. I did it every single day for three months. I reversed the damage and was able to go back to my career. I kept up the yoga as well and all of a sudden all of the stress and the physical ailments that used to get to me were gone. My life was still crazy, but I was just so much more capable of dealing with it. I think taking that time every day to disconnect is so important for having perspective. It has made me a better and happier person, no question.
Preparedness is a weapon
One of my mentors early on was Robert Kennedy, who was the publisher of magazines like Oxygen and MuscleMag. I was a fitness model before I was a wrestler and he had given me the opportunity to do a photo shoot. He told me about it two months in advance, set me up with a trainer and said, "Go get ready for it." I really took him seriously – I worked out and studied poses and immersed myself in that world right up until it was time for the shoot. And I nailed it. That shoot became one of my first covers and it led to my first contract, which is eventually how I got noticed by the wrestling world. Robert said he gave me the contract because he was impressed with how hard I had worked, and he helped me to develop my formula for success, which is preparedness meets opportunity. Many people are given opportunities in life, but they aren't able or willing to prepare for them. They'll think, oh cool, I'm doing a shoot in two months. People might think, oh, she's so lucky, she gets all these opportunities, but opportunities happen more often then you think. You just have to be ready for them.
I am woman, hear me headlock
When I started with the WWE, I was signed as what they call the manager or the valet role, which is the girls who walk the guys to the ring. It's not what I wanted to do, but I thought that if I stuck around, I might get a chance to show them what I was capable of. That chance came in 2001 when they decided to bring back the women's division. As a group of women we knew that this was an opportunity to make our mark and show that we were athletes and we could do what the men do. It was certainly pretty brash at first. There was this frequent chant from the audience. They would yell, "We want puppies, we want puppies," and they weren't talking about dogs, if you know what I mean. You're busting your butt out there and you hear this and you just say to yourself keep working, keep working, and that's what we did and suddenly the chants went away and people realized that we were actually great wrestlers. Sometimes having that hurdle to overcome is also a chance to make a mark. I got the opportunity to represent strong, powerful women in a male-dominated world and I feel very lucky for that. Today they refer to that time as the golden era of women's wrestling.
To get it right, write it down
I've always been a note-taker, a list-keeper. My office is littered with papers. It looks like a mess, but it's actually just all of my to-dos for the week. My life is an itinerary – I keep track of everything. I've kept a food journal for 15 years. It's not like I don't know what I need to eat to stay healthy and maintain myself, but for some reason there is value in taking the time to write it down. I guess it brings a sense of awareness and mindfulness in terms of what you're putting into your body. I see it as a way of checking in with myself as much as controlling my diet. And these days I tend to write about things outside of what I'm eating. If something great happens, like my son Max walks, I'll write that in my food journal. For a while I tried to keep a diary. That never worked, so now I guess my food journal is sort of a diary.
Authenticity matters (even in scripted wrestling)
Pro wrestling is entertainment as much as anything else, so having the personality and being able to play this blown-up version of yourself is an important skill. Sometimes the writers will create characters that are just totally different from the wrestlers themselves, but the best ones – the ones that have longevity and resonate most with the audience – are almost always when it's an amped-up version of the actual personality. Like Stone Cold Steve Austin – that is who he is. The Rock, if you meet him, that is the guy. It's way over the top, but it's him. Same with my character. Trish Stratus was the one who had her eyes on the prize and she was going to do whatever she had to do to get there. That's me in and outside of the ring. I've been retired for eight years and I still tweet with my fans about this fight or that one.
This interview has been condensed and edited by Courtney Shea.