Cristina Zenato is an extreme cave diving environmentalist, dubbed “the shark whisperer,” who pioneered the shark immobilization technique. Born in Italy, she grew up in the rainforests of the African Congo and developed a love of the outdoors and the sea from an early age. Here she tells TRAIN for HER how she got the impressive physique she has today.
TRAIN for HER: What does your job involve?
I work underwater, primarily with sharks, and do cave based technical diving that requires concentration. There is heavy equipment to be carried over long distances to reach the entrance of caves, then I have to swim with a lot of gear on.
At sea I have to manage myself on moving boats, climb ladders and handle rough weather conditions. Once in the water I also have to deal with wild animals or flooded underground passageways while completing all sorts of different tasks. If during my day I am not at the optimal level of food and liquid intake, I may be able to still complete the physical part, but not the mental part. That would put me in danger.
What do you eat when training?
In the morning before my run I eat a low fat cottage cheese or egg whites omelets, or Isopure vanilla or coconut powder smoothies with frozen fruit and topped with nuts.
After training I drink some tea or herbal infusions; grab a small bag of nuts or an apple and head to work. In the evenings after work it is usually yoga or strength training and, in either case, I may just eat a handfull of nuts.
Scuba diving and breathing dry air causes dehydration. That, coupled with physical work and many months of high heat and humidity, means I carry a bottle of Isopure to refuel for my body, too. My favorites are the coconut and blueberry flavors.
How do you power your mind?
Ingest the wrong fuel and the body and mind does not work correctly. I prefer small meals, several times per day. I use three important elements in my diet under the labels of fresh, crunchy and colorful.
I avoid rich, creamy, fried meals in general and add the protein I need in form of powders and drinks, all sorts of beans, quinoa and a limited amount of low fat dairy products. My eating regime is full of broccoli, carrots, cilantro, zucchini, spaghetti squash, pumpkin, red and yellow peppers, eggplants, green beans and celery.
How do you emotionally prepare?
Before a task I visualize step by step what’s going to happen, down to how I am going to feel in each and every moment. I can visualize how am I going to feel when I hit the water, if it is cold water or if it’s hot. I even focus on how the heat will beat on my black wetsuit; I can feel the sweat dripping and I take it all in as something that’s going to happen.
I also visualize what to do if my mask is bumped or removed by a shark then follow the steps to retrieve it and put it back on. I do this with every aspect of each dive, so when it happens it does not catch me by surprise and I can keep the same focus.
This is the same strategy used for when I train. The breath is what regulates everything else. Never fight the elements and your body – the elements are going to take away the mental and physical strength, but work with them and their energy can be used to my advantage.
My best all-natural smoothie recipe: carrot, cilantro, spinach, lemon and unflavored whey isolate powder