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How did you first get started in the bodybuilding/fitness game?

I started my fitness career in the late 80’s when I took a job teaching aerobics classes for Richard Simmon’s Anatomy Asylum. I wore leg warmers and thong leotards over thick spandex leggings. I laugh when I think about that get up!!! I started weight training in the early 90’s and have been addicted ever since! I love the look of a tight sculpted body and by combining weights with cardio I was able to achieve that look.

Was there a defining moment that got you to start training at a whole different level?

I had always wanted to compete in fitness when I was in my 20’s, but I never had the time to train and then I had a family. It wasn’t until last spring (2010) when my trainer at the time said you should compete in bodybuilding. I told him that wasn’t the look that I wanted, but that figure competing might be interesting. I did some research and went to a Fitness Atlantic show to see what was involved. After watching it I was a bit apprehensive about being up on stage, but my husband was all for it and said you could totally win. “You are in amazing shape and belong up there”. I decided to look through the NPC schedule and ended up picking the Bev Francis Atlantic States. It was then that I jumped on a competition diet and ramped up the training!

What are the top 2 ways you keep motivated?

I keep motivated by my kids because I want to be strong to play with them and help them stay active and also because I like to look good whether I’m in sweats, jeans or an evening gown. I like having a toned sculpted body. It helps me face any situation in a calm collected manner. I really believe in the adage – strong mind strong body. It gives me self-confidence and pride.

In your opinion what is the biggest hurdle you or most people have to overcome in regards to their fitness career and goals?

I think a big hurdle for me at times is that I’m not good enough. I work and work and sometimes my inner voice says work harder or be better. It can be hard for anyone to stay motivated if they don’t see results right away. Our society has become one of instant gratification and if we don’t get results fast we tend to give up. Consistency is the key to a strong healthy body. It won’t happen overnight.

Why do you think some people are able to overcome this hurdle, but others are not?

I tell my personal training clients that we need to set reasonable goals. Once they are achieved we will set new goals to work towards. By setting attainable goals one can feel good about the progress being made and stay motivated for the long haul. If someone thinks they are going to diet and lose weight without exercise they will be doomed from the start. They may lose pounds but once they go back to the way things were, the weight will return. Discouragement will set in and they usually give up. It goes back to instant gratification – but that won’t work here!!! Only time and determination will.

"By setting attainable goals one can feel good about the progress being made and stay motivated for the long haul."

If you had to ratio the importance of training, diet and rest, what would the percentages look like and why? (e.g. 20% training, 30% diet, 30% rest)

I would say that diet and training would each be about 35%. Diet is SO incredibly important, regardless if you are competing or just getting/staying in shape. What you put in is what you’re going to get out. You must eat enough protein daily along with good complex carbs and vegetables. Your body needs the proper fuel so that you can train hard and recover. Rest would come in around 30%. Your body needs that time to rebuild and recover. Even if it’s an active rest day where you walk outside or bicycle. Of course, I should take my own advice when it comes to rest!!!

How useful do you think supplements are? Do you use supplements? What is your current top supplement?

Supplements are extremely useful when taken the proper way. I take a multi vitamin, extra calcium, vitamin C, D, Glucosamine Chrondroitan, fish oils, B complex, branch chain aminos, glutamine for recovery and creatine when I’m not prepping for a show. I also use a whey protein isolate twice a day. Supplements aid in growth, health and recovery. I think they all are equally important when taken at the right time of day.

In general what does your current training routine look like?

Having just come back from the Arnold Amateur my current routine is a lighter version of what I was doing prior. Right now I’m doing cardio 6x a week (I’m kind of a cardio junkie) and weight training once a week with my trainer and two other days on my own. My body stills feels a bit fatigued, but I want to be in the gym so I’m just going a bit lighter for now. While I’m prepping for a show I do cardio every day – sometimes twice a day. I’ll hit each body part 2x a week – so, I’m weight training 4x a week at a very high intensity – usually 6-10 reps lifting heavy.

What is your current diet routine?

My current diet right now consists of 7 meals a day. Every meal has about 25-30 grams of protein combined with a complex carb, oats at breakfast and then sweet potatoes, brown rice, Ezekiel bread or quinoa at the afternoon and evening meals with a vegetable of my choice. Lunch for me is usually a salad with 5oz of protein usually chicken and peppers, onions and tomatoes with a piece of Ezekiel or brown rice. I use whey protein after my workouts with a banana and ice in the blender and I do incorporate almonds and walnuts as well during the day. My contest prep diet isn’t much different except the portions are smaller and the carbs become less and less the closer I get to the event. I drink a gallon of water with lemon slices every day.

How do you feel about ketogenic diets and extreme diets in general?

I don’t believe in any kind of extreme diet for the average person. The only way you are going to keep your weight at normal levels and be healthy in MY OPINION is to learn how to balance good proteins with complex carbs and vegetables. Eating several small meals daily with the right nutrients will keep the weight off and make you feel satisfied and light. Eating every few hours will keep your blood sugar levels even so that you never have that “I’m starving” feeling which will then make your food choice poor and most likely end up overeating. I usually suggest the “Eat Clean Diet Book” by Tosca Reno to my clients. It’s easy to understand and follow step by step.

How did you get those awesome arms of yours?

My awesome arms come from much hard work in the gym and a good clean diet! I chuckle when women say they are afraid to lift weights because they don’t want to be bulky. I do lift heavy because I like having strong defined muscles. But for most, lifting light to moderate weights with high repetitions will result in nice toned muscles.

How did/do your family and friends feel about your training?

My husband thinks I look fabulous and supports all my health and fitness endeavors. My kids think it’s cool and will even work out with me when I exercise at home. It’s so cute to see my 6yr old daughter with the 3lb dumbbells doing bicep curls!!! She tells me I’m the strongest mommy ever!! My friends totally get what I’m trying to achieve (my pro card!!!) and have been incredibly supportive and wonderful!

What are your fitness/bodybuilding plans for 2011?

My career goals for 2011 – First, to obtain my IFBB pro card. It will be a challenge but I have to go for it!!! I’m also passionate about building my personal training, diet consulting and posing coach business as well as working towards my masters in clinical nutrition. I very much want to be a nutritionist when I grow up!!!! I want to help people learn how to eat well and live a healthy fulfilling life.

"Diet is SO incredibly important, regardless if you are competing or just getting/staying in shape. What you put in is what you’re going to get out."

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 20 years?

In five years I’d like to be in my own exercise studio training clients and working with them to learn how to eat right and be physically fit. I’m so passionate about it and I want to share it with those that are ready to change their lives for the better. In twenty years I hope to still be running my successful business while being in amazing shape and not looking 62!!!

Who is your favorite fitness model/bodybuilder? (other than yourself!)

One of my favorite fitness icons is definitely Monica Brant. She’s the one that totally inspired me initially. Monica proves that you can have muscle definition but still be 100% female, beautiful and sexy. And, recently I had the opportunity to get to know Jennifer Hendershott, two time Ms. Olympia and two time Ms. Fitness International. She is a strong, assertive athlete and businesswoman. I’m incredibly inspired by her passion for health and fitness and feel so lucky to know her personally. She has supported me in my endeavors and I can’t thank her enough!!! Thank you Jen – your support, encouragement and love has meant more than you know to me!!!

Describe what you see when you look at yourself in the mirror every morning!

Ok – I’m my own worst critic. I have my days when I feel like I look awesome and can conquer the world!!! But, like all of us I have days when I think I need to be better and push myself a little bit harder. I do ask my hubby if something I’m wearing makes me look fat and he gives me the furry eyeball while he’s saying, “yes, you do look fat”! I think it’s just a girlie thing. Most ladies reading this will relate I think??!!

If you could tell a fitness noob just one sentence of advice, what would it be?

I tell my new clients – consistency and determination will give you results – so please give this time and you’ll be happy with the outcome.

What is your all time favorite workout song?

My all time favorite music is Linkin Park to work out to. Something about their style makes me want to kick butt in the gym especially when I’m on the stair climber. It inspires me to make that stair master pay!!!

What is your favorite quote?

My favorite quote – that which does not kill us makes us stronger. Words to live by. My workouts haven’t killed me yet and I’m extremely STRONG!

What do you feel is the best type of cardio for yourself and why?

My favorite type of cardio is the stair climber. No matter how many times I’ve done it and believe me, I’ve done it A LOT it never gets easier. I sweat and climb and sweat and get an amazing endorphin rush from it EVERY DARN time!!! I fear I’m addicted at this point!!!

What is your favorite cheat meal?

My favorite cheat meal… I LOVE this question because I LOVE food. I’m Italian and grew up eating pasta, bread, cheese and olives!!! So, guess what? My favorite food is any type of pasta noodle with broccoli rabe and spicy sausage with toasted garlic and olive oil. A nice piece of focaccia bread with it is always nice too. Oh and I have to put fresh Romano and red pepper on my pasta too or it would be incomplete.

If you were to upload your arms to our muscle voting site (http://vote.ratemyarms.com/) right now, what do you think you would rate?

If I were to upload a picture of my arms right now (and I’m assuming I will be posting a pic of my arms!) I would say they would rate at least an 8! I get a lot of compliments on my arms especially in the summer months when I’m sleeveless. Most women ask me what they can do to build toned sculpted arms.

"...you’re never too old to achieve your passion. It’s never to late to change course and try something new. Determination and consistency is key to success no matter what your goals are."

Outside of training and dieting how do you like to spend your time?

When I’m not in the gym I love being with my kids. We play basketball, games, go to the movies, go to lunch or go for a treat some where that I can get a good cup of coffee!!! We discuss school and current events. They are so aware of the world and I’m always amazed at their understanding of current events.

What is the dumbest thing you yourself have done or witnessed in the gym?

The dumbest thing I’ve done in the gym is fall off the stability ball!!! You know once you lose your balance you know you’re going down. But, I just laugh it off and try again!!! The dumbest things I’ve seen in the gym are people that make up their own moves – you watch them and wonder what exactly does that work???

What is your favorite body part to train?  What about your least favorite?

My favorite body part to train has to be my legs. It’s a grueling workout but I love the results – strong, lean and defined glutes, hamstrings and quads. It doesn’t get any better than that especially when it’s bathing suit season!!! My least favorite??? I don’t think I have one – I love working my body from head to toe. I get a total pump when I see my shoulders popping or my triceps flexing during press-downs. I love it all!!

What is the one question you hate hearing the most? (e.g how much do you bench?)

The one question I hate hearing the most….well, I wouldn’t say I hate it but most will ask me if I’m a bodybuilder. I tell them no I’m a figure competitor and give them a brief explanation of what that is. Sometimes people will ask me if I’m taking steroids – that can be disappointing because I pride myself on being 100% natural. I’m just a clean eater who happens to be genetically lucky (thanks Dad!)

The RateMyArms team would like to thank you greatly for taking the time to do this interview. Do you have any last words for our readers?

Last words in closing – you’re never too old to achieve your passion. It’s never to late to change course and try something new. Determination and consistency is key to success no matter what your goals are. When I turned 40 my vision became so much clearer and I set on a path to achieve them.
I can be reached at Linda.steph42@yahoo.com I love hearing from people and I’m always here to help or offer advice. I reside in Fairfield County, Connecticut and if you want to train with me it would be my pleasure!!!

Many thanks to the RateMyArms team for asking me to do this!!!

Bodyspace: http://bodyspace.bodybuilding.com/stepheli/
Photo Credits: Jeff Binns, Kiemo Miller and Bryan Stephens

Categories: Interviews, Women