Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts and insights into the world of health, fitness and bodybuilding. I appreciate you taking the time to interview me. My hope is that I can provide some encouragement and insight to other people, whether they currently compete or are still considering competing.
How did you first get started in the bodybuilding and fitness industry?
My introduction to the fitness industry began about eight years ago, when I was in school for Criminal Justice, with a goal of becoming a police officer. All hiring processes for law enforcement have a physical agility testing portion to them, which includes things like: running, push-ups, sit ups, sand bag drag, and bench pressing. I wasn’t overly concerned about the run, but I knew there was no way I would be able to bench press my own body weight, which was one of the requirements. I had never weight trained before and I knew I needed help, so I joined a gym and began working with a personal trainer to help me reach all the physical agility testing obstacles.
Was there a defining moment that got you to start training at a whole different level?
Once I began weight training, I saw results relatively quickly because I wasn’t overweight, so all the new strength and muscle tissue I was building was immediately visible. I loved the look and feel of becoming stronger. Weight training quickly became an addiction for me, as I craved the feeling of becoming stronger. I wanted to learn as much as I could about weight training, so I began buying books and magazines trying to absorb as much information as I could. I was learning different workout routines, training splits and soon discovered that nutrition was a huge interest of mine. I guess you could say my training had taken off to a whole different level at this point.
How do you keep yourself motivated?
I’m a very self-motivated person, as I believe all bodybuilders need to be. If you need someone else to keep you motivated, you’re in the wrong sport. I keep my workouts and training interesting by striving to reach a new personal best on every workout. I try to surpass my maximum lift from the previous week every time I train. For example, if I reached 235 pounds on my deadlift for 5 reps, then the goal for next week will be to lift 235 pounds for 6 or more reps. Once I get that weight to 8 reps, then I can move up to a heavier weight. I like to train in a progressively heavier training style. On a particular set, I lift for 10 reps, 8 reps and 6 reps and then move on to the next exercise. This allows me a little power training mixed in with my bodybuilding training. 8-10 reps are the hypertrophy (muscle growth) reps and 4-6 reps are the power lifting reps, which help you become stronger. I like mixing both together for a strong, powerful workout.
In your opinion what is the biggest hurdle most people have to overcome in regards to their fitness career and goals?
The biggest hurdle most people struggle with is their diet. You have to be mentally strong to consistently follow a strict bodybuilding diet, or actually, any diet. Most people like to say, “Oh, I could do that. No problem.” But then if you watch their eating habits you see they couldn’t keep away from “junk foods” for one day, let alone any given period of time. I feel that part of their struggles come from lack of knowledge and the other part comes from seeing food as comfort rather than what it really is, fuel. Food is simply a means to an end, nothing more, nothing less. You need proper food intake to fuel strong and heavy workouts and to recover from those workouts. There is also a huge lack of knowledge among the general population of proper nutrition intake and timing. Many people struggle with weight gain simply because they don’t know which are the proper foods to eat and in which proportions. But also, people don’t understand that certain foods, even though it may be a healthy choice, can still severely hinder their weight management goals if eaten at the wrong time of the day.
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)
This is a great question, but it’s also a difficult question to put into a proper ratio. I’m going to go with 30% training, 35% diet and 35% rest. All three components are essential to reaching your goals, but I’m going to give nutrition and rest a slightly higher edge than training. Everybody knows you need a heavy weight training plan in order to build muscle. That’s a no-brainer. But what most people fail to realize is that rest and nutrition are even more vital for success. You don’t build muscle while you are in the gym lifting weights. You build muscle when you are outside the gym, at rest. More importantly, you grow while you are asleep, which is why getting a solid 8 hours of sleep is imperative to reaching your goals. And if you think about it, you’re only in the gym for 1 ½ to 2 hours per day, it’s what you do with those other 22 hours that will make or break your goals. You can train as heavy as you want, but if your nutrition isn’t in check, you will never become as lean as you would like. And if building muscle is your goal, aka bulking up, nutrition is still your key to success, as you need to make sure you are taking in a surplus of calories if you wish to build muscle. You can’t follow a contest prep diet all year-round if you wish to add size, the human body doesn’t work that way. You need to determine what your actual goal is and then put a program in place to achieve it.
What are your thoughts on supplements?
Supplements certainly have their place in a bodybuilding regimen and I feel that they are important. Supplementation allows us the ability to take in extra amounts of certain nutrients, which are essential to weight training success. Some of these nutrients our body cannot produce on their own or we may not get a sufficient amount of them from our diet alone. As with anything else, using supplements properly and the way they were intended to be used is a great asset to your training, but abusing supplements can have a harmful effect. Always keep in mind that you’re simply supplementing the nutrition you receive from your daily diet, not trying to make up for a poor diet.
In general what does your current training routine look like?
My training routine looks pretty much the same all year-round. I always lift as heavy as I can, generally staying in the 8-10 rep range. Even during contest prep, I never switch to a light weights/high reps routine. You always need to keep your muscles working to the maximum of their ability at all phases of your training. You want to keep your muscle bellies as full as you possibly can. If you don’t continually push your muscles, they will adjust to the lighter weights and won’t need to stay as large as they currently are.
I weight train 4 days per week, training 2 parts per day. If I train with any more frequency than that, I don’t receive the recovery that I need and my workouts become less effective. I always train one large body part paired with a smaller body part to help give that smaller body part additional growth from the anabolic spillover of growth hormone that your body produces when you are in your REM sleep, also known as your deep sleep. I like to change up my body part groupings frequently to keep things interesting, but an average training split for me would be: Quads/Triceps, Back, Chest/Biceps, Hamstrings/Shoulders. Legs are a part that I need to focus on for additional growth so I split them up.
What is your current diet routine?
Right now I am enjoying my off-season, so that means my meal portions are bigger and my food timing is further apart. I still eat the same healthy foods that I eat in my prep season, just that I get to eat more of it. Also, this is the time of year that I get to “eat out” on occasion with my friends and/or family. Not that I go out frequently, but I don’t deprive myself during the off-season either. I feel it is extremely important to be able to separate contest prep season and your off-season. It is very unhealthy when people stay strictly regimented all year-round. I believe it is essential to have a healthy balance in life.
How do you feel about ketogenic diets and extreme diets in general?
I touched a bit on this in the above question, but I feel extreme diets in general are very unhealthy and have a very low success rate. Low-carb, or no-carb diets work in the final phase of contest prep, but that’s really the only time it’s necessary. What people fail to realize is that your mind and body run on carbs. When you deprive yourself of carbs, your system slows down, which means your ability to train hard diminishes, as well. Your muscle size also decreases because you are lacking the carbs to fill your muscle bellies up. Which is why a bodybuilder carb-loads the day or two before a show, to make those muscles as big and full as they can be. There is also a rebound effect when a person goes off a keto diet, or any other extreme diet. Most people end up gaining back all the weight they took off, plus some. The best advice I can give is to maintain a healthy diet and keep exercise a part of your routine. You didn’t put on the excess weight in two weeks, so you should expect it to take longer than two weeks to take the weight off.
How did you get those awesome arms of yours?
Thank you very much for nice comment on my arms. This is definitely a part I have been working to bring up. I attribute my growth to continuous heavy training paired with training with a large body part. Biceps are a part that are difficult to train on your own, as they respond best with forced reps and it’s hard to force out those extra growth reps own your own when they have reached failure. So if possible, find yourself a training partner who will help you through those difficult forced reps.
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?
I believe my arms would rate average to slightly above average if they were put up to a contest. I’m very proud of the size I have been able to add to my physique, but I am cursed with long limbs. It takes a great deal of muscle to fill up the long muscle bellies that I have. People who are blessed with short arms are the competitors who excel in the front double biceps pose, because their arms and shoulders bulk up very easily because of their shorter muscles. There’s nothing I can do about the frame I was born with, but I intend to continue to make as many improvements to it that I possibly can.
How do your family and friends feel about your training?
My family and friends are relatively unimpressed with my bodybuilding. They don’t discourage me from doing it, but they certainly don’t do anything to help me either. Some people have a wonderful support system, but I’m not one of those people. Fortunately I’m a self-motivated person and I don’t need a support system in order to be successful. I have a few close friends who have been wonderful in their support of me and I can never thank them enough. My friend, TIFFANY HUNT, has been the most supportive and loving friend I could have ever asked for and I am thankful for her every day. I also have a wonderful coach, Jennifer Abrams, who has served as a teacher and mentor to me.
I made some wonderful friends in the supplement industry, namely my sponsors: Aram Choe, owner/founder of the on-line supplement company 911Strong.com and Michael Marcanio, owner/founder of Big Rig Supplements. They have provided me more opportunities and exposure than I ever could have imagined.
Can you give us a brief summary of your competition history?
My competition history goes as follows:
2007- 1st place women’s open class NPC Fox Cities Bodybuilding Championships
2008- 2nd place women’s open class NPC Fox Cities Bodybuilding Championships
2008- 3rd place women’s open INBF Wisconsin Natural Bodybuilding Championships
2009- 1st place women’s open INBF Wisconsin Natural Bodybuilding Championships
2009- 2nd place women’s open NPC Natural Grand Prix, Rockford, IL
2010- 1st place women’s open NPC Midwest Open, Davenport, IA
2010- 1st place women’s open NPC Texas Shredder Classic
2010- 1st place women’s open ABA Natural North America Championships
2011- 5th place INBA Team USA, Las Vegas, NV
What are your fitness/bodybuilding plans for 2012?
I don’t have a clear path set for my 2012 plans yet. For now, I’m loving being in my off-season and being injury-free for the first time in 5 years. I struggle with low bone-density issues, so I have suffered from a fracture in one form or another every year over my past five years of competing. This is also why I am so pleased with the progress I have been able to make, despite my long list of injuries. Since I’m able to lift heavy and remain injury-free this long, I may take an entire year off from competing and work on adding more size. But, we shall see.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years, I envision that I will be nearing the end of competing. I have no intention of staying longer than I should. When the time comes that I can no longer be competitive in the open class, I will stop competing. I don’t want to be the person who doesn’t know when it’s time to quit. I’m going to ride this bodybuilding ride as long as I can, but when it’s time to walk away, I will have no problem doing that. I’m not the type of person whose self-esteem is hinged on being in contest shape all year-round and competing. Competing is what I do, not who I am. I will always lift weights and be healthy, but I don’t plan on competing forever.
Who is your favorite fitness model or bodybuilder? (other than yourself!)
I am one of the most fortunate people in the world, as the bodybuilder I admire the most is also my coach, Jennifer Abrams. I’m lucky enough to be able to train with the person I regard the highest, as often as I wish. Jennifer works with both male and female bodybuilders, fitness and figure competitors. She also provides on-line coaching services, as well. You can contact her at www.jenniferabrams.net
Describe what you see when you look at yourself in the mirror every morning!
When I look at myself in the mirror, I see a self-confident, fun loving, kind hearted woman, who also happens to be quite strong.
What did your physique look like before you started training?
Before I began training, I was stick-thin without an ounce of muscle on my body. I was, what is commonly called in the bodybuilding circle as, “skinny fat”
Do you feel that you are treated differently because of your physique and fitness goals?
I wouldn’t say I’m treated any differently, as I would never allow that to happen, but I do think that being strong and self-confident makes people show me a little more respect than they used to. But in no way do I expect anyone to treat me as if I’m something special just because I compete.
If you could tell a competition newbie just one sentence of advice, what would it be?
Listen to the dream inside your heart. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something or that you’re wasting your time. Your dream was not placed in their heart, it was placed in yours. Listen to your heart and you will find your calling. I guess that was more than one sentence, but that is the PARAGRAPH I would tell a newbie… Lol.
What is your all time favorite workout song?
Nothing inspires and fuels a heavy workout than a heavy song… Down With the Sickness by Disturbed, always produces results.
What is your favorite quote?
Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments. – Jim Rohn
What do you feel is the best type of cardio for yourself and why?
The Stepmill. With my bone density issues, I get fractures when I do too much running/sprint work. The Stepmill allows me to change up the intensity without causing too much impact for my bones to handle.
What is your favorite cheat meal?
This is a always a hard question for me to answer, as I don’t really crave any junk foods, but I do enjoy a good piece of pizza.
Outside of training and dieting how do you like to spend your time?
I love spending time with my friends and family. It doesn’t really matter what we do, just so long as we’re together. That’s what life’s all about; enjoying the simple things in life with those we love the most.
What is the dumbest thing you yourself have witnessed in the gym?
I see a lot of things that make me shake my head, but the thing that always amazes me is when people bench press, going for a max lift, without a spotter and without doing it in a power rack for safety. When they miss, it’s a very dangerous proposition trying to dump the bar from that position.
What is your favorite body part to train? What about your least favorite?
Back is my favorite part to train. You can lift so heavy on back exercises and it makes you feel so strong. My least favorite, if I have to pick one, would be legs or biceps. Not that I don’t like training them, but they seem to hurt more than most other parts when you’re approaching failure.
What is the one question you hate hearing the most? (e.g how much do you bench?)
“How much can you bench” has to rate pretty high on my list of annoying phrases, as the bench press is a difficult lift for me to increase on. With my long arms, I’m not built for bench pressing. I’m more suited for the deadlift, which is my favorite exercise. Ask me “How much can you deadlift” and then we’ll talk!
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?
I would like to thank RateMyArms for the opportunity to do this interview. I hope your readers find the information that I shared useful and I hope everyone out there decides to chase after the dream they have in their heart. The only limits are those we place upon ourselves, so go out there and do something special with this wonderful life we’ve been given.