Monday, January 18, 2010

Figure Pro Melissa Cunningham Interview

Melissa Cunningham is an amazing Figure competitor who currently hold two Pro Cards. One look at her and you can see why. She has an amazing physique and works as hard as anyone to get it. How many women can give birth and then compete in less than one years time. She is the kind of woman this blog was created for. To let the world see and be informed about someone who is a true master of her craft and deserves some recognition for it. To top it all off, not only is she beautiful, not only is her physique top notch, she is also a very kind person and a very motivational person. Please read this and find out how truly inspiring she is.

Q: First, Melissa, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this.
A: Thank you for the opportunity!

Q: Can you start out by telling a little about yourself. Family, where you are from, things like that.
A: I am originally from Tennessee,currently lining in Indiana,and am about to move to Virginia. I am married to a wonderful supportive husband and have 2 beautiful children (bailey age 6 and Alexandria age 3,and one more on the way!)

Q: Before you started training, were you a very athletic person? Play any sports or anything?
A: I have always been an athletic person,even as a small child. I started competitive gymnastics,swimming and softball at age 8 and then starting running when I was 12. I ran cross-country and track in high school as well as swam. I went on to compete in cross-country/track and indoor track throughout college. I am still an avid runner and enjoy 5k races,10k's half marathons,etc.

Q: So what led you into the gym to begin with?
A: It all started my freshman year in college when foot surgery left me unable to compete my first collegiate track season. up until that point running had been my passion and life. When I was unable to run,I turned to the weight room for an outlet and that soon escalated to another passion. I loved seeing how my body transformed and when I was able to run again,I enjoyed the duel benefit of becoming both a stronger runner and a faster runner.

Q: You are a very beautiful woman. Does that ever make it hard in the gym? Lots of attention or people talking to you?
A: Actually,I don't draw much attention to myself at the gym other than my crazy workouts I do. I stay covered up in long sleeve shirts and long pants and wear a ball cap. I do get attention from the workouts and receive questions on the reasoning behind my actions. Once they speak with me and hear that I know what I'm talking about,then it inevitably leads to more questions. And for me,I love to help others reach their fitness goals,so it's never a bothersome problem.

Q: Was competing the goal from day one? If not what made you decide to get on stage the first time?
A: Competing for me,was never really a goal at first, but rather some distant dream. I had always wanted to compete since I was a teenager,but I didn't think I had the guts to step foot on stage. What propelled me to the stage for the first time was the birth of my first child. I refused to be one of those moms who let themselves go and I competed just 11 months after my first child was born.

Q: Was competing something your family and friends supported at the time, and how about now?
A: Competing is something my family (mother,father,sisters,etc) have never supported,even now. However, my husband ,children and friends are my #1 fans and supporters all the way!

Q: Was the first show what you expected, did anything surprise you?
A: My first show was nothing how I expected it to be. Since figure hadn't made the big scene yet,I competed in an FAME/FAP bikini america contest. I thought that just because I was "in shape" I could just walk on stage and win it all. WAS I WRONG! I went into the show clueless on what it took to prepare for something like that. Everything from nutrition,tanning,hair,makeup,fake nails,suit choice,posing,etc-I didn't know that much about. Training for a competition was not like training a client,it was much much much more complicated. I made a disappointing 9/11 placement and did not get step on stage again until 5 months after my 2nd child,and after LOTS of research!

Q: Can you share your contest history.

2004 FAME Ms. Bikini America- 9th place bikini
2006 NPC Mr/Ms TN State-5th place open figure
2007 OCB Core Nutrition-2nd place fitness model
2007 OCB Core Nutrition-3rd place novice figure
2007 OCB Core Nutrition-5th place open figure
2007 NPC Battle at the River-3rd place open figure
2007 NPC Knoxville Classic-8th place open figure
2007 NPC Mr/Ms TN State -8th place open figure
2008 OCB Mr/Ms Indiana- 1st place figure novice, novice overall, 1st place open figure, open figure overall
2008 OCB Midwest States-1st place open figure short, open figure overall *(received Pro Card)
May 2, 2009 NGA Heart of America - 1st I call, Overall figure winner *(received Pro Card)
May 16, 2009 IFPA Women's Pro-Bowl - 3rd place

July 11, 2009 — Natural Show Me IFPA Pro Bowl-4th

Q: What do you consider your best body part, or the one that gets the most compliments?
A: My best body part's would have to be my back,abs and my legs

Q: Do you have a favorite part to train or favorite exercise.
A: I love training legs,and my favorite exercises would have to be anything involved with plyometrics

Q: What is your normal training routine and diet like, and how do you alter it for contest prep?
A: My normal training regime consist of working each major muscle group 2x per week. I am in the gym 5-6x a week and do cardio 7x per week. closer to a show,I still keep cardio in 7x per week and I may incorporate my "problem areas" or body parts I want more detail in,3x per week. My off season "diet" isn't far off from contest prep nutrition. I eat 5-7 well balanced small meals a day and always have a lean protein with a complex carbohydrate. 1 day a week I will have a "cheat meal". closer to show,I drop the cheat meals and may drop the carbs of the last meal of the day. 2weeks out I drop the carbs for last 2 meals. I always hate to diet down, so I try to stay around 3-5lbs away from contest weight year round.

Q: When someone sees the physique for the first time or hears you compete, what is the most common response? More negative or positive?
A" Since I dress modestly in the gym, most people are shocked when they learn that I am figure athlete and when they see my physique, it amazes them. Most responses are positive and are full of admiration.

Q: When they see or hear it the first time, what is the one question you re sick of hearing?
A: "How do you get abs like that?", "How much can you lift?", "Are you a bodybuilder?".Most people are clueless that most of contest prep is about nutrition and not about how heavy you can lift. Contest prep is about good nutrition,proper exercises/cardio and lots of blood sweat and determination. There is no magic pill, no "quick fix" that will give you a sculpted physique,it takes hard work!

Q: Do you feel there are any major misconceptions about women who train and compete or things you wish people understood?
A: I think the major misconception most people have of women in the fitness industry is that training how we train somehow de-feminizes women. When people hear about what I do,they automatically think I am bodybuilder and masculine. When I try to explain the differences between women's bodybuilding,fitness,figure and bikini,it just confuses them. I wish people would understand the differences between categories,and that whether you are a female bodybuilder or a bikini gal,it all takes hard work and dedication. Female bodybuilders are NOT to be seen as ultra masculine,just as bikini gals are not to be counted off as not being hard working competitors.

Q: Do you have any favorite competitors or people you admire?
A" Wow,I admire ALL women who have the desire and get the courage to step foot on stage. This is not an easy sport to compete in,and finding the guts to get on stage is victory within itself.Women such as Alissa Carpio,Nicole Weeks,Jen Hendershot, Monica Brandt,Julia Lohre have inspired me to compete.

Q: What is the best and worst part of competing?
A: The best part of competing is the adrenaline rush and meeting and exceeding my previous set goals. I love goal setting and always strive to exceed my own expectations.
The worst part of competing is not being able to partake of the simple pleasures of carbalicious birthday cake during my children's or husbands birthday. I have learned,however, that spending time with family and friends is far more important than worrying about which foods are on the naughty list. Food will always be there long after a show. Time spent with family is priceless.

Q: If someone came up to you and said they wanted to start training, what is the one piece of advice you would want to give them?
A: My advice would be to simply start setting realistic goals and to start doing research to gain knowledge. Do not be afraid to ask questions!

Q: You are also a certified trainer. What do you enjoy about training others?
A: Even though I do not keep a regular clientele base anymore,I sometimes take on people who are genuinely interested in health and fitness. I love helping others reach their fitness goals,and enjoy seeing how they progress both mentally and physically. It is very gratifying to know you helped someone change their life.

Q: What is the benefit of being trained by Melissa Cunningham, and how can a potential client contact you?
A: The benefit of being trained by Melissa,is that I am here to help make lasting,life long changes and will provide you with the necessary tools and knowledge to make a healthy habit into a lifestyle. The best way to contact me is via my website at

Q: What is the biggest mistake you see people new to training make?
A: The biggest mistake I see people who are new to training is simply this: improper form and over training due to lack of knowledge. Sometimes people are so anxious to start a workout regime,they go overboard and will work every muscle group every day. And sometimes people will just go in a gym and not ask for help from the gym workers ,but will rather watch everyone else and do what others are doing,which in most cases leads to improper form,which will eventually lead into an injury. Wy advice is to those first starting out is to learn the basics,and start building goals.

Q: Do you have a favorite cheat food?
A: Macaroni and cheese!

Q: You have a great website. Can you give out the address to that and tell people what they can find there as well as your blog which is outstanding as well?
A: My website is my bio,contest history and contact information can be found there and my contest prep journal can be found at . My journey to the pro stage can be found on my blog as well as other random thoughts and adventures.

Q: What are your long term goals in the sport?
A: My long term goals in this sport are to earn as many Pro Cards as I can through different Organizations,grace fitness magazine covers nation wide and to eventually be able to host an event. Through this process, I hope I am able to inspire as many women as I can and prove that once you have children, you can still have the best body of your life after the fact.

Q: Outside of training, any other hobbies or activities you enjoy?
A: I love spending time with my husband and children,love running road races (5k's,10k's half marathons,marathons,) I am also interested in competing in triathlons. I also LOVE to cook and bake with my kids and enjoy creating healthy meals for my family.

Q: Can you describe a typical day in the life of Melissa Cunningham.
A: A typical day in the life of Melissa is never predictable. Being an active mother of two,its always interesting in my house. I do however have a set routine for the children which always include a trip to the gym with mom unless someone is sick.During contest prep, my morning and evening cardio sessions are done before the kids wake up and after they go to bed in order to give me more time to spend with my babies. I have also been know to do my workouts outdoors at the playground with the kids.Who wants to be in a gym for hours when you can play all day??

Q: Favorite actor, movie, TV show, and musician?
A: Favorite actor: Sean Connery,Arnold Schwarzenegger,Denzel Washington
Movie: Predator,Braveheart
TV show: Food Network
Musician: Enya,Ozzy,ACDC,Metallica,Pantera

Q: Describe Melissa Cunningham in five words.
A: Driven,Compassionate,Goofy,Hard Working, A Mom

Q: What is one thing about you that people would be surprised to know?
A: Most people are surprised to know that I have 2 Figure Pro Cards.

Q: Any set plans for 2010 as far as competing or any other projects?
A: Initially my plans were to compete at a national qualifying event through NPC,to do 2 Pro shows in April and may through NGA and IFPA,to go to an NPC national show in June,earn an IFBB Pro card,do a triathlon or two,and to end the year at the IFPA Yorton Cup and then go on to the Arnold in 2011. However I recently found out I am expecting my 3rd child,so 2010 will be my "off season". I do plan to come back in 2011 with my best physique ever and plan to compete a few months after the 3rd child arrives. Be on the lookout!

Q: Anything I didn't mention that you would like to plug or promote?
A: I would like to promote Iron Beast Clothing. They are my current sponsor and make an awesome line of workout wear. Go check them out at

Q: Sponsors are great for a competitor. Are you looking for any, if so, how can they contact you, and what are they getting in Melissa Cunningham the athlete and competitor?
A: I am always looking for sponsors,and am currently sponsored by Iron beast clothing. I believe that Melissa Cunningham the athlete is not only a hard worker and willing to promote, but can also provide a great marketability not only for women wanting to get involved in fitness,but also for working or stay at home parents. It is possible to find the balance between work,family and fitness!

Q: Melissa, I again thank you for taking the time for this. I think you have a big future in the sport, and am very impressed by what I have seen. Anything you want to add before you go
A: I just want to say Thank you for taking the time to interview me and I hope I have inspired at least one person who has been thinking about competing,to just get out there and do it. Dreams can and will come true as long as you have the desire and passion to make them a reality.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE my girl Melissa!!!!!!! Way to go Melissa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!