Monday, March 15, 2010

Antonina Whaples Interview

Antonina Whaples is just a few weeks from her first Figure competition. If you read her blog at you will see she is headed in the right direction. Antonina reminds me very much of an advanced version of me, so I have taken a special interest in her journey. A journey that I know she will end up being a success in. In a way I feel like I am helping to introduce a special woman to the fitness world. Obviously I am not really introducing her, because that implies I should get some form of credit. But what I mean is helping to make sure as many as possible know about this special woman. I can't sit here and claim she will finish in this place or that place, but I can sit here and tell you that no matter where she places, Antonina is a winner. She is a winner because she is doing what not everyone can do. She is a winner because she had a dream and is four weeks from reaching it. Between being a full time student and training to compete, that takes dedication, motivation, and determination. Even though she has yet to compete, Antonina Whaples is a huge inspiration to me.

Q: First, Antonina, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this.
A: No, thank you Jason for giving me the opportunity to be on your site. I check it everyday for inspiration and I feel humbled that you would ask me to be on it.

Q; Can you start out by telling a little about yourself. Family, where you are from, things like that.
A: I’m a senior at Wake Forest University, the second of 5 children, and my father is an economist and professor at WFU (Robert Whaples). I’m attending Wake on what essentially equals full scholarship with the Presidential merit scholarship for art and the Reifler family scholarship for art. I should graduate in May with two majors: Studio Art, and Philosophy and honors cum laude. I grew up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and have been here ever since. I think NC is a great state and I hope to around this area of the US post-graduation.

Q: Growing up, were you an especially athletic person? Play any sports?
A: Actually it’s a family joke that I played basketball at my tiny Catholic middle school. By “played” we mean I sat on the bench looking lost most of the time and later found some crazy excuse to drop out of the team because it terrified me. The only reason I was on it was because they didn’t have enough players to even compete. Other than that, athletics and physical activities disinterested me because I was so inept, awkward, and uncoordinated. I know many guys have experience the phenomenon of being picked last for the team or being scrawny… did you know that girls have similar gym-class issues too? I never looked athletic and I had bad asthma attacks so I was mostly shunned. In high school I broke into Modern dance which I was never especially great at, but I had lots of creativity to make up for that. Dance was my only physical activity until freshman year at Wake when my arches fell and I had to wear one of those amusing black boots for 8 weeks on each foot!

Q: What initially got you interested in training and the gym?
A: The gym was a foreign world to me ‘til about three years ago. The guy I was dating freshman year was a nationally ranked fencer and really intimidated me. He talked about being a “badass,” and “the burn” all the time and pressured me to go “get toned” (a phrase that I now laugh at). When we broke up one of the first things I did was go sign up at a local women’s only gym for a summer. I continued at my university gym, and then when I studied abroad I was in London and I got a gym membership with my best friend. We promised to go everyday and along with our membership we got sessions with a personal trainer every month or so. It ended up being our sanctuary, our escape, our place to process what happened while we were in England. Back home I became a Metabolic Effect certified personal trainer within the year and have been training clients for about the past year.

Q: Was training something you picked up fairly easy? How long before you started to see results?
A: Once I started training with Kimberly Coronel of Strong Girl Fitness I immediately began to see results. I quickly gained strength, muscle, and confidence. Sooner than I knew it I was coordinated to the movements and had excellent form. It was around this past October when I first started looking muscular – only 4 months into training with Kim. I had to go through an awkward fat-on-top of muscle phase for a good while there, but once I started cutting in January it was apparent that I had a lot of muscle going for me. I went from being 110lbs this time last year of pure skinny fat to ~110lbs this year of pure muscle.

Q: You decided to compete in Figure. What show are you doing and what made you decide to compete?
A: I had secretly wanted to do Figure all last summer, but I wasn’t confident that I could put on the muscle and lose the fat to do it. In October Jill Coleman of Jillfit mentioned to Kim that she noticed that I had put on some muscle. That compliment was enough to get thinking I could really do it and Kim and I decided I would aim for one this spring. My motivations for figure are not purely aesthetic – I’ve always loved my body and thought I was beautiful. What doing this competition has made me come to terms with is that I love a challenge. I love to see how well I can do something, to be dedicated, strong, and overcome obstacles. To me this is about strength. My first show is April 10, NPC’s NC State Championships and my second is May 29th FAME in Greensboro.

Q: Are you nervous, excited, scared, what are your feelings as it gets closer?
A: Right now I am 4 weeks out from my first show and I am more nervous about my two philosophy papers coming up than I am about stepping on the stage. I like to call myself emotionally a “slow processor,” as in it takes me a while to figure out how I actually feel about something. This being said, I am getting rather excited and nervous. I’m not scared because I know I’ve done my best. I’m going to give this everything I have, so what’s there to be scared of? I haven’t disappointed myself at all so I’ll be happy with wherever I place (or don’t place) in my first show.

Q: Is competing something your family and friends support?
A: This is a tough subject for me to breach. I have to be honest and say that my parents utterly unsupportive. This is not to say that they have a malicious intent, they just don’t know how to handle it. During my awkward fat-and-muscle stage my mom was fairly undermining, telling me how big my butt had gotten and telling me that she was worried about my health. She kept offering me forbidden foods and pressuring me to eat them. My full competition diet started in January so I was still at home over break for the first week of it. Everytime I would get a cheat meal my mom would scrutinize me and my father made comments that it resembled binge eating – which it doesn’t! I feel like they were trying to make it appear to be unhealthy and undesirable by comparing it to an eating disorder which I (and other competitors) can assure you it is not! I have barely been home since January because I fear dealing with the emotional fall-out of my parents. My younger sister Becky attends Wake Forest as health and exercise science and psychology double major and at first she was freaked out by the way the diet takes out certain macronutrient groups. Now she accepts it and supports it as does my other younger sister Rose. My two brothers haven’t said much of anything to me about it at all. Granted, the only person I regularly see from my family is Becky. My father’s younger sister, Laura, has also been a great support to me over these last few months. We never really knew each other until this past December when we started talking via facebook.
As for friends I have an excellent set of people to truly support me. My trainer, Kim, has become my closest friend during this experience and I feel blessed to have her in my life. I only have a few friends here at WFU who get what I’m doing and they’re always here for me. I’ve been very lucky to receive support from my friends who are located in other areas of the US and the world who send me their kind messages via the Internet and my blog.

Q: Is it more of a competing just to say you did it, or is this something you plan to keep doing?
A: This is definitely something that I want to keep doing. I’ve said it a few times on my blog, but I’m daring to dream big! I recently attended the Arnold Expo 2010 and I saw some of my heroes and idols, including Allison Moyer who you’ve had on the blog before. I knew that this is what I want to do. I’d love to be at the Arnold, to go pro, be sponsored, pose for magazines, and sign autographs someday. I want to show the world that I can do it! More than that… I want to show the world that they can do it too.

Q: What is your training like right now in prepping for the show?
A: I am 4 weeks out right now so my strength has tapered off some, but Kim and I are still working with heavy weights and fewer reps. I’m lucky to retain a lot of my strength even though I have basically no carbs and no fats in my diet right now. That means I’m still doing clean and presses at 60lb for like 12 reps! Kim is an amateur raw power lifter and we incorporate a lot of unconventional training in the figure front.
Mondays: 30 minutes HIIT, 30+ min of incline walk.
Legs and Shoulders with Kim
Tuesday: 30min HIIT, 30+ min of incline walking
Core (by myself)
Wednesday: 30min HIIT, 30+ min of incline walking
Back, Chest & Arms with Kim
Thursday: 30min HIIT, 30+ min of incline walking
Shoulders (by myself)
Friday: 30min HIIT, 30+ min of incline walking
Legs and Chest
Saturday: 30min HIIT, 30+ min of incline walking
Sunday: Day off

Q: Any competitors you admire or are a fan of?
A: Jill Coleman, Allison Moyer, and Ava Cowan. I just saw Latisha Wilder at the Arnold and she is becoming a favorite too.

Q: When someone sees or hears you train, what is the most common reaction? More positive or negative?
A: Mostly confusion is the most common reaction. People get “figure” confused with figure skating and then when I explain that it’s more like “a cross between a beauty pageant and bodybuilding” they get hung up on either side of the spectrum thinking it’s either what one person called “a shaping contest” … looking good in a bikini OR they think you are trying to “bulk up” and be manly. People say the strangest things to me and I’ve even been asked if I take steroids. On campus the fraternity-type guys are definitely the ones who snicker in the gym and think that it is “funny” to see a girl lift weight or try to look muscular. This sort of pervasive sexist mentality, fueled by insecurity is one of the things I think a lot of us weight lifting girls have to overcome daily.

Q: When they see or hear it the first time, what is the one question or comment you are most sick of hearing?
A: “I want to do something like that, but I don’t want to ‘bulk up.’”

Q: What do you consider to be your best bodypart right now?
A: My back is ridiculous thanks to Kim, so hands down my best asset. I’m also happy to report that my abs are really coming in.

Q: DO you have a favorite part to train?
A: I must admit I love to train all parts, but my favorite exercises are deadlifts, clean and press, and pushing the prowler – I guess that means I love training my legs, glutes, and lower back!

Q: Favorite cheat food?
A: Peanut Butter and Starbucks!

Q: What has been the hardest part for you to adjust to in prepping to compete?
A: Being a full time student at a top 30 ranked school just months away from graduating on top of working 5 part time jobs to make ends meet. Training, diet, cardio are all easy compared to writing a lengthy philosophy paper or studying for a gnarly Japanese exam. Cardio with no carbs is horrible, but even worse is large school assignments with no carbs and only 8oz caffeine a day. I have to micromanage all of my time, as you can imagine!

Q: You are also doing a great blog about your prep. Can you give out the address and tell people what they can find there?
A: Thanks for the kind words, my blog is one of my coping mechanisms. “fitNasti,” as the name implies, is about all the nasty things that happen to you when you commit to a fitness oriented life. I post daily about what I’ve been up to, share my woes, my accomplishments, and lots of little anecdotes. I love to put a funny spin on things because that’s how I keep my spirits up! Things can get rough, but it’s nice to be able to laugh at myself. Please feel free to follow and comment at

Q: What is the biggest misconception about women who train or the one thing you wish people understood?
A: That we look “stage ready” every day of the year! Training and dieting is cyclical – we take breaks, need to eat more calories (and yummy food), and do not stay show-ready every day of the year. Show shape is a fleeting moment that we work months and months just to have for a day. As such, I feel no pressure and hope no one else does, to look like that all the time!

Q: If another woman told you she wanted to start training, what is the one piece of advice you would most want to give her?
A: When you commit, truly commit. Know you are going to give it your all from the first day ‘til the last day and you’ll never be disappointed in yourself no matter what happens! I truly believe that anyone who is ready to do what it truly takes to compete can do it. I think it takes a lot of will power, but if you can train yourself to have it, I have no doubt you can do it.

Q: Any other hobbies or activities you enjoy?
A: I don’t have much time for hobbies anymore, but I am at school for art and I still really enjoy creating pieces when I have the time. Although my concentration is in intaglio printmaking (copper etching), I’ve been dabbling in digital art for the past year. My true love is simple pencil drawings. You can see the work I did in high school at if you’re that interested. During the past summer I worked as a Teacher Assistant Counselor (TAC) at NC’s Governor’s School West and taught a group of highly talented and brilliant teenagers about contemporary art. I’ll be doing that again this summer and I can’t wait!

Q: Can you describe a typical day in the life of Antonina Whaples.
A: I’m on a college schedule so my life is divided into MWF, T/R and Sat/Sun. My days are micromanaged and every single hour is completely taken and accounted for. I fit in grocery shopping, food prep, and my “personal life” in the cracks. I also work as a sales rep for the wholefood bar “Boone Bar” which I work in. I usually meet with my boss and cancel a shift at the phonathon to do that. Yes, it’s this regimented – I didn’t say it was easy!

5am wake up

6:30am-10am work at the WFU Gym & Train Clients; 30 min HIIT

10am-11am Japanese Class

11am-12pm Do HW at the ZSR Library

12pm- 12pm Train with Kim

12:30-1(or 1:30) 30+ minutes incline walking

1:30pm-4pm HW, Doctor’s Apts (physical therapy Wednesday), and train several clients

4pm-6:30pm Return to dorm and do more HW

6:30pm- 9pm Work as a manager at the WFU Phonathon (except for Fridays)

9:30/10pm Sleep


5am wake up

6am-7am Work at the ZSR Library

7-8am Train 1 client, 30 minutes HIIT

8am-10am Work at the ZSR Library

10am-11am Japanese Class

11am-12pm 30+minutes incline walking

12pm-1:15pm Philosophy and Christianity Class

1:30pm-2:45pm Plato Class

3:00pm-5:30pm Teaching Assistant/Independent Study Digital Art Class

5:30pm: Meet with client

6:00-6:30: Train Core or Shoulders

6:30pm-9pm Work as a manager at the WFU Phonathon

9:30/10pm Sleep


7am wake up

8am-10:00am Food prep, laundry, room cleaning, etc

10am-1pm: Work at the ZSR Library circulation desk

1pm-2pm: 30 minutes HIIT and Back

2pm-7pm: Work at the ZSR Library reference desk

7pm: Run stairs for 30 minutes and/or ‘til I can’t walk

7pm-10pm “Free Time”

9:30/10pm Sleep


7am wake up

8am-10:00am Food prep, laundry, room cleaning, etc

10am-12pm: Work at the ZSR Library circulation desk

12pm-1pm: Weekly cleaning at the gym

1pm-2pm: Train clients

2:30-5:00: Work as a manager at the WFU Phonathon

5:00-6:30: HW

6:30-9pm Work as a manager at the WFU Phonathon

9:30/10pm Sleep

Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
A: I suffered from severe depression throughout high school and into my freshman year of college when I tried to kill myself. I’ve since then changed my entire life, my outlook, and myself. I can no longer identify with the person I used to be and I often wish I could help people in the same situation I was in. I had a very special religious experience that assisted me, but I am fairly private about that.

Q: Describe Antonina Whaples in five words.
A: Ambitious, Dedicated, Hilarious, Creative, and Grateful

Q: Anything else you want to take this time to plug or promote?
A: There are so many wonderful people in my life doing so many great things and I wish I could promote them all!
My trainer, Kimberley Coronel, a rising star in raw female power lifting. She is creator of Strong Girl Fitness and I want to see her small company and career go very far.
Jill Coleman of Jillfit, who does my diet with Tara Ballard. Her new personal training books “My Gym Trainer” are amazing! I use mine everyday to help with my cardio.
Boone Bar, a wholefood meal replacement bar. It’s not figure “diet safe” because of all the delicious carbs, but it really is a great product. I literally inhaled the first one I ate! If you are a fighter or endurance athlete I would highly recommend investing in this preservative-free, organic, hand-made treat from the Appalachian Mountains in NC.
Keith Barber is a rising documentary filmmaker who recently had his film “Any Given Friday” accepted into the Reynolda Film Festival at Wake. Keith is very interested in doing a documentary about figure but is looking for some financial assistance. Watch out, I know his stuff will be at Sundance soon!

Q: Antonina, again, I thank you for doing this, I wish you the best of success and am sure you will do great on stage. Any last words before you go?
A: Yes. I would love to find sponsorship in the next year from a company willing to take a chance on a girl with a lot of potential. I would love to someday be working with Scivation, a company that I really admire for its quality of product and the athletes it works with. It’s also a NC based company only about 45 minutes away from me and I’d like to share some of the NC love!


  1. Antonina is a true strong girl! I love this interview...of course I'm biased:-)
    Kim Coronel

  2. It's been amazing to watch Antonina's journey over the past 4 months. All of us at ZSR Library at Wake Forest are cheering her on, knowing that she will succeed at whatever she sets her sights on doing.