Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sheena Hunter Interview

I found Sheena Hunter from the Fan Page on Facebook for this blog. I am so happy I did. I think she is amazing. Sure you can look and see she is beautiful, sure you can look and see she has an incredible physique. But really what most impresses me is her attitude, desire, and determination. Sheena gets it. In her first show she won her class, which is impressive, but I have a feeling that for many years the words, Sheena, Hunter, and winner, are going to be used in the same sentence. Sheena is the kind of woman who women new to training should really learn from and look up to, she is proof of what someone can do. I am really happy to present this interview with Sheena, because I feel like I am on the ground floor, introducing you to someone who is going to be a big name one day.

Q: First, Sheena, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this.
A: It's amazing to have the opportunity! I'm just starting out, so it's amazing to be a part of the bodybuilding world in such a positive way.

Q: Can you start out by telling a little about yourself.
A: For now I live in Bangor, ME, but we are gearing up to move to Atlanta at the end of the summer for grad school. I have a beautiful four year old daughter named Isabella, and an amazing and supportive fiance, Mike. My family means the world to me,and we are extremely close.

Q: Before the gym were you an especially athletic person? Play any sports or anything?
A: I played soccer all throughout high school and some after, but I was frustrated that, as an adult, there weren't many opportunities to play. I ended up turning to the gym for an outlet. I have always been drawn to pretty much any sport, though. I
have a competitive and athletic nature.

Q: What initially led you into the gym?
A: Honestly, I think I always just went because it seemed like the right thing to do. I needed an outlet and there were no sports available. After high school there weren't many options. After my daughter was born, I was determined to get back into
shape almost immediately. I spent a lot of time in the gym and had some intense training, but I wasn't confident enough to really just go for the big weights in the room with all of the men. I really admired the women who seemed to know what they
were doing, so I think I kept going to just watch them and learn from their confidence!

Q: Was training something you picked up fairly easy? How long before you started to see results?
A: I had trained for years since high school, but it really got serious for me about three years ago. When I first met Mike, I made some complaint about my “soccer legs” and my frustration with being so stocky and muscular. One day he explained to me
that my genetics could really work in my favor—and he introduced me to powerlifting. He taught me how to do the big exercises properly, and it really seemed to come naturally for me, like an immediate connection. I go to a gym with some very serious
power lifters who are really friendly and willing to help anyone who is willing to try; they helped me a lot too in the beginning. After my lifting became consistent and intense, I got to a point where I felt like I could become stronger with better
nutrition, so Mike and I began to really focus on my diet. At that point, I began to
really lean out and we got excited when we began to see my muscles emerge. I have been absolutely fascinated with nutrition ever since. For me, the size came over
the course of months, but the amazing results came quickly—within a few months of making changes to my diet.

Q: You did your first show not long ago, the NPC Garden State Classic. What made you decide to compete?
A: I go to a gym where most people are focused on powerlifting—there are no bodybuilders. There was an overwhelming sense of prestige attached to the word “bodybuilder” that made me terrified to even THINK it—but secretly, I had wanted it since I was about 12 years old! As I began to really lean out, people at my gym began to realize that I was thinking about one day competing, and they began to ask questions. I think the more they asked me if I was going to compete, the more I began to realize that it was a possibility. I decided I didn't want to be that person perpetually working toward some unknown contest. I figured I would never know what I was capable of until I had a date in mind and was under the pressure—so I just picked one and jumped off! I didn't know what to expect at all, so I just chose the one that was within a comfortable driving distance and time frame.

Q: Was competing something your family and friends supported at the time?
A: Yes! My fiance is an amazing source of support and knowledge. He has been interested in bodybuilding for many years and has an amazing wealth of knowledge about training and nutrition. He was the one who really made me feel comfortable trying it.Honestly, the last few weeks were pretty hard on everyone close to me, because no one really knew what to expect. You can read interviews where people talk about the emotional strain, but words will only understate the reality—it's something you have to experience to understand. Mike handled it really well. I know that I am very lucky to have such a supportive partner.

Q: Was competing what you expected? Any memories of the show?
A: I didn't have any expectations—only my imagination. I had never even watched a show before! I came with my best package, and I was just excited to even be there. I was excited to know that I had made it to that day, and I was prepared. I couldn't
wait to see the other female bodybuilders, and just be in a room with other women who were doing the same things as me. I did all of my training in a small corner of rural Maine, with no interaction with other FBBs, so I assumed I must have been
missing something important, and I wanted to know what it was. I wanted to flat out have my butt handed right to me by an experienced bodybuilder with a phenomenal physique, and I did! I also found that FBB was a very small category, and not all of
the competitors had been striving for single digit bf. I was relieved and disappointed at the same time. I won my weight class against an experienced woman who was pretty stiff competition, but I lost the overall to the most amazing physique I've ever met in person! The best moment of my life was standing on stage, waiting for the judges to announce the overall winner; they asked the audience, and I heard so many strangers yelling my number. It was unbelievable. As soon as I stepped offstage I started thinking about the next contest!

Q: Did you know right then that this was something you wanted to continue doing?
A: Yes, the adrenaline rush was so amazing. There were total strangers in the audience who thought I deserved to win! It was a long shot, and I truly lost to someone who deserved it more than I did that day, but it gave me new confidence in myself.

Q: As far as body parts, what do you feel is your best one?
A: My abs. I have always just had them and taken them for granted, even at 27% bf. But having a child makes the stomach a sensitive issue for moms, so for me they symbolize what can be accomplished through hard work.

Q: Do you have a part you most like to train or favorite exercise?
A: Before I competed, I had a different outlook—I just wanted to build everything and see what I could get! I think at first we all tend to favor the exercises we are best at. But after competing, I came back with a renewed focus on maintaining what I
liked and improving where I needed to. I have spent the past year really focusing on
adding size to my lats and delts. My favorite exercise is any variation of the pull-up.

Q: What is your normal training routine and diet like, and how do you alter it for contest prep?
A: Like most athletes, I am always working toward something, so there is really no normal. I like to experiment with my body, so if I'm not bulking or cutting, I'm messing with my carbs and fats to see how my body responds. Eating clean is a lifestyle in which my whole family participates, so it is second nature, but I just adjust my macros and caloric intake as needed. I approach training the same way as nutrition—I switch it up based on the goal, and if I'm not bulking or cutting, I experiment with different exercises to see how my body will respond. I never want to be put on a program with no idea why I'm doing it—no one should know my body better than I do.

Q: When someone sees your physique or hears you compete for the first time, what is the most common reaction? More positive or negative?
A: At some point during contest prep, people are going to know something is going on, and it needs to be addressed sometimes or it's just awkward for everyone. I think for the most part, people are pretty positive—they just think it's cool, and it
seems to sometimes empower other women around me. Occasionally, I run into insecure men who really just do not like me at all, so I just avoid them and laugh about it later. The hardest part is that most people want to support it, but the closer I
get the less they understand what they are seeing and the more critical they get. I think next time I'm going to do all of my training in a hoodie so that I can avoid any attention.

Q: When they see it that first time, what is the one question or comment you are most sick of hearing?
A: “Whoa, do you work out?” Sometimes, to pass time on the treadmill, I just think of funny responses to that question. But seriously, I also get a lot of people who want advice on fat burners and fad diets, and that has got to be the most frustrating
situation for me.

Q: What is the biggest misconception about female bodybuilders or the one thing you wish people understood?
A: I think the problem is that for centuries women have been pushed into the ideals that have been handed to them. We have to be sexy, but not slutty; thin, but not skinny; curvy, but not fat...etc. People do not know how to respond to women who
willingly deviate from those standards. As bodybuilders, we are claiming our own ideal and forcing others to see us the way we choose to be seen. As female bodybuilders, we are asking to be judged by our hard work instead of our sex appeal. Men seem to think that we are obligated to fulfill our duty to portray ourselves as sex objects, so they make comments which are inherently designed to put us in our places. I wish more women understood this enough to brave it out and participate in
bodybuilding, and I wish those men understood that the rest of us are only driven more by those derogatory comments.

Q: What is the best and worst part of competing?
A: The best part is connecting with my body and watching its response to my choices. The worst part is temporarily disconnecting from my femininity and being judged for it, or walking in the gym and knowing what people are saying about me. People are
really cruel, but I am starting to see that it's either because they don't understand or because they are insecure about themselves. I can't wait to get to Atlanta and be near a community of FBB's!

Q: Do you have any favorite competitors or any you admire?
A: Honestly, I am really disconnected from it all. It's frustrating because it seems like all of the female big names are in figure, or are heavy weights. While I admire all of them, I have a hard time identifying with them. I am motivated in some way
by every female competitor, but I do not have any specific role models yet.

Q: Do you have a favorite cheat food?
A: Anything involving cheese and bread! I don't really even like pizza that much until contest prep, then suddenly it doesn't sound too bad. You can't go wrong with a cheeseburger though.

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: Actually, I have two: First, if you can start a habit, you can succeed in your training; you are wasting your time if you are not committed to making it a lifestyle, because if you stop pushing you will always think of yourself as someone who can't do it or just isn't cut out for it. Everyone is cut out for it, and it's not selfish to focus on and believe in yourself.
Second: Do not allow someone to put you on a training or nutrition plan without studying it to understand what you're doing and why, because there won't always be someone there to guide you, and you need to know what to do if you don't have 11
almonds handy, or if you run out of eggs, etc. I see experienced competitors who should really know these things but somehow still don't. Really learn how protein, fats, and carbs are used by your body. Learn each movement and adapt it to yourself
so that you really get the most out of each rep.

Q: Do you think it is becoming more accepted in society for women to add muscle?
A: I think women (even non-competitors) are really trying to demand that society accept them with more muscle. Unfortunately, I still see disgusting news articles criticizing Michelle Obama and other celebrities for being athletic and muscular. There seems to be a fine line between what's acceptable and what's too far, and if Michelle Obama is over that line, then we still have a long way to go.

Q: Outside of training, any other hobbies or activities you enjoy?
A: I love anything outdoors—climbing, kayaking, hiking, etc. I also enjoy reading and writing; I love to study people and society.

Q: Can you describe a typical day in the life of Sheena Hunter.
A: A typical day really depends on the time of year—I'm a student, so I get summers off. Right now I'm focused on contest prep and spending time with my daughter, so I plan my gym times around her. Mike is as focused as I am, so we have to work hard to
make sure our meals are prepared and our gym bags are packed the night before. I'm up at 4:40 for 5 a.m. Cardio, and I'm home before my daughter wakes up. Then I'm back in for my lift at 9 a.m., while my daughter hangs out in the daycare for a bit.
After she goes to school at noon, I'm back in the gym for routine and posing work. My evenings are entirely devoted to my family. Between 4 and 7 it's all about my daughter, dinner, and family time, and from 7-9 is time I rarely ever miss spending
with Mike.

Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
A: I was pretty chubby when I started. My first bodyfat measurement was 28%! I really have to resist the urge to tell women at the gym, “I started out exactly where you are! You can do this!!”

Q: Describe Sheena Hunter in five words.
A: Focused, Driven, Compassionate, Intellectual, Feminist.

Q: Any set plans for the near future as far as competing or anything else?
A: Yes, I'm currently about six weeks out from my second contest, in Philadelphia. Because I'm so far removed from other competitors, I don't really know what anyone is doing or even really what they look like! I see the pros in the magazines, and I
think we are all shooting for that, but I don't know where they started. This is a good thing because it prevents me from becoming intimidated and allows me to just strive for personal best and just let the judges tell me where I need improvement.

Q: Anything you want to take this opportunity to plug or promote?
A: This question really reminds me that I'm an amateur! Honestly though, I love what I'm doing and I want to use it to represent women and promote a new ideal. I have a BA in Women's Studies, and I would like to find a career writing for women,especially teenagers and young mothers.

Q: Are you looking for sponsors? If so how can they reach you and what are they getting in Sheena Hunter the athlete and competitor?
A: This question made me laugh a little bit. I think every competitor dreams of sponsorship and that kind of exposure! As a competitor, I am what every competitor is: a driven and motivated perfectionist. But I think what makes me a little bit
different is that I'm real—I am an accessible role model. Companies are starting to
realize that they need to promote real athletes who set high standards that are still slightly attainable. I think that's what I am.

Q: Sheena, again, I thank you for taking the time to do this. Any last words before you go?
A: I would love to send a message to encourage women to compete in bodybuilding. We can be pretty and feminine, but still rock it out in the gym and step onstage barefoot instead of in heels. The contest I was in last year got rid of female
bodybuilding this year and expanded its figure and bikini categories; that is sad to me. We can't keep competing if there is no competition. I really appreciate the Promoting Real Women blog, because I believe that the decline in FBB has a lot to do
with unfair portrayals and a fear of the disgusting criticisms that people give to FBBs.

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