Tuesday, January 4, 2011

IFBB Pro Christy Merritt Interview

Christy Merritt says she competed to push her body to the next level. Well she pushed it to that level and then blew right past that level to an even greater level. She made her debut at the 2010 Missouri State and by the end of the year was on the Olympia stage. Surely not her last time on that stage. Christy is an incredible representative of the Bikini division and it will be fun watching her continue to improve.

Q: First, Christy, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this.
A: Thank YOU, Jason. Happy to do it!

Q: Can you start out by telling a little about yourself.
A: Lets see, I am from St.Louis, born and raised. Currently I am married with one beautiful daughter and I am a dance studio owner and instructor.

Q: Before the gym were you an especially athletic person? Play any sports or anything?
A: I started summer league swimming when I was 6 and began USS swimming at age 9. I didn't begin dancing until 6th grade. My main focus was swimming and I actually swam at Truman State my freshman year of college, but ended up 'retiring' after that because I had been on a plateau for a few years and was ready to move on. That is when I began teaching dance.

Q: What initially led you into the gym?
A: Through the rest of college I was teaching dance and then began working in a pub and eating pub food...So between continuing to eat as many calories as I was when i was swimming four hours a day, only getting minimal exercise through work, and eating french fries ...needless to say I put on some pounds. At that point though I really just went to the group exercise classes, and never ventured into the "scary" part where all the men were. lol. I didn't start lifting weights until I met my husband who was a personal trainer at the time. And even then I would only train weights with him. I pretty much quit going to the gym altogether once I became pregnant and didn't get back to it for a couple years. It wasn't until a year and a half after I had my daughter that I got in there and started training on my own. I didn't even get into a consistent day after day, week after week routine until right around the time that I decided to compete.

Q: Was training something you picked up fairly easy? How long before you started to see results?
A: Yes, I think it was pretty easy for me to pick up because of my swimming background. I had to do some weight training with that and I don't think you can beat the cardiovascular exercise you get with it. So, when I only had to do 30 minutes to an hour of cardio for my contest prep, it really wasn't bad at all. And for me, I saw results very quickly. I am lucky, in my opinion, because I gain muscle fairly easily, but not so fast that I have to lift light. I definitely like to lift heavy.

Q: What made you decide to compete for the first time?
A: A couple reasons. First, many other gym goers and friends who competed kept asking when I was going to or telling me I should. Second, to push my body to that next level and see the results of consistent diet and exercise.

Q: Is competing something your family and friends supported?
A: My husband, yes, for sure. The extended family...not as much. They couldn't understand what was wrong with my body to begin with or why I would want to do the dieting it requires.

Q: Was competing what you expected or did anything surprise you about it?
A: Since I was going to be competing in Bikini, I really was not sure what to expect because it is so new and there was (and still isn't) any way to know what the judges are wanting. So, from that point I felt like I was going in blind, but I knew I was in good hands with Tony Freidrich. My husband has used him for his contest prep and looked amazing, so I just did what he told me and we definitely got great results! I think what most surprised me was how genuinely nice all of the competitors were from the regional, to the national, and pro level. I had heard a lot of people say how uppity all the girls are, but I didn't find that at all.

Q: You won your Pro card this year at Jr. USA's. What did winning the Pro card mean to you?
A: Although going there, my goal was to get a Pro card, I don't know that I necessarily thought it would really happen. And when I got there and started to look around... I was even less certain. But I just focused on going out there and being myself. I was sooo excited that what I had envisioned all those hours on the cardio machine happened. Very surreal for sure!

Q: Can you share your contest history.
A: My first show was the 2010 Missouri State where I placed 1st in my class and first overall. Then at Jr. USA's I placed first in my class (D) and 2nd overall. I was 2nd at the John Simmons Pro in Detroit where I earned my Olympia qualification, and then went the very following weekend to the Olympia where I placed out of the top 15.

Q: As far as body parts, what do you feel is your best one?
A: Probably my legs, I get more comments on them from women than anyone :-)

Q: Do you have a part you most like to train or favorite exercise?
A: I LOVE to train legs, definitely. Favorite exercise, heavy squats. Which is kinda funny because all the years I swam, kicking was where I was lacking. I would love to see now if I trained for a meet how I could do since my legs are so much stronger now...

Q: What is your normal training routine and diet like and how do you alter it for contest prep?
A: Before I began my contest prep last year my training was very similar, only very sporadic. I typically do one body part per day and depending on how my eating has been zero to 1 hour of cardio per day. Contest cardio averaged about 40 minutes a day. Eating clean is something I struggle with, so before I began competing, you would not want to know me diet, lol. I would go a few days eating super healthy then a couple with donuts and pizza. That was one reason I had not competed before, I didn't know if I could do the diet...but I did :-) Tony had me do a ketone (no carb) diet. So I had eggs, protein shake, chicken, fish or beef, nuts, and greens. I actually didn't mind it, it wasn't as horrible as I had anticipated.

Q: Do you feel Bikini competitors are starting to get more respect from other competitors?
A: For sure! I think there was a perception that these girls are just born looking this way, and maybe a FEW are, but most of us work really hard to achieve these bodies and I think the more Bikini girls you interview, the more you will find this to be the case.

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: Most of the parents at the dance studio, who have seen my transformation, comment on how great I look and how they need to get back in the gym. So that is definitely positive in my eyes. I love inspiring people to be healthy and fit and I now have a real platform to do that with.

Q: When they see it that first time, what is the one question or comment you are most sick of hearing?
A: My family has not seen me compete yet, so it will be interesting to see what they think after they see a show. In general though, you hear grumblings about the girls starving themselves to look that way. But I never went below the recommended calorie deficit of 1200 calories, so I think that is a big misconception...that we don't eat.

Q: What is the biggest misconception about women who train and compete or the one thing you wish people understood?
A: The one thing I wish people understood is why we do it. For me, and I think most competitors, we were competitive athletes growing up and this gives us an opportunity to utilize the strength, determination, and perseverance we all gained by doing that earlier in our lives. It is also goal setting, and seeing what you can accomplish with your body and mind.

Q: What is the best and worst part of training for you?
A: I love to compete, so just going and trying to do better each session is fun for me. The worst part is taking time away from my little girl. They grow up so fast!

Q: Do you have any favorite competitors or any you admire?
A: When I first began my prep I was set on competing in figure and had seen Nicole Wilkens-Lee in numerous fitness magazines. I think she is pretty amazing. And Erin Stern too. While I was training for the Missouri State I kept up with the pro Bikini ladies and was always amazed that Jamie Baird never got a win. I think her body is super fabulous, and so is she! I got to talk to her at the Olympia and she is the nicest, sweetest person!! Of course there are many others, but those are just a few.

Q: Do you have a favorite cheat food?
A: Tie between donuts and pizza.

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: Training for a show? I would just tell her if you want to, you can do it, you just really, really have to stay focused and aggressive. For someone who just wants to get back in shape? I would recommend weight training. Most women think they are going to become massively muscular using 10 lb weights, lol. But you wont, and it really is the fastest way to transform your body.

Q: Do you think it is becoming more accepted by society to see women training as hard as men in the gym?
A: For sure, I think it has been for a while now. It's not just super skinny, bony women on the red carpet anymore either. I think fit bodies are the standard now.

Q: Outside of training, any other hobbies or activities you enjoy?
A: I love spending time with my family. Dancing is definitely a passion of mine, I only wish I had time to take class myself. Maybe when the munchkin is a little older.

Q: Can you describe a typical day in the life of Christy Merritt.
A: Wake up, get my daughter fed and ready, head out to the gym (where she never wants to leave because she has so many friends there), back home, lunch, paperwork for the studio, teach, home, relax. Nothing too exciting :-)

Q: Describe Christy Merritt in five words.
A: Caring, Spontaneous, Personable, Athletic, Inspirational

Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
A: I will be 33 in March. Yikes!...

Q: Any set plans for the near future as far as competing or anything else?
A: I will be competing for sure at the St.Louis Pro and New York Pro. And probably one other. Of course I am hoping to also return to the Olympia stage as well.

Q: Anything you want to take this opportunity to plug or promote?
A: I will be on the Fit Bod show this Thursday at 7 cst. And I believe I will also be working the Species booth at the Arnold. Also, tickets are now on sale for the IFBB St.Louis Pro and NPC Midwest. It will be a great event, Jack and Ann do a super job with these shows.

Q: Are you looking for sponsors? If so how can they reach you and what are they getting in Christy Merritt the athlete and competitor?
A: I am definitely looking for sponsors. I can be reached via facebook or email me at emailcsda@gmail.com. I think you get a 4 for one deal with me. That being, I think I appeal to a broader audience than just bikini competitors. Mothers can relate to me and be inspired to get out there and compete if they desire to, because I have proven not only that you can, but that you can be great at it. I also carry more muscle than many of the bikini girls, so I think figure athletes could also relate to me and my training. I am a business owner who knows that what really matters is the bottom line and I am very personable and deal with customer relations on a daily basis. And finally, I work the same way I compete. There is no point doing something if you are not going to do it to the best of your ability.

Q: Christy, again, I thank you for taking the time to do this. Any last words before you go?
A: Thanks again, Jason, for taking the time to chat with me. And to anyone out there who is on the fence about competing because of the diet..if I can do it, you can do it. Pick a date and tell everyone you know. Then its all a matter of MAKING yourself ready. Good luck to all the competitors out there. Its a brand new season with brand new opportunities for improvement and growth. Stay focused and make the best of what comes your way!

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