Tuesday, April 12, 2011

IFPA and NGA Pro Melissa Cunningham Interview

Awhile back, Melissa Cunningham did one of my favorite interviews I have ever posted. So when I learned she was finally getting back on stage after giving birth to her third child, I had to have her back. Melissa Cunningham is an example of what's great about the Fitness industry. Aside from how hard working she is, aside from how inspiring she is, aside from how amazing she looks, Melissa is also a very supportive and encouraging person. I encourage you all to read her own blog and follow her journey.

Q: First Melissa, thanks for taking the time for another interview.
A: Thank you Jason,for having me back!!! Always a privilege and a pleasure!

Q: For those who may not be familiar, can you tell a little about yourself.
A: For starters,I am a wife to an awesome husband and mother of 3 beautiful children. I am an exercise physiologist, I love to run,love to race short and long distances,and have recently picked up a new hobby-triathlons!
I got started competing in Figure after the birth of my 2nd child. What initially started as a means to force myself back into shape after a baby,led to the journey of building a better me from the inside out...... and that journey just so happened to lead to 2 Figure Pro cards!
I am also an IFPA and NGA Figure Pro athlete......
More about me can be found on my website at www.melissacunningham.com

Q: Can you tell people what's happened in your life since your first interview?
A: Wow,I guess the most major life changing event has been the recent birth of my 3rd child. Mckinnley Grace is now 7 months old and fitting in nicely with the family!

Q: You are prepping to compete. What shows are you doing?
A: I am currently training for 2 shows. the first is a WNBF pro qualifier at the end of April,the INBF Northern Natural. The 2nd show is the IFPA Pro Bowl, a qualifying event for the Yorton World Cup

Q: What made you decide now was the time to return to the stage?
A: It has been almost 2 years since I have competed on the Pro stage. It is required that an individual must compete within 2 calendar years to keep pro status and now is definitely the time to get back out there!!! Not only does competing force me to reclaim my pre-baby body,it gives me new goals to strives towards am a very goal driven individual,and I enjoy meeting and exceeding my own expectations.

Q: What do you feel you have most improved since last time on stage?
A: I believe the most improvements I have made since last time I competed,is my overall conditioning. Due to complications during my first two pregnancies,I was unable to workout and continue activity. However,the third time around, I was able to workout throughout my entire pregnancy,even up until the day I delivered! (yes,I was one of THOSE women who was running on the treadmill,trying to get contractions going at regular intervals). I believe that by staying fit during the pregnancy,getting back into road races within weeks after delivery,and jumping back into 1/2 marathon training,helped my body ease back into shape and really revved up my muscle memory. As of now, I am leaner and more conditioned than I was last time during this point of contest prep (3 and 4 weeks out).

Q: Is there any set goals. I mean, obviously everyone wants to win, but what will it take to make you happy with your performance this year?
A: Yes,I do have specific goals this year. I am an athlete,so obviously the competitive side of me wants to win.Obviously I am going for a 3rd pro card in April, and I have set a high goal to make top 5 at the IFPA Pro Bowl and qualify for the Yorton. I want to prove that the smaller girls can hold their own on the Pro stage and climb their way up in rankings at the Pro level. I also want to prove that just because you are a mom,it is possible to be in the best shape of your life,to have your personal best physique,even after having children.
But in all honestly,Jason as long as I bring my best physique ever to the stage,as long as I continue to improve with each show,as long as I stay focused,stay positive and do my personal best,then that is victory within itself. Competing on stage goes far beyond titles and placements for me. To me,its about building a better me from the inside out,being able to walk away a much stronger individual,being able to look back and say "I did my best" and actually,whole heartedly mean it.

Q: How has the prep been going?
A: Aside from a slight shoulder injury,so far prep is going well. I have a huge support system from my husband and children! However, prep this time around is harder and easier at the same time! Harder because I am very sleep deprived (thanks to a new baby-who just so happens to be teething right now) on top of training for 4 major events. A triathlon,2 figure shows and a half marathon. And all of these events will take place over the course of the next 4 weeks. It has been challenging to say the least,but I am always up for a good challenge!
Despite feeling over trained at times,I do believe that by training for different events like this,it makes prep seem like its going by faster,and that always makes things easier!
I also believe that having a strong grasp of what to expect during prep and how my body responds to certain exercises and nutrition plays a large part in a successful prep. Knowing what works and what doesn't during prep is crucial for success.

Q: Are you doing anything different with prep this time?
A: Slightly. even though I have always incorporated running specific training (fartleks,tempo runs,HIITetc) within contest prep,I have increased the intensity of that training as well as combined other sport specific training,such as swimming,biking,and more aggressive plyometrics. I do several other sport specific drills not related to figure at all. I believe its safe to say that I don't train like your average figure gal!

Q: Whats the hardest part of the prep process for you?
A: The hardest part of the prep process for me is actually trusting the process. I believe that every competitor at one time or another during prep has that one(or few)freak out moment where she second guesses everything and wonders if she will ever be ready in time....
For me,the hardest part is getting over the initial worry and self doubt....
another hard part of contest prep is finding the balance between family and training. as a busy mother of 3 small children,there is never a day off,never a time to sit and rest,even when I am dog tired from training,even when I am carb depleted. Even though there are times during prep I wish things would slow down so I can catch my breath,I have to keep going,and be and do the best that I can,each and every day. There cant be any excuses.

Q: You also have a great blog. Can you give out the address and tell a little about it.
A; Sure! my blog is titled "Melissa's journey to the figure pro stage-and beyond!" at www.melissacunninghamifpapro.blogspot.com.Its just a blog about my adventures in the figure world,how I stayed fit before,during and after the third child,and basically my training log for the upcoming shows and athletic events. Sometimes I rant, ramble and rave,sometimes I have a story about my kids...essentially its my journal of my journey back to the pro stage!

Q: Is their anything in the fitness industry you haven't done that you would say is a goal to achieve?
A: I have been dreaming of competing on the Arnold Classic stage for the past 3 years......as a Pro Figure competitor. one major goal I would love to achieve is earning an IFBB pro card!
I would also like to compete within the fitness division some day,and try my hand at fitness modeling would also LOVE to eventually promote and host an all natural bodybuilding/figure event

Q: Do you follow the competitions much lately?
A: Here lately,it has been hard,but I am always trying to keep an eye on IFPA and NGA pro events,and of course keeping up with the Arnold Classic and Jr national/USA events

Q: Have their been any competitors you have seen lately who impress you?
A: YES! Rachel Baker,Jill Vadelia,Naomie Murdock,Yenny Polanco,Monica Cass,Terri McBee,Kari Keenan,Genie Sammons,Becca Staggs...and the list could go on!
It simply amazes me how many new faces are emerging,and how phenomenal these girls are looking!

Q: I always ask what the biggest misconception is about competitors. This time I will ask, what is the biggest misconception about you?
A: There are quite a few misconceptions about me.
Most people who know that I am a pro figure athlete assume this sport comes naturally to me. Which in reality it doesn't.
Yes,I love working out and staying fit. I'm comfortable slinging weights around with the best of them.
I love lifting and racing,and I feel comfortable in that element. Put me in a 1/2 marathon and I can pace all day,feel confidant in my shoes.....
But put me in 5" heels in a tiny 2 pc swimsuit in front of hundreds of people I don't know,in front of a panel judges and expect me to look graceful? Now THAT is a challenge. Some figure gals have the "it" factor,some gals are naturals,but not me. I have to work at being graceful on stage!
Also,some people assume that I am not "normal" and the gym and all things fitness/figure related dominate my life. Now granted,I never want to settle for "average", I refuse to.
Yes,I am a health nut,I enjoy staying in shape,I keep up with the current fitness industry trends.
Yes,I probably enjoy athletic challenges probably more so than the normal individual, but in all honesty,I'm just your average mom who faces the normal day to to day challenges only motherhood can bring,and that the gym and all other things take 2nd place to my family. My husband and children come before anything else!
OH and another major misconception others have---they think i NEVER eat anything unhealthy. ever. Well,they haven't seen me eat after a show!!
Even though most of the time I make a healthier version of the "real" foods,I do splurge on occasion.
Favorite splurges? I LOVE gummi bears,macaroni and cheese,chocolate,frappacinos....cadbury cream eggs and M&M's.....moderation is the spice of life,right?

Q: Is fitness modeling something that interests you?
A: YES,I want to eventually grace the cover of fitness magazines nation wide!
I just have no clue on how to get started.

Q: What is a typical day in the life of Melissa Cunningham like?
A: With 3 children? No day is typical....even though I do have a routine way of running a household,I do take in account of things not going as planned. Although I like order and structure,life happens sometimes and i have learned to always make a plan B,C and sometimes D...
What IS typical during prep is that I get up before the sun to run, I eat every 3 hours, sometime during the day I try to fit in a workout and another run,
and after the sun and kids go to bed,I am running again or getting in a workout I may have missed during the day. I also use that time to pre plan meals and get things ready for the next day.
I try to fit in as much training as I can before the kids are awake or while are they sleeping so I do not take too much time away from my family...

Q: How important is support from family and friends during the prep process?
A: Support from my husband and children is vital during contest prep. Without the help,encouragement(and honest opinions) from my husband and children,I would feel lost!
Q: Finish this sentence. In five years Melissa Cunningham will be__
A; Aside from Ms Olympia? (yeah dreaming BIG!!)
Melissa Cunningham will be a well known figure athlete,always willing to provide support and encouragement.....

Q: When you are done competing, how would you like Melissa Cunningham the competitor to be remembered?
A: I would like to be remebered as an athlete,the tiny but mighty figure gal who inspired,motivated, and ignited others to act on a thought,a hope or a dream. if you aim high,reach high and dream big,good things can and will happen-but only if you go after your dreams instead of waiting for them to come to you....

Q: Anything I missed you want to talk about?
A: This has probably been done before,but I cant go through this interview without turning the tables and asking people to stop by

Q: Anything you want to plug or promote?
A: A quick shout out to my sponsor Andy Sheehan at Iron Beast Clothing www.ironbeastclothing.com Check out the awesome clothes line!!!!

Q: Melissa, again, thanks so much for doing this, and good luck to you. Any last words before you go?
A: Just to say thank you (again) Jason for having me back for an interview AND for providing so much support for the female athletes! Not only do you provide a place for encouragement,support and inspiration, YOU have become an inspiration yourself with your recent weight loss and goal to compete on the bodybuilding stage! Keep doing what you are doing and please keep us all posted!!!
Again,thank you so much!


  1. Great interview!! I love Melissa. She is such an inspiration to me.

  2. I too have enjoyed following her personal blog. She is truely an inspiration and a great motivator. Thanks for the interview.