Friday, June 17, 2011

Sara Willis Interview

An athlete all her life, Sara Willis needed something to compete in after college. She got in the gym and started training with weights. Her first contest was a self described learning experience and she obviously learned as she won her second competition. With plans to compete in the fall, I look forward to seeing how much better she will look after learning even more.

Q: First, Sara, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this.
A: You are very welcome! I am happy to!

Q: Can you start out by telling a little about yourself.
A: I'm married to a wonderful man, Zak, and have an eleven year old step-son, Zackary, and a three year old daughter, Reagan. I grew up in Pike County, Kentucky, but currently reside in Hamilton, Ohio. I went to Pikeville College where I earned my degree in History. My most recent job was as a personal trainer at the Michigan Athletic Club in East Lansing, Michigan (my husband is a football coach so we've moved around a lot!). Right now I'm a stay-at-home mom and I love it!

Q: Before the gym were you an especially athletic person? Play any sports or anything?
A: I played basketball, softball, and volleyball in high school, and ran cross country and played softball in college.

Q: What initially led you into the gym?
A: My husband. He's a college football coach and he taught me how to do most of what I know. Although I was an athlete, I'd never lifted weights before.

Q: Was training something you picked up fairly easy? How long before you started to see results?
A: It came very natural to me. Of course my body wanted to cheat in the movements, but my husband corrected me on every rep. I started feeling results before I saw them. My bat speed was faster, I felt stronger, and then I started noticing subtle differences in my body. I didn't diet back then, so I didn't get the full results.

Q: What made you decide to compete for the first time?
A: I remember seeing Monica Brant on the cover of Muscle and Fitness Hers back in college and thought "Hey! This doesn't look like the cover of a normal magazine. There's a girl with muscles on it!" So I bought it and started learning more about the world of fitness and figure competition. After I left college I continued working out, and missed competing in something. So I finally got the guts to do it.

Q: Is competing something your family and friends supported?
A: Some of them don't really understand it, but support me all the same because they love me. My grandmother especially. She doesn't like to see me diet and lose weight because she thought I was fine the way I was, but she cheers me on from the audience as loud as anyone. And my husband. He has a competitive nature as well, and was a great source of support to me in my last show. His encouragement motivated me more than anyone knows.

Q: Was competing what you expected or did anything surprise you about it?
A: It was pretty much what I expected. I think what surprised me the most was how nervous I got. I could feel my knees knocking together as I posed!

Q: Can you share your contest history.
A: I'm still very new to the world of figure competition. I've only competed twice. My first show was the Northern Kentucky in 2010 and placed ninth in my class. It was a learning experience for me. I took everything I learned, along with a new diet and exercise plan and entered the Julie Palmer Ultimate Figure Showdown in June 2011. I won the Novice division as well as the Medium Class in Figure. It was amazing!

Q: As far as body parts, what do you feel is your best one?
A: I used to think it was my arms, but my abs came in great for my show.

Q: Do you have a part you most like to train or favorite exercise?
A: I like to train shoulders and back the most. Any variation of a row or shoulder press is great!

Q: What is your normal training routine and diet like and how do you alter it for contest prep?
A: Normal training is six days per week, three sets with varying reps. I do each body part once and then whole body on the sixth day. Thirty minutes of cardio. When I start training I do each body part once during the week and then the sixth day is a lighter leg and shoulder day. I also increase cardio as the show gets closer. As far as diet goes I'm working on off season dieting. I just finished my second show and don't want to completely blow what I have worked so hard to accomplish. I took a week off to eat whatever, then I'm going back to very clean eating. My serving sizes may increase, like 6 oz of chicken instead of 4 and maybe some extra complex carbs if I feel like I need them. I may throw a cheat meal in each week because in pre-contest I don't cheat. It's too easy for me to go overboard. Pre-contest diet includes a lot of chicken (because I hate fish!) and ground turkey, egg whites, protein powder, peanut butter, green beans, oatmeal, brown rice and broccoli.

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: I actually get positive reactions. I've had people ask "How often do you work out each week?" or "Do you compete?" I've even had people ask me to advise them on training or tell me "You must work out a lot." It feels great!

Q: When they see it that first time, what is the one question or comment you are most sick of hearing?
A: You know what? I am not sick of hearing anything. If I work on my body as hard as I do, I'll happily welcome any questions or appropriate comments that people have. It's a sign they notice it too and that what I'm doing is working!

Q: What is the biggest misconception about women who train and compete or the one thing you wish people understood?
A: We don't starve ourselves! We actually eat better than most people. I also hate it when people automatically think I'm a bodybuilder when they hear I'm a figure competitor.

Q: What is the best and worst part of training for you?
A: The best part is seeing my body transform and start looking the way I want it to. The worst part is the time I have to spend away from my family and the mood swings!!! Coupled with dieting, my husband has been a very patient man!!!

Q: Do you have any favorite competitors or any you admire?
A: I love Nicole Wilkins and Julie Palmer. They're so sweet!!! They're celebrities in the fitness world and you don't expect them to be as down to Earth and as nice as they are. I also really like Monica Brant. She's a legend!

Q: Do you have a favorite cheat food?
A: Just one? Hmmmmm....There's a Mexican dish at a local restaurant I like. I also love tiramisu, and any kind of chocolate candy you can throw my way.

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: I'd tell her to give herself some time to see results. Don't get discouraged because you don't look like the women in the magazines in a week or two. It took me three months to get ready for my show.

Q: Do you think its becoming more common for women to use the weights as opposed to just doing cardio and things?
A: I think so. Women used to be so scared of lifting weights. So many of them thought that once you lift that dumbbell you were going to get bulky and look like a man. I think they're starting to understand that you have to do a combination of the two to get the body you really want.

Q: Outside of training, any other hobbies or activities you enjoy?
A: Eating! Ha ha! I love going out with my husband, or just hanging around the house reading, watching television, playing with my daughter, going to church, and going to football games of course! Go Miami Redhawks!

Q: Can you describe a typical day in the life of Sara Willis.
A: 7:30- Wake up 8:15- Breakfast 9:00- Workout 11:00- Meal 2
11:30- Shower! 12:00- Run errands 1:30- Meal 3 2:00- Put my daughter down for a nap 2:30- Housework 3:00- Relax and read or watch tv 4:00-Meal 4
4:30- Play with my daughter 5:30- Cook dinner for my family 6:30- Meal 5
7:00- Family time 8:00- Give daughter a bath 8:30- Put daughter to bed 9:00 Protein Shake 10:00- Bed time

Q: Describe Sara Willis in five words.
A: Loving, Loyal, Christian, Fun, Athletic

Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
A: I want a house full of kids! :) I love being a mom and definitely want more in the future!!!

Q: Any set plans for the near future as far as competing or anything else?
A: I plan to enter a couple of shows in the fall (still haven't decided which ones), and hopefully enter a national show in the next year. I plan to start working with Mike Davies on nutrition and training to get me ready for the future shows as well. There's only so much I know, and he's a professional who's been successfully doing this for years, so I definitely want to get his input

Q: Anything you want to take this opportunity to plug or promote?
A: Sure! I just started doing online personal training. My Facebook page for it is Fearfully and Wonderfully Made Physiques. It is very inexpensive and is tailored to each client individually. It's for people who just want to try to live a healthier lifestyle and need some help getting started.

Q: Are you looking for sponsors. If so how can they reach you?
A: Yes yes yes!!! I am definitely looking for sponsors! They can contact me on Facebook (!/sararatliffwillis) or through email

Q: Sara, again, I thank you for taking the time to do this. Any last words before you go?
A: I just want to thank my husband again for his support during my training. He works anywhere from 50-80 hours a week and still makes time to help me, encourage me, or advise me. It really means a lot when you have a strong support system within your family. I also give credit to God for this. Each week I put a different motivational scripture on my hand and whenever I felt weak or unmovitated I'd just look at it and my strength would be renewed. And thank you for the interview!


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