Saturday, August 6, 2011

Lisa Mathern Interview

Q: First, Lisa, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this.
A: Absolutely! Thank you for asking me!

Q: Can you start out by telling a little about yourself.
A: I was born and raised in New Jersey. I grew up in West Orange and since then, moved around a bunch. I have a brother and sister, two nephews and a niece. My parents were always big supporters of whatever I chose to do – enduring 100 degree weather to watch a softball game or serving as research subjects for my graduate work, and talking me through the trials and tribulations of life. After my father passed away in 2009, my mother has been working double time! She has been my biggest fan and such a huge support as my life as evolved, particularly in the areas of figure and fitness.

Q: Before the gym were you an especially athletic person? Play any sports or anything?
A: Although I played sports as a child, I never considered myself as athletic - just someone who liked to be active. It was after a period of inactivity that brought me to the gym. At that point, I stuck to the elliptical and 10-pound dumbbells because I didn’t want to get “bulky” heh heh.

Q: What initially led you into the gym?
A: I’ve belonged to gyms and entered gyms after I put on a few dozen pounds when I was 18. A period of inactivity + continuously eating poorly (like, uh, grilled cheese with cheese fries and gravy and a milkshake, or McDonald’s #2 – supersized, or anything Chinese slathered in duck sauce) will do that to you! Looking back, I realize that I was active in the gym but not really working my body properly. In August 2009, I entered a gym with a purpose and was led to the weights. That’s where the work happens!

Q: Was training something you picked up fairly easy? How long before you started to see results?
A: I have always focused on form when training and think that I picked up the basic power lifting movements fairly easy. The trickier part came into play when deciding what my workout split should be and what accessory exercises to incorporate with the larger movements. I started with very minimal strength; I couldn’t do one pull-up or more than a few push-ups and it took some time to build. Since I started weight training in November 2009 with a goal to compete in April 2010, I was working on building size while leaning out – which is an extremely difficult, if even possible, task. It’s hard to say when I “saw” results, since how is that measured? I know that I immediately felt stronger when I started to pay attention to proper nutrition and a consistent workout schedule. I do remember the day I curled 12.5 weights, got pumped, and saw my bicep peak for the first time. It was so cute. Haha!

Q: What made you decide to compete for the first time?
A: When I was in my early 20s, I began reading Oxygen magazine (how else was I passing the time on the elliptical if Friends wasn’t on?) and said that I wanted to compete in the fitness arena by the time I was 30. In November 2009, I used my first of the three personal training sessions I got as an add-on to my gym membership. During the session, my trainer mentioned that she was helping a friend prep for an upcoming figure competition. I immediately thought “Wow, real people right here compete?!” and said, “I want to do that!” I don’t think she thought I was serious. After all, I couldn’t do a push-up! The next few days I researched different bodybuilding federations and competition dates – picked April 24, 2010 and didn’t look back.

Q: Is competing something your family and friends supported?
A: At first they didn’t understand, which was typical because my lifestyle changed especially as I focused on training for my competition. Family and friends would say, “don’t go to the gym, let’s go for pizza” or “this is too intense, you shouldn’t do it.” This past competition prep they showed support by choosing places that have options for me to eat clean and offering to work out with me when I felt like I couldn’t make it to the gym!

Q: Was competing what you expected or did anything surprise you about it?
A: The actual competition is pretty much what I expected after doing hours of reading and seeing other competitions. However, my first competition prep phase was an intense shock. The amount of dedication to diet and training was not what I expected. I remember my first low carb day – holy moly! After a long day of work, I was walking crooked and scheduled to do HIIT training (sprints on the treadmill). I barely made it though. Training is a learning process – it takes finding out what your body needs, how it responds, and finding what works and what doesn’t. What surprised me most is the amount of focus and determination I have!

Q: Can you share your contest history.
A: So far I have competed in three shows, each in the OCB (The Organization of Competitive Bodybuilders):
*April 2010 OCB Beyond Nutrition Natural – Figure Debut (3rd Place) and Figure Novice (5th Place)
*May 2011 OCB Tri-Cities - Figure Novice Tall (2nd Place) and Figure Open Tall (3rd Place)
*May 2011 OCB Beyond Nutrition Natural - Novice Tall (3rd Place) and Figure Open Tall (3rd Place)

Q: As far as body parts, what do you feel is your best one?
A: My heart!

Q: Do you have a part you most like to train or favorite exercise.
A: I like to train my shoulders and back since I am trying to develop more thickness there. My favorite exercise is the squat – I like to load up the bar and go deep in the hole!

Q: What is your normal training routine and diet like and how do you alter it for contest prep?
A: To me, normal training means being in the gym 4-5 days a week and normal diet means eating clean 5-6 times a day, making sure that I have sufficient macros (proteins, carbohydrates, fats) to sustain muscle and promote healthy growth. The “normal” lifestyle also includes enjoying some cheat meals! Contest prep training means adding an extra day or two in the gym (even when you feel like you can’t), adding cardio (HIIT and LISS) progressively as I get closer to the competition date, and posing practice. As the competition date gets closer, I stick to eating 5-6 times a day (high protein, moderate healthy fats) and cycle my carbohydrates to include low days (when I don’t train or just do a cardio session), medium days, and high days (when I do a large muscle group like full legs or hamstrings and back). My diet also includes water – lots and lots of it! Oh, and black coffee, too.

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: Often when people hear that I compete, they start to ask a lot of questions

Q: What is the one question or comment you are most sick of hearing?
A: Any question or comment about what I do gives me an opportunity to talk about my passion and educate others – even if it is “You’re going to the gym again?” or “What are you eating?” :-)

Q: What is the biggest misconception about women who train and compete or the one thing you wish people understood?
A: The biggest misconception is that a woman who trains hard will begin to look like a man. Women do not have the testosterone levels to build as much muscle as men! Some women are afraid to pick up weights heavier than 5 pounds fearing that they will get too bulky. I inform these women that their handbags probably weigh that much and I am sure they can handle the weight!

Q: What is the best and worst part of training for you?
A: The best part is seeing changes - in strength, endurance, muscle size, or seeing definition in my muscles. The worst part is that it does take a lot of work – not just in the gym, but buying and prepping food, which includes cleaning, cooking, and measuring it – then doing the dishes! It’s not easy, but it’s worth it!

Q: Do you have any favorite competitors or any you admire?
A: I admire anyone who hits the stage. My favorites are Ava Cowan, Monica Brant, Felicia Romero, and Nicole Wilkins Lee.

Q: Do you have a favorite cheat food?
A: Ice cream and cheeseburgers! Pancakes make the list, too!

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: Stop talking about it and start doing it!

Q: Do you think it is becoming more accepted by society to see women training as hard as men in the gym
A: Unfortunately, I think that both men and women still believe the misconceptions about women and training so it deters most women from training hard. As people become more educated and more women begin to train and debunk these myths, we will hopefully be seen as equals as we step onto the deadlift platform!

Q:Outside of training, any other hobbies or activities you enjoy?
A: I love my job because I have a passion for working with and helping people. Aside from that, I like to cook and bake (and share my goodies!). I also enjoy being active, including going for walks and playing in the park with my dog, Blue.

Q: Describe Lisa Mathern in five words.
A: Loving, dedicated, witty, fun, genuine

Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
A: Hmmm...I don’t think I can publicly share the things that people would find most surprising! But some people are surprised to hear that I have hypothyroidism since it is usually accompanied with symptoms of being lethargic and overweight. I do get tired a lot, and would take massive amounts of pre-workout supplements to try to get me going. When I was eating the powders like Fun Dip and taking 5 hour energy drinks immediately followed by 5 hour naps, I realized something was off. Now when I’m tired, I just push through.

Q: Any set plans for the near future as far as competing or anything else?
A: I plan to definitely compete Spring 2012, but I went to a posing clinic a few weeks ago and when I put the heels on, I got the itch compete sooner!

Q: Anything you want to take this opportunity to plug or promote?
A: I want to thank my team, All Natural Options for being a strong support in my journey on stage. They are an amazing group of natural bodybuilders who are going to go really far in the sport. I’d also like to thank Joe Franco for his guidance with my macro plan which wouldn’t have shown the necessary results without the training expertise of Kevin Robinson and Adam Michael Signoretta!

Q: Are you looking for sponsors? If so how can they reach you and what are they getting in Lisa Mathern the athlete and competitor?
A: I have a passion for building strong bodies and minds and look to help others through education and building the right skills. I am an experienced health educator, counselor, and am pursuing my personal training certification. If anyone is looking to work with me in these areas, I can be contacted through email at

Q: Lisa, again, I thank you for taking the time to do this. Any last words before you go?
A: Thanks again for the opportunity!


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