Thursday, January 12, 2012
Cheryl Jackson Interview
Q: First, Cheryl, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this.
A: Thank you for the opportunity! It is my absolute pleasure.
Q: Can you start out by telling a little about yourself.
A: I am 39 years young. Originally from West Virginia (yes, I am a coal miner’s daughter), I moved to the Maryland suburbs when I was 14 after my parents divorced. I went to college in Oklahoma (GO COWBOYS!!) and eventually ended up in Baltimore, MD. I spent my whole life dreaming of being a lawyer so I got a degree in Public Policy and a Masters in Conflict Management. Then got a job as a paralegal and realized I hated it and absolutely did not want to be a lawyer. I am now a contracts administrator for an IT firm. I have 2 beautiful daughters ages 19 and 15. I LOVE, LOVE, LOOOOVVVEEE football and am I am a huge Steelers fan. I realize that makes me public enemy number one in Maryland but I will let the haters hate ;). I am also a Yankees fan and a Heat fan. I don’t have many friends when it comes to professional sports but the trash talk is half the fun.
Q: Before the gym were you an especially athletic person? Play any sports or anything?
A: Yes. I have been involved in sports all of my life. I’m a tomboy and as a kid I remember playing contact football with my male cousins which drove my dad NUTS. I have played basketball, soccer and was a competitive cheerleader. I played rugby in college and again as an adult. My last time on the pitch was 2009.
Q: What initially led you into the gym?
A: Well, I was married for a bit. That all went to hell and in 2009 after major surgery and realizing that I was miserable I hobbled my happy ass out the door. Me and my daughters rented an overpriced apartment in downtown Baltimore. Between barely paying the rent, struggling to feed my kids and recouping from a Fulkerson Osteotomy and a lateral release on my leg/knee, I became depressed and started putting on weight. I was never a big girl but I got to the heaviest I had ever been. At 149lbs, a size 10/12, stage 2 hypertension and getting winded walking 2 blocks, I decided that I needed to get my act together. In 2011 I took advantage of the January rock bottom gym deals and signed up for a year at Gold’s with the intention of getting back to “normal” size via Body Pump. It was a random purchase of Muscle & Fitness Hers that ignited the fire. I not only realized that muscular women are sexier than waify chicks I discovered that this is also a sport. There was no looking back after that. I was eating clean and hitting the weights daily.
Q: Was training something you picked up fairly easy? How long before you started to see results?
A: I picked it up pretty quick. I was no newbie to the gym. We had just become estranged over the years. I started dropping pounds pretty quick. I have a naturally fast metabolism and come from genetically lean stock. When I started carb cycling for contest prep last year I went from 11% body fat to 8% body fat in about 3 weeks. It is a blessing and a curse. Although I lean out to single digit body fat levels with minimal effort, gaining muscle is very difficult for me. The eating part was pretty easy (carb cycling was a big adjustment). I never had a big sweet tooth and my former husband was a chef so I was no stranger to fresh quality veggies and lean meats. But, as a southern girl, I do miss deep fried things. And I love salt but once the doctor said “hypertension” I kicked it to the curb.
Q: What made you decide to compete for the first time?
A: That random magazine purchase. I picked up a magazine to look for workouts and clean eating recipes. I was skipping over the ads (which is half the magazine these days) until I came across a Nutrex ad with Larissa Reis. I wanted to look like that. On the opposite page was a photo of Jessica Paxson Putnam and their photos noted that they were IFBB pros. At that point I thought my days of participating in sports were over due to my surgery so I was very excited to discover that getting fit was a sport.
Q: Is competing something your family and friends supported?
A: For the most part yes. I had a few snickers and most still have no idea what it is so I am constantly explaining that I am not a female bodybuilder. My kids and boyfriend are super supportive. They question when I don’t do to the gym and they always double check with me on dinner so they know whether they need to add or omit something from my food. They do get huffy about my supplement table in the kitchen and my empty Muscle Gel packets all over my car.
Q: Was competing what you expected or did anything surprise you about it?
A: It wasn’t as uptight and rigid as I thought it would be. Everyone is friendly and supportive for the most part. There is always that one salty girl in the bunch but I ignore people like that. As a black woman I was a bit concerned about the whole tanning thing but other than it getting on every damn thing it wasn’t that bad.
Q: Can you share your contest history.
A: Mine is short. I did the Brandywine Cup last year. I placed 2nd in Class C and 4th in Masters. I was going to compete at Nationals but I didn’t feel ready. My body needs more mass. I will hit the stage again on March 31st in NYC. I planned on applying for the Arnold but I recently changed jobs so I couldn’t get the time off L I do have about 5 shows planned for this year. I have spent some time lifting and working on my quads. My right quad was harder to build due the nature of my surgery. I was concerned about it so I focused on that the last few months.
Q: As far as body parts, what do you feel is your best one?
A: Abs. Hands down. And I now see veins in my abs. My kids think I am crazy for being excited about that. Part of my love for the abs is vanity. I have never in my 39 years had flat abs let alone a 6 pack. Seeing it after having 2 kids is pretty awesome.
Q: Do you have a part you most like to train or favorite exercise?
A: I like training shoulders and back. Favorite exercise would have to be bicep curls.
Q: What is your normal training routine and diet like and how do you alter it for contest prep?
A: I don’t really have a routine. I keep track of what part(s) I train each day and how much cardio I do and make adjustments as needed. I do try to hit the gym daily. I get bored easily so I have to switch things up often. That said, I recently started Crossfit. I HATE cardio and I have always wanted to try it so I gave it a shot. It is now part of my routine. I am a newbie so I can’t always do the WOD but I do Oly lifting twice a week and the WOD’s are my cardio. Contrary to what people think, Crossfit is not just rounds of exercises for time. I am doing lifts I have NEVER tried. I am doing overhead squats, snatches and learning to perfect my form on back squats so I can go ass to grass with more weight. I can see the difference in my quads and hammies. Diet wise I eat clean in the off season. Not a lot of cheat meals. I always feel guilty about it. That said, with the Crossfit came Paleo (they asked so I tried it). It was hard giving up the oatmeal but I did it. Turns out it was the Greek Yogurt I couldn’t kick so I am what they call Lacto-Paleo. I don’t buy into the reasoning behind eating Paleo but I like it and the recipes are fantastic! I am currently in contest prep so I am carb cycling for the next few weeks. I will go to very low carb about 6-8 weeks out. I monitor my protein and fat intake and the dairy will be gone in about a week. Drink a gallon of water per day and try to eat every 3 hours.
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: The common response from strangers is “you do what now?” Family and friends seem to think that I eat nothing but salad and supplements.
Q: When they see it that first time, what is the one question or comment you are most sick of hearing?
A: “Don’t you have to spend like 2 hours a day in the gym?” Why do people think that? I hear it a lot.
Q: What is the biggest misconception about women who train and compete or the one thing you wish people understood?
A: That we all take “something” to get that muscular. I am not even that big and I have overheard comments about me taking roids. Everyone has muscle. It is just hiding under bodyfat. People also think that you have to be on some awful bland diet eating like a bird. We just eat clean and healthy. I encourage everyone I talk to eat clean regardless of their workout routine. It’s just good for you. I find this especially important as a women of color from a low income background. Black families have HORRIBLE diets and HORRIBLE health. Most do not have health insurance so we are just digging our own grave. There is a misconception that you can’t eat healthy on a limited income. I am not rich. Hell I am broke half the time. I just make an effort to make better food choices for my family. You may not be able to shop at Whole Foods (who the hell can) or buy grass fed beef BUT you can make the choice to not buy chips, candy, snack cakes and soda and you can bake your chicken instead of frying it.
Q: What is the best and worst part of training for you?
A: The best part is watching the gains happen. I love to take progress pics to see where I have improved. The worst part is the pain. I have osteoarthritis in my knees and it will only get worse so there are days when working my lower body is excruciating. My knees are stronger but the constant grinding of my patella against bone is awful. There have been days when I couldn’t do certain exercises because of the pain.
Q: Do you have any favorite competitors or any you admire?
A: Larissa Reis is my idol. I also love Emily Stirling. She coached me for my first competition. She is a WBFF figure pro and an absolutely amazing lady. Love, love, love her.
Q: Do you have a favorite cheat food?
A: Beer. Not really food. I have always been a beer girl so if I am not prepping and a game is on, beer will happen.
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: Focus on you. Even the best of friends do not understand why we do this. People do not always mean to discourage you but they constantly offer to take you out to dinner or invite you to party and if you are not focused, you will give in to whatever your said weakness is. This is something you have to want 110%. You can’t half ass it. You have to learn to tell friends and family no and to workout when you don’t feel like it and to eat boiled chicken and asparagus while your family enjoys lasagna and garlic bread. It is like anything else in life, you have to make sacrifices to reach your goal. But as long as you focus on you and do it for you, it will be worth it.
Q: Do you think its becoming more common for women to use the weights as opposed to just doing cardio and things?
A: Not really. Women still think that weights = She Hulk and they feel more comfortable in a step class full of ladies then in the weight room. The few women I do see at the gym using weights are doing bicep curls with 2lb dumbbells for 1 set of 20 reps and then spending 20 minutes on every variation of crunch/sit up they can think of and 50 minutes at a steady pace on the elliptical while reading Marie Claire. While I am a big believer in getting up and moving and staying active there comes a point where the movement is not helping you reach your goal. Your body needs to be challenged and I see too many women complaining about no results but they refuse to change what they are doing. If you wanna look sexy in a bikini, you gotta get sweaty in the weight room.
Q: Outside of training, any other hobbies or activities you enjoy?
A: Well, I have kids so a lot of my time is spent playing taxi driver and maid. I love museums and history. I live near DC so my ideal day is hitting the Smithsonian museums or walking along the Mall in the spring. As a sports fan I also take in as many games as possible at M&T Bank and Camden Yards. In the house you will find me watching Law & Order, Hoarders or any horror movie that is on TV at any given moment.
Q: Can you describe a typical day in the life of Cheryl Jackson.
A: Mornings during the week is getting kids to school and getting ready for work. Post work I pick up my youngest from practice (she plays sports year round), then off to the gym or Crossfit. Then home, cleaning, eating, shower, bed not necessarily in that order. Weekends vary depending on what the kids have going on and what needs to be done in the house. Essentially I live a mom life and love every minute of it.
Q: Describe Cheryl Jackson in five words.
A: Potty mouth, determined, stubborn, passionate and loyal
Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
A: I am a metal head. Favorite band is Otep. My love of this band is borderline obsessive. Also love Cradle of Filth, Machine Head, Arch Enemy, Pantera and Dimmu Borgir and many many more. The tat on my back is actually the album cover from the Dimmu Bogir album ‘In Sorte Diaboli’. When it is done it will cover 80% of my back. I am also a Republican. Now that’s 2 things.
Q: Any set plans for the near future as far as competing or anything else?
A: I plan on hitting quite a few shows this year. I hope to get my pro card but I do it more for the love of the stage then the win. I am also studying to get my PT certification. I don’t want to do it full time but the knowledge is helpful and I love helping others out with nutrition and training so I would like to say I am qualified to give advice and assistance.
Q: Anything you want to take this opportunity to plug or promote?
A: CROSSFIT!!!! Crossfit gets a bad rap in the bodybuilding community. No, you cannot do Crossfit and get a physique like Phil Heath BUT Crossfit is great cardio, increases your endurance and if you ever wanted to work on and/or improve your Oly lifts, Crossfit will make that happen. I never went ass to grass in a barbell squat until I started Crossfit. I never did double unders for cardio until Crossfit and I never EVER did snatches until I did Crossfit. Don’t knock it till ya try it ;)
Q: Are you looking for sponsors? If so how can they reach you and what are they getting in Cheryl Jackson the athlete and competitor?
A: Indeed. I am aware that aesthetically I am not like most competitors. I have nongirly tats, I am not uber girly and I can be a bit opinionated. BUT I live this. It is what I do and who I am. When I talk to people about fitness I am passionate and sincere and honest and more importantly, if I believe in someone or something be it a supplement, clothing or a person, I can “sell” with no BS required. I will not support something that I do not believe in. I love this industry because it allowed me to discover something in myself that I did not know existed and I would love the opportunity to share it with others by representing a company that supports this lifestyle be it a protein powder that works as promised or a line of clothing that provides quality gear. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am also on Twitter: @cher_jizzle and Facebook: Cheryl Buffness Jackson.
Q: Cheryl, again, I thank you for taking the time to do this. Any last words before you go
A: Lift heavy or go home.