Friday, July 20, 2012

IFBB Pro Paula Williams-Gulman Interview

Photo Credits:
Photos 1-5 RX Muscle

After becoming interested in fitness after seeing it on television, Paula Williams-Gulman worked her butt off before finally earning her long overdue Pro card in 2011. In 2012 she has competed twice, first, making her pro fitness debut and making a great accounting of herself at the FLEX Pro and then recently competed in the physique division for the first time at the Chicago pro. It appears she has interest in continuing in physique, and knowing how hard Paula has worked to get where she is, there is no doubt that work ethic will continue and she will keep getting better and better and placing higher and higher in physique or fitness if she continues to compete in that division.

Q: Can you talk about how you got started in the gym?
A: Back in 1993 I started with a local competition which was the Ms. Fitness.

Q: So is that what got you interested in the gym?
A: Oh yes! I was teaching aerobics classes and Ms. Fitness came on television. When it first started to really take off back in the early 1990's. I saw the 1993 Ms. Fitness USA's and saw Carol Semple and was mesmerized and hooked at that very second. I started training the very next day and walked on stage three months later and qualified for USA's. I took third in my first shot out.

Q: Were you nervous that first time?
A: I was very nervous in that they had a gown round where we had to say a speech. I was nervous in that round but felt very comfortable in the fitness round and physique round.

Q: A lot of people say after competing the first time it becomes an addiction, was that the case for you?
A: Yes extremely. I think I did seven shows that first year.

Q: What was it about competing that hooked you?
A: It is an intense high that you can't really explain to anybody unless they have done it. It is the most overwhelming and intoxicating feeling. Pure joy is the easiest way I can explain it.

Q: In 2011 at Jr. USA's you won your pro card, can you describe your feeling at that time?
A: I was fighting back my tears haha. Because I had tried so many times with near misses, so I did not expect to walk away with a pro card. It was the most overwhelming sense of joy and accomplishment. I almost wanted to fall down to my knees but I contained myself, and then I walked off stage and did on the side stage haha.

Q: You mentioned the near misses, did it ever become frustrating?
A: Oh yes! I wanted to quit so many times, but the reason I kept returning to the stage after year after year of think I should have placed higher is my children. I had to prove to them that if you want something bad enough you need to stick with it till you achieve it. If I would have quit I would have been letting my children down with teaching them that important lesson in life.

Q: On my blog, for the 2011 awards, you pretty much swept the entire amateur fitness competitor awards, does it make you feel good that so many people thought so highly of you and followed you?
A: Yes! As I replied to you then, I didn't even know that was going on, I had no clue. When you started posting all the awards I had won, I was so overjoyed that I had touched so many people's hearts along my way. That is what kept me coming back, every time after a show when I didn't do so well, I would get so many calls and emails from girls who would tell me what a role model I was, to keep pushing. When I won all those awards from you I was overjoyed. It touched more than you can believe.

Q: For your pro debut were you any more nervous than for previous ones?
A: Yes, because I was going against the top in the world. I had no idea when I signed up for the FLEX that the top eight from the Olympia were competing. I was a little nervous about that and following the fitness routines against that level of competitors. But then again, this is what I have worked for my entire career. For me, it was like closure, like walking on the Olympia stage my first shot out. It was an amazing feeling.

Q: Is competing on the pro stage any different?
A: No, the girls are just as amazing. We were all basically bonded with sisterhood cheering each other on. The IFBB girls are to me, the same as the NPC girls, instant family.

Q: At some shows there are very few girls competing in the fitness division, what do you attribute that to?
A: I was very very disappointed to see the turnout at Jr. Nationals. Seeing such small classes with those pro cards up for grabs. I don't know if it has to do with the new scoring system where routine is so much value over physique. I'm not sure if that's what's deterring, because we had more competitors when it was spread out for three rounds, two piece, one piece and routine, all equal scoring. I'm not sure if it is that or they are just finding it too hard to train and do routine.

Q: One girl said to me she thinks girls aren't trying fitness because they think they have to be a gymnast, is that accurate to you?
A: I am one of the few girls who is not a gymnast. I don't do any gymnastics other than a cartwheel in my routine. I tell girls all the time, it is not a gymnast competition, it is a strength competition. So, work on your strength moves and you can do well in fitness. When you see one front round-off back hand spring, it looses its value so you do not need to be a gymnast to win.

Q: Recently you did physique at the Chicago Pro, why did you do physique?
A: I went physique in that show because it was my trainer Time Gardner's show. I wanted to compete in his first pro show. I was terrified. I flew to Denver to train with Carol Semple to learn posing and routine. Once I mastered the posing I was so excited to walk on stage. Like fitness, you have the routine and the posing, so it is like a show. You have to have that routine down to do well. I enjoyed it more than fitness because I had more stage time, the forty-five second posing routine in the morning and the two minute night routine with no mandatory moves. It was amazing to put a routine together. I loved physique and cant wait to do it again.

Q: So you do plan to do more physique?
A: I can cross and do both. As far as my injuries from over the years, I am having trouble with some of the fitness mandatories. Physique is easier on my body right now. I am thinking about one hundred percent switching, but haven't made that decision yet because I still love fitness.

Q: How hard was it to learn the posing?
A: It was extremely difficult. We are so trained to pose like figure competitors so it was difficult to learn how to do things like rotate the back to hit the back double bicep. That will be a work in progress. Luckily my best friend is one of the top supers in the world and he is helping me. With a year of training I think I can do well.

Q: As compared to fitness preps, did you do anything different?
A: No believe it or not, except I wasn't having to kill myself in the fitness routine practice. The training was exactly the same.

Q: Any idea when you will be on stage next?
A: If I had a sponsor, hint hint haha, I would be on stage in October, but with finances how they are, probably early next year.

Q: By then, physique wise, where would you like to improve?
A I would like to bring in my upper physique and come in a little bit fuller. I thought my conditioning was great, I felt comfortable and proud of my posing. The feedback was just to get a little fuller, I was probably the smallest girl on stage.

Q: In the gym, do you get the unwanted attention or stares?
A: I live in a small town in North Idaho, so there isn't many competitors walking around, yet we have a lot of iron-man athletes here. So being more of a bodybuilder physique I stand out a little bit. Most people don't really come up and bother me in the gym. It is a small town and everyone knows each other.

Q: In public, do you dress to cover up and avoid attention or more proud and showing it off?
A: I always cover my physique up in the gym, but outside I wear shorts and a tank-top and I definitely stand out with my legs. I'm not the average mom around town haha.

Q: At the Arnold's, I noticed you were one of the more engaging people working booth's, is that something you enjoy?
A: Yes! They call me a social butterfly. You cant walk me through a show without me stopping to talk to everybody. My family hates it, they wont come to shows with me anymore haha.

Q: If you could spend a day training with anyone who would you pick?
A: Carol Semple. My idol and mentor and friend has always been Carol Semple.

Q: Anyone you want to thank?
A: I have to thank Cynthia James. She took me under her wing at 2010 Jr. Nationals when I did not place. She thought that was my show. She encouraged me to not quit and molded me into the competitor I am today. Elaine Craig has supported me since I came out of retirement with great feedback. Carol Semple for giving me the choreography and encouragement. My best friend Todd Jewell for his support these last couple years and motivating me to try physique. My trainer, Tim Gardner and my two kids Candi and Stevie, they are so helpful and supportive. Sometimes I miss a soccer game here and there and they are so supportive about it.


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