Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sheena Hunter Interview

Photo Credits:
Photos 1-2: Tony Kinard
Photos 3-5: RX Muscle

I still remember when I first became aware of Sheena Hunter. It was early on when I started the fan page for this blog. She was a member of the fan page, and admittedly I did not know her at all. I came to found out a little about her, such as her beginning in powerlifting and at that point had competed once in bodybuilding. Getting to know her I became so impressed with her. She had such an impressive attitude, not just about bodybuilding, but life in general. Last time Sheena was on stage was the 2010 Tracey Greenwood. She is not just weeks from returning to the stage. For people knew to training, Sheena is one of the first I would recommend they find out about and learn from.

Q: You started out with powerlifting, what got you interested in that?
A: Well, I wanted to get healthier and was fascinated by weight training in general. I met Mike, who is my fiance now, and was struggling to get into shape. I was doing way to much cardio, I wasn't eating enough. I wasn't taking care of myself. I secretly was watching people in the weight room, there was a girl who was squatting at my gym at school and I was always envious. One day Mike got me in the gym and put me under a squat bar and said "try it out and see what you think". The form came really naturally to me and it felt right. It was awesome. After that he got me on the bench and then deadlifting. I got really comfortable and was stronger than I thought I was. Then I started thinking "if I started eating better would I be stronger", and I ate better and was indeed stronger. Then I just got fascinated with strength in general. I wanted to get stronger and stronger. Then I entered my first powerlifting contest to see what I could do. I found that my interest in food had taken over my interest in lifting and that is where I broke off into the bodybuilding side of things.

Q: Was that the only reason, or is bodybuilding something you had thought about before?
A: It was really a natural progression for me. I was really fascinated with the science of food. What could I feed my body that would yield the reaction? The cause and affect was fascinating. Lifting was still a priority and was still fun but I felt after a while that powerlifting didn't give me the opportunity to explore the food body correlation like I wanted. A lot of powerlifters weren't talking about food the way I was, and I realized I had more in common with the bodybuilders. The more I was manipulating my foods and learning my body it became apparent I had decent genetics for bodybuilding. People asked "are you gonna try bodybuilding?" I was mortified, I didn't wanna be that girl in the gym who said "yeah I am gonna go be a bodybuilder." I didn't tell anybody I was thinking about it. It seemed like something I could never do. Secretly I was still experimenting with foods and my body and getting great results. Finally at a powerlifting meet and my gym owner said "someone over there wants to know if you are going to compete in bodybuilding", and for some reason I said "yep, I am going to." So I had to pick a show and move forward with it. It was really a moment that just happened quickly. After that I just fell in love.

Q: The first time you competed, where powerlifting it is just whoever lifts the most wins, where you nervous knowing now it would be based on who the judges liked?
A: Yeah, that was nerve racking, but not because I was worried I wouldn't win. It was because I was coming out of a little corner in Maine and had no idea what a bodybuilder looked like. I had pictures but had never seen one in person. I had no idea if I was near the mark. I did the best I could and showed up with what I thought was my best package. For me, competing, even now, my goal is not to win, my goal is not to go pro, those things are great and I am in pursuit of those, but I love the process. What happens when my body is depleted and then I give it a couple carbs. I love the entire process and standing on stage is something I have to do to make the process make sense. It is a goal to show up with my best package, but to me feeding that package is the fun part.

Q: Last time you competed was the 2010 Tracey Greenwood. You were the only girl in your class, is it frustrating to do all that work and then not have anyone to compete against?
A: That was horrible. I was frustrated. People would say "at least you are gonna win", but I didn't wanna win like that. I could have looked terrible and still won and that's not a good feeling. I wanted to really show up and get an honest assessment and be compared to someone who had done the same work. I wanted that moment. In fact, I stood next to another woman who was the only heavyweight and that was a moment where I was mortified. Here I was feeling like the little bodybuilder that could. Looking back, it wasn't a bad experience. At the time my heart sunk and I was pretty negative about it.

Q: Why do you think sometimes at shows like that that there are so few bodybuilders?
A: That question is so complex. I think that sponsorship opportunities for figure and bikini are more abundant. I don't like standing there feeling like I am competing in a category that has been slighted. That is really frustrating. Sometimes we get overlooked or are thrown in at the end after the audience gets their eye candy. The descriptions the announcers give to figure and bikini are so exciting and get the crowd pumped and then it is dead silence when the female bodybuilders are up there. I think a lot women don't wanna be part of a category like that. We don't wanna compete in a category with few competitors, but at the same time, the more we don't compete, the more it dies. Also, I think there is frustration from novices who wanna get started in bodybuilding but don't have a chance because some of their personal boundaries don't allow them to achieve the size and hardness that some of the other female bodybuilders have.

Q: I am trying my best to not make this question sound creepy. When I see your stage pictures, I am always really impressed with your chest muscle wise compared to most girls who have less competing experience. Would you attribute that to doing a lot of benching when you were doing the powerlifting?
A: That's an interesting question. It's not creepy at all, it is incredibly flattering because I never thought of it that way. Even now when I bench, I go heavy up until recently since it is close to my show. Every time I bench and feel those muscles even in my shoulder I am thinking "wow, how often does this exercise get overlooked by women?" I often wonder, not just in my chest, but in my delts, how much of what I have is due to the bench. That is a really good question, and one I don't know the answer to.

Q: I worked real hard on trying to word that one so it didn't sound like a schmoe comment?
A: I think it's really cool that you can because I am a bodybuilder, I am trying to build my chest. I walk down the stairs and people say "dude you got big legs", and I am a girl, it's not supposed to be a compliment but in my world i is one. So to have a compliment on my pecs is an incredible compliment. Being a woman, most people, even in bodybuilding, it isn't what people are looking at. So I am incredibly flattered you noticed and asked about it.

Q: You mentioned you are close to competing, what show are you doing and how far out are you?
A: I am doing the Knoxville Classic in Tennessee on August 4th. So two and a half weeks out.

Q: From last show to this one, physique wise, how will you be better?
A: Well I took about a two year break. I was still training but got to wrapped up in the work of it and stopped having fun with it. I took a break and went to boxing and then muay-thai and jiu-jitsu while I was still lifting. I decided I wanted it to be fun and fall in love with it again, and I did. I went back and started hitting the weights hard trying to get some more size. I didn't really know where I was with it until this prep. I am a few pounds over where I was last time at this stage and my body fat is the same. More size in my shoulders and thickness in my back. I have also changed how I train my legs. My legs tend to be bigger than the rest of my body and build quickly. I started doing more plyos and tack workouts for my legs and have changed the shape of my legs, which I am proud of.

Q: Is it hard to balance the training and everything, especially during prep, with being a mother?
A: I never had the opportunity to prep or train for anything before being a mother so it's really all I know. In fact, I think it helps me out. If it was just me I wouldn't have a routine, I could sleep till eleven in the morning and go to the gym when I felt like it. I don't know if I would have the discipline I have now. I wake up and do cardio before my daughter is up, which is excellent. Now she is old enough that she plays sports, she takes boxing and jiu-jitsu, so we train at the same time. With food, it isn't difficult. She eats what I eat for the most part, I just modify it to make it kid friendly. In my house, I don't ever use the word diet because I don't want to raise her with a complex. We explain why sometimes I eat things and sometimes I don't, there is a time for everyone. When Saturday comes around and it is time for a cheat meal, we dot cal it a cheat meal, we call it a crazy meal. It is an opportunity to go and eat something that maybe in school she has learned is a little un-healthy. Maybe we limit her sweets but on Saturday we let her pick desert. It is an opportunity for her to learn there is a time and place for everything. Being a mom is what makes it work.

Q: In the gym, do you get a lot of the unwanted attention or stares?
A: I used to. Sometimes it would be guys checking me out or guys who were grossed out or acted like they were. Now I am in a different environment, a fighting gym where most of the staff and trainers and clients are in the MMA world, a lot of athletes who understand the diet process and don't judge me. I trained with those guys when I did muay-thai they hit me and I rolled with them in jiu-jitsu, and boxed with them, so no one sees me that way. They have seen me at my worst, all sweaty and nasty, swollen face fresh out of head gear. If anything, they would be more likely to be mad at anyone checking me out. Also, my fiance trains with them as well which is never a bad thing.

Q: In public, do you dress more to cover up and avoid attention, or proud of it and dress to show it off?
A: I live in Georgia and it is hot as hell, so covering up is not an option. When I was younger, I wouldn't cover up but I was self conscious, wondering how people would take me. Other times I would be real proud about it and feel self conscious, I had a complex about it. Now, it is part of my life, it's how I look, it's who I am. I am proud of it but not flaunting it. I am a personal trainer, so I am a walking advertisement for what I do haha. It is funny, but I feel like sometimes I make friends easier when I look like this because then I make sense to them. Sometimes people don't know how to take me, they see me in the gym, they know I compete or know I am about nutrition and training, but once they see it in action it makes more sense. I'm not flaunting it, I'm not ashamed of it, it's just who I am and I am o.k. with that.

Q: If you could spend a day training with anyone, who would you pick?
A: You know, I have had the pleasure of getting some awesome hard core training in with some amazing powerlifters and I would go more towards the powerlifters than the bodybuilders if I had to choose to train with someone. But for me the training is really really personal so honestly I don't think I would actually enjoy training with someone for the actual training part, but there are people I would like to be in a room with for an hour because we have a lot in common. One is Allison Moyer. I follow her on facebook and we have interacted a little bit and I really like her outlook on things. She does more of a functional training type thing, high intensity intervals, and I think it would be fun.

Q: Anyone you want to thank?
A: Yeah, all my friends, my family and the people at my gym, Iron Clutch Fitness in Marietta, Georgia. This has been the most supported contest prep I have ever had. Everyone has been positive and uplifting. People have been coming out of the wood work on facebook, people I haven't talked to in years, all having something nice to say. They make me feel what I am doing has a purpose. Sometimes I feel like "o.k. I wanted to go help people and be a writer and this isn't what I had in mind. I was gonna make a difference in the world and here I am teaching people how to eat". So many have reached out and talked about how I have encouraged them and in the process they have uplifted me. Also, I am a freelance writer and have a blog, and am always pursuing opportunities to write for other people and magazines.

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