Wednesday, January 23, 2013
IFPA Pro Melissa Johnson Interview
Photos 1-3: Chinga Moalusi Photography
After starting at the gym at an early age, Melissa Johnson knew she had found something she loved. So much so that she became a pro bodybuilder. For reasons she discusses in this interview, she stopped competing, only to return this year and again win her pro card, this time in the figure division. Set to make her pro debut in May, if she makes the improvements she knows she needs to make, I expect she might really make a splash quick in the pro division.
Q: Can you talk about how you got started in the gym?
A: It was kind of on a whim. My sister had just gotten engaged and wanted to get in shape for her wedding. I was sixteen and she needed a workout partner. I ended up starting training with her and I fell in love with it in the first two weeks. I loved how my body felt and I was seeing changes in my body.
Q: When you first started would you have ever imagined taking it to the level you have?
A: Never! I actually started competing within four years after I started. It took a drastic turn really quick. I just knew I wanted to do it. When I started I just wanted to look good haha.
Q: What made you want to compete?
A: When I was nineteen I saw this girl in my gym, she was a trainer. She was a bodybuilder. I saw her transform her body in twelve weeks, she wasn't fat, but just an amazing transformation in twelve weeks. I thought to myself "I wanna do that to my body." I thought it was the neatest thing to see someone have such discipline and do what she did. I was hooked.
Q: A lot of people I interview say that after that first show it becomes addicting for them, was that the case for you?
A: It definitely was! Part of it was I was striving to be better. My first show I didn't do well at all. I just got this itch to get better and better. I saw all these girls on stage who looked better than me and I strived to look as good as they did.
Q: Was anything surprising to you about competing?
A: Maybe a little bit about how diet plays a role. I didn't know it was crucial and how different each diet is for each person. I thought it was cookie cutter. I knew you had to workout hard and had that down, but the diet was a shock to me at the beginning.
Q: You had taken some time off before returning this year, why did you take the time off?
A: I started out in bodybuilding. I got up to the pre-qualifier for National level. To qualify I had to get bigger. I was up to one-seventy on my off-season and didn't wanna be that big anymore. Since I am so tall it takes a lot to put a lot of muscle on me. I decided to stop and live a normal life. I wanted to take time off and see where life would take me. I continued to workout and eat healthy but I just didn't know where I wanted to go with it. Figure came out and got popular and I thought it would be perfect for me. My body is perfect for that. I didn't wanna be big and bulky anymore, I wanted to be lean and muscular. It worked out.
Q: How did you know now was the time to come back?
A: I had been wanting to come back for a year. The timing wasn't good. I started to get more serious about it. I didn't feel ready in my physique so I spent time figuring out if I would be able to do well. I didn't want to be the person to do it half way, I wanna be my best and that is why I waited.
Q: Outside of quarter turns as opposed to posing, what is the biggest difference between the two?
A: The training is not really different. I don't lift max like with bodybuilding. I train with the same intensity but it's not about how much I can lift anymore. I get to do higher reps now. And the heels haha.
Q: You got your IFPA pro card in October at the Gateway Naturals, did you expect it so quick?
A: I was hoping. I chose that show on purpose. It is one of the biggest in the area and I knew it brought good competitors and I would have to be on top of my game. When I showed up I was really nervous and I am not usually the nervous type. The first time I won my pro card it was whatever happens happens. This time was different because I had already been there and felt I had big shoes to fill. So I was nervous. I didn't expect it but I was hoping for it. If I didn't I planned to get it by the end of the year, ready to do another show, I was bound and determined.
Q: Obviously judges were happy but how happy were you with what you brought to the stage?
A:I am very happy with what I brought to the stage but I always feel there is room for improvement. I was looking last night at the pictures and thinking I need bigger shoulders. I could have waited to come back and build my shoulders, but I am very pleased with how I looked. It is the best I have ever looked.
Q: Have you decided when to make your pro debut?
A: Yes! My pro debut will be May 10th at the IFPA Pro North Americans in Minnesota.
Q: Is there one area you need to improve for the pro stage?
A: Yes, it is definitely my shoulders. I feel like the rest of my body can keep up. I have an injury in my neck and it scares me when I lift upper body and sometimes it holds me back.
Q: When you are working to improve a specific area, how much extra work do you do on it?
A: A lot! I train shoulders twice a week. I train shoulders and legs twice a week to keep my legs looking how they are and I would like to add a little mass. I do a heavy shoulder day and a more focused day on like laterals and rear delts.
Q: For the pro stage do you expect to be more nervous?
A: I do! But I feel like this is a new venture for me, I have never done a pro show. I need to relax and take it all in and enjoy the experience. It isn't like an amateur show where you can look at all the girls and go "I can win", it is a whole new venture. I feel blessed to experience it and hope for the best. If someone beats me with a better physique, that is the way it goes.
Q: In the gym, do you get a lot of attention or stares?
A: I do. I got a lot when I trained for my last show. I don't mind it. It doesn't seem to be bad. Some weird stares from girls who think I am too muscular, but not too many guys do and a lot were impressed with it.
Q: If you could spend one day training with someone you have never trained with, who would it be?
A: It would have to be Erin Stern. She is an amazing athlete and person. Her training is different from most figure athletes. She has improved her physique so much.
Q: Anyone you want to thank?
A: My sponsor A1Supplements.com, I write a blog on their forum every day of my workouts and am featured in their ads and am really blessed to have them. Also I am sponsored by Forbidden Creations Posing Suits and will be rocking her suits this year. Also, my coach Alex Ellis, she is my nutritionist and posing coach and has been the light at the end of my tunnel and changed my body tremendously. We are part of a team, TCP The Complete Package, and she does everything fro show prep, tanning to hair to makeup. We are getting bigger and bigger every day. She has been my savior and I love her.