Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Rebecca Jackson Interview
Photos 1-4: RX Muscle/Jeff Binns
While she has always been training, what drove Rebecca Jackson to compete is different than most. A tumor was found in her neck and was told that removing it would cause things such as gaining potentially sixty pounds. That was unacceptable to Rebecca, so to prove her point she set her sights on getting on stage in a figure show. This year she made the switch to physique, including winning the overall at the N.C. State.
Q: Can you talk about how you got started in the gym?
A: I grew up in sports, my father was a coach. It was always something we did. I played sports, I watched him, I played mostly with my brother, he is closer in age to me than me sister. I was always out back, always in the weight room, very interested in that. I went to college and did athletic training, was in the training room with the athletes, taping ankles. Watching the guys lift, I became fascinated at that and said "I wanna do that, why don't you see women in the weight room at the gym." Girls were always doing cardio. My dad, not that he didn't raise me like a girl, but he had the tough hand, "don't cry, dust yourself off, work to your best." It followed me through the years.
Q: What made you decide to try competing?
A: I didn't put much thought into it until 2009 when I discovered a tumor in my neck. Through a series of biopsies, I found out it was Hurthle Cell Carcinoma of the thyroid, a thyroid cancer. I am an information junkie so the first thing I did was get on the Internet and I found websites and support groups and all of this stuff. At the time I was personal training, I was the Health and Wellness Director for the YMCA. Everything I read was that I would gain sixty pounds and be miserable and be tired all the time, everything was doom and gloom. I told the doctor "you're not taking it out, this isn't gonna work, I am a personal trainer, I can't gain sixty pounds, you have to leave it in." He said that won't work, that it had to be removed. I was horrible, I did not do well when he told me that. I did more research and looking into the med's that they give you after. I don't have the thyroid anymore, so I am completely dependent on Synthroid to regulate my hormone levels. The generic from what I found, doesn't work, that the name brand of Synthroid is the only brand there is that works. I thought there was light at the end of the tunnel. Talking to some clients, they went through it with me because I was training at the time. I said "I am gonna prove a point, let's see if I can prove the biggest point ever and get on a stage in a tiny bikini and show what I did." I didn't gain sixty pounds, I am not miserable, and I got on s stage in a tiny bikini in front of a ton of people. I remember being backstage at the Contra Costa and the girls were like "aren't you nervous?" I said "no, what is there to be nervous about? I am happy I am here, this is cool for me." I didn't even care if I placed. I placed second in Masters and third in Open. I thought it was cool and fun.
Q: A lot of girls I interview say they do the first show and it becomes addicting, was that the case with you?
A: Yeah it was. For me, it was an interesting experience because they wouldn't let coaches backstage. I was back there by myself, I didn't know anybody at that time, I didn't know those girls. I sat quietly and watched. Looking at everyones physique and taking mental notes. When you look in a mirror you don't have a good concept of how you look. I thought I looked horrible and everyone said I was stupid. I didn't see what they saw. Then you see photos of you on stage and it's like "oh, wow, that looks really cool." I looked different than I had pictured in my head and said "let's see what else I can do with my body, now I wanna build." The girl who won first, her shoulders were bigger, her arms were more defined and I said "I wanna look like her". I said "I can do that, there is no reason I can't."
Q: You started with figure and then switched to physique, was there a specific reason?
A: Yeah, that was thanks to Kat (Ramirez). She came out to California for my figure show, she helped with my prep. After the Contra Costa, four months later I sent her a photo. She called me and said "If you are planning on doing Nationals in figure, you need to stop lifting and stop eating. You are too big. You need to come back down. Stop going heavy and start doing plyos and cardio, or stay on the path and build muscle and switch." She didn't tell me which way to go, it was that I need to make a decision and pick a goal for my physique. I said "let's try physique", even though I was super nervous, the posing freaked me out. Before I moved from California I was gonna do the Contra Costa in physique but I moved so it was a little while before my next one. So I sucked it up and learned the posing and switched.
Q: How hard was the posing to learn?
A: It was a little stressful. You have the mandatory poses, very different from the quarter turns. As my body changed from week to week, my coach would change it "do this, move here, put your foot here, open up a little wider." He was helping me, but it was a lot of work, there is a lot of work and time in posing to get your physique to pop out and display your best package to the judges. You have to know where you are without looking in a mirror. It is nerve-racking. All hail to those girls who do it beautifully and make it look easy.
Q: A lot of people who switch from figure to physique tell me how they had to change training and diet, but is it fair to say that in your case, switching allowed you to actually keep training how you were?
A: My training stayed for the most part the same. I was fortunate when I came here, not only to have my coach Kevin Dehaven but my training partner Joe, they hammered me and they switched it from week to week. I trained hard and heavy. All through my prep, I didn't back down near the end, my energy was up and they were still feeding me a lot of food.
Q: You took the overall at N.C. State, did that confirm to you it was the right move?
A: Yeah! I am still in shock. Everyone was like "really, how did you not know?" To me, everyone up there looked great. It was definitely cool. I always go in thinking "you never know, I am happy to get what I get." I cant explain it, still in shock and thrilled to death and thankful. I am happy I switched. I could still do figure and do well I think. The entire day was a lot of energy and great experience for me.
Q: Then you did Jr. USA and you didn't place but as I have told you, you looked great and was impressed with how you tightened up the glute and hamstring area. How happy were you with what you brought?
A: I was happy with how I looked. I thought my legs looked a lot better than at N.C. State. My upper body came down, I lost some size in my back. Not that it was bad, I looked proportionate. I was definitely tighter, there were subtle differences. For me, it wasn't what they were looking for but I did what I was told to do. I trusted my coach and his guidance. I know that I followed his directions, cardio and diet, and that was my package and I can say I didn't screw around and that is good enough for me. I did what I was told and did my thing.
Q: Were you any more nervous for a National stage?
A: The funny thing is that I didn't have time to be nervous. I almost missed my group. We had our order of events and I was back there and men's bodybuilding was going on. I was going over things sitting with my coach and he said that after men's heavyweights he was gonna look at my posing. They went on and we were backstage going over poses. We went over my sixty second routine and men's physique was next and they had 200 competitors and were before us. I was talking to somebody and looked up and thought "wait a second, that is Wendy Gerkman, she is in physique A, oh my God." So I had five minutes to get pumped up, oiled up and on stage cause they fixed the order. I got up there, and it was done before I knew it.
Q: Do you know when you want to compete next?
A: I was toying with the idea of doing nationals in November but the more I look at the pro shows and even National shows, they are looking for more size. I think maybe I will do Jr. USA's next year. That is what it is looking like. I haven't totally ruled out Nationals, but there are some areas I want to improve. My coach said "you aren't getting to big on me" but I know where there is a line and limit. When I dieted down there wasn't as much muscle in areas as I thought.
Q: Is there one area you feel you most need to improve?
A: My legs. Looking at some of those girls, I need more size and my glutes, when i diet down I tend to lose my tush. It didn't look bad on stage I don't think, but it loses some of its fullness. I will be doing butt blasters till the cows come home.
Q: If you could spend a day training with someone you have never trained with, who would it be?
A: Monique Jones is one. She fascinates me. I have seen her progression, she started in figure, till now. The other is Alyssa Stroud. Those two pop into my head. I bet I would have a crazy workout with Alyssa.
Q: Anyone you want to thank?
A: Obviously my coach Kevin Dehaven who is a promoter in North Carolina, Main Stage Muscle is his promotion group. I can't thank him enough. Joe Weaver who is a huge supporter and training partner and responsible for kicking my butt in the gym and yelling at me to suck it up and do cardio and stop eating peanut butter. My parents, they were a huge support at both of my show and did a lot for me. N'keigh Wheeler, she won South Carolina State bodybuilding and I wore her suit for N.C. State and Lisa Zisa who did my amazing suit for Jr. USA's. Also Adam Weidel from Silverback Krew for all my gym and workout gear.