Tuesday, May 24, 2011
IFPA Pro Cheryl Davis Interview
Cheryl Davis had a life changing moment. What was that moment? When she stepped on stage the first time. She was convinced to compete by her trainer who thought she would be a natural. Well, clearly her trainer is a smart man, because Cheryl is a natural, as evidenced by how well she has done. Cheryl will be competing at Jr. Nationals with the goal of winning her IFBB Pro card, and it would be hard to bet against her.
Q: First, Cheryl, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this.
A: My pleasure! Thank you for the opportunity to share my story and experience :-)
Q: Can you start out by telling a little about yourself.
A: I’m a born and bred New Yorker from a really large family that I absolutely adore. I currently work as a Director of Data for a charter school district in Washington, DC and spend most of my day using a side of my brain that I’m more than happy to put to sleep when I’m training. I consider my life, like my competition journey so far, to be a combination of hard work, luck, and a little (actually a lot of) help from my friends.
Q: Before the gym were you an especially athletic person? Play any sports or anything?
A: I come from a very athletic family. My father played and coached soccer for over 30 years, 3 of my brothers played college football and two brothers still play for semi-pro teams. I’ve always been very active, although very glad to say that I’ve become even more so as I’ve gotten older, mostly as a way to maintain my health and fitness level (and it’s more work as you get older!). I played field hockey and ran track in school and transitioned more into dance and the arts in high school. I danced competitively between high school and college. Since college though, I’ve mostly maintained my fitness at the gym.
Q: What initially led you into the gym?
A: Physical exercise has always been a stress release valve for me, especially in college, so I’d be in the free weights section with the guys even if I was the only woman in there. Working with my trainer dramatically improved my form, technique, and repertoire of exercises which has been a great learning experience for me and motivates me even more when I’m in the gym.
Q: Was training something you picked up fairly easy? How long before you started to see results?
A: It came fairly easily, but not without the usual pitfalls of a relative beginner. I thought I was in pretty good shape before I started training, but the first time I trained legs with my trainer, I was sore for a full week!
Q: What made you decide to compete for the first time?
A: My trainer, Joseph Scott of Metrofitness and Performance in Washington, DC convinced me to do it. We’ve known each other for almost 20 years and started training together when I moved to DC. He thought I’d be a natural and I had been looking for something physically challenging to do for a while. I considered rugby or training for a marathon, but after doing more research, I thought competing was a good way to both satisfy my athleticism and my love for performance and being onstage. I’m so glad he finally convinced me to do it, it’s been a life-changing experience so far!
Q: Is competing something your family and friends supported?
A: My family and friends have been completely supportive from day one, but they have ALWAYS been supportive of my choices, which makes me love and appreciate them even more. The bonus has been making incredible new friends throughout my competition journey so far and strengthening some of my closest relationships in the process. It’s a blessing I couldn’t necessarily have anticipated but one I am so grateful for.
Q: Was competing what you expected or did anything surprise you about it?
A: Having done my share of dance competitions, fitness competing was pretty much what I expected. In fact, I didn’t attend my first figure show until about 3 weeks from the first show I participated in. I got a lot of raised eyebrows from some people with that one, but I’ve learned to trust my instincts over the years about what would be a good fit for me. I will say that I love how friendly and supportive all the competitors I met have been. I am an ardent champion of other women and it’s been great to compete with women who are genuinely supportive of each other!
Q: Can you share your contest history.
A: My first show was the OCB Yorton Cup in October 2010. I placed first in the Figure Open and Figure Overall Categories, as well as Best Poser and won my IFPA Pro Card. My second show was a month later at the NPC Elite Muscle Classic in Greensboro, NC, where I also won the Figure Overall and qualified as a National level competitor. Next, was the 2011 Arnold Amateur, where I placed 2nd in the Figure Open D class. My last show was the IFPA Pro Bowl, where I placed 4th in my first pro show.
Q: As far as body parts, what do you feel is your best one?
A: I love my back, partly because it’s always a bit of a surprise. I can’t always see what’s going on back there but every now and then, I’ll catch a glimpse in a well-positioned mirror and have one of those “aw yeah!” moments. I also love my glutes ;-)
Q: Do you have a part you most like to train or favorite exercise?
A: I love training legs and back. My favorite exercises are both hamstring exercises – deadlifts and hamstring pull ups. I also really like regular pull ups, few things make you feel more powerful than pull ups!
Q: What is your normal training routine and diet like and how do you alter it for contest prep?
A: I start training and dieting 12 weeks out. I do cardio 6 days a week and resistance training 5 days a week. My body responds really well to plyos and tabata style workouts and more cardio style weight training, with little rest in between sets. I train most muscle groups twice a week and hit my calves, glutes, and shoulders 3 times a week since they’re my focus areas. For cardio, I mainly do sprints outside on the track when I can, or HIIT on the treadmill. I have a love/hate relationship with running stairs – I think it’s super effective but so groan-inducing once the soreness sets in. I also throw in the stairmill, high incline elliptical (Summit Trainer), or ladder. During the off season, I back off the cardio a bit but I make sure that I stay pretty close to my stage weight and conditioning. The only animal sources of protein I eat are egg whites and fish; otherwise, I use protein supplements for additional protein. I keep my diet very simple – oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and fresh fruit and vegetables – but I experiment with taste and seasonings to keep it interesting.
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: Just about everyone I’ve encountered has been positive, I haven’t encountered many negative people and if I have, they’ve fortunately been polite enough to keep their comments to themselves.
Q: When they see it that first time, what is the one question or comment you are most sick of hearing?
A: From guys, I usually get “Are you gonna beat me up?” It was kind of funny the first time I heard it when I was maybe 12 but almost 20 years later, it’s REALLY old, haha! Other than that, I actually LOVE when people ask me questions, especially about how they can reach their own fitness goals. I get a lot of people asking me to flex my biceps though, which I will ONLY do for anyone under the age of 7 :-)
Q: What is the biggest misconception about women who train and compete or the one thing you wish people understood?
A: First, that there’s something somehow abnormal about making your health and fitness a priority. It should be the rule, not the exception. It’s definitely not as convenient as making unhealthy choices or remaining sedentary, but the benefits I think far outweigh the inconvenience in every way possible. Also, that the women you see onstage are there because they’re doing something that’s easy for them. Every women I’ve met that competes, myself included, has gone through a challenging process of transformation, whether it’s physical, mental, or spiritual, to be able to get onstage and be proud of their accomplishments. I think that is an incredible equalizer and makes this sport accessible to anyone willing to put in the work. Last, that I must be starving on my diet. I eat a lot of food on my diet, it’s just that none of it is garbage.
Q: What is the best and worst part of training for you?
A: The best part of training is knowing that I’m working towards and achieving my goals in a healthy way with measurable and visible results. And it’s really great to know that I’ve helped to motivate other friends and acquaintances to get active, it’s one of the biggest rewards for me and I hope that I get more time to devote to doing so proactively in the near future. I don’t enjoy dieting though, less because I can’t eat “bad” foods and more so because of having to eat the same thing day in and day out. And at the same time, I miss the structure of dieting when I’m on a break, so it’s a catch-22.
Q: Do you have any favorite competitors or any you admire?
A: I’m a huge fan of Tanji Johnson. I think she has an incredible dedication and athleticism, as well as a generous spirit and positive attitude. Cheryl Brown, Nicole Wilkins Lee, and Alicia Harris are also among my favorites and I was stoked to meet all three of them at the Arnold this past year, they all had some really great advice that I’ve since incorporated into my prep. Beyond that, I really respect and admire the hard work, courage, and perseverance of all natural competitors. It takes guts and sacrifice to do this!
Q: Do you have a favorite cheat food
A: I love a good cupcake in the off season, but my in-season go-to cheat meal is sushi. I could eat sushi 4-5 times a week if I could!
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: Find a trainer who has worked with competitors before – someone who can help guide you through the process that’s very different from just training for fun or a marathon etc. and who will help you stay the course when pre-show jitters increase as show day approaches. Have a good support network and limit your exposure to naysayers – remember any negativity is not about you, just focus on running your race. And absolutely nothing good can come from unauthorized or unscheduled cheating on your diet, you’ll only regret being onstage not having done everything you could to achieve the best package possible.
Q: Do you think its becoming more common to see women using the weights in the gym as opposed to just doing cardio and things?
A: It is and I think it’s awesome! Hopefully it’s a sign that as women, we are both educating ourselves about the benefits of weight training and feeling empowered to take control of our health and fitness in a number of positive ways.
Q: Outside of training, any other hobbies or activities you enjoy?
A: I love cooking and designing new recipes. It’s one of my creative outlets and I have some really great ones in my portfolio. I also love traveling and appreciate that competing allows me to visit places I might not otherwise get to see on my lifelong quest to find the perfect beach. I’m also hoping to find the time to do more acting, singing, and dancing –maybe all three at the same time! – when I take a short break from competing later this summer.
Q: Can you describe a typical day in the life of Cheryl Davis?
A: I get up between 5:30 and 6:00 am for my first cardio session, which is usually 30-45 mins. I’m at work anywhere from 9am to 6 or 7pm some days, then hit the gym for my workout (and second cardio session if I’m less than four weeks out). The rest of the day is personal time for me, my boyfriend, and occasionally his dog. I also try to respond to email and messages from my fan page as quickly as I can if I have the time. I like to get my cardio out of the way early on the weekends so I can get out and see the area; I love that there are so many festivals and outdoor activities in the area. That way I can socialize and have a good time with my friends and still possibly sneak in some extra calories burned during the day.
Q: Describe Cheryl Davis in five words.
A: No excuses, no regrets. Period.
Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
A: I quit eating red meat when I was 14 and went completely vegan about 5 years ago. I went back to eating fish a few months before I started training, mostly because moving from New York to DC left me with fewer vegan eating out options and vegetarian or not, I am a serious foodie! I’d like to train completely vegan for a couple of shows, so we’ll see what happens. I’m also working on a vegan cookbook and hoping to start a vegan personal chef business later this year.
Q: Any set plans for the near future as far as competing or anything else?
A: My next show is the NPC Jr. Nationals in Chicago. I’d like to win my IFBB pro card.
Q: Anything you want to take this opportunity to plug or promote?
A: My trainer, who convinced me to compete and has been so supportive throughout this entire process. You can find him under on Facebook at https://facebook.com/mfptrainer or contact him by email at email@example.com, he’s located in DC. I trust him completely with my training and I don’t think there is a higher endorsement for a trainer than that! Also, if you’re in DC or San Diego, check out Center Stage Figures for posing and competition prep. Tina Peratino and all of the other CSF competitors – my sisters – are a completely supportive and incredibly helpful group of awesome women! Their site is www.centerstagefigures.com. Also, shout out to everyone at Siouxcountry.com for the support and incredibly helpful advice!
Q: Are you looking for sponsors? If so how can they reach you and what are they getting in Cheryl Davis the athlete and competitor?
A: Absolutely! I’m currently working on a website, but I can be reached at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cheryl-Davis-Fitness-Model-and-Figure-Pro or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m a hard-working and enthusiastic advocate, a pro with a high degree of professionalism, and I’m more than happy to collaborate with a sponsor to help them achieve their goals.
Q: Cheryl, again, I thank you for taking the time to do this. Any last words before you go?
A; I just encourage everyone to never believe in limitations, whether they come from other people or exist mainly in our heads. And always approach your fellow competitors as allies; a good attitude and kindness go a long way.
Thank you so much again! I love reading this blog and appreciate all you do to promote women in this sport!