Tuesday, May 29, 2012

IFPA Pro Nicole Gray Interview

Pro. The word Pro attached to you in whatever field you are involved in, carries a certain status. A status that says you have achieved something, that you are among the elite in your field. Needless to say, if you know me, I was ecstatic when, in 2010, at the OCB Battle of the Belt, Nicole Gray earned her IFPA Pro card. It was something she deserved and worked hard for. n this interview, you will hear that Nicole herself didn't expect it to happen, but to those who know Nicole, it was no surprise. After taking time off, Nicole made her pro debut recently with an impressive fourth place finish and weeks later competed in Physique in an NPC show. Nicole is an example of why I love the sport and why I do what I do. So I am very excited to present this interview with Nicole Gray.

Q: Can you start out by talking about how you got started in the gym?
A: I was never athletic or anything like that. I got started wanting to lose weight because I was fat and miserable. I started doing my own diet and trying to outrun my diet doing hours and hours of cardio. Eventually, after doing research I started hitting the weight room and it took off from there.

Q: What made you decide to compete?
A: It is something I always kind of followed but never thought I could actually do it. I have never been competitive, never played sports, never been on stage a day in my life. People kept pushing me saying "what do you have to lose? You don't wanna wonder". So I said "o.k., I will do it once, just to say I did it, if I hate it, I know, if I suck at it, I know." The second I stepped on stage I fell in love.

Q: A lot of people say after they compete it becomes an addiction, so that was the case with you then?
A: Yes, you either love it or hate it, and I love it. Taking time off is hard, but necessary haha.

Q: As you started adding size, were any family or friends negative towards it?
A: Yeah! I mean, I come from a long line of people who say "live a little", and that's aggravating to hear because I am. I am very happy and love what I do. You don't like it, too bad. When I am really lean I hear "you're too skinny", which to someone trying to get lean, that's an insult. I'm like "no I'm lean not skinny". You are told veins are disgusting and muslces are disgusting. That's fine, don't look, I love who I am and what I do. Other peoples opinions have no impact on me whatsoever.

Q: In 2010 at the Battle of the Belt you won your IFPA pro card, when you first found out, what went through your head?
A: Shock, I didn't believe it. I laughed, I was like "no freaking way". I was absolutely shocked. Just the fact the word pro was next to my name was mind blowing. It's something you work so hard for and when you get it, you want it but don't believe it will happen, it's mind blowing.

Q: Does having the word pro next to your name carry any extra responsibility as far as how you portray yourself?
A: I wouldn't say as far as portraying myself. When it comes to being competitive, I did my first pro show this year, and it's like you have to step your game up. Every girl on that stage will be phenomenal, there isn't going to be that sloppy girl. This is pro, a whole new level and I wanna hold my own. So in that manor I felt I needed to bring something.

Q: This year you did the Pro Bowl and took fourth, which is outstanding for a pro debut, how satisfied were you?
A: I was shocked. In the back of my head, I had the whole "it's an honor to be there" thing. The fact I placed and competed with women on the amateur level and am now sharing a pro stage with them, it's rewarding and something I will never forget. To place was phenomenal. I look at my medal and am like "wow, I really did it". I took off after 2010, and all that time was hard, but so worth it.

Q: Were you any extra nervous for a pro show?
A: I was leading up to it. The caliber of competition is different, women I look up to. I know I am little so I knew would be the littlest girl out there. But it was a blast, just fun.

Q: For a pro show, did prep change at all?
A: I usually start eighteen weeks out. That was no different this time. I leave all that to my trainer Joe Franco, that's his job. Ido no thinking, I do what I'm told. This prep was different than any prep I have done. I ate more food and did less cardio, so in that respect it was easier. I was able to bring it down without killing myself.

Q: Just recently you tried physique at the NPC Lehigh Valley, why did you try that?
A: When they first introduced the division, I was hooked immediately. I followed it relentlessly. Again, it was "can I do it, do I have the guts to do it?" I am not a performer, so doing a routine was terrifying. I talked to some friends, one being Jillian Reville who made the switch from figure to physique and she encouraged me that I could do it, to stop doubting myself. It was three weeks after the Pro Bowl, so I was already in shape, I wouldn't have to prep for it, just hold my conditioning. It was local, so I did it to see if I liked it. I was scared to death but fell in love with it.

Q: So how happy were you with your performance?
A: I didn't put together a routine ahead of time haha. I threw it all together in three weeks and put the routine together between pre--judge and finals. I was nervous and worried I would be a deer in headlights. A friend videotaped it, and I was really proud of myself and how I performed.

Q: Was the posing any harder or easier than you expected?
A: It was harder. I think figure girls take quarter turns to the right for granted haha. It's harder to hold poses, smile, breath, stay tight. It is part of why I love it though.

Q: So will you do more?
A: It is absolutely were I am heading. I am putting the figure heels away haha.

Q: You actually looked happy and comfortable, is it a reflexion of your personality, always happy?
A: That is what everyone said when I was practicing, I looked like I enjoyed it. I have been doing bodybuilding poses for years in the gym and home. I love it. The posing is beautiful and I enjoy doing it.

Q: Any set competing plans?
A: I am taking off the rest of this year. In physique I qualified nationally, so that's my next goal. Taking off the rest of the year to grow and train. My symmetry is good, I need size and thickness.

Q: I don't know if you agree, but to me, your biggest improvement has been your back....
A: Absolutely!

Q: Can you give an idea of your typical back day?
A: It kind of depends. Last year I was injured a bit so I had to back off deadlifts. If healthy I always start with heavy deadlifts, never exceeding six reps. The rest is some kind of cables, some lat pull-downs, straight arm pull-downs, again within six to eight reps. T-bar rows for thickness and maybe burn it out with super-setting some back and shoulder for rear delts. Super-set with rows and straight arms, ten to twelve rep range, all heavy weight.

Q: In the gym, beautiful girl, great physique, do you get unwanted attention or stares?
A: No, everyone in my gym knows me. They call me "bitch face", I am told I am not very approachable. There is a method to that, I wanna be left alone, I am there to train. If people compliment me, that's fine. Nobody really bothers me. I love when women approach though, they can do that anytime, cause it's so rare for women to compliment other women like that.

Q: In public, do you dress to show it off, or cover up to avoid attention?
A: It depends where I am going. If it's hot I wear a tank top. I don't dress up often, I am lazy and in gym clothes all the time. If it's hot I am in shorts and a tank top, I don't care, stare all you want, I am comfortable, and that's what matters.

Q: If you could train one day with any one person, who would it be?
A: For males, Flex Lewis, I love him, he is amazing and well representing the 202 class. Female, my new obsession would be Julianna Malacarne for winning the New York Pro, that is what the division should be.

Q: Before we finish, anyone you want to thank?
A: My trainer and coach, Joe Franco, there is no way I am where I am mentally and physically without him. Everyone at Champion Nutrition, they have supported me through my off season, all the way to the Pro Bowl and swithc to physique. They are a wonderful company and great products.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Nichole Long Castillo Interview

Photo Credits:
Photo 1: ISO Photo Studio
Photo 2: NAAFS

Fight Night in the Flats is NAAFS highlight of the year every year. It always provides a great mix of pro and amateur talent. This year is no exception as it is highlighted by two title fights. Kyle Baker returns to the same venue where he scored a KO win over Nick Duell to win the title as he takes on Bellator veteran and home town favorite Chris Lozano. Also in a highly anticipated fight between two fighters who clearly do not like each other, Frank Caraballo defends against Tony Castillo. The architect AKA matchmaker of these great NAAFS cards, is Nichole Long Castillo. While being due to give birth just about a week after Fight Night in the Flats, Nichole has still been working hard as ever, showing why so many fighters are loyal to her and want to fight with her. Here is my interview with Nichole about Fight Night and other things of topic.

Q: Fight Night in the Flats is about a week away. Why is this such a big show for NAAFS?
A: It's always been one of the biggest fights of the year. Not only is it always a great card, you are always seeing the veterans fight in the pro and amateur rankings. These are guys pushing to the next step for the title. With the pros you have a lot of ex amateur titleholders and a lot of title fights most of the time. Not to mention there is no atmosphere like Fight Night in the Flats. The venue is beautiful, right off the water, you get chills when you walk in. You can't get that anywhere else.

Q: You usually start working on this card a lot earlier than most cards don't you?
A: Most years yes. This year was one of the shortest times I've had to work on it. This one and Night of Champions, you will find me working these out sometimes four months ahead of time.

Q: The main event is Kyle Baker defending against Chris Lozano. Obviously Chris is the bigger name, but seems to me that people are underestimating Kyle just like they did when he fought Nick Duell, do you get a sense he is being underestimated?
A: If you look at it, Chris is fighting in his hometown. Look at his nickname, The Cleveland Assassin. Of course he is gonna have the local fan base. A lot of local fan base doesn't base their choice on who the better fighter is or who they think has the upper hand. They just go with the local name, the guy they know. Both guys deserve to be where they are at. Chris is coming right out of Bellator so his name is a little more well known, but at the same time, yeah, I think a lot of people are underestimating Baker like they did when he came in and took the title from Nick Duell. He is a very talented fighter and our champ right now. So look out for the Alley Cat.

Q: The other title fight is Frank Caraballo defending against Tony Castillo. When I interviewed Tony he said this fight isn't even about the title for him. Have you seen this much hatred between two fighters before?
A: You know, I have, but the fight wasn't even happening between the two of them. It was Chris Lozano and A.J. Aeschlimann at weigh-ins. They never got two fight because Chris went down in weight class for his career choice, which was one he had to make to progress forward to Bellator. But that's the last time I have sen this much fire and hate behind a fight. It will be nice to see a fight come to fruition where we are seeing all this bad blood with. I hear it all the time, no it isn't about the belt for Tony at all.

Q: Knowing how bad they want this fight and are talking, even though it's not listed as the main event, does it seem this is the fight people are most looking forward to?
A: Actually, yes. For the local people and even non local fans, because people are on Facebook, and these two have been talking for months, even before Tony's fight in February and Frank's fight in April. The heat started way before that. Everyone is following their Facebook's and Twitter's, so yeah, this is probably the biggest hyped fight on the card. NAAFS didn't even have to hype it, these guys are just at each others throats. I get the question all the time, "is this a show, is it something they are doing to help ticket sales?" I can assure you, it's not.

Q: The fight I am actually most excited about is Khama Worthy vs George Comer. You have two former amateur champions. This fight to me is being overlooked, but would you agree this can be a very exciting fight?
A: Yeah, it depends on where this fight takes place. Champion vs Champion, everyone wants to see it. If it ends up being a stand-up fight, or an exciting and moving ground fight, that would be great. If it happens to be a stale-mate or dead on the ground, it can go that way to. You never know when you have fighters at two ends of the spectrum. Khama always wanting a stand-up war and George always wanting to go to the ground cause that's where his wrestling accolades are. So you are looking at two different fighters here. It has the potential to be one of the best fights we will see and fans should not miss this one. They are champs for a reason, they went through that series all year long to get where they are, and twice in George's case. Neither guys is a joke and with George at 0-1 he wants this win and in Khama's debut he also wants it. They will be out to get it, neither wants a loss at this point.

Q: No secret I am a big supporter of women's MMA. You have Sarah McLeod vs Amber Ignatowski. Sarah made a lot of fans last time she was here and Amber is undefeated with a ton of potential. You are also a big supporter of women's MMA, as a fan how excited are you about this fight?
A: I have been excited about this fight forever. The night that I got word from both girls and it was a done deal, I was bouncing around the house happy as hell. I have always been a huge advocate of women's MMA, one of the pioneers in Ohio with it. This fight in particular because there is a lot of hype around both girls. With Sarah, don't look at her record and judge her talents. Sarah takes fights constantly and at weight classes that weren't always beneficial to her. Not to mention, she has fought a who's who of MMA already. She did come in and knock Ronda Gale out and made fans of everyone who saw that fight. We have Amber who is brand new to the NAAFS, but is 5-0 and a young young girl with so much potential. She is eighteen or nineteen, just graduated from high school. So much potential for her to go far. She has not fought the who's who list that Sarah has, so it will be interesting to see, will age and experience win or this little bombshell still new to the game? It is a fight that should only be on Fight Night in the Flats. It is the amateur main event and there for a reason.

Q: Another fight people are talking about is Tyler Saltsman vs Jarrell Hodge. Does the winner in your mind become the favorite in the amateur title chase?
A: I think more people are talking about whats going on outside the cage than inside the cage to be honest with you haha. Tyler hasn't fought at 135 for the NAAFS, he has fought at 145, so he is still ranked there. A win will put him back into the bantamweight rankings and on his way back towards a title opportunity. Jarrell right now is at the top of the rankings. He is coming off a huge win over Cody Garbrandt who had all the hype around him of being the best amateur bantamweight in the state. You are looking at Tyler who has been in it a couple years with us and went to the finals last year and Jarrell, someone new who is coming in and proving it every time. He is here to stay and I see him ending up in the top four for sure this year. It will be a great fight and show each others skill. Who will win? Who knows? That's what makes it fun, I don't wanna know who will win, I wanna go in excited like the crowd.

Q: I hear often people ask if it hurts NAAFS to have so many fighters moving on to Bellator or Stipe Miocic going to UFC. To me, the amateurs on this card, it will show there are a lot more Stipe's or John Hawk's or Jessica Eye's coming up who can be just as big, would you agree?
A: We are always trying to build up the new class. This amateurs we are watching will be our pros in a couple years. Just like our pros who are not yet being looked at by Bellator and the UFC will be revolving upwards. My goal is take them from amateur to pro to the next level. We don't wanna keep them here. If you go to the next level and come back, this will always be your home, but we don't wanna keep you here, we want your career to advance. People always say "doesn't it hurt when you lose them?" No, I am like a proud mother bird feeding their kids. I have worked with a lot of them since their first amateur fight and it is fun to watch them on the big screen and advance to where they are. They are all doing so well. Stipe and all those fighters at the next level.

Q: Speaking of Stipe, he looks like he will be in the UFC for awhile with his success, has there been any talk of what to do with the heavyweight title?
A: He has a year to defend and that's coming around the corner here. When you get a contract on a show like UFC, we extend it a little bit. There hasn't been to much talk with so many fights coming down the line. We do have meetings this summer in regards to that. I don't foresee him leaving the UFC anytime soon.

Q: You have done a couple shows in West Virginia and Pennsylvania coming up. Obviously you like to get hometown fighters for those cards, does it make it harder for you to have to make sure there are enough hometown fighters?
A: Throughout my years matching in Ohio, I have noticed with Pennsylvania having MMA illegal for so many years, most of them have fought in Ohio for some time. SO going to there is like being at home here in Ohio. So it doesn't affect me at all. Going into West Virginia was scary the first time. They don't have as many camps as some other states. That was an issue going in, but at the same time, I can always match good fights for NAAFS, even if we have to bring fighters from further away to get a quality fight. We have had great fights in West Virginia, great crowds, it's going well.

Q: I have made it known I am not a fan of rankings, but that being said, most rankings for amateur women rankings have a ton of girls who have or do fight for NAAFS, is that a good sign that NAAFS has a great amateur female division?
A: I was really excited when I saw those come out. There is always someone who thinks they should be higher, but the fact that there is enough girls for rankings is awesome. Two years ago they didn't have enough girls. It was top ten, now you have top thirty. There are good girls who cant even get on there now. Its impressive there are this many females making women's MMA progress as fast as it is. Having so many of our girls there was a great feeling. We had girls in every weight class. That's our goal, to keep it pumping. We have the largest amateur series on this side of the states and Tuff-N-Uff has it going on the western half with a really good series. It's good to see them have options to go places and to have so many girls from our roster on these rankings. Plus to see Jessica Eye and Aisling Daly our current champ still ranked high in the pros shows we are trying to get them noticed. They make us look good cause they keep doing better and getting ranked higher.

Q: Does it give a possibility of Night of Champions having multiple women's fights?
A: Well, we had two last year. I am not sure. It depends on where their weight classes fall. Just like the guys we make them work during the year. Of course we will have to bring girls in to fight them cause there isn't as many girls as guys. With the guys there are five hundred at one weight class, and there aren't as many females. Also depends on what I can get approved because a lot of female fights still don't show on the National Data Base and we have to follow the rules of the athletic commission. I am hoping we can get a few more in but I cant make predictions that far out. Anything can happen is what we always say.

Q: People know you are very close to giving birth, does being pregnant make your job harder?
A: Oh yes haha. Between doctors appointments and everything, and I am high risk, so that doesn't help any. It is harder to sit at a desk or run around at events carrying extra weight. You get frustrated when you don't feel good or want to deal with people, but it's something you have to do. I have done well so far. I worry about fighters and cards, so regardless of how I feel, I have to put it aside and make sure I do my job, like I have to do my job when I am at home with my kids and husband.

Q: Will you take any time off?
A: I think it depends on when I actually have our son. As of now, I will probably take that week off and that's it. We have so many fights coming. I used to work every day and take Sundays off. So maybe when not traveling I can take Saturdays off also to have more family time and rest cause I am sure I wont be getting any sleep.

Q: Before we finish, anything you wanted to add?
A: The biggest thing is I wanna thank anyone who ever fights for us. Some of them don't feel like they get enough thanks for what they do. I understand without them there is no show. I have to thank them. People say stuff about me getting awards, but its the fighters who make me look good. They let me do my job. Also the fans who come to our shows, and Greg (Kalikas) for seeing what he saw in me when he hired me, and our whole NAAFS family, we aren't just workers, we have each others back. Also you people who interview us. My husband for putting up with me to haha.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

WBFF Pro Fleur De Kine Interview

Photo Credits:
Photos 1 and 2: Epona Imagery
Photo 3: GW Burns
Photos 4 and 5: RX Muscle

The first time I interviewed Fleur De Kine, she was days away from competing for the WBFF. After having some success in NPC shows, I was excited about Fleur competing in WBFF shows because I felt she could have success there and show people how good she can be. That was proven when she quickly earned her WBFF Pro card. But that is undoubtedly just one more step to bigger and bigger things for Fleur in the fitness industry. I have said Fleur is one of my favorite figure competitors, her physique is amazing, but there are others reasons to. One of those reasons is Fleur is simply a great representative, not only for the sport, but for the industry.

Q: Can you talk about how you got started in the gym?
A: I have always just kind of worked out. Mainly for aesthetic reasons and because it made me feel good. I grew up doing sports with my parents, my dad always kept me active. It felt like it was natural.

Q: What led to you competing?
A: I always wanted to compete. They girls were pretty, it was fun, I remember seeing them in magazines a long long time ago. When I was in my twenties and I got to Connecticut, I decided I wanted to compete, but I never did. I didn't know how to go about it, and I wasn't one hundred percent committed yet. So I would print out the application and not do anything about it. I was still going out and partying. I had a birthday come up and I decided that's what I wanted to do, and I was gonna take care of it and do it.

Q: A lot of people say after the first show it becomes an addiction, was that the case for you?
A: Yeah, I loved it. It was so much fun. I like being on stage anyway, I have a background in theater. I love being on stage, it was so much fun.

Q: Why did you decide on figure?
A: I love the body shape. I loved the body type at the time I started competing that was being rewarded in the organization I chose to compete it. I loved it for that reason. I think muscles on a woman are very sexy and I really respect that. Division wise, it was more me, my body type, I wasn't the cutesy bikini type. I don't do well with bopping around haha.

Q: Last year at Jr. USA's you did physique, why did you decide to give that a try?
A: It was an opportunity to take part in something historic. I always wanted to do a routine. I respect bodybuilders, to get to that level of conditioning and to get that size, I wouldn't have the time. Physique was a chance to put more of your personality out there and it was a chance for me to go a little further and push myself. It was a awesome doing that show, it was really cool and a great moment. It's done a lot for the sport in a bunch of different ways.

Q: Was the posing harder or easier than you expected at all?
A: Posing is difficult no matter what. It's like choreography, like a dance, you have to learn it, you have to become comfortable with it and it has to become like second nature. So, it's all about figuring out your body. Each time you hit a different pose you learn about yourself and how your muscles work. It's an educational experience.

Q: After that you won your pro card for the WBFF in Boston, when you won that, what went through your head?
A: I was so excited. It was really cool. It was my first overall that I have ever taken. As tough as I like to think I am, I actually started crying haha. It was really cool, I was so happy. It was like a relief.

Q: So safe to say the WBFF is where you want to stick with?
A: Yeah it is. I love the organization in terms of where I want to go professionally and just the body types and what they reward. It felt like home. Everyone looks different, all the pros. You have to come in your personal best, your personal peak, every time. Structure wise, figure wise, when I stepped on stage, I never felt more comfortable or satisfied. Even after pre-judge, some organizations after pre-judge you know where you are gonna place, it's not the case in WBFF, you never know. You can get called out, but it doesn't mean that's where you are gonna be. I was really happy with what I had done and it turned out I ended up winning. It was awesome.

Q: Any competing plans in the near future?
A: I do, I will be competing at the WBFF World's August 24th-25th in Toronto.

Q: You have done photo shoots, do you enjoy that?
A: I do enjoy photo shoots. I think they are fun. I just did one yesterday. I just signed with a modeling agency in Boston. A photo shoot for fitness industry and a photo shoot for more main stream are two completely different things.

Q: Do you have a preference for the stage or in front of camera or are they just two different things?
A: Two different things and I love them both equally.

Q: In the gym, beautiful girl, great physique, do you get any stares or unwanted attention?
A: I go to a couple different gyms. When I go to a gym, I look as horrible as possible, don't do my hair, don't do my make-up, wear grungy clothes haha. Lately I have been going to a twenty-four hour gym after work late at night so hardly anyone is there. There is one guy who stares a lot but I sort of glare at him and he stopped so I guess I am o.k. haha.

Q: In public do you dress to show it off or cover up to avoid attention?
A: I really don't have a life. Going out is just getting to the super market, work and gym. When it's hot I wear a tank top and I do get comments but lately it's from people who don't know me. Co-workers say things like "you're getting jacked" which helps cause it means I am getting closer, but it's more an appreciative thing. Sometimes people make comments like "oh, you work out", like when i go to the doctors some of the nurses will look at me or whatever

Q; You are always very busy, is it hard to get all your food in and things?
A: No, I eat in the car, or anywhere. I'll eat anywhere. I am very good at that. If I gotta eat, I eat, or I get moody and cranky.

Q: You work on a radio show, can you talk about that.
A: Yeah, I host a radio show on FTNS called the Body Shop, it's every Tuesday with WBFF Pro Michelle Welcome. It's been since October or November. It is fitness based, talking about a lot of fun things, in the industry, our lives, or interviewing people from the industry, competitors, celebrities, supplement people, that sort of thing.

Q: If you could spend a day training with any one person who would it be?
A: At this moment I would train with Arnold in Venice Beach Gold's.

Q: Anyone you want to thank?
A: I want to thank you for always being completely supportive of so many women, you are awesome. I would love to thank my coach P.J. Braun for being a crazy sick genius and always having a plan that comes to fruition. The WBFF for being a great home so far and doing great things. My co-workers for keeping it real and my parents for supporting me.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Brea Sharron Interview

Photo Credits:
Photos 1 and 3: Erik Danielson
Photo 2: Malaki Media
Photo 4: Fitness RX
Photo 5: RX Muscle

I want to introduce those of you who may be unfamiliar with Brea Sharron by telling you how I was introduced to her. A little over a year ago I was able to have a contest to give away a photo shoot. One person who entered was Brea Sharron. I'm not gonna lie, I didn't know who she was. The name sounded familiar, but that's about it. I saw the photo she submitted for the contest. I was blown away. How did I not know her? She was beyond beautiful and had a great physique. I immediately had to do an interview with her, back when they were done by email. Brea didn't win the contest, but I got to call myself a winner, because since then Brea has become a good friend. Whether its on the phone, at the Arnold's in person, or when she so kindly paid for us to have dinner, talking to Brea is a highlight of any day. She is such a sweet woman, but also a very inspiring woman, someone who likes to help motivate and inspire others. There is also the competing side of Brea. Someone I feel for some reason is often overlooked when she competes. She always looks amazing on stage. After this interview me and Brea were talking and she said she doesn't know why anyone would want to hear about her, but the real question is why wouldn't someone want to hear about her. Visit her website www.breasharron.com

Q: Can you talk about how you got started in the gym?
A: I danced as a kid and got in a couple car wrecks. I turned to weightlifting because it wasn't as much impact. I lifted with some friends throughout college. I got pretty serious after my freshman year. I got a job as a personal trainer because the economy went bad and dance teaching wasn't making ends meet. I met the right people and did a show and got hooked.

Q: So did you decide to compete because of the friends or other reasons?
A: I decided to compete as a challenge to myself, to see if I could do it. Just a self challenge.

Q: A lot of people hear bikini and think T&A, did you have to explain to people that it was fitness, not just some bikini contest?
A: I actually call it figure fitness shows or Mrs. America with muscles is how I say what I do.

Q: Did family or friends have problems with it?
A: Nobody really understood what the heck I was doing honestly.

Q: A lot of people say after the first show it becomes an addiction, was that the case for you?
A: Definitely! I didn't even leave the venue before I asked what show was next.

Q: In 2011 you started with the NPC North Carolina State, you finished second, in a situation like that are you happy you placed that high or more trying to figure out how to finish first?
A: Honestly I was pretty frustrated with that. But it made my drive bigger.

Q: After that was Jr. USA's, where you took sixth. I thought you looked great, how happy were you with how you looked?
A: Honestly, I thought I looked fantastic. Was not happy with the placing again. Somehow I got put in class B and was shorter than some of the girls in class A.

Q: After that you did two Fitness America shows, why did you do Fitness America?
A: I needed a change and wanted to be on stage more. I like the more glam, the more prissy-ness, and different faces. I got tired of competing against the same people.

Q: To me, Fitness America seems to fit you and your personality better, would you agree?
A: Definitely agree with that. I get that a lot.

Q: So is the plan to do more shows for them?
A: I am planning on doing a show in Miami in three weeks for Fitness America and one in Atlanta, its not for a federation, but proceeds go to helping fight childhood obesity. I am excited cause it's for a good cause. It breaks out of the mold of where we compete and it's all about "me, me, me, my show, my show my show". This is a way to give back.

Q: You just worked at the Arnold's for Six Pack Bags, obviously you enjoyed it cause you got to go to dinner with me.....
A: Of course!

Q: Haha, but do you enjoy stuff like that?
A: I love doing booth work. Its fun to meet people from all over the world, hear their stories, what they wanna do and what they have done, where cool stuff, get advice, it's good stuff all around.

Q: When you do that, and you see how many people know you, does it surprise you?
A: Completely! It's shocking when people say my name. With a name like Brea, there isn't to many Brea's, but I turn around and am like "wow, thanks", really it's crazy.

Q: In the gym, you are a beautiful girl, do you get a lot of unwanted attention?
A: Occasionally a guy here or there will come over and try and work in with me or get in my way and try and talk. Occasionally there is someone like that, but nothing over the top or too bad. There are exceptions to every rule, but nothing too bad.

Q: As long as I have known you, you are always super busy...
A: Haha

Q: Is it hard to find time to get your workouts in?
A: It's extremely difficult. Especially with me taking over this studio, running boot camp and clients. Today it was at the studio before 6am and didn't leave until 8:30pm. Of course there are breaks in there, but you gotta do it.

Q: You mentioned your studio, can you talk about that?
A: I actually have my own personal training studio, Foundation Fitness in Greensboro and I do classes during the day, personal training, Cathy Savage Certified Ambassador, so sessions around North Carolina working on posing and answering questions about competing. Working with clients on functional training, sport specific training, injury rehab. Lots of people from lots of walks of life.

Q: Do yo have any long term competing goals?
A: Definitely! I enjoy competing and also enjoy the fitness modeling aspect of things. It's a different side of things. I also like to be a positive role model, get my name out there and tell people if I can do it, anyone can. Especially with my medial problems, all the stuff I have working against me, if I can do it then anyone can. Always be true to yourself and stand for your morals and values.

Q: If you could spend one day training with anyone, who you it be?
A: Lori Harder. She is a Mrs. Fitness America and has done a lot on the circuit. She is a Cathy Savage girl. Such a sweetheart. She does Isagenix as well and is a reason I joined them. She has an amazing amazing body. Would love to know more of her secrets.

Q: Anyone you want to thank?
A: My friends and family who have supported me through everything. Cathy Savage, I couldn't do it without her and her fitness team. The girls are all as beautiful on the inside as the outside. Six Pack Bags, Passion Fruit Designs, and of course you for interviewing me.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Krystal Robens Interview

Photo Credits:
Photos 1-5: Muscular Development

After making her debut with an impressive second place finish at the NPC New England's, Krystal Robbins came back to win the overall at the Jay Cutler recently. She showed some nice improvements, especially her conditioning and showed obvious work into improving her posing. Still young and new to the sport, Krystal could be someone to keep an eye on as she could have a bright future in the sport.

Q: Can you talk about how you got started in the gym?
A: I've been an athlete my whole life but never really into weight lifting until I was in college playing soccer. I played division one soccer so it was mandatory to do three lifting sessions a week. That really got me curious and intrigued in the whole lifting thing. I fell in love with it and decided to major in it. I got my Bachelor's in Exercise Science and have been personal training since, five years now. But I never got into bodybuilding till about six or seven months ago. I decided to do a show because one of my good friends had competed about fifteen times and talked me into it. I just dieted down, I never really trained for one, I competed and now I am obsessed.

Q: A lot of society is still not accepting of muscular women, did family and friends have trouble accepting it?
A: Friends were very supportive because they knew I loved it. Family has taken a little bit to get used to it, but it's much better now. Its been six or seven months and my parents are coming around. Them seeing how serious I am about the food and at the gym two or three times a day and are supportive. My dad won't even let my mom cook certain things when I am home, just saying "don't tempt her" haha.

Q: Your first show was the NPC New England's, were you nervous before you went on stage?
A: Well, at my second show I was not nervous at all. You have dieted so long and put everything into it, there is nothing you can do the day of the show that is going to make you more or less prepared. As long as you prepare, I was completely comfortable the second time around. The first time, I was a little jittery, but as soon as I was on stage for ten seconds, the jitters went away and I knew it's where I was supposed to be.

Q: At the New England's, you took second, how satisfied were you with that?
A: It was my first show, so I was happy of course because I had never looked that good in my life. You always want to come in first, but it was a growing experience and helped me focus and motivated me more for the second time around to be that much better and be that more precise with diet, cardio and lifting. Including specific parts and conditioning. So it was a good thing I didn't win the first show.

Q: At the Jay Cutler, you won the overall, going in, did you think that was a realistic goal?
A: I thought it was realistic because I looked that much better. I was a lot bigger than everyone else, which helps, but my conditioning was much better. That's what I have been focusing on, I have size and don't need to get much bigger, it's just the time you have to put in, the muscle maturity. I have only done it so long, so it's gonna take a little time to get those cuts and muscle separation that the older women have. I have been competing against women in their thirties who have done it five or ten years, and I have done it less than a year. I think I am doing good and felt positive and felt great going for and winning the overall.

Q: You kind of answered my next question, it seemed conditioning was your biggest improvement. Was that something you knew you had to improve?
A: Definitely! Conditioning was number one, especially my lower half. I had never trained this specifically before. So, hitting the right extensions and really squeezing, and high reps, high volume, made my conditioning better. Then, specific cardio helped, the bike or stepper instead of just walking on the treadmill. I revamped the workouts to hit the quads and hamstring and all that stuff. There is always room for improvement, but it was much better this time.

Q: Your posing was also much better, did you work a lot on that?
A: Yeah, starting four weeks out I would pose an hour a day. Whether at the gym after lifting or in my bathroom in front of the mirror just posing as long as I can till I couldn't stand the heat in the room. Just getting used to being in the poses as long as possible because you never know how long you will be up there and having to hit the pose. It's all about practice.

Q: After doing a couple shows, what has most surprised you about competing?
A: How much you can actually manipulate your body with the slightest things. Just increasing carbs by twenty-five grams, or decreasing them by twenty-five grams, or even your protein intake. The slightest adjustments make the biggest changes, especially the last three weeks. It's fascinating how much you can manipulate your body.

Q: In the gym, do you get a lot of attention and stares?
A: Of course! I am not the most typical sight to see haha. Its not always a positive stare, but I take it in a positive way because if I wasn't doing it right, I wouldn't look the way I do. You can always flip it around and take it in a positive manor. You have to have that mindset, its against the norm, but I am not here to please everyone. I am here to compete. I wanna compete and do good and will do what I have to do to do it.

Q: In public, are you more dress to show it off, or cover it up and avoid attention?
A: Haha, great question. It depends on the mood, but typically, especially, off-season, when you are heavier, I do more of the cover up. People ask questions every minute of every day if you look different. I love answering questions and talking, but you have to live your life to. I cover up unless its close to game time or show time.

Q: To you have competing plans for the rest of the year?
A: I am competing at the NPC Rhode Island in three and a half weeks because I want more stage practice. Then the plan is to do Nationals at the end of the year. I will get anther six months to progress and see what I can do at the national level.

Q: Safe to say, the goal is a pro card someday?
A: That's the plan. That would be fantastic.

Q: If you could spend a day training with anyone at all, who would you pick?
A: That is a great question. I have to say Kai Greene because he has such a mentality to him. He is very focused through his mind. I really agree with that completely because ninety percent of the sport is mental I think. I would love to train with Kai and take in what he has to say with competing and eating and cardio. He does high intensity with cardio which is different than what I do. So a different outlook would be awesome.

Q: Anyone you want to thank or mention?
A: Sure! Mick Souza is my trainer and former Mr. Universe. He has been the greatest thing to happen to me pretty much. He has brought me to places I never thought were possible. I see this as something great with the two of us together. Tracy De Escobar for being an awesome supportive friend. Ian Kauffman for being a great friend. He is my backstage guy and gets me all oiled up and pumped up backstage. I couldn't do it without the three of them.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Sassie Says by Cassie Rodish

Welcome to my new blog Sassy Says. You guessed it, I’m a bit strong willed and a lot Sassy! I hope you enjoy hearing about my trials of being a Female, mom and Pro MMA fighter.
I’ll start with a little background on myself. I’m 31, a wife and a mother of two very hyper and rambunctious girls.

I wonder where they get that from?
I live in what must be the most boring place on the face of the earth Des Moines, Iowa. I’m very, very far away the limelight. Around here we train hard and play even harder. Plus , I stay out of the DRAMA!

I started my fighting endeavors at a Muay Thai gym where I quickly fell in love with the “Art of 8 limbs. Nothing says you’re a great friend/teammate like a “kick to the Head.” Within a few months I was taking weekly fights at the local bar. That’s right you heard me BAR. Every Wednesday they would set up a ring in the middle of the audience and any fighter could sign up and fight that night. Fights went by amateur MMA rules and were decided by audience approval. Occasionally I encountered some hair pulling and “bitch slapping”. There wasn’t an overabundance of talent but I quickly acquired nerves of steel. To this day I’ve been complimented on my composure in the cage. I contribute that to my time at DMX. From that point on I knew I’d always be involved in this sport

Enough about the past, the future is so much brighter.
On April 28th,2012 God made InvictaFC. Well it wasn’t god but we can refer to them as the angels of Wmma . Janet Martin and Shannon Knapp did what no one else would do. They put on an All Women, All pro MMA fight card. The heavens opened up and shined down upon 22 remarkable athletes as they faced battle in the cage. I was incredibly lucky to be a part of this historic night.
It’s a whirl wind story so I’ll start from the begining. I had just returned home from Las Vegas. I had flown out to help a good friend and former opponent Michele Gutierrez prepare for her fight again Sarah Maloy for Invicta FC 1. I spent the weekend training with Michele and teammate Colleen Schneider at Throw Down one of Vegas’s elite gyms.

Like it said earlier, nothing says I love you like a
kick to the head. As I started to settle back in to my mundane life it happens. I get the call from Janet Martin that a spot had opened up on the Invicta Card. I had the opportunity to be the first fight on the first all pro female card. I needed a second to pick up my jaw, gather my thoughts and say HELL YEAH!!
There were a few hurdles I had to overcome first. The fight was in 9 days at a lower weight class then I’ve fought before (105lbs) and my head coach and mentor would not be able to make the fights. Wow, even now that sounds like rather big hurdles. What is a challenge without obstacles? I trained my butt of f and ate nothing expect Kale and water for 8 days. I made weight like a champ.

The best part to this story is I found a Conner “Women” Jessica Philippus, who was scheduled to fight my opponent, graciously stepped up to help a fellow fighter. This might sound weird at first but that’s what makes our sport so great!
Before I knew it, fight night was here. My belly is full, hair is done and outfit is Fabulous. (These are the things we really care about) It was time to put all my hard work to use. Let go of all my defeats and prove to myself that I was a fighter. The bell rings and things go blurry. It was over as fast as it started. I had done it. I was victorious in the most important fight of my life. Hundreds of thousands of people were watching us make history. It was the craziest 9 days of my life and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Watch Megan vs Rodish InvictaFC 1

Rachel Genesky Interview

Photo Credits
Photos 1 and 3: Macksimum Memories
Photo 2: Muscular Development
Photos 4 and 5: RX Muscle

One time I was late posting an interview for a competitor. She said "I understand, I know I am not a big name and am less important". I was a bit insulted by that. Because if you know me, you will know I don't get the thrill from interviewing some top name pro that I get when I interview someone like Rachel Genesky. Someone who is on the newer side of competing, but has a ton of potential. It's a thrill to somewhat introduce them to the fans of the sport. Rachel Genesky is someone who with each and every show has shown improvement, especially with her last couple shows. Rachel will be doing Jr. USA's in a week, her first national show, so this is my opportunity to introduce you to someone who will definitely turn some heads and make an impression in her first national show.

Q: Can you talk about how you got started in the gym?
A: I was always really into horseback riding when I was growing up. When I was eight years old is when I first started taking lessons. I got my first horse when I was eleven. I was always outside, always riding, competing, I did that till I went to college. When I went to college I left my horse at home and was a little lost, so I needed something to do. I looked into the gym at my school, it was free for students. I didn't do a lot of weights. After a few months I ventured out and found a local Gold's Gym and did some classes. It was when I was about twenty years old when I met my current boyfriend. He was really into lifting weights so it got me more comfortable with lifting and building more muscle. When I started to do that people started to comment and say I had a good physique and should keep with it. I did it for a couple years and met a friend who had a nutritionist who prepped people. I hooked up with him and got ready for my first show.

Q: What made you decide to compete?
A: I would say the fact I had always been competitive. I was always someone who was interested in having a goal and competing was always a goal no matter what sport I was involved in. When I learned about competitions and that is is something you do yourself and you push yourself, it was really appealing to me because as a horseback rider, its you and the horse, not a team sport. The thought of doing something that was all me, it really appealed to me. It was a scary step to commit to doing my fist show, but I ended up saying "I am gonna do it". I found the person who was gonna be my coach for the first show and I just went from there.

Q: That first show, when you are about to go on stage, were you nervous?
A: I was definitely nervous. I remember leaving the stage and saying "was I even out there?", because I almost blacked out in a sense because of the nerves being so high. It still can be nerve racking, up there in front of all these people judging you. I still get nervous even though I have done eight shows. It gets better every time but definitely the first was very nerve racking.

Q: For a lot of people, after that first show, it becomes an addiction, was that the case for you?
A: I would definitely say so. I ended up doing another show five or six months later. I took a little time to see where I could improve and I definitely wanted to get better. So I knew from that moment that it was something I was interested in doing. It is kind of addictive because you are always striving to be better and it is coming from within yourself.

Q: You have a big show coming up, can you talk about that?
A: I am doing Jr. USA's, its my first national level show. I have done some larger regional shows before, the Jay Cutler, the Atlantic States, things within New England. Last year I did really well so I thought it was time to do a national level show where I could have the potential to go pro. So I have been prepping for that. It is a week out today and has been about a seventeen week prep. I always put my all into every prep. I get very specific, don't miss a workout or cardio and am specific with my diet. This time has been especially show since it's my first national show and I want to do really well.

Q: It looks like with each show you get more and more confident, is that accurate?
A: I would say so. Every time you get a little more comfortable. Last year I did four shows almost back to back so towards the end it's like "I just did this last weekend", so you are in the routine. Sometimes the first show in your season is more nerve racking because you haven't been on stage for eight months or so, but with each show I get more comfortable. The fact is that your poise and stage presence counts for so much that you do want to convey the feeling of being comfortable.

Q: Last couple shows your overall conditioning was much better, did you do anything different for those?
A: I would say that I think it was just a matter of being on the diet for longer and longer. I didn't really do anything drastically different, I just got more conditioned with being on the diet for longer, I kept losing more body fat. This year my conditioning will be good, but a little different, because they are looking for not so much of a highly conditioned body for figure now that they have physique. I will be really conditioned but not as conditioned as last year.

Q: What is one reason Jr. USA's will be your best package?
A: Because I am working with P.J. Braun, and he is the master, which is awesome. I think he has a good eye for what they want on a national level stage. Also I think I have down a lot of the details like getting super specific with jewelry, getting my hair done a certain way. All those little details I am bringing out this year so my total package is spot on.

Q: You have a good amount of muscle, would you ever consider physique?
A: For me, I am really stuck on wanting to do figure. I like the way they have the heels, its really pretty, I just always wanted to be a figure pro. With the introduction of physique, I am not sure if that will end up being something I go into. I do have a lot of muscle and am not completely opposed to doing because I like to lift heavy, I like to keep my rep range low, squat heavy, and a lot of these things will create a physique they are not really rewarding in figure. I need to come to the conclusion of either lifting the way I like and go to physique or change how I lift and stay in figure. I am gonna see how I do at the national level and if things don't pan out I would be open to physique.

Q: Do you have a favorite part to train and whats an example of a typical workout for it?
A: I would say probably currently would be back. It changes. A couple months ago it would have been shoulders, in the off season it would have been legs, but right now it's back, it's one of my best body parts. I have big lats so it's nice to lift something you are strong with. I like to do a lot of lat pull-downs and a lot of different attachments and different grips. I like to do some pull ups, bent-over row, and a lot of dead-lifts as well.

Q: When you are in the gym, beautiful girl with an uncommon physique, do you get a lot of unwanted attention or stares?
A: Well I work out typically at the same gym. People there know me and know I get in the zone. I am there to do business. I have a vibe about me that they know better than to schmoe up on me. On the weekends I sometimes go to Gold's in New Haven which is the best gym ever. They have a lot of people who compete so if they look at me, it's not in a schmoe way, it's appreciating the work I have done. We find each other motivating. But in my home gym they know to keep distance.

Q: In public, do you dress to show it off or cover it up type person?
A: I am definitely a cover it up person. I have had friends say they don't know what my legs look like cause I never wear shorts. I usually wear a sweatshirt in the gym. Try and keep it a surprise for when I compete. Plus then I don't have to deal with weird looks because I am leaner than the average female. In baggy clothes people cant tell the difference.

Q: If you could spend one day training with anyone you want, who would it be?
A: Probably Erin Stern. She is someone I look up to and she trains in a unique way with a lot of power moves. She does a lot of really explosive movements and that would benefit me. I don't do the style she does. She seems down to earth so to meet her and train with her would be beneficial and fun.

Q: Anyone you want to thank?
A: My boyfriend Josh Landry, my family and friends, and I want to also say thank you to Tracy DeEscobar for introducing me to you. For the Braun fitness team I wanted to specifically shout out P.J. Braun, Kristin Poundstone, Kelly Hansen, Marc Andrade, Tina and Garrett Elias, Deanna Shipman, Nichole Morgillo, Mike Holly, Tabi and Rudy Leandri, and the rest of the Braun Fitness team!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Cara Marel Interview

Photo Credits
Photos 1 and 3: RX Muscle
Photo 2: Bombshell Fitness
Photo 4: Loebach Studios
Photo 5: Fitness RX

Cara Marel wanted to wait till she had more competing experience before she did an interview with me. Now, after four shows she was ready. Four shows is not a ton of experience, but it was enough shows for Cara to tremendously improve her physique. At the Metropolitans Cara brought her best ever package to the stage and gave people their first glimpse at the future pro potential that she definitely has.

Q: Can you talk about how you got started in the gym?
A: Basically when I was a kid I was pretty athletic. Once I got into adult-hood I got a little out of shape. I wasn't fat, but I was heavier than I was comfortable with. I started working out on my own at my apartment complex gym a couple days a week. Once I started to see results it was motivating. I had a friend who talked me into joining an actual gym. She was gonna compete in a figure show and I had no idea what that was. So I joined and started training January of last year with my first trainer. I knew nothing about competing or anything. I did my first show April of last year and placed sixth which was o.k., but I wasn't thrilled. It gave me motivation to go further and I fell in love with it. I love seeing what hard work and eating right and dedication does for the body.

Q: What got you to compete?
A: I didn't really know much about the sport but once my friend and trainer explained it, I thought if I could do it, it would be something I could prove to myself and everyone else. I had some issues with anxiety and self-esteem like many people do. Getting on stage and doing that would be an accomplishment. That's the driving force behind me competing now, each time striving to be better than I was before.

Q: To the uninformed, bikini means T&A, did family and friends understand the difference and what you were doing?
A: I did take explanation. Like you said, the phrase itself, bikini, you don't know what that means. The sport itself has only been around a couple years, so a lot of times, when I meet new people, or tell my friends and when I originally told my family, there was some explaining to do. I had to describe that there is more than just stepping on stage and looking cute in a bikini. Its a life-style, from the way I eat, to social activities, to the people I associate with, it's all centered around having a healthy life-style. There was a little confusion and I still get some strange looks when I tell them I do bikini. They say "whats that", and I say "its a division of bodybuilding, we go for the sculpted, sexy, tight and toned look". They start to understand more.

Q: Recently you did the Metropolitans and took fourth. How satisfied were you with what you brought to the stage?
A: I feel like to date that was my best personal package. I really was pleasantly surprised, in a show that caliber I would have been happy with top ten. Competing with a bunch of beautiful talented athletes, I felt blessed to have placed fourth.

Q: Compared to other shows, in what way were you better?
A: Well, it was my fourth show in my entire career, and the first show since I joined Team Bombshell in December. It changed my whole way of training and diet. I guess, overall, I brought a more tight, toned and proportioned package. In previous shows I was a bit softer, still kind of dealing with the skinny fat. I came more proportioned and balanced. I know the things I need to improve in the future.

Q: Do you know what shows you want to do next?
A: Currently I am training for the Southern States show in Florida in July. As of now, that's the show, I may do a local show before then in June just to get a little extra experience.

Q: What improvements would you like to make for Southern States?
A: Basically, my overall presentation. Fine tune my presentation and present a more polished package. I want to be improved as far as looking comfortable on stage. I feel like I have gotten better about not being nervous, but I still look back and say "I could have done that better". So just overall presentation and continue to tighten up.

Q: You seem to have the frame to hold muscle, do you have to be careful to not add too much?
A: I used to be, like I said, athletic growing up, but when I lost a lot of weight, I didn't have a lot of muscle. Now that I have put more on, it is starting to stay there. I don't go out of my way, but it is truly a balance. But my training routine has variety, lifting heavy, lifting light, so I don't have to worry too much.

Q: Would you consider figure or are you happy with bikini?
A: When I first decided to compete it was for figure, I didn't know about bikini. As I learned more about bikini and my body at the time, we decided it was best to start with bikini and then move to figure. However after a couple shows I loved bikini, its fun and suits me. Figure is something I would consider, but right now I am content in bikini. I would like to master myself before I move on to another division.

Q: Long term, is a pro card the goal?
A: Yes! I definitely would like to turn pro someday. I feel i am taking the right steps and improving with the help of coaches and teammates.

Q: At the gym, beautiful girl, lifting with guys, do you get a lot of attention or stares?
A: Sometimes. I work at the same gym as I did at the beginning. So a lot of people there I know, so most of the time its positive attention. people asking what I do and am training for. I explain it and they are positive. Every now and then I get strange looks, but I tune it out. When I am in my zone it doesn't matter whats going on around me. There are not a lot of girls lifting with the guys, but once I got comfortable an experience I became more comfortable with myself.

Q: Do you have a routine you stick with or do you like to change it up?
A: Generally my routine changes. There is some that is steady like morning cardio and in the afternoon weights and second cardio. But it changes week to week. one day lifting light and one lifting heavy. Its important for me cause I don't get bored and its good for muscle confusion. I like my current plan. Before that it got repetitive, but I like the change.

Q: Anyone you want to thank?
A:I want to say I blessed to be able to do what I do. I respect anyone who competes. It takes guts, time and dedication. I appreciate what the others bring to the table. I am glad to be part of Team Bombshell, with my coaches Shannon Dey, Robert, Vanessa, Gen, Kristen and Aniedra and my teammates. They are a great support system. I encourage those looking into competing to look into joining or they can contact me on facebook. Also my first trainer Neko Roberson And my family and friends for their support.

D.C. Diva Lindsay Sollers Interview

Photo Credit
Photo 2: Juan Carlos Lopez

Perhaps you remember my interview with figure competitor Lindsay Sollers. I remember it. I remember it because Lindsay was always a favorite of mine. She was someone who did it for the right reasons. Lindsay is no longer competing, but now I get to interview Lindsay Sollers the football player. Yes, Lindsay plays football. This isn't lingerie football where they use their bodies to try and get you to a game. No, this is real football. Same rules as the men, same pads as the men, same drive and desire to win as men.

Q: I wanna start with your fitness career real quick. How did you get started in the gym?
A: Growing up I always played sports. I was always doing something in the gym, whether pre season working out and training or what not. I kept with working out and staying in shape through college. Then I had a friend at the gym who was a competitor and she peaked my interest in competing and taking my workouts to a new level.

Q: What did you enjoy about competing?
A: I enjoyed the challenge of the discipline to workout and the restricting your diet. The results of a hard twelve to sixteen weeks of training and dieting.

Q: Will you ever compete again?
A: No, I don't think so. Its been almost two years. At that time I was just gonna take a break. But after talking to my trainer and realizing I didn't really want to get a pro card, it wasn't the end all goal, and I realized it was time to hang up the shoes haha.

Q: Give an over view for, whats the name of your team, the league and what position do you play?
A: I play for the D.C. Divas, and I am a defensive back, both corner and safety, and we play in the Women's Football Alliance, and we have over sixty teams across the country.

Q: How did you get involved in it?
A: Even in my competing days I played flag football. For years, I knew of the D.C. Divas, they have been around since 2001. But with competing I couldn't commit myself to both, so I put the football off and also with traveling for work I didn't have the time to commit to practicing. So after I decided I wasn't gonna compete anymore, I went out for the football team.

Q: So you have always been a football fan?
A: Oh yeah. Growing up I was a die hard Cowboys fan and watched the game for a long time.

Q: If someone is reading and doesn't know and thinks this is just T&A Lingerie football, explain why this is different?
A: It's completely different, not just from the aspect of our uniforms, but the aspect of the playing field. We play outdoors on a full size football field, same size as the NFL, a hundred years long and fifty yards across. We play by the same rules, a combination of NFL rules and college rules. The only real difference is the size of the ball. We use a smaller ball cause girls have smaller hands. We are fully padded, shoulders pads, helmets, leg pads, whatever kinda pads you wanna wear. Take the NFL and put women in it and that's us.

Q: Is there training from when you competed you can apply to training for football?
A: Absolutely! I still weight train and lift heavy. Cardio is a little different, I do more high intensity stuff cause you need that burst of speed. I do some endurance because there are times where you are in a two minute defense or the offense is running a no huddle and you have to have that endurance. So it isn't really different other than cardio. Diet is a lot different. I am not as restricted, I eat clean but can at more carbs and quantities of food.

Q: For a league like this to have long term success what will it take?
A: We have a good fan base. It will take more recognition and people to believe in women's football. Also funding and resources. Our team is owned by the quarterbacks father. He has put a lot into the team, but the rest of the money is paid by the players. Most teams in the league do that where we don't earn income. Whether it's out of pocket or raised through fund raising is up to you. The team offers many opportunities to raise the funds. It will take the skeptics to come see a game and start to believe in the sport. What we are doing today, I am not doing for me. I guarantee in my life time I wont see income, but we a re pioneers and raising interest of little girls and letting them know they can play this game. That's what we are here for, paving the way for young female athletes.

Q: Do you think there are some who haven't given it a shot because they don't realize women can play a competitive entertaining football game?
A: I think so. Maybe they have seen the lingerie league and think it's like that. But its not, we don't flaunt our bodies, we are out there to play a hard nosed competitive game.

Q: If someone is considering going to a game, how would you sell them on it?
A: Normally I introduce myself and find out from them if they are football fans. In my area I ask if they are fans of the Redskins and football, and then ask if they have heard of the D.C. Divas and let them know we are a women's professional tackle football team. We have been around for twelve years, we have won eight of the last nine divisions, been to two Super Bowls and won one. Let them know we are regular women, we have days jobs and three days a week we practice at night.

Q: Are there any players you watch to try and learn from?
A: Absolutely! Last year as a rookie I played running back. Being a Cowboys fan, Emmit Smith is my all-time favorite player. I watched videos of him, how hard he runs, never gives up, his legs never stop moving. I admired his drive and ability to shake off tackles and play through pain. Now on defense I pride myself on being physical on the line with the receiver and not let them get to their routes, so I like to watch Darrelle Revis and try and have good coverage if the receiver does get off the line and into their routes.

Q: Anyone you want to thank or mention?
A: Thank my teammates and coaches for believing in me. My family and friends who are at every home game and even some of the road games. We need as many supporters as we can get out there.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Jill Crean Interview

Photo Credits
Photos 1 and 4: Anna Picinich
Photos 2-3: Rx Muscle

Some people can be considered an inspiration. Jill Crean is three inspirational people all rolled into one. You can decide which one you want to be inspired by. There is Jill Crean the cancer survivor, Jill Crean the competitor, or Jill Crean the person. All three are inspiring for different, yet similar reasons. At last years Garden State, Jill brought her best package ever to the stage, taking second in her class and first in Masters. She has shows coming up, which you will hear about, and its exciting to think of an even better version of Jill on stage.

Q: Can you talk about how you got started in the gym?
A: It actually started out as a bet with my father. You know that I had cancer right?

Q: Yes.
A: So when I got done with my chemo and radiation, it was like "woohoo let's go party and celebrate". So I put on a lot of weight. I wasn't fat by any means, but I was out of shape. I hit my thirtieth birthday and looked in a mirror and said "what are you doing? You are out every night, drinking with friends, eating shit foods, not sleeping. You went through hell to live and now you are destroying yourself". I asked my my friend Grace to take me to the gym. I would go with her as a guest and told my father this. He didn't believe I would stick with it. I asked him why and he said "you never stick with anything for to long", which he was right about. I was determined to prove him wrong. So I joined the gym and he paid for my membership. He said if I went every day he would buy my membership. So I went every day and ever day had to get a piece of paper from the gym to show that I had been there to bring him. He couldn't believe it and paid for my year membership. That's how it all started.

Q: Why did you decide to compete?
A: I was working with another trainer, by now at a different gym. I was working with sisters trainer, because she took kick-boxing with him. I thought "kick-boxing sounds interesting". I went with her and started doing it. It was the best workout. I found out her trained at a gym by my house. So I joined the gym and trained with him. I was getting ready for my wedding and had changed my whole body composition. I leaned out from training on my own, but now I had changed how I looked. He said "you look good, did you ever think of doing a show?" I always followed the whole fitness thing and said "no", he said "you should try and do one". So three months later I was on stage and got third place out of four or five girls. I got hooked after that.

Q: A lot of people become obsessed with competing and getting the pro card. You seem to be more of a person who sees it as a fun addition to training, is that accurate?
A: That's exactly how it started. I never thought of a pro card until Carlo (Filippone) put it in my ear. My old trainer, that I did the kick-boxing with, took me to Carlo seven years ago when I told him I wanted to keep pursuing competing. He brought me to Carlo, I was one hundred and nineteen pounds, and Carlo took one look and said "feed her, she needs food, she is to skinny. He said my structure was perfect and if I did what I was supposed to, I would be a pro. So I walked out all excited thinking I could be a pro. Richie said "no you can't." I said "Carlo just said I could." He said he didn't know why Carlo said that because your structure sucked haha. I never thought about it again because he had put it into my head that I would never be anything but a good local competitor. I started meeting girls and having fun and my old trainer and I had a big fight and I stopped training with him. I started training with P.J. (Braun), and he said "your structure is phenomenal meaning, you aren't the biggest girl but your structure is so perfect". I still didn't believe him until I saw Carlo last year and when I left Annette called and said "Carlo is obsessed with your structure, he thinks its perfect". That's when I started believing. I didn't think I could get a pro card, but he said I could.

Q: Your last show was the Garden State, you took second in your class and won Masters, it was the best you looked, how happy where you?
A: I was and I wasn't to be honest with you. I thought I looked better three days out than the day of the show, but overall I was pleased because i agree it was the best I ever looked. I killed myself to get there.

Q: Your biggest improvements looked to me to be shoulders and overall conditioning, would you agree?
A: Yes! I think it was more conditioning because he brought me in a little heavier on stage than any of my other shows. So the conditioning came in and because I wasn't as lean, it made me look bigger. That's what we are aiming four now. I am four weeks out and still six pounds heavier than last year and just as lean if not leaner.

Q: What shows are you doing this year?
A: I am doing the Garden State in four weeks, I have to defend my title. Then four weeks after that Team Universe, and then two weeks alter Masters Nationals.

Q: How do you decide which shows to do?
A: Carlo picks my shows. He wants to have a certain look, you might wanna do a show but he will tell you no if you aren't ready. He wanted me to do Atlantic States, and I begged him not to. I don't like the venue, its too crowded. Its like being in a small store at Christmas, wall to wall people. I told him maybe I should so I can get used to it at a National show, and he said national shows aren't that crowded, so I said "then I don't wanna do the show". I have to take time off work to do the shows, so It takes time away where i could do something with my family. Plus cost of the show, food and tanning adds up, so I wanted to skip the one show.

Q: From Garden State last year to this year, how will you be better?
A: I think my size is the same because I had two shoulder surgeries so I think my size will be the same, but since I started with Carlo, I have changed my shape. My back and lats are bigger, my legs are the same size but have more shape. Even with the bicep tendon that was just reattached, it has shape. My surgeon said it would never happen, it was too short a time. Carlo said we would prove him wrong and we did. I saw him a week ago and he was stunned.

Q: Is physique something you would consider?
A: No, because I am to small. I don't have the muscle size. People laugh but I think I could do bikini if I wanted to. Carlo says I have a skewed opinion of my muscle size and how I look and he is probably right. But I could never get big enough at my age.

Q: When you are in public, especially when you are in prep and more lean, do you dress and show it off, or cover up to avoid attention?
A: I don't change anything. I wear the same clothes in winter that I wear in summer. My gym clothes and regular clothes never change except I get to wear a smaller size.

Q: In the gym, more girls are doing cardio not lifting, do you get a lot of attention, people talking or asking for advice?
A: Yeah, mostly from women. Carlo has me do exercises in specific ways and my workouts are structured to work around my injuries. So people are curious why I do them that way.

Q: Does it ever get annoying?
A: Sometimes, usually it doesn't bother me cause people wait till I finish a set. Sometimes it takes to long and I get cold, but I am not the person who says "I cant talk to you right now."

Q: Anyone you want to thank or mention?
A: Shout out to my husband Michael for all his support, my girls Danae, Katie, Michelle, Annette, Anna, Lisa, Heather and Mary Grace, My trainers Carlo Filippone and Tatyana Redko for taking me on and making me an Elite Doll, and to my Mr. Fit It, Dr. Kraushaar for rebuilding me. Also you Jason, for doing a third interview with me, it is an honor.