Friday, July 27, 2012

Don't Talk About It- Be It by Jaime Filer

"Don't talk about it - Be about it"

I don't remember the first time I heard this phrase, must've been a couple of years ago, but I remember the first time I actually let it sink in. This morning. I was replying to my update for my coach, where I explained that although I was away in New York for 4 days, I stayed on my diet perfectly. However, I slacked on my cardio because I assumed that all the walking we did would take care of it. I let that part slide. And as a result, my weight didn't change. He said it was OK because I was still down 5lbs for the month, but it wasn't OK with me.

"Don't talk about it, be about it." I've spent the last couple of years of my professional career writing about the sport. Not just as a journalist and author, but as a competitor. I've started countless online journals and blogs where I've said "No really! I'm doing it this time!", only to give up somewhere along the way. Well this time around, I know I'm really doing it. I'm 13 weeks into my diet, and down about 15lbs. I'm posing, training and dieting.

The difference is my effort. What should've been a 20-23lb weight loss is only 15lb. I have been strict and diligent, but not nearly as on-point as I could've been. I go through the motions, but I cheat. Sure, I can't stop myself from eating in the middle of the night, but there are so many things I can control while I'm awake that I don't. Being serious about my cardio while on vacation, for example. Or making sure I'm 99% on with my macros instead of just trying to keep my calories where they're supposed to be.
These little things make a difference emotionally.

So I told my coach, and I'm telling you now, I'm going to step up my game. I'm making progress, and feeling good now, but I could be making MORE progress and feeling BETTER.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

IFBB Pro Michelle Brent Interview

Photo Credits:
Photos 1-5: RX Muscle

At Team Universe a goal that was a long time in the making was reached. Michelle Brent earned her IFBB pro card. Michelle has long been an un-crowned pro, but now it is official. Rarely have I seen so many competitors happy for one person, and that speaks to the respect and admiration so many have for Michelle. She is wasting no time in stepping on the pro stage, as she will compete in the upcoming Tampa Pro. Regardless of where she places that night, Michelle will walk off that stage a winner as she has proven that with hard work, determination and belief, you can achieve your goals.

Q: You just earned your pro card at Team Universe, at that moment what went through your head?
A: My goal was finally accomplished. I was like "wow, this really happened". Once they announced it on stage that Gail Auerbach and myself were IFBB Pros, I was like "wow". I was backstage in my clothes. I could see the audience and a couple people saw me jumping up and down haha. I was like "it's true, it's really true". I was crying, I am gonna cry right now haha. I appreciate it so much Jason.

Q: Assuming you have envisioned that moment before, did it live up to what you expected?
A: In the sense that I know what to expect because I have been around so long and been around friends who had turned pro. I know the thing about you don't make much money and girls aren't respected, I don't even care about that, it's just saying you are a professional athlete, it is a good feeling. I think it will be what I expect or anticipate out of it.

Q: A lot of times people win a show or win their pro cards and the get the obligatory "congratulations", but when you won yours there were so many competitors who were genuinely happy for you, does that make it more special?
A: Oh my God yeah. You're gonna make me cry again haha. Because they have seen me through all these years. It makes it more special. Chris Sabo, I wish she could have gotten hers that night, people were so happy even if they didn't get the card themselves. They have seen the years I have done this. I started in 1985 and my first National show was 1986. There were so many close calls and people knew I should have been pro at least ten years ago. It felt really good.

Q: You mentioned all the close calls, was there ever a point where you felt like giving up on competing?
A: Never! Never! There may have been times during prep, and everyone does the same thing, "what am I doing this for?" But never, I had that goal and I think being an athlete, not just in bodybuilding, it is a mindset. I will never quit.

Q: How were you able to keep positive and keep pushing?
A: Number one, the goal that I accomplished getting there. First I would get upset at a close call and be mad. Then I would calm down and say "I was able to accomplish this, I did this". The push was just having a goal every year and being an athlete, wanting to accomplish something I knew was attainable. It kept me going. And of course my husband, a good support system really helps.

Q: I know how you will answer this, but why was the pro card so important to you?
A: Just wanting to be a professional at something. I did sports so long, I thought it was something I could control and do, it didn't have to be a team thing. It was just a big goal.

Q: Does having "pro" attached to your name carry any extra responsibility as far as how you portray yourself in bodybuilding?
A: It's funny, because I waited so long for it, it seems like I was already a professional. Yeah, I wanna carry myself like I always do, very professional. I wanna represent the league good and myself good. Even if it is somewhere will they don't know what the IFBB is and see I have muscle, I tell them I am a pro athlete. I have been able to do that a couple times and it is kinda cool.

Q: Why did you decide to do the Tampa Pro?
A: I was going to say my body needs a break and wait till next year and see if they have the Connecticut show since it is close to home. But it was the last show of the year, I have waited this long Bill gave me that extra push. I think it was in the back of my mind to do it if I got the pro card. I know it is a hard show cause it is popular and has a lot of girls, but it doesn't matter.

Q: On my fan page I got a message from a woman who wanted to start bodybuilding but wondered if she was too old. Do you see yourself as being able to show women it is never too late?
A: Definitely! Another good example is Ann Gannon, the gal that won the fifty-five and over, she is fifty-eight. I saw her interview with Dave Palumbo and she started at fifty. It is never too late. You have to have some sort of genetic for it, but you also have to work out. If your goal is not to be a competitive bodybuilder and just have that look, the muscle and tone, it is never too late.

Q: Granted it isn't much time but from Team Universe to Tampa, is there anywhere you want to be better?
A: Yeah, more conditioning that anything. I didn't know what the look was, I did Team U once and was smaller and smoother. I know they like lean and don't like super big. Not that I didn't diet as hard, but I needed to lose a little more especially my glutes are the hard part. Muscle wise I am ok with the amount I have, so just lean out a little more.

Q: Is there anyone specific you are excited to share a pro stage with?
A: I know fifteen girls are already doing it. I think Kim Perez is, I have never been on stage with her so that will be cool. I don't think Cathy LeFrancois is doing it, but it would be cool if she was. Lynn Suave said Colette Guimond, who hasn't competed since 2006 and I have never met her, she is doing it, so that will be so cool. I met Kim, but never competed with her.

Q: Have you thought about how much longer you want to compete?
A: As long as I can. As long as my body allows me. Why not? Wouldn't it be awesome to be sixty and still competing on the pro level.

Q: Now that you reached this goal, do you have another one to shoot for?
A: Number one, I would love to bring my business (Michelle's Magic Morsels) to the next level. I have been deciding if I want to get bigger with it. That has been my goal to see if I can bring my cookies to the next level. Also I would like to push my choreography to the next level.

Q: Several girls I have interviewed thank you for doing their posing routine, how do you feel when you see a girl you helped do good and know you helped her get there?
A: It's like the mama bear who is proud of her cub haha. It is gratifying. I am happy for the girl and it is cool to see my work through someone else.

Q: Would you have advice for girls who have been competing and are maybe frustrated over not getting their pro card?
A: Just keep it as a personal goal. Don't get frustrated. If it is what you want to do, keep on plugging. If you love it, you keep on pursuing your dream. I did haha.

Q: Anyone you want to thank?
A: I wanna thank you for doing this and supporting the women. My husband and my whole family for hanging in there. My mom was one of the first people I called and said "mom I did it" and she was so happy. They have supported me. I do my own prep so I cant thank a coach haha.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Jenni Barry Interview

At this years Arnold's, like every year, I spent a lot of time around the booth that my trainer was working. One of the benefits of doing it this year is that a girl named Jenni Barry was also working the booth. I was unaware of her before the Arnold's, but am very well aware now. At the time, I didn't know she competed, only knew that by looking at her, I knew she could do very well in fitness modeling. Since then I have learned she is also a bikini competitor, and a really good one at that. I think there is no limit to how far Jenni can go both competing wise and modeling wise. Most recently she took second place in the OCB Yankee Classic and is soon to be making her NPC debut. Jenni is someone who definitely can be expected to be the owner of a pro card.

Q: Can you talk about how you got started in the gym?
A: The first time I started training seriously in a gym was in my senior year of high school. I wanted to play field hockey in college and was recruited to play. I followed their workout regimen in hopes of doing well in pre-season. So I did anything from your basic strength training to a lot of time running on a treadmill haha.

Q: Why did you decided to compete?
A: I was a personal trainer at a gym and there was a girl named Jackie who was obviously training for a competition. Her and I became friends and I ended up going to watch her compete. It was the first bodybuilding event that I went to. She was so good, she ended up winning the overall and her pro card in figure. Everyone told me I had the frame for it. I went home that night and looked at myself in a bathing suit and was like "I think I can look as good as some of these girls on stage". So I decided to train for a competition. When I first met Cathy Savage in Boston when I attended my first fitness camp she told me she could get me ready for a competition in twelve weeks. I signed with her and had ten weeks to put myself on stage. I trained for ten weeks for my first competition. Is tarted clean eating a little before that. It took me four and a half months and I lose thirty-five pounds. I went from weighing 153 to show day I was 118.

Q: Sometimes you say "bikini" and people think it is a T&A thing. Did you have trouble explaining to people that it was actually fitness?
A: It's funny that you say that. Yeah, one of my best friends didn't take it so well. He thought the opposite, when he hear fitness, he thought I would look like those girls who would be line-backers on a football team, not knowing anything about it. It is such a small part and if you aren't in the fitness world, people don't have a clue what you actually do. My parents didn't understand it till they came to my first show. It really wasn't until any of my friends saw me and attended a show that they understood why I spent all this time dieting and training. It's not like I am just posting pictures of myself in a swimsuit for the world to see. They are classy pictures taken by professional photographers.

Q: Were you nervous the first time you competed?
A: I was nervous up until I was driving to my competition. Every day I would train really hard, I had a bodybuilder help me, my good friend Stafford Ferguson. He has been my biggest inspiration in bodybuilding, he is more motivated than anyone I know. Every day he would train me and push me and yell at me. I had no idea what it was like to be on stage. I was nervous everyday wondering how girls were training and comparing myself to other people. It wasn't until show day when I woke up that morning and looked in the mirror, got my tan done, got my make-up done, I came out and Stafford was in the car and looked at me and he was wowed, blown away at how pretty I looked. I never felt more beautiful. Once I saw it come together I was like "this is gonna be awesome". I didn't care if I took first or fifth or dead last, I was just so happy with where I came from.

Q: A lot of people say after they compete the first time that it becomes addicting, was that the case for you?
A: I don't know about addicting. But I took it more as a challenge. Each show you do, you know what it is about. I spent my first year, I guess you could say federation shopping, doing different types of shows and seeing what federation I fit best in and ideally where you have fun competing. If you aren't having fun on show day then competing isn't for you because you have to have fun doing it, it is such a subjective sport. It is a challenge for me and something I will continue until I become a pro.

Q: Recently you took second in novice and open in the OCB Natural Yankee Classic. While you gotta be happy with that, at the moment you find out you are second, are you more happy or is it more "so close"?
A: It was bittersweet. My first competition I entered the INBF and entered the best body category and I did figure to see where I fit in. I took second in best body, so that is how I felt at my first show. In terms of the Yankee Classic, it was great show, I was in class A and took second to another girl. My coach told me I would probably get top two. You don't know what the girls look like next to you, so I had no idea how I would place. My friend ended up in class B and she won first place. So if I had won first I would have had to go against her for the pro card and that would have been interesting. I was glad it worked out this way and she won her pro card. She would have beaten me at this point. I am happy it worked out this way, and it gives me motivation to know I am right there and if I go in this direction I can take the title at another show.

Q: Do you know when you are competing next?
A: Yes, I am making my NPC debut on August eleventh.

Q: Granted it isn't much time, but for that show, where can you be better than the last one?
A: It's funny, your body responds a little differently depending on where your hormones are at during the month. I wont get into much detail but I am sure you know what I am talking about. I can always improve my posing I think. I do well with stage presence but you can always improve posing. Also I think water is a big thing. I need to make sure I am drinking enough water. Lately I get in my gallon but should be at a gallon and a half. So if I drink more I will dry out better.

Q: We met at the Arnold's, you were working a booth, is that something you enjoy doing?
A: Absolutely, I loved it. I was honored. There wasn't even a doubt that crossed my mind when I got a facebook message from Egg Whites International asking if I would be willing to work their booth. It was the first time I got a chance to attend something that big. I always dreamed of going to the Arnold's. I plan to attend this years Olympia, I am not working anything as of right now. I would love to in the future. I am very open to any of the traveling and excited about that in the future.

Q: You have also done photo shoots, what do you enjoy about that?
A: Haha, I am never gonna pass up an opportunity to get dolled-up. I enjoy having my make-up done and going shopping for photo shoot outfits. I gives me a chance to show everyone who I am as a person. I love to be myself. As long as I am comfortable with who is shooting me. Recently I had a shoot with LHGFX. I just got a preview of the pictures a few days ago. Once I pick out these proofs and have them edited, you guys will get a sneak peak of these awesome shots. These are great guys, it i the second time I have shot with them. We took anything from swimsuit, gym pictures, I even got a chance to put on my zumba gear so I can show everyone what I do, cause I started taking zumba dance classes.

Q: What do you enjoy about training others?
A: I have been coaching my entire life. I was originally a Health and Phys-Ed major, so I always planned on teaching health and fitness. In school I started training to generate income and feel like I fell into fitness I realize I don't just love teaching kids, I also love teaching adults. I had someone at my gym that was fifteen years old and was autistic and also had a sixty-three year old woman that I was doing corrective exercise with. I realize I can work with a more diverse group of people. I became a fitness manager and never made it into a real class-room haha. I graduated with my degree in Psychology because I just believed at that point that there was more to health and exercise than just fitness. It is about what motivates people and what really gets them to perform their best. My goal is to help a client to do their best in anything they decide to do.

Q: When you are in the gym training, do you get a lot of the unwanted attention or stares?
A: Haha it's kind of funny you would say that. I actually, when I work out, I keep headphones in my ears, but the music is actually rarely ever on. I just do it so I don't get interrupted, but I can hear what people say about me. It is entertaining haha. There are guys in the back and they see me doing dumbbell chest press or burpees with heavy dumbbells and pull-ups, all this crazy stuff. And they make fun of each other saying "she is working harder than you". I am Cuban so I have thicker legs and a big butt, so I turn around and catch people starring at me haha.

Q: If you could spend a day training with any one person, who would you pick?
A: I can only pick one?

Q: I am not super strict on the one.
A: You were at the Arnold's, so you know how I felt about Jamie Eason when I met her. If you talk to Danny-J at all she will tell you that is the main reason I went to the Arnold's, is because she has been such an inspiration to me. It would definitely be Jamie Eason, so I could talk and learn about where she comes from. I would love to see how she trains, she has the physique I would ideally like to have. The other person I would love to train with who I got to meet at a fitness camp a couple months back is Dana Linn Bailey. She is amazing. When you see her in real life she screams hard work. She trains hard-core and doesn't take anything from anyone.

Q: Anyone you want to thank?
A: Lindsay Messina and Kim Pearson with N.Y. Divas, Team BBW- Body By Warren- Warren Fahrenfield and Elise Firestone. Diamond Gym and Dwayne McDaniels.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Stephanie Mule Interview

Photo Credits:
Photos 1 and 3: Dan Ray
Photo 2: De La Vega Photography
Photos 4-5 RX Muscle

Stephanie Mule is someone who I will always point to when I hear that illogical comment that "bikini competitors don't train hard". Because as I said, that comment is illogical, and Stephanie proves that. Stephanie brought an amazing package to the national stage in 2011 including an impressive fourth place finish at Jr. USA's. She is taking 2012 off for personal reasons and hopefully whether in bikini or possibly figure, we get to see her in 2013 because Stephanie is pro card material. Stephanie is one of those people who you can say would be fun to train with, but also super fun to just hang out with. She has an awesome attitude about fitness and just every day life.

Q: Can you talk about how you got started in the gym?
A: Like a lot of people I know, I just wanted to lose a little weight, tone up, just get a little bit healthier. A couple of friends had joined the gym so I joined with them. I became addicted to it and took it to the next level. After a month or so they fell out of it. I met my ex boyfriend who was a bodybuilder, and he introduced me to taking it to that level. I became so intrigued that I just rolled with it.

Q: How long where you training when you decided to compete and why did you decide to?
A: I had been training for almost a year. When they announced the bikini division was going to enter the NPC in 2009, I had mentally committed myself to trying a show since I didn't feel I was ready for figure, which is where I aspire to be. I knew I needed a lot more work in the gym. I wanted to do if for the experience and see if it was something I enjoyed. It was a new challenge.

Q: A lot of people, you say "bikini" and they think it is some T&A thing, did you have to explain to people it wasn't that at all, and that it was really about fitness?
A: No, I really didn't have any problems with that. I think I felt more resistance, not from others, but from within the bodybuilding community because at that time bikini was just being introduced and there weren't any clear cut guidelines. No one really knew what they were looking for or what the image was going to be. It was really walking into it blindly just trying to figure out as we're going along. It seemed like a lot of people on forums and things felt that any girl could compete in bikini, you didn't need to diet or exercise, and I was working really hard at that time to bring what I felt was a good package to the stage. So, I took a little offense to that and became defensive in that regard.

Q: Some people say after competing the first time it becomes an addiction, was that the case for you?
A: I guess for lack of a better word, I would say yes. It was a thrilling experience, a proud moment to get on stage and stand in front of people, to be judges against other girls. So, yeah, I wanted to take it to the next level after that and see what my potential was. Yeah, I guess in a way it is an addiction, as long as it is a healthy thing. You wanna be your best, bring your best, feel your best, look your best, so as long as you are able to do that, it is hard to remain sane during prep, as you can understand from your practice preps, but as long as it is all positive, I think it is not a bad addiction to have.

Q: In 2011 you took fourth at Jr. USA's and tenth at Jr. Nationals, how did you feel about those two shows?
A: I felt pretty good. I had just gone through some things in my personal life that could have distracted me, but instead I through myself even deeper into prep. I felt really accomplished that I was able to show up and present my package. You never know what judges are looking for. I had to stop training upper body for a few months for those shows because my coach was afraid I would become two developed and cross the line into figure. So I was happy. Right after that I got back to training upper body, I no longer had to do multiple, three to four leg days a week. I had great experiences and met more friends and got back to working hard and prepping for this year, which isn't happening for other reasons. I have no complaints.

Q: From those shows, where do you feel you could have been better?
A: Oh boy, I always critique myself harder than anything. So I am sure there is a lot of things I could point out. Maybe the earrings I wore to how I walked on stage. Sometimes you get those jitters and don't put one foot in front of the other haha. I tried my best and was happy and that is all you can do. If it doesn't work out, be better next time. I was grateful I got to celebrate after with some close friends and that made it even better.

Q: You are taking this year off, is that by design or other reasons?
A: I didn't plan to, I began prep in January. Around mid march things weren't flowing how I hoped. You need to be in a certain frame of mind, and part of me was and part was dealing with personal things. It felt like I was struggling more than the last couple years. I went through a few weeks of questioning and analyzing things and deciding if I would feel regretful or like a failure if I held of my plans. I had to weigh the pros and cons of everything, from cost, time off work, dealing with things, I literally made a list and talked about it with my coach and friends. In the end when I made the decision to work on being balanced and healthy and still train hard, but postponing my competing plans, everyone was supportive and said whatever I did they would be there to support me. That made me feel a lot better because I felt I would be a failure. Life happens and you have to roll with the punches.

Q: Is it hard at all to be doing the training but know you aren't competing?
A: No definitely not. I love the gym. I am there two to three times a day. I don't struggle with that part. I didn't know how I would feel when show dates approached, if I would be said or disappointed for not pushing myself to the stage. It was the fear of that looming date coming and going and how I would feel knowing I wasn't part of the group of girls on stage. I had a lot going on, and still do so this decision was for the best. In the interim it helped me get to a better place mentally. I was struggling with trying to eat normally after a show and get back on an off-season diet. I didn't wanna gain to much fluff, so I was having this internal struggle with myself between eating as much as I needed to maintain my workouts and improve myself without looking to fluffy. Now I am trying to look healthy and fit. I lowered my proteins a bit, filling up more on vegetables and my strength is still high. So I mix it from day to day and stick to clean foods, but a little less restricted and it has helped me feel better mentally and physically.

Q: Are you paying attention to the shows still this year?
A: I am a little removed from it this year. I do pay attention to certain shows where I had friends competing and wanted to be supportive of them. But not as closely involved as years past. I am still happy for everyone who has done well this year.

Q: So, is the plan to compete next year or is it more wait and see?
A: For now it is wait and see. I would like to compete again, but for now I am really content with what I am doing. So, I just need to see what happens, see where my finances are at, cause it is expensive to travel. I will figure it out. Maybe take another year off. If and when I do get on stage it will be the right time.

Q: When you do compete again, would it be bikini or figure?
A: I think there is a chance I would be doing figure. My coach, Tammy Patnode, was strongly encouraging me to do figure this year. I wanted to give it a whirl. I don't know if I fit what they are looking for in bikini anymore. I have definitely put on a little bit of size, so I am sure that I would be more close to a figure girl. That is what I was striving for when I first competed. So there is a good chance it will be figure. We will see what happens. Ultimately I would love to be on a physique stage. I love the physique ladies. The routines look like so much fun.

Q: In the gym, do you get a lot of the unwanted attention or stares?
A: No, not at all. I don't think the guys at my gym pay any attention. i have been there since they opened three and a half years ago. Most of them are respectful. If anyone does come up, it is a girl asking how I did an exercise or telling me how they want to look like me. It feels nice. It is nice you can inspire people just by being motivated and working hard.

Q: Are photo shoots something you enjoy doing?
A: If I didn't enjoy them, I definitely wouldn't do them. I think they are fun, playing dress-up can be fun. When I am in competition shape, I only look like that for a short period of time and am proud of the work I put in to get there. It is nice to have photo memories of that experience. One day I wanna look at them and be proud of my accomplishments.

Q: If you could spend a day training with one person who would you pick?
A: Oh boy, that's putting me on the spot, there are so many names that come to mind. I would say my fitness friends I admire. My coach Tammy Patnode, she lives six hours away and we have never trained together. Being around people I am friends with who I admire. Heather Payne who you interviewed recently, she is so hard core and I love her to pieces. My friends at the local level who don't live near me. Those are the kind of people. Distance keeps us apart so we cant train together.

Q: Anyone you want to thank?
A: Tammy Patnode, she has been my coach the last three years. She is an inspiration and has helped me through lots of ups and downs. All my friends and family, they put up with me through my dieting times and support me when I am on stage. I am thankful to have them in my life. My brother from another mother Rich Wallace. And thank you for the opportunity to do another interview.

IFBB Pro Michelle Beck Interview

Photo Credits: Photo 1: Marty's Photography
Photo 2: Dan Ray
Photo 3: Doug Jantz
Photos 4-5: Muscular Development

Michelle Beck has been on the doorstep of winning her pro card on multiple occasions. It can definitely be argued that she has deserved it before now as well. Michelle put everything into coming to the stage this year in her best shape ever. At Jr. Nationals she finished a disappointing fifth. Disappointing because Michelle did indeed come in with her best package ever and her fifth place placing was surprising. But if you know Michelle, you know she won't be kept down and at Team Universe she finally earned her IFBB pro card. Michelle is going to make a great pro because of her hard work and determination, both being things she displayed so well just to earn that pro card.

Q: Can you talk about how you got started in the gym?
A: I was about nineteen years old and was looking for job. I got a job from a friend at the front desk of a gym. Back then I used to bring fast food all the time, I never lifted before or worked out. I grew up in dance and ice skating, so nothing in the way of weight lifting. I was eating junk food at the counter and one of the trainers said "you should start working out with me", so I started and enjoyed lifting weights and seeing the changeses in my body. Then he said "you should try a show", so back in 2002 I did my first figure competition, the NPC John Sherman Classic. Back then I was just more skinny haha. I placed I think twelfth place out of twenty or so girls. Back then they only had figure short and figure tall. After that I was like "I wanna do this again, I wanna get better". I was right out of college and started working at corporate jobs, so life got in the way of those plans. Years later, in 2009, I came back to the stage and was older and had my priorities straight.

Q: After the first one you wanted to do it again, what about it did you enjoy?
A: I just liked getting on stage. All through high school I did dance and skating, very singular sports, it is you on stage. I loved performing. Back in college there wasn't anything I could do, but I missed being competitive and in the spotlight. So with figure I knew it was something I could do. I started training fro my second show back then, but life got in the way and I lost track of what I wanted to do back then.

Q: Knowing how much you wanted that pro card, did you do anything this past off season differently to improve your chances?
A: The biggest thing, and I guess it worked, was try and keep my weight down in the off-season. Being so tall, it is easy for me to put on ten or fifteen pounds after a show compared to someone smaller where my ten or fifteen would look like there five or seven. I focused on making my shoulders wider and my legs, hip and thighs are a trouble area. So keep my weight down and try different techniques adding in plyo's to help for prep this year.

Q: At Jr. Nationals you took fifth, up till then it was the best you have looked, so how frustrating was fifth place?
A: It was strange. I don't know if frustrated is the word, it was more like "what happened?", it was one of my lowest placings at a National show. I thought as well that it was my best and I worked since 2011 USA's on improving and getting my pro card. I got on stage and felt I looked my best, hair, make-up, suit, I felt they were spot on. I was second call-out and was shocked. I still felt good about myself because I brought my best. No one goes out there to get second call-out, we all go out to win. Whether that happens is case to case and show to show. So I was happy with what I presented. I got critiques from the judges and found out what I needed to improve. I worked hard the last three weeks to tweak some things for Team U. Some judges said there was nothing to work on, it just wasn't my day, and others said things like just tighten it up. So I came into Team U and it wet my way.

Q: At Team Universe, after pre-judge did you feel it was finally your day?
A: Yeah, it was one of those things that when I was up there, when they called me out and I did my model turns I felt so confident. Then I accidentally stepped to the back of the box in the middle of the stage where the lighting wasn't good. They called me to the middle of the box and my confidence went away and I got shaky and nervous thinking I messed up. Before I came back for comparisons I told myself "get it together, this is your one chance". So I walked backstage and got the confidence and came back and when they called me out and I was in the middle, I was like "you are not moving me to the outside, not this time". When they called me and Amy Puglise off stage, I was like "I think we did it". But you don't wanna get too excited cause I have been close before.

Q: After pre-judge I got a text from someone who also was competing and she pointed out how great you looked. How does it feel when someone you competed with goes out of their way to say how good you looked?
A: That's amazing because all these women, all these women, I cant express that enough, ALL of these women have amazing physiques and are beautiful. When I am backstage I am usually a pretty friendly person, but backstage I shut everything out because if I look around I will see all these beautiful women and compare myself to them and my confidence will go right down. For a fellow competitor to say that about me is amazing, because we all work hard and have obstacles to overcome. So for someone I am competing against to say it, there is no better compliment. That meant more than the moment they called my name as a new pro, the support after the show, the texts, emails, and facebook messages. I didn't realize how many people believed in me even when I didn't believe in myself.

Q: When you first realized you were now a pro, what went through your head?
A: When there was just three of us, it is known I have gotten third at Team U, Jr. Nationals, Jr. USA's, I was like "this time you are not calling me in third", so I just started shaking, I was like "this is it, finally it is my time". They always say number seven is good luck and it was my seventh National show.

Q: Do you know when you will make your pro debut?
A: I've thought about it. I have been dieting since end of January, so we will see. Maybe the end of 2012 or beginning of 2013. Now being a pro, there are so many pro shows, I can take my time and decide when I want to compete. At the national level there are only so many shows. Now I get to choose. It is about what I want to do, where I want to go. But I don't know yet, nothing is set in stone.

Q: Were do you want to improve for your pro debut?
A: The same stuff I was working on at the National level. You just wanna keep working and making improvements. My glute-hamstring tie-in, get that tight as possible, make the front of my legs tighter. I was disappointed, I worked really hard and had cuts in my legs, but they didn't show as well because two coats of tan kind of took over my legs. I was like "no I didn't push Sheila's SUV in the back alley in this Texas heat for nothing" haha. So those are the big things, and just working on me medial delts and make them pop. They are big, but I feel like I am missing meat in the middle of my shoulders haha. But now there is no more height classes, I am 5'10", so I will be one of the tallest on stage and out-weigh them so I will look bigger. I don't know how that will work out for me. I am interested to step on stage and see how I compare and where I need to make improvements. Being on stage will them will help me see where I can improve.

Q: Someone told me to ask you, and I quote "can you ask Michelle how she always has the best abs of anyone on stage"?
A: That's nice, I didn't see that coming. I think it is part genetics and part diet. I hold my weight in the hip and thigh area, I am Puerto Rican, so that is how I was born haha. I don't have a lot of fat in the stomach area. Also diet, I stick to my diet. I train abs maybe three times a week, doing things like hanging leg raises, but I don't do abs a lot. If I don't stick to my diet and eat how I should, it shows. If I stick to it, my abs come in. At the end of prep I wear neoprine wraps around my waste which helps sweat out water weight. It is temporary. I wear them at the gym and then suddenly people in the gym wear them 24/7 haha. It just helps sweat out water weight.

Q: In the gym, do you get a lot of unwanted attention or stares?
A: I go to Metroflex Forth Worth, where everyone is pretty much a competitor. My husband works out there to and says he will see people starring and looking, but I am so focused I don't notice it. It doesn't bother me. At the other gym, it is older clientele, and some older men I can feel their eyes on em and it is creepy sometimes haha. People stare. They stare at the mall, just people aren't used to seeing women with muscle. You hear the whispers as you walk past.

Q: In public do you dress to cover-up and avoid attention or proud and show it off?
A: I am proud of it, I show it off. I work hard, this does not come easy. It is hard for everyone I am sure. I can put on muscle easily but also fat easily. So I wear tank-tops and things like that. Most of the people are used to it cause they are around me all the time. It is places I don't go often where you feel the stairs. Some times people think they are talking negative or saying something bad about your muscles. But most of the time they people brave enough to come up to me just say they admire me and wanna know what I eat and how I work out. It is flattering. I don't pay attention to the negative stuff, life is too short.

Q: If you could spend a day training with anyone, who would it be?
A: One of the first figure competitors I looked up to was Erin Stern. I was looking for a tall figure competitor who was around my height at the top of the game. So I would say Erin. She has been an inspiration. I like that when I sent her a bodyspace message before anyone knew who I was, and she responded. That is something I try and do for new competitors or anyone who wants to talk to me, respond to everyone. If I got as big as her could I do that? Probably not haha. But at least take the time to answer questions and give encouragement. It was her personality that caught my interest and then that she has an amazing physique. I could learn some tricks from her that I don't know about. I may not get to her level but I wont stop trying to improve myself. Stay humble along the course and acknowledge your friends and fans, that is more important than your placing on stage.

Q: I want to thank my trainer IFBB Pro Abdul Sharif, without him, none of this would be possible. He has changed my physique and helped me be a positive person and visualize the laws of attraction. IFBB Pro Sheilahe Brown, my posing coach. She has helped and improved me. My parents, my mom loves to come to all my shows and help me out. My husband Kyle, without his support I couldn't do this. My friends and fans, all the people who believe in me. And of course you, you gave me my very first interview way back when and we have become friends and look at me now, I am administrator on your page. Being in the industry and meting these people is what I will carry with me.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Lacey Schuckman Interview

Photo Credits:
Photo 1: John Burkhard Photography
Photos 2-3: Mason Pomme Photography
Photos 4-5: RFO

The second Invicta card is another chance to showcase the best in women's MMA. Filling in as a late replacement has allowed Lacey Schuckman to step in and face Ayaka Hamasaki and show that she does in fact belong in any such showcase. Shuckman has fought many great competitors and has improved with each fight. The short notice should not be an issue for someone like Lacey who is always training. This is a great opportunity for Lacey to introduce herself to the casual fan who may not closely follow women's MMA and gain a lot more fans who will get to see what those of us who do closely women's MMA have known for quite some time.

Q: Can you talk a little about how you got started in the sport?
A: When I was really young, I have always been with my husband Randall, and we were always great friends, he started with traditional Tae-Kwon-Do. He would come home every night and say "let me practice my move on you". I got tired of getting kicked in the face and said "I wanna learn this". I started taking traditional Tae-Kown-Do with him and we quickly moved into Muay-Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He had a school wrestling background so we started training with a lot of the local high school and college wrestling teams.

Q: You have fought a lot of good opponents, is there a fight that up till now you are most proud of?
A: Right now, I am most proud of my last fight. I don't like fighting at 125, it is really big for me. Michelle Blalock is a very tough girl, she is very aggressive, she definitely intimidates her opponents, she hadn't been beaten yet, so it was a step up for me to take that challenge. She had just made her pro debut, she was unbeaten as an amateur as well. Just to step up and test my skill against her and own the fight the whole time just felt really good to me. To win a title was even better. I am very proud of that fight and am looking forward to this one coming up.

Q: That fight was a while ago, was not fighting for this long by design or having trouble finding a fight?
A: I have had offers but it is always for top ten females and they wanna offer you five hundred bucks to fight them. That doesn't make sense to me. So I wasn't receiving any good offers and that one popped up and it is local which makes it easier because I don't like to travel as much because I have to drive because I bring my dog. So, it was a convenience and was a great opportunity to put a stamp here locally.

Q: You are fighting Ayaka Hamasaki for Invicta, when and how did you find out about the fight?
A: I think it was on the fifteenth. Originally when they were setting up the Ayaka and Jasminka Cive fight, I was asked if one of the girls couldn't take it would I be interested. But they decided to book them both. On the fifteenth they called my manager and he told me Jasminka had trouble with her visa and they asked me to be making weight in case her visa didn't go through. hen on the nineteenth they officially offered me the fight. It was a waiting game. I knew it was going on and assumed it might happen so was training hard.

Q: I know you are always training so I assume the short notice aspect doesn't bother you much?
A: Not too much. Like you said, I am always in pretty good shape and always trying to improve my game. When I don't have fights I am always trying to improve and fix the holes in my game and improve what I am already pretty decent at. I kinda like short notice fights cause I don't have to think about it much. I was already cutting for my fight in October so the cut doesn't bother me. It worked out perfectly.

Q: Are there any cons to it being short notice?
A: Just having to get everything set, my travel arrangements, canceling classes, finding other coaches to run classes. But other than that, no, it doesn't bother me.

Q: Knowing how big this card is for women's MMA, make this fight more special for you?
A: Yeah, I definitely think it is an honor to be on an Invicta card. I think they are doing things right for women in the sport. It is an awesome opportunity to fight someone from Japan. I want to go there eventually so I m excited to have them come here and just kind of test out the field. I appreciate Ayaka taking the fight as well. It is a big deal for me to be on this card.

Q: How do you feel you match up with her?
A: She is a very tough opponent. She is a Judo player and she is undefeated. I think that where I will benefit is my boxing and Muay-Thai. I feel my Jiu-Jitsu is stronger but I feel that she can adapt, she is a second degree black belt in Judo, so she has competed so many times that competition is competition. I think it being her first fight abroad, there are a few factors on my side.

Q: She is undefeated at 7-0 and you are 7-4, people who may not follow women's MMA may just look at the records and expect her to win, but is it accurate to say those people are not taking into account the level of opponents you have fought?
A: I think you could look at it and see it that way. I think people don't understand she hasn't fought an American yet. The level of competition at bigger shows where you have people coming from overseas is a little different. I feel we have a tougher and harder style. There as much ground and pound and Muay-Thai in the Asian countries as there is here, so I think that will be a big factor. On paper you could see it and say she is definitely gonna win, but there is a lot of factors that are on my side.

Q: All her fights being in Japan, how could coming to a new country make it difficult?
A: Not knowing how your body reacts to travel. That is a long flight. I don't know if she has ever been to America even. Being in a whole new place, it is hard to adjust, let alone having to compete. She trains with people who have fought abroad, so I am sure they have those things factored in and have explained them to her. Just like anything, it is uncomfortable to not be on your own front porch.

Q: With all the eyes of people who follow women's MMA on this, is there a part of you that wants to not only win, but have that Kaitlin Young vs Leslie Smith fight that everyone talks about after?
A: I am not to worried about having the big fight everyone is talking about. I am definitely going in to win. I have been working hard and improving my game. I don't take a fight that I don't plan fight to win. I plan to put it all on the line, display all my skills, give it all I got, and at the end of the night, that should make me the victor.

Q: What is the key to winning for you?
A: Just to avoid her throws. She is a second degree black belt in Judo so she will have great throws and clinch. Where she trains they have great wrestling and coaching. More than anything, be careful of her Judo. All the Judo players, as soon as they get their throw, they have such a short time on the ground to get the submission before they stand them up. So just look out for her Judo and her throws.

Q: Do you have a prediction?
A: No, just gonna let the fight take me where it takes me. I have been working one very area, so I should be good.

Q: After this, any idea what you want next, or just focusing on this?
A: Right now I am focused on this. I do have a fight in October with Jennifer Moran at 105. It is my first fight at 105. So after this just worrying about my cut. Work on a few things that will be different for Moran vs Hamasaki since they are different opponents.

Q: Anyone you want to thank?
A: My main coach, my husband Randall Schuckman. He has had an impressive year this year, he won Golden Gloves and has been working on his game. I am very Proud of him. My professor in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Joaquin Baca, my wrestling coach Jarrett Mahoney, my training partners, Kyle Uchiyama, Diana Rael and Ben Schissler. Also all my Team Goonies. My sponsor, Slade and Molly Bittler at Tussle. Slade is also my manager and put this whole thing together and has done all I needed and I really appreciate it. Also, my heart goes out to everyone involved in this shooting here in Colorado. It is not far from me and hit home. My teams prayers go out to all the victims and their families.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Cara's Corner by Cara Marel

Cara’s Corner #2

Hey guys!
I know it’s been a few weeks since my last blog, so I hope everyone is whole, happy, and healthy!  The last few weeks have been super busy for me, as I’ve accepted a new job offer, competed in a show, and vacationed with the family…all in one week!!
Like many of you, my life is SUPER busy at it’s very easy to get caught up in all of it. Whether it be good, bad, fun, stressful, or anything in between, sometimes we forget to be thankful. I know I have days where I go to work and say to myself “Ughh, I don’t feel like being here,” or “Man, I really don’t feel like working out today,” or how about “Oh great, another loooong line at Trader Joe’s.” Do any of these things sound familiar? I think we all can relate to these feelings, and it’s normal. But try to remind yourself that while you are complaining about what you HAVE to do today or what you DON’T have, stop for a second and think about how blessed you truly are. Maybe you don’t have a million dollars, that mansion on the hill, that fancy sportscar…but I GUARANTEE that if I asked you to write out just 3 things you are thankful for, you could easily do it. Sometimes you just have to stop and think about it. Take 15 minutes from your busy schedule to reflect, and be THANKFUL!! You have SOMETHING that not everyone else has. Count your blessings, say THANK YOU…and I bet it brings a smile to your face :-)

Today I am thankful for…
1. My health
2. My little orange kitty that brings me such joy
3. Wholesome food to eat
What are YOU thankful for?

Cara Marel

NPC National Bikini Competitor
Team Bombshell Athlete

Your Feedback is welcome and appreciated! Contact:

Friday, July 20, 2012

Invicta FC 2 Predictions

With the second event put on by Invicta FC, I thought I would do a little prediction post featuring some pro and amateur fighters as well as my own predictions. Since these predictions have been made, two fights have changed so there will be no predictions in them. Ayaka Homasaki will now face Lacey Schuckman instead of original opponent Jasminka Cive and Amanda Nunes will now face Raquel Pa'aluhi instead of Leslie Smith. The fighters making preditions are Ashley Hawkins, Kristin DeWitt, Sarah McLeod, Sarah Maloy, Cassie Rodish, Tecia Torres, Sarah Goodlaxson, Kelly Warren, Jordan McDonald, Jordan Gaza, Jessica Dinch and Tamikka Brents, as well as myself, Jason Adams. Some just picked a winner and some picked how they will win.

1. Jessica Philippus (0-0) vs Liz McCarthy (0-0)
Adams: Philippus unanimous decision
Brents: Philippus
DeWitt: Philippus submission Round 2
Dinch: McCarthy submission
Gaza: McCarthy
Goodlaxson: Philippus decision
Hawkins: McCarthy decision
Maloy: Philippus TKO
McLeod: Philippus
McDonald: Philippus
Rodish: Philippus decision
Torres: McCarthy split decision
Warren: Philippus
Totals: Philippus- 9 and McCarthy- 3

2. Jocelyn Lybarger (0-0) vs Cheryl Chan (0-0)
Adams: Chan submission round 2
Brents: Chan
DeWitt: Lybarger TKO round 2
Dinch: Chan submission
Gaza: Lybarger
Goodlaxson: Chan submission
Hawkins: Chan submission
Maloy: Chan
McLeod: Lybarger
McDonald: Lybarger
Rodish: Lybarger TKO
Torres: Chan submission round 2
Warren: Lybarger
Totals: Lybarger-6 and Chan- 7

3. Jessamyn Duke (0-0) vs Suzie Montero (1-0)
Adams: Montero split decision
Brents: Montero
DeWitt: Duke KO round 1
Dinch: Duke TKO
Gaza: Duke
Goodlaxson: Montero decision
Hawkins: Duke TKO
Maloy: Duke
McLeod: Duke
McDonald: Duke
Rodish: Duke TKO
Torres: Montero unanimous decision
Warren: Duke
Totals: Duke- 9 and Montero- 4

4. Sarah Moras (2-0) vs Raquel Pennington (1-1)
Adams: Pennington TKO round 1
Brents: Moras
DeWitt: Pennington
Dinch: Pennington decision
Gaza: Pennington
Goodlaxson: Pennington
Hawkins: Pennington TKO
Maloy: Moras
McLeod: Moras
McDonald: No pick
Rodish: Moras decision
Torres: Moras unanimous decision
Warren: Moras
Totals: Moras- 6 and Pennington- 6 and 1 no pick

5. Angelica Chavez (4-1) vs Nicdali Rivera-Calanoc (7-6)
Adams: Chavez submission round 2
Brents: Rivera Calanoc
DeWitt: Rivera-Calanoc submission round 1
Dinch: Chavez submission
Gaza: Rivera-Calanoc
Goodlaxson: Rivera-Calanoc submission
Hawkins: No pick
Maloy: Chaves submission
McLeod: Rivera-Calanoc
McDonald: Rivera-Calanoc
Rodish: Chavez submission
Torres: Chavez unanimous decision
Warren: Chavez
Totals: Chavez- 6 and Rivera-Calanoc- 6 and 1 no pick

6. Carla Esparza (6-2) vs Sarah Schneider (6-5)
Adams: Esparza submission round 1
Brents: Schneider
DeWitt: Esparza submission
Dinch: Esparza decision
Gaza: Esparza
Goodlaxson: Esparza submission
Hawkins: Esparza decision
Maloy: Esparza
McLeod: Esparza
McDonald: Esparza
Rodish: Esparza decision
Torres: Esparza unanimous decision
Warren: Esparza
Totals: Esparza- 12 and Schneider- 1

7. Julia Budd (2-2) vs Elina Nilsson (2-2)
Adams: Budd TKO round 2
Brents: Budd
DeWitt: No pick
Dinch: Budd decision
Gaza: Budd
Goodlaxson: Budd TKO
Hawkins: Budd TKO
Maloy: Budd
McLeod: Budd
McDonald: Budd
Rodish: Budd TKO
Torres: Budd unanimous decision
Warren: Budd
Totals: Budd- 12 and Nilsson- 0 and 1 no pick

8. Barb Honchak (5-1) vs Bethany Marshall (4-0)
Adams: Marshall unanimous decision
Brents: Honchak
DeWitt: Honchak unanimous decision
Dinch: Honchak submission
Gaza: Honchak
Goodlaxson: Honchak submission
Hawkins: Honchak
Maloy: Honchak
McLeod: Honchak
McDonald: Honchak
Rodish: Honchak submission
Torres: Honchak unanimous decision
Warren: Honchak
Totals: Honchak- 12 and Marshall- 1

9. Sarah D'Alelio (5-2) vs Vanessa Porto (14-4)
Adams: Porto unanimous decision
Brents: D'Alelio
DeWitt: D'Alelio KO
Dinch: Porto submission
Gaza: D'Alelio
Goodlaxson: Porto decision
Hawkins: Porto submission
Maloy: D'Alelio
McLeod: D'Alelio
McDonald: Porto
Rodish: D'Alelio TKO
Torres: Porto split decision
Warren: D'Alelio
Totals: D'Alelio- 7 and Porto- 6

10. Liz Carmouche (6-2) vs Kaitlin Young (6-5-1)
Adams: Young TKO round 3
Brents: Carmouche
DeWitt: Young TKO
Dinch: Young decision
Gaza: Carmouche
Goodlaxson: Carmouche submission
Hawkins: Young decision
Maloy: Carmouche
McLeod: Young
McDonald: Carmouche
Rodish: Either one by TKO
Torres: Carmouche TKO round 2
Warren: Young
Totals: Carmouche- 6 and Young- 6 and 1 no pick

11. Alexis Davis (11-5) vs Hitomi Akan0 (18-9)
Adams: Davis TKO round 2
Brents: Akano
DeWitt: Davis KO
Dinch: Davis decision
Gaza: Davis
Goodlaxson: Davis TKO
Hawkins: Davis TKO
Maloy: Davis
McLeod: Davis
McDonald: No pick
Rodish: Davis decision
Torres: Davis unanimous decision
Warren: Davis
Totlas: Davis- 11 and Akano-1 and 1 no pick

12. Shayna Baszler (14-6) vs Sara McMann (5-0)
Adams: McMann Unanimous decision
Brents: McMann
DeWitt: McMann split decision
Dinch: McMann TKO
Gaza: Baszler
Goodlaxson: McMann TKO
Hawkins: McMann decision
Maloy: McMann
McLeod: Baszler
McDonald: Baszler
Rodish: Baszler submission
Torres: McMann unanimous decision
Warren: McMann
Totals: Baszler- 4 and McMann- 9

IFBB Pro Paula Williams-Gulman Interview

Photo Credits:
Photos 1-5 RX Muscle

After becoming interested in fitness after seeing it on television, Paula Williams-Gulman worked her butt off before finally earning her long overdue Pro card in 2011. In 2012 she has competed twice, first, making her pro fitness debut and making a great accounting of herself at the FLEX Pro and then recently competed in the physique division for the first time at the Chicago pro. It appears she has interest in continuing in physique, and knowing how hard Paula has worked to get where she is, there is no doubt that work ethic will continue and she will keep getting better and better and placing higher and higher in physique or fitness if she continues to compete in that division.

Q: Can you talk about how you got started in the gym?
A: Back in 1993 I started with a local competition which was the Ms. Fitness.

Q: So is that what got you interested in the gym?
A: Oh yes! I was teaching aerobics classes and Ms. Fitness came on television. When it first started to really take off back in the early 1990's. I saw the 1993 Ms. Fitness USA's and saw Carol Semple and was mesmerized and hooked at that very second. I started training the very next day and walked on stage three months later and qualified for USA's. I took third in my first shot out.

Q: Were you nervous that first time?
A: I was very nervous in that they had a gown round where we had to say a speech. I was nervous in that round but felt very comfortable in the fitness round and physique round.

Q: A lot of people say after competing the first time it becomes an addiction, was that the case for you?
A: Yes extremely. I think I did seven shows that first year.

Q: What was it about competing that hooked you?
A: It is an intense high that you can't really explain to anybody unless they have done it. It is the most overwhelming and intoxicating feeling. Pure joy is the easiest way I can explain it.

Q: In 2011 at Jr. USA's you won your pro card, can you describe your feeling at that time?
A: I was fighting back my tears haha. Because I had tried so many times with near misses, so I did not expect to walk away with a pro card. It was the most overwhelming sense of joy and accomplishment. I almost wanted to fall down to my knees but I contained myself, and then I walked off stage and did on the side stage haha.

Q: You mentioned the near misses, did it ever become frustrating?
A: Oh yes! I wanted to quit so many times, but the reason I kept returning to the stage after year after year of think I should have placed higher is my children. I had to prove to them that if you want something bad enough you need to stick with it till you achieve it. If I would have quit I would have been letting my children down with teaching them that important lesson in life.

Q: On my blog, for the 2011 awards, you pretty much swept the entire amateur fitness competitor awards, does it make you feel good that so many people thought so highly of you and followed you?
A: Yes! As I replied to you then, I didn't even know that was going on, I had no clue. When you started posting all the awards I had won, I was so overjoyed that I had touched so many people's hearts along my way. That is what kept me coming back, every time after a show when I didn't do so well, I would get so many calls and emails from girls who would tell me what a role model I was, to keep pushing. When I won all those awards from you I was overjoyed. It touched more than you can believe.

Q: For your pro debut were you any more nervous than for previous ones?
A: Yes, because I was going against the top in the world. I had no idea when I signed up for the FLEX that the top eight from the Olympia were competing. I was a little nervous about that and following the fitness routines against that level of competitors. But then again, this is what I have worked for my entire career. For me, it was like closure, like walking on the Olympia stage my first shot out. It was an amazing feeling.

Q: Is competing on the pro stage any different?
A: No, the girls are just as amazing. We were all basically bonded with sisterhood cheering each other on. The IFBB girls are to me, the same as the NPC girls, instant family.

Q: At some shows there are very few girls competing in the fitness division, what do you attribute that to?
A: I was very very disappointed to see the turnout at Jr. Nationals. Seeing such small classes with those pro cards up for grabs. I don't know if it has to do with the new scoring system where routine is so much value over physique. I'm not sure if that's what's deterring, because we had more competitors when it was spread out for three rounds, two piece, one piece and routine, all equal scoring. I'm not sure if it is that or they are just finding it too hard to train and do routine.

Q: One girl said to me she thinks girls aren't trying fitness because they think they have to be a gymnast, is that accurate to you?
A: I am one of the few girls who is not a gymnast. I don't do any gymnastics other than a cartwheel in my routine. I tell girls all the time, it is not a gymnast competition, it is a strength competition. So, work on your strength moves and you can do well in fitness. When you see one front round-off back hand spring, it looses its value so you do not need to be a gymnast to win.

Q: Recently you did physique at the Chicago Pro, why did you do physique?
A: I went physique in that show because it was my trainer Time Gardner's show. I wanted to compete in his first pro show. I was terrified. I flew to Denver to train with Carol Semple to learn posing and routine. Once I mastered the posing I was so excited to walk on stage. Like fitness, you have the routine and the posing, so it is like a show. You have to have that routine down to do well. I enjoyed it more than fitness because I had more stage time, the forty-five second posing routine in the morning and the two minute night routine with no mandatory moves. It was amazing to put a routine together. I loved physique and cant wait to do it again.

Q: So you do plan to do more physique?
A: I can cross and do both. As far as my injuries from over the years, I am having trouble with some of the fitness mandatories. Physique is easier on my body right now. I am thinking about one hundred percent switching, but haven't made that decision yet because I still love fitness.

Q: How hard was it to learn the posing?
A: It was extremely difficult. We are so trained to pose like figure competitors so it was difficult to learn how to do things like rotate the back to hit the back double bicep. That will be a work in progress. Luckily my best friend is one of the top supers in the world and he is helping me. With a year of training I think I can do well.

Q: As compared to fitness preps, did you do anything different?
A: No believe it or not, except I wasn't having to kill myself in the fitness routine practice. The training was exactly the same.

Q: Any idea when you will be on stage next?
A: If I had a sponsor, hint hint haha, I would be on stage in October, but with finances how they are, probably early next year.

Q: By then, physique wise, where would you like to improve?
A I would like to bring in my upper physique and come in a little bit fuller. I thought my conditioning was great, I felt comfortable and proud of my posing. The feedback was just to get a little fuller, I was probably the smallest girl on stage.

Q: In the gym, do you get the unwanted attention or stares?
A: I live in a small town in North Idaho, so there isn't many competitors walking around, yet we have a lot of iron-man athletes here. So being more of a bodybuilder physique I stand out a little bit. Most people don't really come up and bother me in the gym. It is a small town and everyone knows each other.

Q: In public, do you dress to cover up and avoid attention or more proud and showing it off?
A: I always cover my physique up in the gym, but outside I wear shorts and a tank-top and I definitely stand out with my legs. I'm not the average mom around town haha.

Q: At the Arnold's, I noticed you were one of the more engaging people working booth's, is that something you enjoy?
A: Yes! They call me a social butterfly. You cant walk me through a show without me stopping to talk to everybody. My family hates it, they wont come to shows with me anymore haha.

Q: If you could spend a day training with anyone who would you pick?
A: Carol Semple. My idol and mentor and friend has always been Carol Semple.

Q: Anyone you want to thank?
A: I have to thank Cynthia James. She took me under her wing at 2010 Jr. Nationals when I did not place. She thought that was my show. She encouraged me to not quit and molded me into the competitor I am today. Elaine Craig has supported me since I came out of retirement with great feedback. Carol Semple for giving me the choreography and encouragement. My best friend Todd Jewell for his support these last couple years and motivating me to try physique. My trainer, Tim Gardner and my two kids Candi and Stevie, they are so helpful and supportive. Sometimes I miss a soccer game here and there and they are so supportive about it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sheena Hunter Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heather Payne Interview

Photo Credits:
Photo 1: Jeff Binns
Photo 2: Tom Nine
Photo 3: James Cook
Photos 4-5: RX Muscle

Since the physique division has debuted we have seen bodybuilders downsize to compete in it and figure competitors add size to compete in it. While it is still new and still some are trying to figure out what the judges are looking for, there are some things that are clear. It is a division that is perfect for some people. In my mind, one person it is perfect for is Heather Payne. It allows her to train more the way she wants to train. While Heather always looked great on the figure stage, I feel she has looked even better on the physique stage. This year Heather has had to really good showings at both Jr USA's and Jr. Nationals, and I expect that in the not to distant future Heather Payne will be a physique pro.

Q: Can you talk about how you got started in the gym?
A: When I was twenty-two I had quit smoking and about six months later I had replaced the cigarette's with food. The zipper on my jeans one morning on the way to work and I started crying. I decided to get a gym membership and got a Muscle and Fitness Hers. I stared losing weight and found out I had muscle under the layers.

Q: Why did you decide to compete?
A: At first I was really really reluctant to do it. I had a lot of people in the gym approach me about competing, people who had competed in the past. I didn't think that I was the material required to compete so I put it off and put it off. I still trained because I thought it was a great idea, but I never really wanted to. All of a sudden, probably five years after I started training, I was like "let's try it and see what happens", and I have been stuck on it ever since.

Q: The first time were you nervous?
A: I don't even know what to call it. It was nervousness because I had no clue what to do, but at the same time I felt confident with how I looked. Backstage looking at everyone I was like "I got this", but I didn't really have it like I thought I did haha. I was just nervous not knowing what to expect up there.

Q: Some people say after that first time that it becomes an addiction, was that the case for you?
A: No, it wasn't an addiction. For me the stage wasn't the addiction, improving myself became the addiction.

Q: You started with figure, why did you switch to physique?
A: So I could start training again. I was national level in 2005 and in 2008 was when they were starting to make the switch over from the bigger to the smaller girls. I was caught up in the transition period where I was still small and thought I had to be bigger. By the time I got to where I thought I had to be, I was too big. Basically I was told I would be better off in bodybuilding. So I layed off the training and had been training for two years straight to fit into the figure criteria and it wasn't happening. Since I wasn't training hard it made it harder to lose the body fat. So the last two years I was like "I cant do this, I want to train again". So, I decided I wasn't going to compete, so I trained how I used to where I enjoyed going to the gym and didn't have to just do legs, I could do upper body again. Six months later they announced physique, so I decided to give that a shot.

Q: Was learning the posing hard for you?
A: No, actually the posing was easy because I started out as a natural bodybuilder. I was in a different organization for two years before I went into NPC figure.

Q: Recently you took sixth at Jr. USA's and seventh at Jr. Nationals, with it still being new and still figure out what judges want, how satisfied were you with how you placed?
A: Every competitor wants to place better than they do. Results are what they are. All the girls were phenomenal so I cant complain.

Q: Do you know what show is next?
A: Yes, North Americans in six and a half weeks.

Q: Do you know what improvements you want to make for that you want to make from North Americans?
A: Just a better me. There isn't much you can do in eight weeks except clear your head and try not to be psycho anymore haha.

Q: Is your prep for physique any different than your prep for figure?
A: The diet is a lot tighter. When I prepped for figure I was starving off everything I had, so the diet was strict but I wasn't worried about maintaining muscle. This one, it is more strict but I am still worried about maintaining muscle. It is a little different, almost the same. Kind of the same and kind of different. I am one of those people that doesn't lose weight easy so it's always hard for me.

Q: On stage you have a great stage presence and always look confident, is that accurate?
A: This will sound horrible haha. I don't know if it is confidence, I almost have a cocky attitude up there. haha. I guess you could say I am confident. You can only bring what you can.

Q: For people who may not follow the sport as closely, how important is that stage presence and confidence?
A: It's extremely important. People notice it. If you aren't confident it shows. It shows in your posing, your posture, your whole presentation. it will take you so much further. People will remember it. I don't know how many people do well when they are insecure with how the have brought themselves that day.

Q: Is photo shoots something you enjoy doing?
A: Yeah it is. They are fun. There are two sides to it. It is a lot of how I make a living and when you are seventy years old you want to look back and remember yourself.

Q: In the gym, do you get a lot of the unwanted attention or stares?
A: If I go to visit a gym, people will stare. At my gym they are used to me so I am part of the fixture there.

Q: In public do you dress to cover up and avoid attention or more dress to show you are proud and show it off?
A: It depends on my mood. Some days I cant deal with people and cover up. If I go to the grocery store and my arms are exposed, I get stopped six or seven times. In prep, you don't wanna deal with that. You wanna get in, get out and go home. People ask a lot of questions and it is hard to deal with sometimes. So most of the time I wear a baggy shirt so I don't have to deal with it. It sounds silly but it's hard sometimes.

Q: If you could spend one day training with anyone at all, who would it be?
A: My mom. Because I know the strength she has, but she doesn't like to show it off. I would love to train with her. She used to work out but not so much anymore. She is one of the strongest women I have ever met pound for pound. She wont train with me, she thinks I am psycho haha.

Q: Anyone you want to thank?
A: My family and friends for always trying to support me. My mom,s he keeps me going a lot, especially with the diet. She tells me "it isn't the last time you eat, food will be there afterwords".