Question and Answer with a fitness model

1. What’s your fitness background?

Since the age of four, I’ve practiced artistic gymnastics. In 1996, I earned a full-ride athletic scholarship to Stanford University where I competed until I was 22 years old. As a child, I enrolled in six years of ballet, jazz, and tap dance classes, performing in a series of spring shows, dance recitals, and musical theater productions. During my junior and senior year of high school, I competed springboard diving for Punahou School and became Hawaii State Champion in 1996.

2. How did you get started in the fitness industry?

As a senior in high school, I choreographed several fitness routines for recreational gymnasts at my club-gym. I was told I would enjoy competing, myself, but I had to wait until my college gymnastics career finished. Otherwise, winning any cash prizes could jeopardize my college gymnastics scholarship. (To compete as a NCAA athlete, you must maintain an amateur status.) Two years after my college career concluded, I missed performing and thought, “hey what better venue than a fitness contest to give me an incentive to get back into shape and perform on stage again!” So in January of 2002, I choreographed my own fitness routine and began training for my first contest that took place in San Diego on September 7th. Little did I know, a year later, I would win the national title at Ms. Fitness USA and earn third in the Ms. Fitness World competition!

3. What do you feel is your biggest fitness-related accomplishment?

Winning Ms. Fitness USA 2004 has to be the highlight of my fitness career thus far. I’ve also enjoyed travelling internationally to represent the US in world championships. I look forward to promoting health globally.

4. Is fitness modeling/competition your full-time job? If not, what else do you do?

No. It’s a hobby I enjoy. Like fitness contests, my full time job lets me share my love for artistic expression through dance and gymnastics. For several years I have choreographed and performed as an acrobatic dancer for Sea World and Tokyo Disney. Currently, I am about to begin training and performing with Cirque du Soleil. In addition, I choreograph fitness routines as well as club and college-level floor-exercise-gymnastics routines.

5. What are your immediate and long-term goals?

Immediate goals: to prepare for the FitnessWoman World Championship in Warsaw, Poland.

Long term goals: to stay healthy, limber, and strong while I grow as an artist, performer, and competitor.

6. Please describe a typical day for you. What is your daily routine like?

Wake up; perform a cardiovascular workout for 20-30 minutes; have breakfast; check e-mail/read/pay bills; have a mid morning meal; go to work; perform a daily sit-up routine at work in between shows; have lunch; perform my last two shows at work; have a late afternoon meal; run errands; have dinner; catch up with friends; stretch and do more sit-ups before bed; sleep.

7. Please describe your normal diet. How do you eat to stay in shape?

I’ve found eating more frequently throughout the day has helped increase my metabolism. When I do eat, I separate my carbohydrates from my proteins and fats; it’s a diet plan suggested to me by Don Lemmon and his book, Know How, The Truth About Exercise & Nutrition.

8. What is your training routine like?

I like to alternate my cardiovascular and weight lifting workouts every other day. I’ll often choose to swim, run, or use a Stairmaster for my cardio workout. My weight training focuses primarily on my arms and a little on my legs (lots of squats!). In addition to cardio and weights, I have several conditioning moves I perform that I learned from gymnastics practice (candle-stick roll to squat jump, pike press handstands against the wall, leg lifts hanging from a bar, and frog jumps to name a few). A daily sit-up routine compliments my training either during my workout or later in the afternoon. I also enjoy waking up to a 15-minute Pilate’s exercise routine. It gets my muscles warmed up and stretched out to start my day.

9. What supplements do you use?

I take Don Lemmon’s Know How multi-vitamin, Sweet Wheat, and Tri-vita sublingual B with folic acid.

10. How do you motivate yourself to get/stay in shape?

The best way to motivate myself is to remember how empowering it is to achieve what I like to call a “weightless freedom” that comes from performing a gymnastic skill flawlessly. Gracefully defying gravity can only happen when we are strong enough to keep good form (or keep our muscles tight, legs locked together, and toes pointed.) This “clean” sensation inspires me to push myself that much harder during my workouts. I gain the confidence and courage to take new risks—inside, as well as outside, the gym.

11. What are a few of your favorite fitness and health-related web sites?

12. What tips would you give to someone who wanted to get into the fitness competition industry?

I would only recommend competing if you feel confident that you can perform a safe and clean (without form-breaks) routine. Many women join the industry because they are proud of their toned physiques. The problem is they don’t have the proper dance or gymnastics background to attempt some of the more difficult skills. When a competitor attempts a skill she’s not ready to perform physically, or even mentally, she can risk long-term injury. It’s important to recognize that there are several types of fitness competitions; some do not require the fitness routine. If you’re thinking about competing and don’t have a formal background in dance or gymnastics, I would recommend entering a contest that does not have you perform potentially dangerous skills before you’re ready to compete them. In the meantime, take recreational dance and gymnastics classes. Build your confidence while you develop new muscles and improve your skill-set. You’ll be amazed to learn being in shape does not always mean being in “gymnastics shape!” Be patient with your body and celebrate the little successes along the way!

13. If someone you knew asked you how to lose weight and get into shape quickly, what would you tell them?

I would suggest performing a cardiovascular workout as soon as you roll out of bed for three mornings a week. Start weight lifting with heavier weights to burn fat and build muscle. Reduce your “starchy” carbohydrates such breads, rice, potatoes. Increase your green, leafy vegetables. Eat more frequently throughout the day. Try a basic sit-up routine before bed. Cut out sugars. And don’t eat two hours before going to bed each night.

14. What do you feel differentiates you from other people in your field?

My education differentiates me from others in my field. I feel extremely blessed to have had the opportunity to earn a bachelors and masters degree from Stanford University. I studied East Asian Studies as an undergraduate with an emphasis on Chinese history and modern culture. My MA is in Communication, with a focus on media studies. In 1999, I traveled to Beijing, China on an undergraduate research opportunities grant (URO) to conduct independently designed field research. By training alongside Beijing’s professional gymnasts, I could interview the girls and learn about the disciplined lifestyles serious athletes in China lead. My honors thesis research led to two academic writing awards and a proposal for a Fulbright Scholarship. I hope to continue my honors thesis research by evaluating the college education former professional gymnasts receive and what career goals they plan to pursue. Although I am an alternate for the Fulbright Scholarship this year, I am excited to implement my research proposal in the near future and eventually publish my work on role of women’s athletics in modern China. With Beijing hosting the 2008 summer Olympics, I look forward to exploring how my research may benefit participants and spectators, alike.

15. Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Thank you for your time and energy devoted toward a healthy lifestyle. It’s hard to know what to believe when it comes to health and fitness these days. Should we invest in this product or that supplement or this gym? Do we have to empty our pockets just to get in shape and feel good? The answer is no. First and foremost, please remember our attitude makes a vital difference in our health. (And thank goodness attitudes don’t cost a penny!) A positive attitude can change our perspective on life as well as our overall self-confidence. Whether or not we feel like it, think positive thoughts. These thoughts affect our mood. Just remember the energy we create can be used for either a positive or negative purpose; it’s up to us to direct our energy in a healthy way so that we can continue to live life to its fullest!

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