1) Please introduce yourself? What makes you special? Who is Rachel Strout?
My name is Rachel Strout, and I'm 32 years old. I don't think I'm special! I am, and feel like a normal, average suburban woman! The only thing that makes me different perhaps is my drive to be physically fit and compete in bodybuilding shows. Competing is something that most people never even dream of, or don't think they can do. I believe the simple action of me "doing" is what actually makes me special. I guess it takes a certain amount of bravery to get on stage more than half naked; being judged by everyone around me and a panel of judges.
My immediate family consists of my husband, Jeremiah (JJ), and our first baby; our dog Riley. We are a very loving family; I always say Riley is made of love and sunshine! JJ is a very driven, capable man. I look up to him in many ways at how he has grabbed life and taken control of it. He's an example of strong will and determination, yet is so sweet and loving at the same time. We live in Littleton, which in my opinion, is the perfect suburbia! Everything we need is close to us, yet just a short drive from adventure. The people in our neighborhood and at our gym are very friendly and welcoming. Living here is just a positive experience, and I love the feeling of community.
4) What is your personal policy (not what the judges want) about conditioning and muscularity when coming into a show? Soft or hard?
5) What is your idea of what judges want in a bikini competitor? Do you think judges are clear enough with competitors about how they want you on stage? It seems in Europe they are very clear unlike in the USA and now in Canada things are confusing.
) Its hard to speculate what judges want. Its like having a panel of people taste a certain food, or listen to a certain kind of music; the interpretation and preference will vary from person to person. I think the judging criteria could be, and should be clearer. For example, the 6-pack reference again. Two people can both have a visual "6-pack," but one may be more defined due to low body fat, and better muscle separation. The other may have the 6-pack, but may have the same bodyfat, but less muscle separation and volume, making them look "softer," I think the criteria should be VERY descriptive. For example: bikini competitors should have overall muscle tone, and should only have defined muscle separation in the following areas: overall delts, lower lumbar, quads, gluteal and hamstring tie-in, and abdominal area. Bodyfat should register between 12-14%. No visible striations. A small waist with well-balanced upper and lower body, creating an "hourglass" effect. Overall look should be athletic, not magazine soft, like where person is just dieted down. Its kind of annoying when you see competitors place that don't have any muscularity, and have just dieted. Save it for the magazines.
I KNOW I need work! My glutes and hamstrings are stubborn! I'm of Indonesian/Irish descent, and its just tough getting volume in the the larger muscle groups on a thin frame. I haven't been bodybuilding for long, so I know its a marathon, not a sprint.
My trainer has me doing blood-volume type workouts. Every 6-8 weeks my workouts change, including the style that they're done in. Typically, though, each workout day is devoted to a specific grouping. Basically, I do legs twice a week; one is focused on anterior, the other posterior. The warm up sets are 10 sets of 10 squats at regular pace (2 seconds). Then I jump into HEAVY lifts at lower reps, for example: extensions in the range of 4-6 reps, but at 4 second controlled negatives. In between heavy sets, he sprinkles in high rep exercises with full range of motion, for example: back extensions and hack squats, I do 12-15 reps. Some of my exercises go until failure on muscles like calves and abs. I will attach the document for a more detailed look.
Pre-contest diet is very low carbs, but high protein intake with a ton of veggies. Its exhausting, but that's why its called a depletion process! (Actually, we call it "Peak Week")
9) How do you go about dropping your water before the day of the show? How much water do you drink the day of the show. Please be specific.
What motivates me to compete is the exhilaration of getting in the best shape I can! Call it vanity, but there's something about pushing yourself to look your absolute best and getting on stage to show the judges what you've done. When I was out of shape and sedentary, I hated my lack of athletic ability, and always felt fatigued. Even though I go through a depletion process, I still feel energized from just eating strictly healthy food, and I know I look my best physically. Of course I look up to a LOT of other competitors, including ones that don't even compete in bikini. Jacklyn Abrams is a woman I knew back when she first started her journey. I thought of her every time I would start my prep, because she had a lot of drive, and shocked many around her when she announced her involvement in bodybuilding. She earned her Pro status in fitness, but now competes in Women's Physique. She is an incredibly talented, sweet individual, and I have been SO impressed by her journey, and honored to know her. Another friend of mine I went to high school with had a body transformation from obesity to competition shape; Stacy Sekiya. Just knowing her and seeing how she put herself out there really opened my eyes to believing "I can do this, too." Of course, I always looked at pictures of people I didn't know, like Jamie Eason, Dianna Dahlgren, Natalia Melo and the likes. These women embodied the "ultimate look" in my eyes, and I've aspired to be like many of them. My list of inspirations goes on and on, because I didn't just identify with one. The one main thing we ALL share is the DESIRE to be healthy, fit, look our best and inspire others. Above winning a trophy, there just simply isn't a better compliment than hearing you've inspired someone around you or out there in the world to embark on their own journey.
Something that was interesting to me at a recent show was at Nationals. It was my first time there, and to see the judges, ones you read about on the NPC websites and such, it was interesting to see that they are in fact, REAL people. When I saw Sandy Williams, I was like "she does exist!" And while I may not have wowed her or the others with my appearance, it was interesting to see their excitement when the competitors made the first callouts, To see the judges be impressed with a group of people was so interesting to me, because they almost seem jaded and bored with the volume of competitors. Only when first callouts were made did I see papers rustling, eyes widen, mouths whisper and a true sense of interest. I'm not downing their behavior behind the panel, I just thought it was interesting.
12) What is your personal opinion about the figure, fitness, bodybuilding industry we are in? Anything you would like to see changed?
This is a very tough question because its kind of double-sided. On the one hand, its great that people can choose which division they want to compete in. On the other hand, its a tough call, because some competitors look like they'd be better off in a division they aren't competing in. For example: a bikini competitor that is so muscular, she should be in figure. If I were to change one thing about it, it would be the suit! lol I say this because many bikini competitors I know love the muscular look, but don't' want to compete in figure simply because of the suit. So, they take their chances in bikini being too muscular.
My biggest challenge in my personal and competing life is that I care too much what others think. After years of contemplation and studying, I figured out why: I want to be liked and accepted. Throughout my life, I have been a part of many groups of people: athletic, smart, pretty, domestic, etc. There were numerous times I felt like I was a part of the group, only to be deceived later. An example that comes to mind was from when I was about 14 years old. I had a group of friends that were the "popular and pretty girls." They welcomed me in and things seemed great. One day, while at lunch, the prettiest and most popular one in the group came up to me and wanted to go and "talk in private." We were sitting on a hill, and as we sat down, I noticed she was not going to sit. My butt barely touched the ground when she tried to grab my feet and pull me down the hill, thus trying to grass-stain my white pants. Heartbroken and confused, I removed myself from that group out of embarrassment. I found another group of "friends," that were the "mean, popular girls." Again, things seemed great for awhile until they started ragging on me about one thing and another, saying I "smiled too much," and was "too bubbly and happy." Of course, this forever changed my personality and broke my mother's heart as I became a bitchy, attitude-having young adult. As I got older and realized these things, I eventually found myself again in fitness. Sadly, though, sometimes these things still happen, even in this industry, and pretty much in anything we do. I have learned, and am still learning not to let the opinions of others affect me; to only surround myself with those that treat me well and love me. But, for some reason, there are times that I still feel like I want to be accepted and liked by everyone, and I know that's just unrealistic. Its a daily practice to be positive, and what keeps me positive is my belief in God, the love and support of my husband. family and friends. Also, I don't want to be pass on negative energy, especially to those that feel I inspire them, so I do my best daily to complete my work, reach my goals, and support others.
14) Did you make any changes to your contest prep for your last show? Water intake, carbing up, etc...
My contest prep didn't change a whole lot from the last time, except for leaning out more. I had to really dig deep to restrict my carb and fat intake. The lowest I'd ever been before The Rocky and Nationals this year was around 14% bodyfat. My goal was to be right at 12% for these last two shows, and I was able to reach that goal, but it was TOUGH.
15) What do you think of bikini division?
Its a love/hate relationship with bikini division. On the one hand, its a growing sport, and I love that it inspires many women to get healthy and in shape. On the other hand, there are times that the shows are so flooded with competitors, especially in bikini division, that it loses that "special" feeling. I think the same for men's physique. Shows are overloaded, run late, and the figure, physique and bodybuilding divisions are last to compete. At The Rocky this year, nearly the whole audience left after bikini and men's physique went, leaving few in the seats to cheer on men's bodybuilding. We stayed to watch our friend compete, and he was literally the last man to go on, and that was at 1am! Its unfair to the competitors, because diet and water are dependent on timing. There's a lot of heated discussion about that just being part of "the sport," but I tell you, there's got to be a better way. The hard part is coming up with a solution that can satisfy the majority. It seems to me that bodybuilding has expanded its divisions to incorporate different body types, but there's some confusion and judgment from competitors that downplays the rigors of the preparation process. This is why I wish there was a more defined list of exactly what the judges want to see, rather than a generalized list that nearly anyone can fit into. Like I said, its all double-sided, and often comes down to opinions.
I don't have a discriminating pallet; I love almost ALL food! However, I usually crave carbs, and dive right in like a total newbie. After Nationals, we had burgers, and it was well-worth the tummy ache! I am a candy junkie, and am constantly fighting urges to eat bag after bag of sour, chewy candies!
17) Please tell us about how you were raised and did you have any interesting experiences while growing up?
In a nutshell, I was raised in a Catholic home. I attended catechism as a youth and had my first communion in the 5th grade. In my house, it was all about practicing faith, studying, or sports. I usually found a way to blaze through the first two and focus on the latter; sports. Both of my parents worked, and I got a job by the time I was 14 years old. My biggest priority was getting a car, which equaled freedom from chores at home. Something interesting that happened growing up was when a friend of my mother came to stay the night. I was 16, and my mom's friend, April, was 22 years old. She was a single mom with two very young children. She had a turbulent relationship with both of her parents. My mom met her while working at Americorps. My mother really cared for April as if she were her own child, and we offered her a room to stay one night after she fought with her own parents. Just the 3 of us "girls" stayed up late chatting and laughing. April briefly mentioned having some health issues, but didn't make a big deal of it. The next day, my mother told me to let April sleep in and get some much needed rest. My mom headed to work, and I hung out at home on Spring Break watching TV. Around noon, my mom came home and asked if April was awake, I said "no." As my mom descended the stairs to check on her, I had an immediate dark feeling. Right then my mom screamed for me to come downstairs, and as I approached the bed, April appeared to still be sleeping. I reached out for her hand, and its was stiff and cold. She had passed in her sleep, and we later found out that she was on a waiting list for a heart transplant. It was a very sad day, but my mom and I felt like April knew she would die soon, and wanted to do it in a comfortable, loving home. I will never forget that day, and the importance of how precious life is.
As a child, I participated in dance and gymnastics. I quit gymnastics before I learned to do a back-handspring on my own and regret it to this day. My favorite toy growing up was a trampoline, and it was the perfect outlet for my endless energy. Field day was my favorite in school, because athletics was something I excelled at. I loved the sprints, and always took first place. I even gave the boys a run for their money! I played volleyball in high school (shortest member), and moved on to cheer-leading (something I ALWAYS wanted to do). I loved being active and social. I focused on that more than the books; something I realize now I should have made more time for. When I got a desk job, I really missed having something athletic to do, which is why I love bodybuilding now as an adult. My husband and I also love snow boarding and wake-boarding, so each season I have something athletic to keep pushing me, instead of always hitting the weights.
19) What is a typical day in the life of Rachel Strout? From waking up to until going to bed?
My days are pretty varied, but my waking and sleeping schedule remain consistent. I wake up and eat breakfast with JJ and Riley as a family. We go over our plans for the day, and then I head to the gym. If I'm not working, I usually have a host of things to take care of from grocery shopping, taking care of personal business, meetings, anything that comes my way. I'm constantly thinking about food and what/when am I eating next. Bodybuilding isn't a temporary thing, it truly is a lifestyle, and if I want to succeed, I need to make time for it always. By the time the afternoon rolls around, I'm starting to prep for the next day. One thing I am working on is to make more private time for my family. I am involved in so many things that take time, whether it be in person or on the computer. I am in process of getting my trainers cert, so I will need to come up with some parameters for myself to put down the phone and focus on family in the evenings.
I own a construction business with my husband, and I also do posing coaching for bikini in bodybuilding. I want to be a personal trainer as well, so that I can help others adopt a healthier lifestyle. For me, personal training isn't just about teaching people HOW to work out, but rather how to live the LIFESTYLE. Its a mental process above all else. My college degree is in Communications, specifically human behavior. I feel like I am more qualified to help people, than the average trainer, because I understand where the excuses come from and how to overcome them. I don't like doing just one thing, or one job, so I fully enjoy the variety of my work!