Issue #108


by Juan Carlos Lope

20 Questions with Cover Model Rachel Strout

Video Interview with HardFitness Sponsored Athlete Caitlin Wheeler

Rachel Strout, Jennifer Delgado, Francesca Hartman, Layla Vossoughi & Lindsay Rojas

Video Interview with Amateur Figure Nanda Croft

Product of the Month
by Heather Hirmer

Video Interview with Pro Bikini Natalie Waples


20 Questions with Cover Model Rachel Strout

1) Please introduce yourself? What makes you special? Who is Rachel Strout?

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.

2) Please tell us a bit about your family, friends and surroundings?

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.  
Growing up, my family was considered a  small one; always has been (just 4 of us). But, we are close, even though miles separate us.  My parents live in Texas, and I miss them being in Colorado, close to me.  Growing up, my dad was very much a disciplinarian, but allowed my brother and I to experience adventure, such as skiing, snowmobiling, sports, road trips, etc.  I think my dad is an adventurer at heart, and he instilled in us a curiosity to see more of life than what's around us. When I was 20, I went skydiving without them knowing!  My mom was always a sweetheart; looking out for our safety, cooking us good food, and always being good listener and warmly loving us.  My brother was, and always has been an artist.  He's been drawing cars since he picked up his first crayola.  I've always envied my brother for his artistic abilities; he can literally draw and design anything!  
My friends are the other part of my family that is quite large.  My best friend, Audrey Wakefield, used to save me a spot on the school bus when we were in junior high.  We would spend countless hours together riding bikes and swimming in her family's pool; just hanging out and constantly bonding.  She is like the sister I never had.  I have always been social, and have had a large group of friends.  Though I had my "clique," I always knew a lot of people, and just tried to be friendly to them.  I like knowing people, and having a positive relationship with them.  I learn so much from those around me, and I think that's why I like to connect with as many as I can.  

3) How did you start competing in bikini?

I got my start in bikini after I got into shape for our wedding.  In the decade prior to that, I had some big ups and downs.  I used to smoke cigarettes and had a desk job.  Because I was always a skinny kid who ate whatever she wanted, I never really learned good eating principles.  After I kicked the smoking habit, I gained a lot of weight.  I'll never forget the time my parents, brother and I finally took that Hawaii trip we always dreamed of in 2005.  I was heavy and had a round face (something I've always hated about myself).  I love the water and was constantly in a swimsuit, but was very uncomfortable.  Looking back the the pictures now, I can't believe I was pushing 150lbs on a frame that used to carry just 115lbs of weight.  I've kept that picture with me as motivation to never go back there again.  I realize I wasn't obese, but the feeling of lethargy and inability was overwhelmingly depressing.  
In January of 2012, I logged onto Bodybuilding.com and followed Jamie Eason's Live Fit Trainer.  JJ wanted us to enter into a transformation challenge contest to win $100,000.  Well, we were too late to enter, but I wanted to be in the best shape of my life for our wedding, so I stuck with the program.  Once our wedding was done, I wanted more out of myself. I was healthy, in shape and happy, but I wanted to push myself more.  I stopped wishing for that Victoria's Secret body and yearned for a competitor's body.  I became obsessed with muscularity and how to get there.  I met a trainer that is also a bodybuilder, Mark Chism, and together we devised a workout plan to get me to my first show, The Rocky in November of 2012.  After The Rocky, I switched gyms, and met my current trainer, Adam Bonilla.  He helped really define and grow my muscles; taking me to that next level.

Rachel Strout

4) What is your personal policy (not what the judges want) about conditioning and muscularity when coming into a show? Soft or hard?

This is a tricky question.  My personal policy is to challenge yourself to be your best; better than last time.  I know I'm probably considered a "soft" competitor, but I just love the harder, muscular look.  Its easy to get addicted to the competition look, because it says a few things: unique, awesome, disciplined, rare.  Its a feeling and a look that's hard to describe.  Like many, I love Natalia Melo's competition look.  She is very muscular with a butt to die for.  However, in my opinion, its just a bit too hard and muscular, especially when talking about a "bikini" look.  The supposed description of bikini class is to look like you live on the beach, ie: eat fresh food, skip and play in the sand and water, and have a carefree personality.  If that is truly the case, then Natalia has gone a few steps beyond that.  After seeing Ashley Kaltwasser take the most recent Olympia title, she really does have that perfect look in my opinion.  She is overall toned in the upper body, and not too muscular in the stomach.  But the lower body...that seems to be the epitome of where the bikini judgment comes in, and I think she nailed it.  She has a nice, toned, strong base.  I'm obsessed with hamstrings, and cannot seem to get mine where I want them to be.  I LOVE 6-packs, but don't think an overly-lean trunk belongs in bikini, either.  

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. 

6) For the next shows what do you think you need to work on physique-wise/conditioning-wise? If anything!

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. 

7) What is your typical training routine in the gym (per day, include sets and reps!) How much cardio do you do before a show?

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.  

8) What is your pre-contest diet? (per day, 1 week before the show)

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")

Rachel Strout

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.

3 days before show, my water intake slowly goes down, while the dry carbs go up; thus sucking out subcutaneous water.  Day of show is very tough, because most shows NEVER go on as scheduled.  I was extremely frustrated at Nationals, because the show was hours late, and I missed my peak with the water.  Typically, though, I can only drink enough water, less than 8 ounces, enough to take my vitamins. Its mentally and physically tough, but only temporary!

10) What motivates you to train/diet and compete? Are there any competitors you looked up to?

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.  

11) Please tell us an interesting experience you had at a show recently, be it a fun thing or something rather not so fun?

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.

Rachel Strout

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.  

13) What has been your hardest challenge to overcome either in your personal life or competing career?

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.  

Rachel Strout

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.

16) What are your favorite foods to eat right after you compete on a Saturday night?

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.  

18) Do you have an athletic background? Gymnastics, soccer, volleyball or what?

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.  

Rachel Strout

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. 

20) What is your current occupation? Please tell us more about it, what do you specifically do in your job?

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! 

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