Issue #114


by Juan Carlos Lope

20 Questions with Cover Model Francesca Hartman

Video Interview with Amateur Figure Lexi Berriman

Francesca Hartman, Carla Cadotte, Carly Lobato, Debi Laszewski & Gal Ferreira

Video Interview with Amateur Figure Amber Bechtel

Product of the Month
by Heather Hirmer


20 Questions with Cover Model Francesca Hartman

Francesca Hartman

1) Please introduce yourself? What makes you special? Who is Francesca Hartman?

My name is Francesca Hartman. I am a Vegetarian figure competitor, when someone asks what exactly being a vegetarian competitor is I respond by saying that I will not eat anything that once had a face to include fish of course. My protein is primarily plant based, but I occasionally will incorporate Whey protein for its biological value. My other main source of protein is egg whites. I am 31 years old and rising lol, I have 4 college degrees my highest being a Master’s in Education from Arizona State University.

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

There are 6 of us kids, I am the middle child and oldest girl. 3 of us joined the military at young ages and were fortunate enough to gain educations as a result of our support in OIF I & II. I have a very supportive family and friend’s base for this sport. My mom really loves being a part of the actual competition day and helping us put on makeup and get pretty, and now my sister will be competing this year in the Bikini Division.

3) How did you start competing in figure?

I began in the Bikini division in Mar 2010 when I won my first show. I have always done very well, I always placed top 10 at nationals and 4th at the 2011 Arnold Classic. But my body loves muscles and I just kept building even when I was trying not to so I made the switch in 2013 and have loved every minute.

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

I love hard, but I love muscles! For bikini stage presence held a lot of the scoring, but of course the winner would need to come in with balance/ symmetry and all around conditioning and conditioning means dieting. For figure it’s mainly balance/symmetry and conditioning. Coming in hard shows your level of conditioning and dedication to the sport. I personally am a fan of the overall balance of muscles so I haven’t grasped the concept of the overall large rounded shoulders with small triceps and biceps that I have seen placed as a standard and measuring stick in figure but I know that I may understand this expectation in the future.

5)  What is your idea of what judges want in a Figure 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.

After being in the sport for nearly 5 years I can see what the judges want, the issue is when the judges from all around the USA are not on the same page. If Nicole Lee Wilkins, Erin Stern and Candice Keene are our top winners at the Arnold Classic and Olympia than, us amateurs look at them as a model of perfection and standard in the figure division. So when I see figure competitors win a class I am hoping to see the same level of balance/symmetry and conditioning as our top standards even if they are shorter or taller than the top winners. For example, the top figure competitors came in harder this year, so it would be expected that the standard would be a hard look. It would be awesome to have a detailed description of what the judges are specifically looking for and create a less subjective and possibly more fair sport, but this is about beauty and beauty is subjective.

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

Ugh… Every bodybuilding competitor could rattle off a list of all their imperfections and I am NO exception to that rule. But that drive for perfection is what gets us on stage and makes us competitive. My last show was the 2013 USA Bodybuilding championships in Las Vegas, NV. This was my first time stepping on stage for the figure division and the first time I did not place top 10. It was an eye opener and I had to step back and look at my physique and see what went wrong. It was simple to identify and it has been a struggle I deal with a lot. I have a rare kidney disease called Renal Tubular Acidosis type 4 which alters my aldosterone levels and results in a potassium and sodium imbalance and causes me to retain water and hormones. Which is exactly what happened, I hold a lot of weight/water in my lower body and behind my glutes and fills up all my fat cells, it simply throws away months of training. As a natural competitor I have to train harder and come in leaner than most girls to counteract the possibilities of being off balance the day or even week of the competition. Next show, I hope to be more conditioned and tighter in the glutes with larger shoulders and Lats!

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?

Depending on how far out I am and how conditioned I am I usually will do 25min HIIT am & Pm 2 weeks out and 1.5 hours of cardio a day one week out if I need to fight into more fat before filling out my muscle the week of the comp.

My rep count and weight change depending on my carb intake and distance from the competition to avoid pulling too much glycogen from my muscles. But on a typical week I do a 4 day carb cycle and training below:

Francesca Hartman

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

My Pre-contest diet is more intense than most competitors because I am a vegetarian, when we get down to the low carb days I am only consuming about 20g of carbs a day (I never completely cut my carbohydrates) and plant based proteins. No whey protein due to the dairy and no egg whites due to the sodium. I always maintain and constant fat intake and I eat a lot of asparagus and steam spinach. I never alter my sodium intake and I drink water even on the day of the competition, I really like Layne Norton’s science behind how the muscles will fill out and the balance of minerals and water in the body.

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.

Like I mentioned before, I will not ever pull my water for a comp. I will lower the amount to 5oz every hour on competition day if I need to dry up more but your muscles need water! The day before a competition I drink about a gallon of water and ensuring my body has water in it every hour. Because of my kidney disease I make sure health is a priority over looking good on stage. Again, I would suggest looking up Layne Norton’s peak week articles where is explains the “why’s” of sodium and water manipulation.

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

I am motivated by the idea of being in my 50’s and still being hot! I always want my husband to find me attractive so having his words of affirmation that I look good is enough for me. And as a result he always maintains a healthy physique for me as well. We have made training a hobby for us both. The competitors I look up to are one of my best girlfriends Dawn Fernandez, who knew me from the beginning of this hobby, I really like Candice keene’s, Nicole Wilkins and Erin Sterns look as well. I am a fan of maintaining a feminine appearance and symmetry while bringing muscle into the mix. And I feel like these women have that!

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

This is an interesting story… When I competed at the March 2013 Muscle contest I had talked my husband into going to Denny’s for breakfast before the show. When we got done and headed back to the venue he waited on me hand and foot including doing my tanning and glaze before stepping on stage. When I got done I had won my class and the Overall and I could not find him anywhere. He had spent so much time and energy into my training and making me beautiful for that day and he refused to tell me that the eggs he had for breakfast at Denny’s gave him food poisoning and he was tossing cookies while I was placing, but he wanted to make sure I was good to go first. I felt horrible, it was definitely a bitter sweet day for the both of us.

12) What is your personal opinion about the figure, fitness, bodybuilding industry we are in? Anything you would like to see changed? 

It is a harsh sport with everyone giving their opinions on your physique, but at the end of the day that is the industry. I know that when I pay to compete I am paying for some guy or girls opinion of my physique, I truly believe at the end of a competition every man and women needs to know that the validation of their self-worth is not based on what you physically look like or your placing due to someone else’s opinion of position of subjective “expertise”. As mentioned before, it would be awesome to see a more detailed description of what the judges are looking for, even side by side comparisons of right and wrongs of muscle groups and what the standard is. I would also like to see something more for the competitors at these shows, for example a ticket for a guest into the show, supplements, better showmanship and stage decorations and performances. These aren’t inexpensive events and it usually looks like it’s all been thrown together the night before and everyone is running around confused. That may be the military perspective in me, but it would be nice to have the events more organized.

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

The hardest challenge would be ensuring that I don’t place winning over my relationship with friends and family. I am a competitive natured person and sometimes I get tunnel vision and go for the win without seeing how I am effecting the people I love around me.

Francesca Hartman

14) Did you make any changes to your contest prep for your last show? Water intake, carbing up, etc...

Yes, before I understood what was causing my water retention I would slow down my water intake at 7pm the night before the show, and now I will not do that. For some competitors it works, but they probably don’t have a kidney issue. I do carb up the last few days before stepping on stage, it always pumps up my muscles.

15) What do you think of bikini division?

I love bikini division, it was tough for me because I couldn’t work out the way I wanted since I developed so much and my dieting was far more strict because I wasn’t trying to push nutrients into my muscles like I am now. But the bikini division brought an interesting facet and mainstream interest to the bodybuilding industry, especially during a time of recession when every company and organization financially struggled. It was a smart move on behalf of the industry.

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

REESES PIECES!! Lol, I also love Cheesecake Factory Red Velvet Cheesecake!
And I know it is weird but I love potatoes as my meal… I love carbs.

17) Please tell us about how you were raised and did you have any interesting experiences while growing up?

I had a rough child hood until I was about 11 years old. My father was diagnosed with Schizophrenia and Turrets Syndrome when I was 3 years old and that always made for interesting days. He was violent and we never knew if he was Marilyn Monroe or Frank Sinatra some days. My mom was a strong willed Irish women, she had 3 girls with my dad, myself being one of them. When I was 5 years old they divorced and we visited my father until I was 11 years old and he couldn’t concentrate or remember me during unsupervised visitations. My mother married an amazing man who adopted us as his own and worked every day to give us the things we could have never had without him, including our education and sense of wellbeing and safety.

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

Great question! I played softball until my sophomore year of high school and ran cross country. I joined the military at 17 years old but always struggled with my weight, after I returned home from Baghdad, Iraq at 19 years old in 2005, because of depression I had tipped the scales at 200lbs and at 5’2” that was considered obese. It was hard to get down to my desired bikini weight of 105lbs in 2011, but I achieved it. And I maintained a healthy weight since then.

Francesca Hartman

19) What is a typical day in the life of Francesca Hartman? From waking up to until going to bed?

530 am wake up and 25Min HIIT at home.
600-700am: Get dressed and pack food for the day
700-500pm: Teach 5th graders
500-700pm: Gym (body part for the day & 25min HIIT training)
800-900pm: Quality time at home to catch up with my loved ones and bedtime to do it all over again! Structure is great!

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

I currently teach 5th graders and it’s a great job. I am at a preparatory academy of international studies and I focus on Language arts. Language arts is a strong asset of mine so I try to always encourage the kids to be creative and think outside the box when applying concepts to language arts.

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