Interview with a Figure Champion

Naomi Sach's presentation pose, June 2012.

Naomi’s presentation pose, June 2012.

I have a special treat for you this week: a written exchange between me and an impressive woman I have not yet met in person, but will be cheering for when she competes in the Canadian Bodybuilding Federation’s National Figure Competition in New Westminster, British Columbia on August 11, 2012. Amazingly, Naomi qualified for Nationals during her first year on stage, after placing first in her height categories at both the local and provincial levels! In spite of her rigourous work and training schedules, she took the time to respond to my sometimes probing questions. 

FFG: Please tell my readers about yourself.

NS: My name is Naomi S. I am 25 years old and have recently competed in my first two figure competitions; the Northern Alberta Bodybuilding Championships and the Donna and Brian Logue Provincial Bodybuilding Championships, both held in June 2012.

I am exactly 5’4 and competed in the figure short and figure medium categories respectively. On stage, I was about 122 lbs at each show.  Before pre contest training my weight was approximately 128 lbs with poor dieting and no exercise.

Naomi Sach's front pose, June 2012.

Naomi’s front pose, June 2012.

FFG: Why did you decide to enter a figure competition?

NS: I’ve been weight training on and off for about six years. I would say it was a just as much on as off!!  Prior to weight training, I did competitive rhythmic gymnastics for 8 years (7-15 yrs old).  It had never been an original goal of mine to compete; however, during my weight training efforts I met several competitors and enthusiasts, and they encouraged me to try a competition.

In January 2012 I, like many people, made a resolution to work out and stay in shape. By the end of January, I had again built up quite a bit of training momentum.  This momentum prompted me to seek out some pre-contest trainers. I was referred to Rob and Asha Belisle from my training partner who used them for a prior regional competiton. Rob is an IFFB Pro bodybuilder and Asha is currently the President of the Alberta Bodybuilding Association. Together they are a wealth of information on pre contest training and dieting.

FFG: Why did you choose figure over bikini or bodybuilding?

NS: The first meeting with Rob and Asha involved an analysis of my physique and body fat measurements.  They recommended that I compete in figure to suit my naturally broad shoulders and small waist.

Rob and Asha required me to send in photos of myself to them every Friday.  They started me with a relatively high calorie intake and subsequently removed calories from the carbs and fat department as the contest neared. Along with this caloric reduction they increased my cardio time.

FFG: What did you learn about your body during the diet down and training process?

NS: The entire process was very difficult as it was my first time dieting for an extended period of time. I wasn’t quite sure how much I could exert myself eating six small meals a day.  I didn’t want to burn out, as I had to maintain a part time job working busy eight-hour night shifts.

During the contest prep, I learned a lot about my body’s response to training.  I typically exercise with the intention on making a working body part sore. For some reason, I believe soreness results in growth. Whether this is true or not is probably debateable. However, what I did find was that soreness also becomes more and more difficult to attain as the body becomes accustomed to training stress. I avidly researched different workout techniques to add to my routines to maintain soreness throughout my body. Drop sets, negatives, compound sets, super sets, pyramidization, you name it, I tried it.

FFG: What is your favourite body part? Your least favourite?

NS: My favorite body part is my legs. I felt that I worked the hardest and longest before seeing any definition in this area. My upper body has always responded rapidly to past training programs but throughout my years of training I haven’t seen much in the way of quad and ham definition. During this contest prep however, I emphasized leg workouts by performing particularly heavy sets and doing lots and lots of cardio. The cardio helped burn fat away to better visualize the muscle and the heavy leg workouts really helped maximize growth (and soreness….)  Voila, after 3 months of intense leg training my legs really started to pop.

I don’t have a least favorite body part? That’s a silly question. Shouldn’t we love ourselves? Ha ha. However, I do not like training my biceps. I find it mundane in comparison to training any other body parts.

Naomi Sach's back pose, June 2012.

Naomi’s back pose, June 2012.

FFG: What was most challenging about this process?

NS: A rather irritating challenge I encountered during my prep occurred after I fractured my pinky finger on my right hand during an absentminded fall on my home staircase. The x-rays, visits to the plastic surgeon, awkward custom molded splints, and reduced lifting capacity really upset my progress. I still have six weeks of splint wear left . Its still a nuisance as I write this.

FFG: Why do you think you won your categories? What set you apart from the others? (Warning: there is no need to be modest as you did win first place twice in a row!)

NS: I believe I won my categories primarily because I really prepared with a lot of research. I wanted to not only bring the best package I could but I took the time to watch hundreds of pro competitions to really get a feel for what “stage presence” was. I also spent a mini fortune on a beautiful suit with two thousand four hundred thirty swaroski cystals on it. It was impossible to go unnoticed. My history in competitive gymnastics also got me accustomed to being scrutinized by a panel of judges. I’m not stage shy and quite enjoy the limelight.  My trainers tell my I have a good “shape” for figure. To be modest, I am symmetrical, and this sport prides itself on symmetry. Yes I may be genetically gifted in the way of symmetry but I also do train like a mad man.  One of my mantras is to “train until you [I] have no weaknesses”.

FFG: Will you ever compete again? Why or why not?

NS: Yes I will be competing again. Actually in five and a half weeks to be exact. This will be the  2012 Bikini, Figure, Fitness, Mens Physique & Elite Mens Bodybuilding Championships in New Westminster on August 11.  I’m very excited and invigorated from my last two competitions and look forward to this one.

FFG: Did the diet change your understanding of, or relationship with, food in any way?

NS: The dieting has given me a good grasp of portion sizes and how to eat if I want to keep my weight in check in the future or say get ready for a vacation. It was interesting to see my body’s responses to the various dieting strategies throughout the prep.  After much trial and error we decided a whole foods ( ie. no shakes, just lean protein and egg whites for protein sources), low carbohydrate approach kept me the leanest.

The dieting was particularly hard as I am a foodie and always will be. I thrive on indulgence and deprivation (yes, I’m a somewhat tormented soul). Let me explain. From a young age I was introduced to fine cuisine through my mom’s cooking, which is spectacular, and a myriad of fine dining experiences (the joys of being an only child). Foie gras, truffles, exotic meats, French cuisine….. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t spoiled nor were my parents rich. However, food brought the family together. My mom would coupon clip for months on end before splurging on truffle oil or fresh figs. This relationship towards food was definitely ingrained into me. My favourite pastime as a young adult naturally became restaurant hopping and traveling simply with the intention of sampling new cuisines. I don’t like sightseeing, and I am not a tourist. I just love eating. I also have an incredible appetite and am permanenetly hungry or thinking of food. My appetite never dropped my entire prep. I feel sometimes being such a gourmand became a double edged sword during my contest prep. On one hand I felt deprived from my typical indulgences, but on the other I really knew what my body was craving and was able to seek it out during my allotted cheat meals.  I was allowed one cheat meal a week to last up to 90 minutes up to two weeks out from the show. Being so in touch with my food senses, I knew exactly which restaurant to hit to keep me sane and leave me mildly satisfied for yet another week of deprivation.

I definitely do get a mental high out of constant dietary restriction. I see my ability to keep up with the dieting as a constant reminder of how headstrong I can be. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Correct?

FFG: Did your pre-competition experience impact either positively or negatively the other relationships in your life? (I ask this because my training and dieting were very difficult for my partner, mostly because near the end I was an exhausted bitch).

NS: The contest training and lifestyle definitely helped my relationships out. I work in the food and beverage industry and a typically night out involves a lot of alcohol. Having a contest on the agenda allowed me to easily opt out of these debaucheries, without seeming like a prude. A close friend of mine even followed suit and stopped drinking herself even though she wasn’t preparing for a show. To keep in touch with everybody, my weekly cheat meals became social events sometimes with up to eight people present. It really was my happiest moment of every week. Since I work with a lot of my close friends, I never felt out of touch with anyone. And I am single, thank god. I couldn’t imagine having to cater to anyone during intense training or dieting. All my friends have been incredibly supportive.  It definitely was a positive experience.

FFG: What was it like back stage?

NS: Backstage at the first show was very friendly. It appeared that it was the first time competing for the majority of competitors. Widespread unfamiliarity all united us and the “cattiness” I was mentally preparing for wasn’t present.  In fact, the backstage at the second show was also very friendly. No drama, no fights.  Go Albertan competitors!! Whooo!

FFG: What was it like to win your first show?

NS: It was exhilarating and gratifying to win my first show. I guess, that was the point I finally believed my trainers when they told me I looked good. I figured they might have been gracious with all their little ducklings.

FFG: What did you eat immediately after the show? Had you been craving it for months?

NS: After my first show we went to Original Joes which was one of the few late night  dine in options. I was encouraged by my friends during this dinner to compete again at provincials two weeks away. The stress of having to compete again so soon made me nervous and I only picked at the food.

After the provincials show however, where I placed first again, I had been hard dieting for so long that I was ready for a good binge. What I didn’t know was that my binge would spiral out of control into a 4 day eat a thon where I’d gain 10 lbs. Yes, that happened. I was embarrassed and couldn’t send my Friday photos to Rob and Asha. I felt hideous. I guess my body needed it. I was spent and needed some recovery rest and food. To kick me back into high gear I booked my flight to New Westminster and hotel stay. The cost of the trip and the idea of making a fool of myself on stage reved me up.  I was once again back in the game.

FFG: What was the funniest or best pre-competition moment?

NS: I don’t know if I had a funny or best pre competition moment. I enjoyed everything. This might be my calling, we will see how I do at nationals.

FFG: What was your lowest point (if any)?

NS: I don’t really have low points. Ever since I took guys out of my life I have been stress free. Ha ha ha!!

FFG: Yes I have heard that being single can be fabulous and I marvel that some of my uncoupled friends keep looking for the elusive and potentially mythical ‘special someone.’ But that baffling issue is for another post…

Good luck to Naomi at Nationals; we will all be cheering for you and I will keep my readers posted about your continued success.

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About feministfiguregirl

I am a 51-year-old professor named Lianne McTavish who receives as much satisfaction from working out at the gym as from publishing my academic research. About eight years ago, I decided to combine my two primary identities (scholar/gym rat) to create "Feminist Figure Girl," a fictional character who both analyzes and participates in bodybuilding. I competed in my first figure show in June of 2011, and then wrote a book inspired by the process, published by SUNY Press in February 2015. In this blog I will write about and consider my ongoing research on the body, while regularly making fun of myself. I recommend that you start reading my first post from August 2010 (available on the home page), instead of backwards from the most recent one, in order to get the full FFG effect.

4 thoughts on “Interview with a Figure Champion

  1. She’s beautiful, clearly going to do great things in her competitive career. I can’t wait to follow her story at Nationals. Aaaah to have such symmetry!

  2. Great interview! As a big foodie myself, it gives me hope that someone else so passionate about food has been able to be successful with the competition diet. I’ve been planning my weekly cheat day like it’s a scared event.

    • As another foodie who has competed, I should say that the diet made me love food even more but I did not cheat through the week during the five months of dieting, only on my (minimal) cheat day once per week. I also planned a massive dinner party for a few weeks after my show and that helped me satiate my foodie ways too.

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