THE FIT AND THE FURIOUS: ROBERT CHEEKE TELLS THE WORLD TO “SHRED IT!”

So if you haven’t noticed, our blog updates have been far and few between lately. This happens when you’re trying to get tasks done, life moving and goals reached. One guy who gets this, probably more than most, is Robert Cheeke. Robert, who many in the fitness industry know, is more or less, the Godfather of the Vegan Bodybuilding movement. Arnold Schwarzenegger with more Kale and less Austria. The man with the plant based plan. And if you know the name, and you know the man, then you know from launching the Vegan Bodybuilding revolution, he’s nailed one goal after the next, all ultimately for the animals. He literally wrote the book on Vegan Bodybuilding. Twice. And the guy is on the road more than Metallica and AC/DC.

In fact, this interview took place over the course of a few weeks due to his relentless touring schedule. “Is he in a band now?” you metalheads might be asking? Not that he’s told us, but he has spend the last few years taking vegan activism and the life of a best selling author to another level. From Europe to Australia, to countless Vegan Expos and Vegfest’s as well as Fitness Expos the world over, Robert’s dedication to spreading the word of a plant based, non-cruelty lifestyle is second to none. The Oregon native (currently in Colorado) has worked with a multitude of organizations and industry people on pushing the message to every postal code possible, and slowly but surely has been cracking open stereotypes in the fitness industry that non-vegans have about those with plant power. With two simple words: SHRED IT!


Robert and Vanessa Espinosa pushin’ weight

His latest book, SHRED IT!, is a ‘can’t live without’ manual of health and fitness information, recipes, testimonials and scientifically backed facts that has endorsements from some of the biggest names in fitness, from the likes of Dr. Colin Campbell to Rich Roll. Robert’s influence on the industry has been nothing but a positive impact, a vegan muscle meteor crashing into a fitness industry in dire need of a wake up call that many of it’s archaic traditions are no longer working in a progressive world. Remember when you heard about Schwarzenegger talking about how more should back off from meat and dairy and embrace more of a plant based diet? You can bet some of this can be attributed to Robert’s work. And chances are, this is just the tip of the iceberg for Mr. Cheeke’s plan for a less cruel, healthier planet. When he was a young kid in Oregon, he wanted to be an athlete and an author. He’s living his dream, and we all benefit from it.

MMF: So, give us a run down of the insanity that has been the Robert Cheeke world tour since your latest book Shred It! was released. I think you’ve had more tour stops than Iron Maiden in the last two years. What’s it been like going around the world promoting and discussing it?

Robert Cheeke: It sure has been a wild ride. Shred It! was released in November of 2014 and I have spent the past year and half on tour. One example of how crazy it has been is that within a few days of the book’s release I took off on a 3-week tour in Australia. It was so successful, I went back a year later for another 3 weeks in Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide, which are all wonderful cities. At one point in late 2015 I spoke at six vegan festivals over six consecutive weekends in places far from one another such as Florida, Texas, and Oregon as well as three cities outside of the US. Over the past 18 months I have traveled all over the USA and Canada as well as exotic places such as the Caribbean, Asia and Australia.

To me, one of the best parts of being an author is going out on tour and meeting people and seeing amazing places from small towns to iconic cities. I enjoy giving presentations, signing books, and I genuinely like the travel. Being an author has opened up many amazing opportunities for me, as well as for my family, and my business. In the coming weeks and months I’ll be in New York, Las Vegas, Los Angles, Denver, Phoenix, Chicago, and London, among other places. I’ve wanted to be an author since I was eight years old so it is really rewarding to live out that dream every day. I realize that the tours could end anytime, that I could be here today and gone tomorrow and no longer relevant, so I embrace every opportunity that I have to pursue this dream and leave a positive impact on those I influence.


Robert at one of many tour stops around the globe

MMF: Along the way you’ve had to encounter some of the bigger names in the fitness industry, not just the vegan fitness industry. Have fitness personalities outside the vegan community been receptive to the message of the book?

Robert Cheeke: Part of the fun of being an author about a specific subject, in my case, plant-based fitness, is that I quickly become associated with that topic and those seeking information about the plant-based fitness lifestyle will likely find my work. I have signed books for lots of celebrities in the vegan world and outside of the vegan world, from Mike Tyson to Jay Cutler and from Def Leppard to Tony Robbins. I have not only maintained my fitness but also put on muscle since releasing Shred It!, and I think that adds credibility, especially in the eyes of the non-vegan influencers, such as Tony Horton (P90X) who I recently worked out with at his house.

Overall, my book has been received very well from the non-vegan community. I think that is because of a few core reasons, including the passion I put into it. People can often recognize effort, heart, and passion, and can see that I spilled that into my book over the 2 ½ years it took me to produce it. Furthermore, Shred It! has been endorsed by dozens of world renowned experts, including some of the biggest names in the nutrition, health, and fitness industries. Experts such as Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., Julieanna Hever, R.D., Rich Roll, Kathy Freston, Rip Esselstyn, and about 20 other industry leaders peer reviewed and endorsed my book. These authorities in their fields have sold millions of books collectively and having their endorsement gives readers confidence that Shred It! is a good book, capable of changing lives and having a positive impact on readers.

MMF: One of the best things I’ve heard in a while was at the Portland Vegfest during the Athletes Panel with Brenda Carey and Vanessa Espinoza, you talked about the “macros” craze and had some pretty hilariously accurate choice words about it. Can you give me a little slice of that here? I know a lot of people who read the site are pretty into the “If It Fits Your Macros” craze and it’d probably be some stuff they should hear. 

Robert Cheeke: This was an interesting point during the panel discussion. We had about an hour of just Q&A, which can be challenging, but also very interactive and a lot of fun. We fielded questions from the 100 to 200-person audience and then came a question about the If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) approach to nutrition. I probably overreacted to the innocently asked question when I deliberately banged my head against the table, before addressing it. It got some good laughs and then I set the tone, explaining my overreaction to the question, and addressed it head-on. Basically, my concern over this ‘nutrition’ approach is that for many people, is has little to do with nutrition. Macro-nutrients are such a small part of overall nutrition. They are a key component for sure, and too much or too little of any one of them could be problematic and have health consequences, but it is the micro-nutrients that are grossly overlooked in this scenario focused solely on macro-nutrient numbers.


Robert does pushups, any place, any time, anywhere.

For those who are unfamiliar with them, macro-nutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Followers of IIFYM have specific targets, say 60% of one, and 20% each of the other two macro-nutrients. Therefore, people will aim for these targets even if the foods don’t contain actual nutrition such as pizza, ice cream, pastries, donuts, and other popular foods consumed by individuals following IIFYM. This doesn’t make sense to me. I understand aiming for specific macro-nutrient targets, and I dedicate a section in Shred It! to that subject, encouraging readers to follow a 70% (real food) carbohydrate, 15% protein and 15% fat whole-food, plant-based diet. It makes sense to have some sort of awareness of your macro-nutrient breakdown, but it makes little sense to eat foods just because they are high in one macro-nutrient if those foods don’t contain actual nutrition such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and other components found in whole plant foods.

So, I spent time banging my head against the table as I addressed some of these issues in Portland. For example, would it make sense to eat donuts because you want to boost your carbohydrate intake? Of course not, as there is no nutritional gain for doing so. You might as well eat Pixie Sticks or a bag of Fun Dip. Would it make sense to drink some sort of vegetable oil to boost your fat intake? Of course not, because oil is pure fat at 4,000 calories per pound, without the nutrition that actual whole foods such as avocado, walnuts, almonds, flax seeds, chia seeds, and coconut have. I understand the concept of IIFYM, and I have some friends who follow it and love it, because they eat real foods, for the most part, but I think it can be problematic for many people because it serves as an excuse to eat junk foods (as long as they fit your macros for the day). One of my main underlying themes in my approach to achieving success in health and fitness is to change behaviors to create positive habits. Eating junk foods because they fit your macros is not a healthy way to create positive habits. It’s like taking a few steps forward and then a step backward every week, or every day for some people, which will often minimize or even completely negate progress.
Our outcomes in and health and fitness, and to some degree in life in general, are often largely based on our habits. Our true behaviors and habits (not the things we think we’re doing and what we post about in social media status updates) reveal our priorities and dictate our outcomes. Eating junk food daily, in significant quantities in many cases, if people are being totally transparent, is not a healthy or effective way to achieve positive health and fitness results. Therefore, I hope the banging of my head on the table has now been partially justified.


Us with Trin of Dragonz Fitness and Robert at Portland Vegfest 2015

MMF: It seems like every day the Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness Facebook group has tons more members (26,000+!), celebrities are announcing they’ve gone vegan, more documentaries are coming out, etc. So with the vegan explosion on a worldwide level, do you feel as if the global awakening is in full swing? And as someone who is a leader in their respective field, do you have some ideas about how the movement can continue to grow?

Robert Cheeke: First of all, thank you, Dru, for being an admin for our Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness Facebook group! I remember sitting in a restaurant with you in Seattle a few years ago, talking about the community we managed. I was worried about the group surpassing 10,000 members because it was becoming more and more challenging to run with so many passionate people expressing various strong opinions on one topic or another. I appreciate you being part of the growth we’ve been able to experience as a company, as a brand, and as a community. I know I’m dating myself here, but I became vegan before the Internet came around, so I’ve been able to witness a lot of changes over the past couple of decades that I’ve been a vegan athlete. The awareness of a vegan lifestyle is greater than it has ever been. You’re right, there are so many celebrities, athletes, films, musicians, and other influencers who are adopting a vegan lifestyle and promoting it. From mega superstars like Carrie Underwood (super popular in country music) to powerful films like Forks Over Knives and Cowspiracy, the world is taking notice of the growing increase in the vegan lifestyle.

When I first went out on tour about 10 years ago there were relatively few vegetarian festivals. They existed in places like Seattle, Vancouver, Boston, Portland, San Francisco, Toronto, a couple of cities in Virginia and Pennsylvania, and that was it, it seemed. Today there are so many vegan festivals around the world it is hard to keep up with them. In fact, when before I had to wait weeks in between one festival and another, now I have seen as many as six vegan festivals taking place on the same day! As a touring speaker, the hard part these days is deciding which event to go to. For example, I’ll be selecting Denver VegFest over Chicago VegFest this summer and London (UK) VegFest over Melbourne, Portland, and many others taking place the same weekend. The same goes for selecting Atlanta over Tampa and London (ON) in November.
In the early days of my vegan lifestyle there were only a handful of vegan “meat” products. Now there are more than I can keep up with from brands such as Beyond Meat, Tofurky, Gardein, and Field Roast. The same goes for vegan cheeses, vegan ice cream, non-dairy milks, and essentially everything from eggs to sweet and sour pork, it’s all being made vegan these days. As someone who promotes a whole-food, plant-based diet, I don’t eat a lot of these foods, but the fact that they exist in major grocery store chains such as Wal-Mart, Costco, Safeway, Kroger, and in basically every other major chain, is a clear sign of changing times. Vegan restaurants are also booming like never before, some even have chains with lots of locations such as Loving Hut, Veggie Grill, and Native Foods to name a few. The world vegan is listed on menus from International restaurants to every day common restaurants, due to customer demand. The overall number of vegans is skyrocketing in the UK, the USA, Canada, and Australia, especially.

The number of vegan books, TV shows, actors, actresses, and influencers of all types continues to grow on a daily basis. One needs only to look to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or God forbid, YouTube (try to avoid the bacon comments. You can’t), and search the word #vegan to learn exactly how popular this movement is.

To continue to make forward progress in our effort for a more compassionate world, we need to make veganism as mainstream and as accessible as possible. I’d love to see mainstream athletes like LeBron James, Tom Brady, and others who have a massive influence, adopt a vegan lifestyle and promote it. The same goes for musicians, doctors, TV personalities, Presidents, and so on. People in a position of influence (millions upon millions of social media followers, TV audiences, stadium audiences and so forth) have an amazing capacity to create positive change if they choose to use their platform for such a noble effort. When the vegan lifestyle becomes more mainstream more animals will be saved, lives will be spared, and our planet will benefit. Until every cage is empty, we move onward in our quest for compassion, leading by positive example.


Robert and Vanessa doin’ work!

MMF: Knowing your work ethic, I’m guessing you already have another book planned for the future? Do you think you’ll be expanding on the Shred It! message or heading possibly into another direction or set of topics?

Robert Cheeke: To be fully transparent, you sent me these interview questions months ago, and I apologize for the delay getting back to you. It is easy to make excuses and say that I was traveling, often for weeks at a time before coming back home, all the while running my business and keeping up with a high social media presence I’m known for, but I also spent plenty of time lying on a beach, on a couch, or seated at a poker table, so I don’t use excuses. But what I will say is that from the time you sent me these interview questions to the time I’m following up, I have nearly completed a new book. I am co-authoring a plant-based fitness book with my training partner, Vanessa Espinoza, and our first draft is nearly completed. It won’t be out for months, but yes indeed, I am busy working away on a new book while I continue to tour with Shred It!. Al the while, I am working on other business projects like releasing a whole new clothing line and growing our social media communities to try to get the attention of big New York publishers. I think Shred It! is my signature book, you know, much like a band has their best album. I released Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness more than five years ago, and released a companion book to Shred It! in January of 2016, but I believe that Shred It! is my stand alone best book.

One thing that I’m considering is pitching it to big New York publishers and seeing if I can get book deal to get Shred It! into bookstores all over the country and make it more mainstream. We’ve sold thousands of copies directly, through our website and in person, and I have toured all over the world, and I think we can present a compelling case to get published by a major publisher. My books have sold tens of thousands of copies combined, and my social media following is in the hundreds of thousands, and I’m optimistic we can take Shred It! mainstream in due time. In the meantime, I have another book to finish.


Robert with Phil from Def Leppard

MMF: With the site being a combo of metal and fitness, I’ve personally talked to a lot of musicians that are or have been vegan or recently made the switch. Phil Collen from the legendary rock band Def Leppard is someone you know. Have you guys met face to face and talked shop before? What do you think it means to the vegan rock community to have a huge name like him representing us?

Robert Cheeke: I don’t consider myself much of a music guy, but throughout my years on the road I have come across numerous vegan musicians, including Phil from Def Leppard. I’ve been friends with John Joseph from the Cro-Mags for years, and I met the (now former, after 19 years) drummer of the Goo Goo Dolls, Mike Malinin, who is also vegan, and Stic Man from Dead Prez, another vegan. I first met Phil years ago in Los Angeles. I had no idea who he was, but my friend is a huge Def Leppard fan, and when I learned he was in the band I asked Phil if he would sign a photo for my buddy. A year later I was backstage at a Def Leppard concert in Massachusetts (with the friend I got the signed photo for) and we got to go on the tour bus and hangout backstage. It was a really cool experience and it was my first time attending a major concert since seeing The Smashing Pumpkins in 1997 as a teenager. Recently, Def Leppard came to Denver, where I currently reside. I reached out to Phil, and sure enough, my girlfriend and I were hanging out backstage with all access passes. Phil is a super nice guy, and incredibly fit vegan at age 57, and is the co-lead guitarist for an iconic rock band. I think it is awesome for the vegan movement. While back stage we even saw vegan cake, almond milk, foods labeled as ‘vegan,’ and I think it is very encouraging. Def Leppard has an all-vegan tour bus as well since drummer, Rick Allen, is also vegan. I’m sure you know plenty of other vegan musicians, being in the music industry. These people mentioned above are just some that I’ve come across during my travels. It sure makes touring more interesting showing up at Cro-Mags concert wearing a sweater and collared shirt and being told to stay off to the side so I don’t get hurt from the flailing limbs in the mosh pit, or whatever it is called.


Get your copy at http://www.veganbodybuilding.com

THE FIT AND THE FURIOUS: NADEGE CORCORAN

It’s been well documented that we have a thing for Canadians, especially in the fitness industry (and metal, but that’s for another discussion). If you were to ask us most anything about Canada we could probably tell you. Except New Brunswick. We really are in the dark about that part of the True North. We know it’s population is less than a million. It’s near Nova Scotia. They speak two languages. And there is at least one plant based fitness competitor there that is Metal Made. Other than that, we had to Wikipedia the shit out of it to figure out anything else about it.

But Nadege Corcoran calls it home. Just as she calls the gym home. Or the stage home. In a short amount of time she has already built a super impressive resume from competition. Bouncing between bikini and figure, Nadege has never finished lower than 7th (once) and maintained top 4 placing at minimum in all her other shows, showing the dedication she has not only to her training and pushing herself to stay in show ready form, and at her absolute best. And she owes a lot of it to her “For The Animals” diet keeping her strong, lean and able to train and recover like she’s training for the Olympics.

And with a busy palette of shows coming up in 2016, her focus remains the same. This includes the IFBB Natural International qualifier in New Brunswick in June and the IFBB Nationals in Winnipeg, which we’re pretty sure she’ll train her ass off for both. It’s how they roll in Maritime Providences.

MMF: So have you always been a gym rat? Did you grow up into sports or is this a new thing for you?

Nadege Corcoran: For some reason I was always seen by everyone as “active” but I really wasn’t. I played a bit of badminton and swam when I was younger but never really saw the inside of a gym until 3 years ago when I joined CrossFit. My big awakening was when I got lost in the trails in a park and had to go up a very steep hill to get back and had to pause a few times to make it up the hill. Then I realized I had to do something! I’m still a bit baffled that I stuck to CrossFit even though I was petrified!

I knew nothing about lifting but the coaches were amazing. I learned all the proper lifts and started feeling strong. Then I was hooked to working out! And the pushed me to understand what training with intensity was. I was fueled by wanting to turn my body into a tank that wasn’t afraid of a little hill. From there I eventually wanted to tackle goals other than “increase the weight on the bar”. So after 6 months of Crossfit, I switched to personal training and uncovered “gym workouts”. Dumbbells, barbells, machines, etc. I fell in love with it and came home one day saying “I wish this was a sport!” Little did I know it was! So it’s fairly new to me. 2.5 years. And I’m not a gym rat… I’m a gym unicorn for sure! (laughs)

MMF: So from all that when did competing come into play?

Nadege Corcoran: The fact that I, myself, spent so many years thinking that I had to eat animal products to be strong and healthy is what I want to help eliminate by stepping on stage. I don’t want to slander people for eating animal products. I was there myself and I know it is mostly from misinformation, peer pressure and a lack of listening to our inner self. It’s a journey and I don’t want to displace pain to animals by causing pain to humans. You attract more bees with honey! (…and leave the bees and the honey alone!) So instead of cramming something down someone’s throat I find that competing gives me a platform to showcase what veganism can do. It prompts people to ask me “how” and that helps. Most people that have that nagging feeling that what the massive industrialized animal product industry is doing isn’t ok will be prompted to ask questions. Veganism for health is also a gateway drug to veganism for the animals and for the environments in my opinion. So Health and Fitness is a great place for many to start exploring a plant-based diet.

MMF : Tells us about your experience with your first show, on stage. What you went through, how it felt to get up there, the kind of prep you did?

Nadege Corcoran : That’s a tough question for sure! There are so many things I could say! I LOVE doing things that are difficult so keep that in perspective with my answer. So when I say I loved it, remember that a piece of me loves conquering the impossible. So if that isn’t naturally in a person, they would have a totally different answer. The hard work and the dedication that it takes to get ready to step on stage is definitely not something I imagine everyone would enjoy. But I did! And I still do!

Essentially, I compare it to someone who loves running who shows up at their first race. It’s exciting and so motivating during training to have that date. The difference with a race is that everyone around you is super excited for you all the time. They love to see people running with them. They understand that to have a race you need many many runners and the finish line is the goal. Not placing. Even when you are trying to do a certain time to qualify for a certain high profile race. You don’t wish worst on other runners, you just run as best you can.

 ..The fact that I, myself, spent so many years thinking that I had to eat animal products to be strong and healthy is what I want to help eliminate by stepping on stage…”

Competing is similar in the sense that “show day” is like “race day” (exciting and motivating). BUT competitors there are not the same as runners… At least some of them.

People “size you up” and I found that very hard. Inside I am super competitive, but I hate seeing someone sad and self criticize because they compare. Which is probably the type of empathy that led me to veganism to begin with. So I found it hard to not self-sabotage in the competitive world. I would say that this is actually a very good thing that came out of that for me personally. It allowed me to come into my own and remain kind to people who maybe are hard on themselves but realize that they would do that regardless of me. So I do my best. Always.

But seriously overall it was a great experience! I have to say that my team, Blueprint Athletics, and my coaches have a lot to do with that. We are generally a very happy bunch the whole time backstage and we love the experience which produces amazing energy to feed off of. And for prep, my coaches support my goal of health first the whole way so I love prepping! Again… remember that I thrive off of really difficult challenge and I really enjoy rigor and structure.

MMF: A lot of people find it hard to be married or in relationships in this training lifestyle and or being vegan. How essential is the support you get from your guy to what you do? Is he also vegan?

Nadege Corcoran : I stay focused on the fact that I myself wasn’t vegan or into fitness when we met. And we have the same “live and let live” philosophy. So that’s first and foremost. I’m the one that changed and he does love me and support me. But he would support me in anything that betters my life and I would do the same for him.

So to answer the question, his support means everything to me! But him doing what I do is not important. There are times where competing gets hard on the schedule and there just seems to not be enough hours in the day and if it wasn’t for his understanding it would be mentally straining to get him to understand that I can’t “just skip this workout” or “eat this one bite of sweets” (which is what I hear other competitors go through when they don’t have a supportive spouse).

As for him being vegan, if you asked him, he would say he is not vegan but that he mostly follows a plant-based diet. But really… I can’t remember the last time he bought eggs, dairy or meat. So…..

As for working out, he’s always liked running more than anything and I learned to love that as well. Now that my strict competition schedule is loosed up a bit and I can workout a bit less structured, he has been joining me at the gym and he is following Robert Cheeke’s Shred It plan. He’s already feeling/seeing amazing results! I just joined the gym I go to so I think he got the bug (and I’m out of control excited about it!!!

Overall though, him supporting me is extremely appreciated and makes my life so much easier! BUT I’m ultimately I’m my own hero. I would do this with or without support. It would be more challenging if he wasn’t so supportive, but I would still be doing this.

Photo creds: http://www.Maghoodphotography.com
Stage Shot: Garry Bartlett photo

THE FIT AND THE FURIOUS: BRANDIE MABEE LIVES WITHOUT LIMITS

Sometimes you have to love the internet. Sure people can be wrapped up in pointless debates over which band is more metal on a Youtube clip, or your news feed can be littered with inaccurate news articles with old men bashing each others political stances. But here and there, we get to use it for what it was intended to be used for: to be informed and to connect. None more true on the latter is our relationship with one Canadian in particular. Canadian Bikini Champion Brandie Mabee and Metal Made Fitness crossed paths via social media early in our beginning stages and from there we’ve gained a valuable comrade across the border. The glory of networking is if you both have your palette smeared with goals, cross promotion can build friendships. With Brandie, it was pretty evident early on that we’d become pals as her mindset was one made of metal, no matter how much things like peanut butter brownie M&M milkshake sundaes get mentioned. But when it comes to show prep, her focus is that of a trained assassin. Through the scope, lock the target, aim and fire.

How can we attest to this? A look into this last calendar year of competition would be enough to fill many competitors shelves for a hopeful career. Grabbing first place last November at the BCABBA Fall Classic, a strong 3rd place finish at the BC Championships in May, then she joined up with Vancouver clothing juggernaut No Limit Muscle as a standout athlete. Round it up with two great finishes at her first NPC event in October (2nd Open, 1st Novice) and you have a shelf filling up with statues in a hurry. But beyond the stage, she uses the platform of social media to connect with others, drop inspiration whenever it strikes, and keep a sense of authenticity at all times. What you see is what you get with her. Through her Instagram you get to see her progress, her hilarious daily antics, her cats…the parts of her to remind people that personal growth means all areas on one’s life and to embrace one’s many layers. It’s the blueprint for being as badass as you can be.

MMF: When was the first time you realized you could be pretty good at this whole “fitness” thing?

Brandie Mabee : It was the night of my first show. I was backstage looking at the other 17 girls in my line-up, thinking to myself, “What am I doing here? That girl has a six-pack…that one has breast implants…that other one is practicing a fully choreographed posing routine..that one has her own assistant applying her glaze..”. I couldn’t believe it when I placed 4th, and beat all those girls who had things I didn’t have! Until that night, I thought I would only do one bikini competition, and cross it off the bucket list. Little did I know, that experience was a great big sparkly gift in personal development that would keep me coming back for more; from that day forward, I have never bothered to compare myself to other girls. It sounds cliche, but there’s something special and wonderful about each of us. Steven Furtick says it best: “We struggle with insecurity because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel”.

MMF: So the initial idea of going through a training program and jumping on the stage was more a personal challenge or more ‘ ill try it once…this could be fun’?…. Everyone has their own reasons for even attempting to compete in the first place….

Brandie Mabee : I always admired the sport, but truthfully, I didn’t believe I was ready to get involved. At the time, I had reached a weight-loss plateau and I knew it was because I was too “satisfied” with my progress. Another part of me has never been down with that kind of mediocrity, and I kinda got sick of my own shit one day about 7 weeks before the last competition of the year. I told my trainer, “I want to do that show, do you think we can do it?”. He was worried about my glutes (or lack thereof), but he was confident that we were going to pull it off. We stepped up the training and I reached the weight-loss goal I had originally set for myself. If I hadn’t introduced the bigger goal of competing in a show, I don’t think I would have stepped it up and dropped the last ten pounds. Back then it was the only way I knew how to motivate myself, and while I don’t think it’s psychologically healthy to use this sport as a tool to keep oneself “in line”, it can serve as a stepping stone for someone who is stuck in a rut like I was back then. My reasons for competing have evolved a lot since then!

MMF: As someone who knows why they do choose to compete and train for this do you see new girls show up exclaiming to do it for the quote/unquote ‘wrong reasons’? (The insecurity factor). And do you feel now being a veteran of this you can set a good example for the new girls?

Brandie Mabee : Totally! The sport is exploding in popularity- the relatively recent introduction of the bikini and men’s physique divisions has made it more attractive and reachable for the general population. I think most first-timers do it because they see the physical transformations their peers achieve, and if hitting the stage is the only thing that will motivate you to adhere to a strict diet and training schedule the first time, so be it- but if you use the experience of a contest prep to really observe your thoughts and emotions, I guarantee that you’ll walk away with a LOT more than the best physique of your life. The journeys have taught me self-control, and the results have infused me with self-belief. I try to be very conscious that there are people who are new to the sport, who come across my social media posts- and so I like to share about the mental journeys this sport takes me on, hoping that my statements spark their own introspective observations. I just hate that some people go through the whole process without employing it as a powerful tool of personal development- I want everybody within my reach to see what a positive thing the contest prep experience can be. If I can grab their attention through social media, I hope that will be enough for them to hear my message that there is a goldmine of personal growth at their fingertips.

MMF: Maybe give the readers a run down of what one of your training blocks is like, how to get the ball rolling, what do you leading up to a show training wise?

Brandie Mabee : I usually run a 2-days-on, 1-day-off weight training schedule year-round, with each session focusing on one major muscle group and one or two accessory muscle groups. Lots of supersets and drop sets, with short rest periods. Starting at 16 weeks out, “contest prep” officially begins, which involves cardio. The cardio regimen changes every prep, depending on where I’m at and how fast my body wants to let go of the fat. I’ve had preps where I don’t even start cardio until 6 weeks out, and I’ve had preps where I start at 12 weeks out. We start with as little as possible- maybe 20 minutes a few times a week- and ramp it up accordingly. My longest workouts are leg/glute days- my coach has me hit my legs and glutes from lots of different angles and he switches up my exercises and rep ranges every 4 weeks or so.

MMF: So what is your favorite part of the whole process prepping for a show?

Brandie Mabee : There are LOTS of great parts but my FAVORITE is the mental journey. A few areas that come to mind are positive visualization, impulse control, and productivity skills.

Preparation is king when you’re getting stage ready, and I’ve had to kick my own ass many times- sleeping in, running late, lazing around instead of cooking and weighing meals. Every prep, I get exponentially better at beating my own bad habits. And it spills over into every corner of my life. I’ve said this before on one of my YouTube videos- with every 16-week prep I grow 10 years mentally. I guess that makes me, like, almost 100. I hope that means someone’s gonna start coming over to do all my laundry and cook for me soon!

MMF: (Laughs) Great end to that….at some point you won’t be able to compete, unfortunately…I mean you could at 79 years old…but you’ve already begun to set yourself up with various interests and talents you do away from the stage. How important is that in your prep…to have those outside interests and projects?

Brandie Mabee : It`s pretty necessary for survival, actually! There`s not much time left for me to engage in other activities- I work 50+ hours a week as a pharmacist and go to the gym before and after work- I pick a once-weekly activity each prep that takes my mind away from it all. One prep, one of my patients had me over once a week to learn clay sculpting. Another time I took guitar lessons. I recognize the role the pre-frontal cortex in building willpower and discipline, and learning new activities is a great way to exercise that part of the brain. It is said that the body is capable of almost anything, but it is the mind that limits its potential- so that`s why I exercise my brain as much as my body!

MMF: Love it. Last question….if you could rework the whole competition or judging process for a day how do you think it could be improved, what changes would you like to see?

Brandie Mabee : The bikini and men`s physique divisions are still very young, so they have the most variation in the “winning look“, and I think that`s just par for the course. I`m no expert in this department, but I think the current judging process is fine as is- I am in awe of the panel`s ability to analyze 200+ physiques in one sitting and make decisions based on such a short fragment of time. I agree with their decisions nearly all of the time, and I notice that the local and provincial rankings here in BC tend to be repeated at the national level (for example, if two girls from BC placed 1st and 2nd at Provincials, and both competed at Nationals, the 1st place girl would likely still place higher at Nationals than the 2nd place girl) so that tells me there is consistency in the judging.

Follow her journey and cat pictures at:
https://instagram.com/Bmabez

THE FIT AND THE FURIOUS: 10 THINGS ABOUT SIMI COLLINS

Here at Metal Made Fitness, we’ve managed in a short amount of time to spread out name across the globe to many happy boys and girls. Strangely enough, our popularity has reached outside of the United States in the farthest point from where we’re stationed, Australia, almost as much as Canada. One of the reasons we believe is we happen to have a particular pro-vegan shirt than you may know about. And with that you would think we would have interviewed an Australian fitness personality by now. But we haven’t. And we would like to apologize to the whole entire nation of Australia for that. While we’re at it, Australia, on behalf of America, we’re really sorry for all those shitty Paul Hogan impressions throughout the years.

So when we decided to figure out which Australian to interview first, we of course went with the one we secretly have a little vegan fitness crush on, which will be the first she’s read about this. For good reason we feel. Our neck of the woods is lacking in the super fit, super athletic and super creative wrapped up into a vegan on the female side of things. Which completely embodies Simone “Simi” Collins to a tee. She’s rocked the stage in figure competitions across the planet, mastered the art of lifting heavy, gone after the world of crossfit and put her creativity into her passion for graphic design for a clothing company. Because after all, we’re all about the fitness and the arts here at Metal Made. But like Optimus Prime, there is more than meets the eye with this plant based badass. We got to catch up with Simi after she blew up the stage at the Austin Naturally Fit competition for a little “get to know ya”.

Simi Collins Ten Things:

1) What’s a bigger thrill for you: competing on a stage or in a crossfit competition?

While I haven’t done my first CrossFit comp yet, I find the training style really intense and exciting!
But I love being on the stage. The whole process of competition preparation is like nothing else – the anticipation and excited/nervous feeling I get in the weeks leading up reminds me of how I used to feel as a kid leading up to Christmas!

2) You’re stuck on a deserted island and can only find one piece of fitness equipment to use. What would that one piece of gear be and why?

Kettlebell – I just feel it’s such a versatile piece of equipment and you can do so much with it!

3) What is the best piece of fitness advice you’ve ever received that you have passed on to others over the course of your journey?

“Don’t worry about what you can’t do, focus on what you CAN do” – Tony Doherty.

4) Complete this sentence:

This world needs “less violence” and “more compassion”.

5) In hoping you are a good cook….let’s say I bring over a non-vegan who’s curious about trying to go plant based. What is the one meal you could make them that would WOW their taste buds?

Well honestly I’m not the best cook… but I can make a pretty mean vegan pizza! I’m also good at raw protein balls, like a typical bodybuilder! (laughs all around)

6) Name a song or two that would sum up your intensity in the gym?

“Cage” by Dead Letter Circus
“Ticks and Leaches” by Tool

7) We don’t like calling anyone an idol here at Metal Made Fitness, but if there was one fitness “idol” you’d love to hit the gym with that you haven’t, who would you want to workout with once?

Cornelia Ritzke, because she’s a shredded vegan calisthenics chick, and I would love to learn how to do some of that crazy stuff!

8) As someone who also battles depression and also has a creative side outside of fitness, I
understand how it can be a help to those down periods and emotions. Has art and design always been your go-to for escaping those tough times of anxiety?

Yes, it’s helped me a lot throughout the years. Unfortunately I don’t have much time for art anymore due to my work commitments and training, but I see bodybuilding as an art form as well. I am sculpting my body to the way I desire it to be. I also find my training is a great outlet and keeps depression and anxiety at bay.

9) What’s your “Power Animal” (as in the animal you think you would most be like if you weren’t human)

I’ve always loved wolves, I hope that’s not too stereotypical for a spirit animal!

10) I’m casting the next X-Men movie and you’re going to be in it. But we need to know what you would want your superpower to be?

Metamorphosis – I’ve always wished I could transform into different animals!

Visit her at http://www.simicollins.com

THE FIT AND THE FURIOUS: SOFIA RIGHETTI

In the year 2015, people seem to need to find motivation from anywhere they can grab it. Whether it be from the internet, memes, or list articles, the concept of just making a fist and punching your way through something because you want to is becoming a lost art. We take the simple things for granted and find proud accomplishments in sometimes mundane tasks and want worldwide recognition for it. So when you look to someone who perhaps could be a source on inspiration or motivation we tend to look to people who were born with genetic gifts to have ridiculously low body fat percentages, or even born into celebrity families to think maybe we could use that to kick ourselves in the ass.

I’ll tell you right now, if you need motivation to know without a doubt you can do anything you set your mind to, look no further than Championship Skier Sofia Righetti. When she was born, Sofia encountered a major complication when the doctors made a grave error during a heart procedure that didn’t allow blood to reach her spinal cord. Due to this, she lost the use of her legs from that day. Her parents fought for her in court to expose the error of the medical staff, and were able to get the courts to recognize the major mistake the doctors made during the procedure. Growing up though, Sofia looked at this as not a negative but a positive way to learn to overcome anything from a young age, with the support of her wonderful family. If someone told her “you can’t” her posi-mindset instantly said “well, how bout yes I can do that” would take over. For instance, playing guitar in punk bands growing up. Or modeling. Or how bout gold and silver finishes at the Italy Paralympic Championships? Yes you read that right. This plant based athlete refuses to be told she cannot do something, by anyone. And with an insane amount of dedication to being the absolute best possible, she managed to reach the gold medal in just around two years experience. With an iron will as such, you can bet dollars to doughnuts she’s just getting started on her path of athletics, competition and spreading an amazing message of motivation to anyone who wants to read it. Read our recent conversation with Sofia, and prepare for your motivation game to be taken to a new level.

MMF: For our first question, can you tell the readers a bit about your “disability (you’re more like superwoman to us, but you know what we mean….I dislike the word disabled personally…)” and when you started skiing…..

Sofia: Sure, and thank you for calling me “superwoman”! When I was born I had a congenital heart disease, and I got an urgent surgery at the age of 5 months! The surgery went good, but during it doctors didn’t notice that my blood was not reaching spinal cord! The result was a spinal cord ischemia in the lumbar, that took me away the use of legs! For me that’s not a problem, and it has never been, I’m lucky that mother nature gave me a strong and handsome body, so since i was a baby I have learned to do everything I wanted to do using my arms, shoulders, abdominals, and everything my body allowed me to do. I’ve never cared about what I could or couldn’t do! I think this is the key of feeling good with your own body and with yourself…. betting everything on your own potential and on your own capacity, without lingering on limits! Then you’ll see, as if by magic, those limits will disappear. I actually think as you do, I’ve never considered myself as a disable, as I see disability as a physical feature, as the fact of having the eyes of a certain color, or hairs of another! Every feature, it brings advantages and disadvantages! I sure cannot do squat when I’m at the gym, but I sure can lift more than lot of men around me!

So I started skiing in 2012, when i was 23 and I had never played sports before in my life….so I wanted to try something new, that could give me the same adrenaline I felt while I was playing guitar during a show! Alpine skiing was what I was looking for, with all that speed heading down the black slope, sitting on a monoski made by carbon and motocross shock absorber! It’s almost like riding a motorbike (laughs)

MMF: At what point did you figure out that “hey I might be good enough to go for the Italian Skiing Championships”? That’s a pretty big goal for anyone to go for!

Sofia: I started right away with an agonist mindset. I didn’t want to do 4 hours of driving to reach slopes just to spend my time and have fun. More so, my instructors noticed that I was good and I had a great sense of balance, then I started training with experts and qualified instructors to face poles and ski races. I’m a very competitive person and always get involved to be the best, so I worked hard and I trained a lot for Italian Skiing Championships, but it was a goal I had in mind since the first times I started skiing. And listening to Motley Crue, Testament, Pantera and the likes gave me so much energy like no drug ever would! I love music so much, and I played electric guitar for years in punk and metal bands. Listening to metal music is like pumping fuel in my veins every time, I love the way it makes me feel, so strong and powerful. My way of facing life is truly expressed in the music I listen and I love, and that energy I brought with me to become a Skiing Champion.

MMF: Describe how it felt to get gold and silver medals. It’s a dream for anyone to reach the top of a sport, but you did it on the biggest possible stage available.

Sofia: It was a unique, unbelievable and crazy feeling. The silver in slalom happened because I fell on the way down, and it took seconds to stand up again and continue my race with the best concentration. It was a great satisfaction to reach 2nd place despite of the fall, and counting that I started to practice between close poles just 3 months before. The day after there was the giant slalom, my specialty, and once I finished my race I heard speakers saying “Sofia Righetti maintains 1st place…” I just couldn’t believe it, I started to realize what was going on when I saw my instructor coming to me with tears in his eyes out of happiness. That was a beautiful day, surrounded by people who love and support me. Skiing is about strength, but also about technique and strategy, it takes a tiny error to make you throw it away, since sitting skiers like me have just one ski, and they cannot correct using the other ski, as standing skiers can do. To become a champion after two only years of training is such a great great satisfaction.

MMF: So when did you decided to go vegan and make that a part of your lifestyle?

Sofia: Even as a child I always had a great love and respect for animals, and I have always empathized with them. Unfortunately I do not come from a vegetarian family, and it was not easy when I was so small to make my parents understand that I did not want to eat meat no more. I became a vegetarian definitely at 14 years old, and I have passed through adolescence making me an active party for animal rights by making people aware of the atrocious conditions in which the non-human individuals in our society are forced in, both in terms of livestock, slaughter houses, fur trade and animal testing. I then graduated at the University of Bologna in philosophy of medicine with a thesis against animal testing, by obtaining the highest marks. I became a vegan in 2012, it has been a gradual process. Even before I avoided milk and eggs, but definitely becoming vegan was the greatest act of love that I could do for animals, the planet, and also myself. Many people do not know all the pain and cruelty that lie behind the production of milk, eggs, cheese and dairy products, but unfortunately it is so. And the animals are treated as objects, machines geared for the sale of food that man It does not need to feed it, and I can not accept it and do not want to comply with that.

And being vegan is easy, as there are lots of products full of protein that taste delicious like seitan, tofu, tempeh, soy, mopur … and then the vegetables, fruits, legumes, cereals … Nature offers already everything we need to live in full health. Obviously also regarding clothes and shoes I am very careful to choose objects not made of leather, wool or feather duster. But it is also easy here, many production companies are adapting to the growing awareness of the people, making high quality products and cruelty free. Becoming a champion of Italian skiing was amazing because I could prove that you can be strong, athletic and strong and get to higher levels of competitive sport following nutrition plan that does not completely involve animal suffering. Many people are doctors and nutritionists in sports who follow vegan athletes, just as there are more and more athletes of any discipline who are vegans. Besides skiing, I practice hand bike, gym and a bit ‘of crossfit, and have always been strong, toned and muscular, I never had problems with nutritional drops

MMF: Who are your biggest inspirations?

Sofia: Every single person who has fought for the ideals of love and respect for other forms of life, and that continues strongly with the joy of the heart. All these people, who may be the philosopher Tom Regan and Gary Francione, the actor Jacquin Phoenix or even the singer Morrissey, the singer Alissa Withe-Gluz are great people and wonderful to me, and to think that “I am not alone” and that we in many to take practical action for a better world fills my heart with hope. Even those who are spreading an idea of disability as strength and power, not as “bad luck” is my very great sources of inspiration: I first do conferences (I’ve just been a TED speaker, in Verona) talking about disabilities as potential and not as a limit, so that maybe one day there will be no difference between disabled and non-disabled, and who knows … maybe the Olympics and Paralympics can expect celebrated in the same day, many athletes with different characteristics.

MMF: Between being a championship skier, model, learning to play guitar….it sounds like you are able to do anything you put your mind to. What are some of the next set of goals you have?

Sofia: Thank you very much again! Now I am dedicated to hand bike and workouts in the gym, and I’m always looking for sponsors because here in Italy no national sports company will finance anything. I had to pay coaches, equipment and travel with my money and I assure you that skiing is a really really expensive sport. I always want to try new sports too, so I’m more than happy to try something every new chance that comes around. I really hope to find some sponsors who support me, because I live for competition, and maybe I’ll win again! As I wrote before, I also keep conferences on sport / disability / vegan life, I manage a Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/sofiarighetti, where people can follow me in my various sport adventures and have advice for a vegan lifestyle. I care very much to my fitness and to my peace of mind, to be an inspiration to all people, disabled or not, who want to undertake a healthy lifestyle and respect for other creatures, and reach to forward that self confidence I’m lucky to have. Being a model of strength, determination and empathy doing all I can to improve the lives of other individuals, human or otherwise, it is an important milestone and I am grateful if I can succeed with my purpose.

Follow Sofia on Facebook

THE FIT AND THE FURIOUS: IFBB PRO JESSICA JAMES WALKS THROUGH FIRE

You know the old saying “you never know what battles someone is fighting beneath their smile”? In the fitness industry, that couldn’t be more true. The industry is focused on the aesthetic, the visual, and the physical so often we forget the competitors are people. For every bulging biceps, abs of steel or gorgeous glutes, the people who train hard to have them share the same insecurities or worries or stresses non-competitors do. Once you know their stories though, the more you realize we’re all in the same boat in life, doing out best to reach our goals and encountering struggles along the way.

IFBB Pro Jessica James, upon first glance, is built like an action movie superhero and has a smile bright enough to escape a black hole in space (that’s some science and a really good line, you should look it up if you’re not sure what that means my friends. Huge compliment…). It’s helped her win several shows over the last few years and place in the top 5 of many more. But she had been facing her own struggles and battles for years with an eating disorder, which she has been very public and open about. Upon talking to Jessica, you find a positive, vibrant personality that loves to laugh out loud and crack jokes to get others to laugh with her. But she also knows with the popularity she’s created in the fitness industry, she can play a vital role in identifying and connecting with others who have been through what she has been through. She knows where she comes from and what obstacles she has faced and uses it as motivation to keep her centered and grounded in the ‘now’ of life. And there’s nothing more real than someone who’s able to be forthcoming with the fire they’ve walked through.

We recently caught up with Jessica to dive deeper into her story and where she’s headed next. The answer might surprise you. Rest assured, wherever she’s headed, she’ll be doing her best to get the world to smile along with her.

MMF: We’ll start with the cliche fitness questions first! (laughs) So you had a great 2013 and 2014 for doing shows, finishing extremely well, are you on hold from competing right now or is there a show coming up you’re training for?

JJ: Well actually I am not competing any longer!

MMF: Oh! Well that’s news to us apparently!

JJ: I am done. I announced it about two months ago that I am was not going to compete any longer.

MMF: So what lead to the decision to move on from it?

JJ: Well I love to compete and I love to be on stage. Before I ever competed, I did cheerleading in my youth, and I basically grew up on stage, in front of people and I’ve always been super out going….but I also have a passion for coaching and teaching. I believe everyone is born with a talent and their niche, just have to find it…and my mother owned a cheer gym and was a preschool teacher and I was exposed to teaching at an early age. Being active and competing is very much in me, but when it came down to it, and when I started not placing as high as in not placing top 5…coming from being an amateur and winning a lot and then going pro and getting my ‘ass handed to me’ (laughs) it kind of made me think a lot about why I was doing it. “Why was I doing this?” And it really was at first I wanted to be patted on the back and be told I was the best. And when I wasn’t getting that, I went “so what is the joy in doing this?” And I loved it, but while I was competing I was also working with a lot of competitors and my business grew. The competing was great but I found that my happiness was stemming from my clients’ success, and dealing with them. So when it came down to it, it’s about helping others. And it didn’t have to be getting them on the stage or show ready or anything, just helping them in general and stepping out of myself, ya know? I did a couple shows when I started shifting my motivation from trying to win, I was training but I was putting more of my time to my clients…I actually started doing better at my shows…I was doing better and looking better. Prepping was easier. It was because I was happier! So I took from that and I though “I wanna put my attention into just helping others” I know that sounds cliche, you know hearts and rainbows (laughs)…but when it came down to it, what was I doing it for? Behind the scenes or for the spotlight? I asked myself, “Where do you get the most satisfaction in the long run?” and that was it. I’m still training hard, and eating healthy of course because that makes me feel good because it makes me feel better and I’m able to help other people. Because if I’m miserable with myself and not in the gym and putting myself last I can’t be helpful to other people.

MMF: Well as a trainer myself if you not in this business to help others you’re in the wrong business. If you’re in it to JUST make money, you won’t last. People who love it would train people for free, like if a friend needed it. So it sounds like competing was a big step to getting you to this next point. Do you think it was like phase one to leading you to this new phase two of your life?

JJ: I believe it all happens for a reason. I do believe competing and doing shoots, and building status, gave me a position to be able to reach a larger group of people. Like selfish at first but lead to something bigger than just me. So my plan now is to growing my business and reach as many people as possible, on a bigger scale. Not just the competition world, but the whole fitness world, anyone trying to live a better, more sane life. I’m sponsored by Bodybuilding.com and Muscle Pharm, so that in itself though it’s not my main career, it supplements it and gives me an opportunity to reach out to more people in more places.

MMF: You have been doing a series for FitnessRX for Women for a while, the “Fire It Up” workouts. How did you hook up with them for this, and do they allow you full say on which exercises you highlight?

JJ: I got involved with them was I got approached after the Tijuiana Pro, and called saying “hey we want you for the magazine” and with them getting to know me, the photographers report back to the project guy and I had briefly met the people from FitnessRX for Women….beings that I’m a personal trainer and not JUST a bikini pro, and I know what I’m doing and I have a team of girls. So I know what I’m talking about (Laughs) So we brainstormed ideas, and I really liked the HIIT cardio idea and anything that I can help and be involved in. They’re really particular on who they choose. Same with Muscle Pharm and BB.com I didn’t get picked just because I looked good, it was because I shared my story and that isn’t not just sunshine and rainbow all the time. It’s easy to think these fitness icons, not saying that’s me, but that they’re all superwomen and supermen….when really we’re all real people, ya know? So it was about being authentic. There are so many good bodies out there and attractive people out there in the fitness industry and I remember going to LA and them really pushing on me…”what is your BRAND?!! You need to stand out and be unique” and they were really pushing that on me. Which I think is the sad part of the industry “what are you going to do the stand out?” and act like you’re something you’re not. I’m blessed that instead of opportunities leaving me which is a great fear whenever I share something really personal or “perfect” or how dare I miss a workout (laugh) but it’s attractive to people because that is real. It’s how I coach. I expect progress, not perfection. Because I don’t expect that out of myself.

MMF: Folks have a preconceived notion about fitness models about them being “perfect”…do you feel being in a spotlight you have a responsibility to break that stereotype, especially to young women who might be only focused on the that, and not total personal development?

JJ: The reason I love sharing how imperfect I am because I really did look up to those girls and I punished myself so much internally for not living up to that. I thought “what’s wrong with me that I’m falling off my plan?” or “what’s wrong with me that I don’t have motivation 24/7?” “why can’t I have a six pack year around??”

The more I beat myself up about that the more I got lost in something I didn’t want to be. You know those memes that are all “this is what my friends see me doing/this is what I’m really doing?” or “how we want things to go vs. how reality is”? Perception was everything. Every time I messed up it got me closer to my goals, whether a week, a day or a month later. I’m very open about struggling with my eating disorder and I did not know how much I’d be able to help others and how much more I’d learn about myself by going through such a deep dark place. When I was down in it, I felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel. So just sharing that…everything we go through is for some kind of reason….

MMF: Your history with your eating disorder is something you’ve been very public and forthcoming with. For our readers who aren’t familiar, could you shed some light on your battle with it and overcoming it?

JJ: I work with an eating disorder program, or I guess my program of recovery (without breaking the anonymity) and I speak a lot and share my experience and what it was like before, how recovery worked and how it is now….I can break it down like that I suppose. I grew up in sports and such. Not really paying attention to my body type or what it looked like, I was a skinny kid. Maybe even getting teased for it, I was just active. Through a chain of events, in my high school years a lot happened. My parents got divorced and I had a personal trainer who basically taught me how to be anorexic by doing cardio all the time…then moving away for the first time, and then I got into my first real relationship where I never expressed how I felt…you know, early life stuff but it all happened at once. It changed my relationship with food, forever really. I was getting attention as I grew up as how I was looking, but I was hungry all the time and the binge eating started. But I kept it a secret and it was something I thought I could control. I started using food as a drug, a way to feel happy or reward or when I felt down or punish myself. Drugs and alcohol were never an issue so fod was really my ‘drug’. When I found bodybuilding, and I went to an LA Fit Expo, it was like ‘whoa!” So I got into all this as a way to channel and control my food as a way of doing something I could be successful at. (laughs) And I got crazy for a while. It was all or nothing, obsessed. I was always posting these black and white “you’re either first or last” messages on social media, I didn’t have a social life and I became pretty self centered.


Photo: Jason Little

I did get a lot of success out of doing shows from it, the shows didn’t give me the eating disorder. I had this under lying way of hiding it, though I channeled it to do well at shows and do something good. But it’s a progressive problem if you don’t get real help for it. So what happened was I white knuckled it, by being on these restrictive diets but as soon as I had a period where I hit my target weight and the shows were done, it was always followed by this period of craziness. Where I would binge then over exercise, throw up, binge, getting back on a diet, and the only way to get control was to sign up for another show. But every time after a show, it just kept getting worse and worse. After my pro show in 2014, I kind of put up the white flag. I think I hit my rock bottom. Everyone’s rock bottom is different, some gain a ton of weight, some waste away into the hospital from anorexia. Everyone has that “oh crap I can’t do this and I need help” moment and that’s what I hit. I remember having this mindset of “I”m not doing this today” followed by a binge. I woke up one morning to work off what I did and I couldn’t get out of the car. I just broke down and cried. Bawled. And I just couldn’t do it anymore. I called my parents and told them that I needed to get help. I am so grateful for the rock bottom because it changed my relationship with food and working out ever since. It almost makes me want to cry thinking about it….I didn’t think working out and eating healthy could be easy like it feels now. I’m sitting here today obsession free of food and I’m in control of my body. I eat healthy of course, but it’s been work for me. I think a lot of women struggle with this, maybe not to the extent I did, but some might even more than I did, some less…I got into my program of recovery which I’m very active in so I can help others with their eating disorders, I have a mentor in it…it’s easier now than when I started but I still have to work harder than your average person who doesn’t have the a disorder. But a lot of great things have came from that struggle. Having great friends to be around, helping others. I went through this period of recovery and thinking “ok I think I want to compete again!” thinking it was going to be different, which it was. But I tried it and though it was wonderful to be on stage, but the focus putting it all on me and being compared to others…

MMF: …it became a trigger?

JJ: Yeah, it was because it changed the mindset of “I”m healthy” and shifted it back to “it’s all about my body” again. It didn’t really help. And it just made me rethink why I was competing. I don’t think competing is for everyone. I think a lot of people get into the industry for reason like I did in the beginning. But if you have issues with food or body image, from my experience, it’s probably not the best sport to get into. Though the fitness community has a lot of supportive people in it and people doing it for the right reasons….

MMF: Society seems to want people to focus on those who look a certain way a lot, and comparing yourself to others a lot of the time can lead to self- destructive mindsets. Like counter-productive ways of thinking…

JJ: It all comes down to, for me at least, the self centered mentality. I never though of myself as one of those people, but I constantly was trying to control everything. The way my life was going, how people treated me. I didn’t realize that type of control was what was keeping me dysfunctional in my food. Not that I don’t want to into the whole God and higher power thing here, but for me it was just giving up all that control. Letting go. That’s what it comes down to. It starts with your mind, and the body then follows. If we try and control every single little thing, that self-centeredness comes up again…what you resist, persists. Being able to finally let that go if you make a mistake and to be able to move on from it. I would mess up on food or a workout and panic would set it. And then I would over compensate and control everything. And that was the mistake I was making. Letting go and living the “Progress not perfection” was the key, living it.

MMF: Are you to the point of being able to enjoy treats now? Having a “cheat day” like a lot of people who are very into fitness?

JJ: Yeah, that’s been a big thing. even when it comes to sugar and such, I think it’s about knowing your body and yourself. So I know no matter how strong I feel, if I’m going to feel any sort of guilt and shame afterwards, I just don’t partake in it. For me, it’s not worth it. Some can handle it, eating certain things all the time. Some can’t go there. It’s a person by person basis. There is no perfect food plan or cheat meal that is correct. Everyone is different, person to person. And my food plan might not work for someone else, some can eat intuitively. But I do know, one of the most freeing things every, I would compulsively weight my food. Even if it was a lot. Comes back to control, and it was kind of scary. And in recovery I’ve been able to let that go. I actually found out that weighing and measure your food obsessively is an disorder called orthorexia. It was a very eye opening thing to discover, and it was really powerful for me. Putting my scale away after finding that out was big for me. I know for competing a lot of people have to weight their food for food prep, but I know so many people who are so scared to NOT weight their portions and food during shows….I’m far more free about my food now. I ate a burrito for lunch today and whatever my family had when I was out there them. And it was all healthy and such, maybe a bit too much oil….but whatever. I’m at that point where I accept it and it is what it is. (Laughs)

MMF: Have you found that through helping your clients and others it makes dealing with all the battles of the eating disorder easier to manage?

JJ: I found that the more I’m out of myself and that I’m helping others, the more I stay on plan. Whenever I do I pause and think “ok stop, remove that” and I look to help someone else. It sounds stupid but I’ll even grab trash on the ground and throw it away if it’s for something besides me. Like text a random friend and say “how are you” or call a client and check in with them. Or heck, grab flowers and take them to family or even pay for people behind me at Starbucks (laughs) I do that all the time now. So when I feel body conscious or focusing of food or beating myself up, when that mentality creeps in, I put my focus elsewhere to helping someone. Like when my clients email now if they say “I” or “me” too much I let them know that, and I’ll ask what they did to help someone else that day. I have a client who texted me who was nervous before her stage show, this happened earlier. She was nervous and didn’t know what to do. I told her “find someone around you to help”. She did and she instantly felt better. Getting out of your own head can do wonders. It’s been a huge thing. you’re like being selfish by being selfless (laughs).

MMF: So to switch gears, I saw you did a shoot recently with the geek shirt and the Superman top, looking like a hot nerd (laughs). Do you have a nerdy side where when you’re not in front of the camera or on stage?

JJ: No (laughs). That’s really funny. God, I wish I was a nerd, nerds are hot (laughs). Unfortunately I don’t really have that nerdy cool side. I am hilarious though (laughs) I do like to play practical jokes, it’s something that runs in my family. I mess with people, not in a harmful way of course (laughs). I spend a lot of time with my family, like tons. They are my best friends, from top to bottom. Step-dad, my mom….I’m always around them. And we play jokes on each other a lot. Like I put up on Instagram on April Fools I was pregnant (the belly pic) some people flipped out about it actually, but hey you can’t please everyone, ya know. But we’re always playing games and such. We’ll play Cards Against Humanity, Apples to Apples, we love playing games. Card games, boards games….no video games. I don’t even have a TV in my house actually.

MMF: So with all this the past few years wrapping up, and the new direction, after the battles you’ve dealt with in your life and clearly you’re excited about the next phase of your life, what is next for you? More writing? A book maybe?

JJ: I actually thought about writing an E-Book, not sure which direction to go with like any one direction. Maybe I’m not qualified to talk publicly about balance, but yeah, I’ve been brainstorming. I would really like to speak. I’m not sure if people wanna hear me speak (laughs) but I want to travel and go in front of a broader audience and connect with men and women all over. But the direction to go to speak on, I’ll figure it out.

MMF: Well this new direction gives you a new wide platform to connect with others……

JJ: Well I want to meet a lot of these women with their stories…I’ve called people on social media that have stories similar to mine before. I love connecting with others. Being able to meet them and hug them. It’s emotional for me, and It would be amazing to do that in the future.

You can follow Jessica on her various socia media links at:
https://instagram.com/jamesjessica/
http://www.coachjessicaj.com
http://www.facebook.com/npcjessicajames

FIT AND THE FURIOUS: BRANDAN SCHIEPPATI GOES THROUGH AND ABOVE

Brandan Schieppati wants to kick your ass. Not in a physical violence kind of “kick your ass”. He wants to kick your ass in the gym. If you’re familiar with his past musical efforts with Bleeding Through, all it takes is one listen to Brandan on the stick to know he has the ferocity and unfiltered aggression of a wolverine going after it’s dinner. But it’s that same “in your face” mindset that translates to his approach to fitness and training. Just one glimpse of Rise Above Fitness and you’ll see trainers pushing clients to failure with box jumps, ropes, ball slams, chains, Olympic lifts and anything else he decides to put into the Huntington Beach facility. Do you want to learn MMA? Rise Above has you covered. Functional training? You got it. Anything you need in this gym, he’s got the gear and the training crew to make it happen.

And though he’s most known for his time crushing audiences with Bleeding Through and their successful years together touring the world, Rise Above represents Brandan merging the two things he loves most, the intensity of metal and fitness into one. And it’s turning heads in both worlds, as he was featured in the recent Revolver Magazine issue (alongside Doyle and Alissa White Gluz) for metal heads that live a life of fitness and health. To him, they go hand in hand. And we at Metal Made Fitness tend to agree.

But just because Bleeding Through came to a close, don’t think for a second he’s done with the music either. He’s got some new tunes in the works with Mick Kenney (Anaal Nathrahk) that will be heavier than your dead lift PR. The reality is, Brandan is our kind of guy. Setting goals, busting ass to reach goals, and then keep on rolling towards the next set. We caught up with him recently to discuss the many happenings in the world of the man who chooses to Rise Above.

MMF: Thanks for taking the time, first off. Second, before we dive into the fitness side of things, really random here…the project Suffer Well…. Beings I’m a huge Anaal Nathrahk guy, this is my favorite side project you’ve been involved with. Was that a one time thing? How did that come about in the first place? The fan in me says “work more with Mick!!”

Brandan: Well that is a random story. We met because he saw Bledding Through play a show on our tour with Satyricon which was just a huge bum out because Satyricon was a huge favorite of mine growing up and the people in that band are complete assholes and we actually dropped off the tour because they treated us like total shit. The one good thing that came from it was Mick saw us play and the next day “Myspace” messaged me about some songs he has been working on and because I was a big fan of his work I listened and loved it. The next day I went to his house and recorded a song and it just clicked. I love that Suffer Well record and after the record was released some things in life happened for the both of us that tore us apart. Now 3 years later we re united and are actually working together on my new project called Iron Son which is a solo project. Good things on the horizon.

MMF: Clearly the gym has become a huge focus for you post-Bleeding Through. But even when touring it has been a part of your life. How did you bring about the whole concept of the gym? Was there a moment in the past where you said “I need to open a gym” or what it always a goal way before your music and touring days?

Brandan: When ever we toured working out was the only time that I had alone to clear my head and get a release. Playing shows was a release as well but not like working out. Towards the end of our touring career I would work out with the members of Bleeding Through and little by little, the members of the other bands would peek over and I would invite them to join. I saw the power of it and how it changed attitudes and self esteem with people in bands and a lot of those people have interjected fitness in there life since. I figured out that I could inspire people through fitness just like with music. I knew in my heart that I was eventually going to have to figure out post Bleeding Through life and I started really educating myself in fitness and I knew that I could create the same type of culture of acceptance that I created with Bleeding Through. I worked my ass off to gain clientele and then I just took that leap and invested in myself and opened my gym and so far it has been hard work but a dream come true. Plus I still get to create my own way.

MMF: The gym itself from what I’ve seen is an athlete’s dream for getting some intense work done. Tell the readers a bit about what the gym has in it, and the types of trainers you’ve brought aboard and what they can offer someone looking to come in for help with their goals and how do you think it differs from other personal training facilities?

Brandan: Most personal training facilities have a very cut and dry approach to training with no attitude and grit. The vibe at Rise Above Fitness is one of perseverance and hard work. All people that come in get trained like an athlete, no matter what their fitness levels are. We offer top notch basics that will mold you into a total badass. We have every piece of equipment that you can think of. if you dream it, then we have it. The trainers that we have all specialize in different things but that vibe is the same. Come in and work out, chat a bit with friends and then get the fuck out!

MMF: Are there elements of training that Rise Above hasn’t incorporated as of yet that you’d like to get into, such as expanding to work more with sports teams? You did some work with a high school football or semi-pro team I think I read?

Brandan: We have a lot of ideas of how to expand the training at Rise Above. I am working on a Rise Above Fitness certificate and are always looking to think outside the box with the methods. I have worked and still work with high school to pro athletes. I am the strength and conditioning coach at Los Alamitos High School going on 3 years and nothing makes me happier then to work with kids. I would love to create a template for young athlete development.

MMF: Recently you were a part of the Revolver “Metal Health” issue. Why is it you think that more and more metal heads are starting to take to fitness as to where in the past it was all about the party and booze image?

Brandan: I think that metal is more positive now if that makes sense. It is a new age where we have seen legends from the founding metal bands die because of excessive drug use. I think that has opened bands eyes to the fact that they can die if they don’t take care of them selves. I also think that people like Danzig, Rollins and even Doyle have changed the perception of what people in this industry are suppose to be. if I had a part in that then that is awesome.

MMF: Leading back into music, you mentioned working with Mick on the new Iron Son project…But has Rise Above Fitness been able to satisfy the creative side of you with coming up with new ways to improve it? Or are you still dead set on balancing music and fitness as much as possible?

Brandan: Rise Above Fitness satisfies me fine but music is my life. I have the project Iron Son which is similar to Suffer Well but more angry! (laughs) I have managed to do both and feel like one works with the other very much. Rise Above does take up most of my waking days though. I run 5 businesses through Rise Above and plan to open more gyms and license the name.

MMF: So for the metal kids who might not get why fitness is just as important as metal, what kind of message would you want to give them about the importance of being active and staying healthy as well as loving their metal?

Brandan: I have made it a mission of mine in life to be a positive influence even though I have not been totally positive in my life. I have battled with bi-polar and anxiety my whole life and music and fitness saved my life and I know it can serve as a light for others as well. Don’t be afraid to fail and if you do then pick yourself off and try again.

Check the gym out at http://www.riseabovefitnessoc.com/ and peep the promo video below!

THE FIT AND THE FURIOUS: HOW NPC VEGAN CHAMP JESSICA ORTIZ DOMINATES AND CELEBRATES

So you train for a show and win. What’s next? Most people would be jazzed and doing jumping jacks and celebrating with their favorite new boyfriend or girlfriend “Pound of Peanut Butter Cups”. Not Jessica Ortiz. The California native and NPC competitor pulled some double duty and managed to win twice in the span of a week recently in March. Tough to compete in one show, let alone two and let alone win one. So it’s a complete testament to her dedication to pull this off and get the trophies.

But could a gal do the back-to-back wins as a plant based athlete? A lot of naysayers would probably say “nay!” but we’re in a day and age where vegans are winning often and breaking the stereotypes show in and show out that they can’t hang with the norm. We know this isn’t the case. Jessica is a perfect example on how to train, eat, and live as a vegan and compete on the NPC stage like any other. As you can see she’s packed with top-level muscle, prize winning legs and a stage persona and attitude that even comes through the camera extremely well. Sounds like a winning combo. We caught up with Jessica post victory to chat about her training, recent success and how a double winner treats herself post-show.

MMF: So I guess to start, congratulations for winning two shows in the span of 8 days. How crazy does it feel to know you were able to do that?

Jessica Ortiz: Thank you Dru! I still feel like I’m on cloud nine. It was a dream come true being able to do a back to back bodybuilding competition as a vegan and taking first place in both of them. It was a great accomplishment, not only for me but for the vegan community.

MMF: I know it was a bit since your last show. What did you do differently if anything to train or prepare for these two?

Jessica Ortiz: I knew for the show I had to do a 10 week bulk, which was a mental challenge because I’ve always been petite and lean. So, to put on the weight I had to step out of my comfort zone because I no longer had that lean muscle, I had bulky muscle. There were many times I felt like giving up on the bulk and quitting, but I knew if I wanted to step on stage with a different physique I had to push through. I had to keep on going and continue eating because in the end I’d be able to lift heavier, which would help me develop a stronger, fuller physique. Then after the end of my 10 weeks I chose a show, the San Diego Championships on March 21, 2015. So then after the 10 week bulk, I did a 12 week prep, when in the past I had only done an 8 week prep before a show. To my surprise my body responded well to the vegan cutting plan. By the time I was 4 weeks out, I was already more defined than I had been when I was stage ready for my last competition. That’s when I decided to take advantage of the cut and new physique and had signed up for the Muscle Contest Competition that was on March 14, 2015. I really wanted to see if I could have the discipline to do this; to see if I could give myself that mental and physical challenge and accomplish this goal.

MMF: Beings you’re a plant based competitor, your “off season” body never seems to be too far off from your show look (at least to me). For someone reading this now, can you tell us the differences in diet or training for your off season and during your peak? Do you think the last month of cutting is easier being plant based since the food you eat is easier to process?

Jessica Ortiz: During off season I make sure to eat clean, I’d say about 80% of my day is eating clean. Being a vegan it definitely is much easier to eat clean. During a prep I always make sure to go to the gym 6x a week with very intense lifting sessions and occasional cardio sessions. During off season I still prep my food on a daily basis, but I only workout 4-5x per week at a lower intensity, and I leave room for the occasional cheat meal. I feel like cutting is still just as hard, because you were eating a lot before, but for a cut you decrease your calories and your carbs which is difficult for your body to adjust.

MMF: Like prepping your body but also prepping mentally for “ok I’m going on completely lockdown diet” wise, right? Like the occasional oreo is off limits at that point….

Jessica Ortiz: Correct. During a cutting plan I tend to remove all vegan sweets from the house. And I make sure to always go to the store with a grocery list and I stick to buying only what’s on that list.

MMF: While I was looking for pictures to use for the article on your page, I saw you seem to have a post-cupcake tradition after your shows. Did you get your cupcake fix after these two recent wins? (laughs) I would imagine so…..

Jessica Ortiz: I did for the Muscle Contest Competition, my friend Jenna Saulnier brought me a delicious mocha chocolate cupcake. For the second show my friend Heather Doppke brought me a grocery bag full of cookies and cookie butter, let’s just say I was eating cookies for a whole week.

(*editors note: yes Jessica and I both know the “Butter Cookies” aren’t vegan…she didn’t eat them don’t worry)

MMF: (laughing) yeah I saw the “pic” with you and the oreos. well deserved treat of course….back to a bit of training questions, a few of my female friends have seen your pics and mentioned to me they envy your legs and glutes. What is your secret weapon exercise to help keep your glutes in tip top shape? Or would you care to enlighten our female readers with how you train your legs?

Jessica Ortiz: Oh I’ll gladly share my glute tips! For those 22 weeks I made sure to work out my glutes and legs 3x per week. The key was and always will be…to deadlift. You can deadlift with a barbell, dumbells, cables, plates, you name it, just make sure whatever you find in the gym use it to deadlift. I also incorporated cable kick backs, donkey kicks, squats, lunges, and curtsey lunges. Then some advice for any girl that wants bigger and stronger glutes is to not be scared of carbs, complex carbs will help you build fuller glutes and legs. So eat and eat and eat complex carbs.

MMF: Though I know there is always a focus on the show itself and doing well, surely you have discussed being vegan with other ladies and helped break down a few misconceptions in the process….Do you ever get into conversations with other girls who aren’t vegan at shows?

Jessica Ortiz: Yes, I actually had a few girls back stage approach me asking if I was “jessi_vegan” (from her Instagram), they would always be impressed with my physique, and they would say “I can’t believe you’re vegan and you look like this.”

MMF: Through that have you managed to get a few girls interested or contact you later about how to progress and make the switch at all?

Jessica Ortiz: Yes, I’ve helped girls that have competed on a regular chicken and fish diet who felt like they would like to do a competition as a vegan. Some had felt guilty for eating so much meat, and others have gotten sick from eating such a high amount of animal protein. I’ve also helped out people that are already vegans who are seeking to get fit.

MMF: I saw that you’ve been at this for a few years…aside from the wonderful socio-environmental benefits and doing your part to not contribute to the plight of animals, what has been the best part of your choice to go vegan?

Jessica Ortiz: Like you said the love of animals, but I’m also grateful that this lifestyle took me to the NPC stage, because honestly if I was a vegan I don’t think I would have accomplished this much.

MMF: So speaking of the stage, you’ve competed at several California shows now…are you looking into competing our of state, possible trying out a large National show in Vegas or elsewhere next?

Jessica Ortiz: Yes, I decided to do Nationals in Florida in November of this year.

MMF: Will this be your first time out of state competing? Any changes you’ll be making to your training or will you stick with what’s been working?

Jessica Ortiz: Yes, this is my first time out of state. The only thing different will be a longer bulk, this time my ideal end of bulk weight will be 120lbs instead of 112lbs.

MMF: We got one more for you….since you started competing, you’ve probably met a lot of women you’ve inspired and inspired quite a few just through social media. If you could give one message to girls reading this, whether they compete or are feeling timid about starting a life of fitness and health, what would you tell them?

Jessica Ortiz: To never listen to the naysayers, especially when it comes to being a vegan because people are going to say such things like that it’s just a cleanse, that you can never build muscle on a vegan diet, and that we need to eat meat. Also, accept that it’s ok for people to have that mentality, and that it’s our duty as female vegan bodybuilders to educate others that you can achieve whatever physique you desire even on a plant based diet.

You can follow Jessica on her instagram at Instagram.com/Jessi_Vegan

THE FIT AND THE FURIOUS: BAY AREA BADASS TINA TRUONG

JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT WAS SAFE TO GO BACK INTO THE COMPETITION WATERS, SAN JOSE STAGE SHARK TINA TRUONG IS COMING FOR HER NEXT TROPHY…

In keeping with tradition, we do our best to, of course, merge fitness and metal. So when looking for the newest blood in the world of bodybuilding or bikini competition, we like to have a few things checked off the list. Are they super dedicated? Are they living a solid life to inspire others? Are they full of the energy and intensity of metal? Do they like metal? Well thankfully our latest chat in the world of Metal Made Fitness hails from San Jose and has attacks the competition arena like a shark (that is infact a hockey reference…try and keep up). Tina Truong, though only in her now third year competing, is already building a resume anyone going on stage would die for. And when she isn’t clangin’ and bangin’ the weights for her next show, she’s helping others grab their fitness goals by building complete training programs. And this Team AllMax athlete is working non-stop to make sure she is grade-A at both inspiring her clients, women all over, and grabbing her next trophy.

MMF: So to start, I was looking online and reading up on your competition history. It looks like you really went for it in 2014 with a couple of solid 1st place finishes. For the young women reading this that are interested in competing, what are some of the best lessons you’ve learned while climbing the ladder of success on the stage or off, or as far as diet/training…or even life in general in this journey?

TINA: The journey itself is not easy. You have to get mentally ready like as if you’re going to battle with yourself and stay committed to your goals. It all takes a lot of being consistent, having the will power, being motivated, inspired, and determined to win. Diet is the most important!! Sometimes you’ll want to cheat and give in but you always got to remind yourself to keep the eyes on the prize. I use life’s downers and it’s negativity as my motivation in the gym. All the heart breaks I’ve been through and people on the past who have doubted me and challenged me to prove them wrong.

MMF: I also read that you’re really into kickboxing as well. As someone who boxes, I know how much of a workout it can be. But do you have to keep that kind of training separate from your competition programs or are you able to work that in as a part of it?

TINA: I keep it separated but it’s definitely a good HIIT cardio workout that I wouldn’t mind using as apart of my training for cardio, instead of doing stair master for an hour. Kickboxing is a great workout and I think it’s definitely recommended in everyone’s regiment. But the question is, will you have enough energy?? Since we are all on low calorie diets (laughs).

MMF: Ok, since we’re a metal inspired fitness blog, we have to ask this one….if I was to open your iPod right now, what is the heaviest metal or hardcore you have in there you love to blast to push you through the hardest set?

TINA: I have Pantera, Job For A Cowboy, As I Lay Dying, Bleeding Through, Meshuggah, Suicide Silence, Asking Alexandria, and much more!!!!

MMF: We all know that competitors have a lock-down diet leading up to the show. But the fun comes after. What is the epic treat meal you go and have post show, or the treat meal during off-season that is a must have?

TINA: A post show meal I love is probably a big hamburgers and some fries. I know it sounds so greasy so it just all depends, I might stick to sushi or piece of steak and some potatoes. During my off season my must have are donuts and ice cream!

MMF: How important or how much does it mean when a young woman approaches you in person or online for training and says “your hard work is inspiring to me to want to improve myself and become stronger?” It must feel great to know you’re helping them empower themselves?

TINA: It’s very important to me because I was one of those people. Looking up to my inspirations and wanting to work hard to have a body like theirs. I love to inspire others with my progress. I was born and raised as the only child, never got into sports or joined any and never won a trophy. I was bullied a lot and such an outcast. As I grew I made an identity for myself and start training and competing and building on my body. Here I am, making myself someone who people are inspired by and look up to so it’s such a great feeling. Nothing compared to how I was mistreated back in the younger school years.

MMF: What’s the next show you’re training for? Any others you’re competing in this year?

TINA: I just did some power lifting meets for fun for my off season. Now I am down with that, I need to focus more on bodybuilding so my next show is Jr Nationals in Miami where I will be fighting for my Procard!!! I am 11 weeks out!!!!

You can follow Tina’s journey to first place on her instagram @Beast_Tina

THE FIT AND THE FURIOUS: VEGAN JEDI MASTER SAMANTHA SHORKEY

It’s a rainy afternoon in May up in Vancouver BC. One of my favorite things in the world is walking around a city when it is raining as the city has a distinct sound and feel to it when people are driving through wet streets, sloshing around puddles or shaking the rain off their umbrella before they go inside a store or place of business. Canada, being my favorite place on the planet, means this is the best kind of walk. Now this particular trip was for my run in the 2014 BMO Vancouver Marathon, which as it stands, was my last run before moving on to new ventures. The day before the race however, I had a mission: deliver the goods to one Samantha Shorkey.

What were these goods? Well, one is unmentionable due to shipping restrictions but the other was an item that will forever have proven my worth as a friend to this Ontario-born Vegan competitor: A Vegan German Chocolate Cookie Sandwich. At the time Samantha did not know of this as it was a brand new cheat item. The time before at the BC Vegfest I brought her a vegan brownie which I still hail as the “greatest brownie a vegan can ever consume”. But there she was, rain boots and all, waiting for the unmentionable and probably slightly illegal item which wasn’t drugs if you were wondering. And then the transaction was made. Later on, the freak out happened which started a chain of investigative work to track down where she could get this. Alberta? Nope. Austin? Not yet. I’m pretty sure that unless Samantha treks to Seattle, it’ll be a bit before this is located.

Thankfully, this obsessive urge to locate said Cookie Sandwich is one of the driving forces behind Samantha’s stellar training programs for upcoming shows, like in Austin, Texas in June. As well as a mindset to become the best possible her in the process. But one thing you might not know other than the pretty face you’ve seen in pictures from shows or shoots is a grand sense of humility and to not take herself so seriously. Samantha is a fun person, and it’s reflected in how she approaches the stage and the people who know her well. But don’t let that fool you for a Dagobah second. She trains like a beast and exhibits world class discipline in her diet leading up to any show she’s done. Knowing full well, that at the end, a Vegan Cookie Sandwich could be on it’s way.

MMF: We’re going to avoid some of the standard questions. First off, you’re an admitted nerd and we’ve all seen the on-stage Star Wars pic, Yoda I do believe. So if you have to spend all day watching a movie marathon, what are you nerding out to? Star Wars? Or are there other things in your nerdiness we don’t know about yet?

SHORKEY: Yes! I’m really glad you’re asking me this because I just finished watching the final episode of my latest TV obsession: Spartacus the series! This show first aired back in 2011 but I only discovered it recently thanks to Netflicks. Yes, I’m a big sci-fi Star Wars nerd but I also love me a good fantasy flick from the days of Roman warriors. This series has everything I could possibly want in a show: twisted plots, epic battles, hot/jacked scantily-clad men and so much sex and nudity. It’s literally GLADIATOR PORN! Doesn’t get much better than that! So yeah, I definitely just finished a Spartacus marathon, watching the entire series in about five days.

I haven’t done a Star Wars marathon in a while. But I really should in preparation for the new one that’s coming out.

MMF: Many people have seen your e-Book you put out a while ago. When did you know you wanted to take being Vegan beyond “just being” to “being a well-known personality” in the community? Do you feel being Vegan brings that responsibility?

SHORKEY: Well first off, thanks for the ego boost, Dru! Am I really considered a “well-known personality” in the vegan community? **Head grows bigger** I’ll take it! I’m really just a regular, ol’ vegan chick who has a blog (just like everyone else on Earth.) That being said, I’m always super flattered and incredibly touched when people say they dig me. And that’s precisely why I continue to write about my life and experiences and share it with the world.

I don’t think being vegan means it’s my responsibility to put myself “out there” necessarily. I think for me, I’ve just always been a bit of an attention-seeker and an ego-maniac. Plus having studied Journalism, competing as a vegan gave me something to write about during those anti-social months of prep. When I first started my competition training back in 2012, it was really hard to find information on a vegan bikini competitor’s diet hence why I wrote my “Jacked on the Beanstalk” eBook in the first place. And seeing how big vegan bodybuilding has grown in the last couple of years, it’s been really cool connecting with other vegans on a similar journey and helping them in their efforts however I can.

MMF: When you prepped for your first big win on stage, what did you find were the easiest things to do, and the most challenging to get ready for it?

SHORKEY: Easiest = workouts. Hardest = diet. With any show prep, I could spend five straight hours lifting weights, no problem. But eating nothing but asparagus and protein powder for months and never feeling full—well, that BLOWS. I love to eat. And I have a horrible sweet tooth as you know from giving me that heavenly vegan cookie sandwich from Whole Foods last year. (Sidenote: you scored major friend points with that one, Dru!!) So yes, to deprive myself of desserts and treats during a prep is pure & utter hell. Thank God for weekly cheat meals. And it does get easier over time I guess. What the hell am I talking about? No it doesn’t. Dieting sucks. Cardio also sucks. But I have grown to not mind it as much as I used to.

Truth be told, every prep is different. There are a lot of factors that come into play. My first prep was probably the easiest because I gave myself a good eight months to get ready for it. It’s the shows you have to crash diet for and do hours upon hours of cardio in the last few weeks that are the worst. And I’ve been there too. Not fun. But yeah, I’ll always say that diet is the hardest part of getting stage-ready. And having no social life

MMF: I give you a $20 iTunes card to load your gym iPod up. What bands are you going to buy for tunes?

SHORKEY: Ooh fun question! Well since this interview is for “Metal Made Fitness” I’ll list the heavier bands I always listen to at the gym. Leg day always = metal day.

Here goes the “leg day” metal bands in alphabetical order straight from the iPod of “well-known vegan personality” Samantha Shorkey (quote: Metal Made Fitness.)

Alice in Chains, Behemoth, Cannibal Corpse, Disturbed, Down, Faith No More, Godsmack, Iron Maiden, L7, Lamb of God, Marilyn Manson, Metallica, Ministry, Rammstein, Rob Zombie, Six Feet Under, Static X & White Zombie.

MMF: You’ve been to Texas and all over the states, and many places up in the True North…where is the best joint you’ve had a plant based meal at?

SHORKEY: Hmmm, that’s tough. I’m a sucker for pizza and Mellow Mushroom in Austin, Texas has the best vegan pizza I’ve ever had. Far from gluten-free, it has the doughiest, thickest crust ever and you can get tofu AND Daiya cheese on it! In fact, they have several vegan pizzas to choose from AND calzones AND a tempeh hoagie! Mmmmmmmm Mellow Mushroom… I want some now!

If we’re talking “healthy” plant-based meals, I’d have to choose my fave sushi joint of all time in good ol’ Vancouver, BC: Shizenya! All of their ingredients are fresh and local. The sushi is all brown rice and you can even get vegan miso soup there! Shizenya’s tofu salad is also awesome but WARNING: it has a black sesame seed dressing so I don’t recommend ordering this if you’re on a first date.

MMF: When training, and from being a certified ACE trainer, I’m guessing you put a lot of your programs together. What are you doing right now to get ready for future shows in the weight room?

SHORKEY: I’m lifting as heavy as humanly possible! I’m 14 weeks out from my pro show debut so I’m not doing a ton of cardio at the moment. I’m saving my energy for my weights sessions so I can lift like a savage beast! This prep, I’ve been really focused on building up my glutes and hamstrings so I’ve been squatting and lunging more than anyone should ever have to. Especially since I LOATHE squats. But I’m getting her done and busting my ass (quite literally!) I now suffer from high hamstring tendinitis from dead lifting too much weight! So now my evening routine also entails me rubbing squash and lacrosse balls all over my ass. True story!

The hardest thing for me is actually not letting my abs get too defined. The judges don’t want bikini girls to have six-packs so I can’t work my abs as much as I’d like to. Hashtag Firstworldproblems…

MMF: Give us a roundup on what the rest of 2015 looks like. What shows or projects do you have in the works?

SHORKEY: Good question! I wish I knew! Well I guess I know some stuff. As I mentioned earlier, I’m now prepping for my big pro show debut in Austin, Texas on June 6th. And yes, Mellow Mushroom will definitely be consumed in copious amounts immediately afterwards. I’ll be joining the rest of the PlantBuilt team there so I’m excited to see everyone again and of course, kick some more ass 😉

I’ve been doing a lot of moving around this year too, starting in Vancouver then spent three months in Calgary, Alberta. Now I’m living in Ontario and am moving to Texas in a couple of months! They call me the vegan drifter.

I’m also working on a new eBook but can’t give away too much info on that just yet. I’m hoping to release it this summer. In the meantime, lots of blog posts as usual via http://www.JackedontheBeanstalk.com.

This year I’ve kind of just kept things low-key and I’m loving it. It’s been my best competition prep yet and I’m really excited for my pro show debut.

You can follow Samantha’s training exploits on her blog at
http://www.JackedOnTheBeanstalk.com
which you should because it’s one of our favorites.