Where and when were you born?
I was born on the 16th November 1960 In New Zealnd in the South Island Town of Greymouth in New Zealand.
What is your profession?
I work as an Online Body Consultant/Competition Trainer. That keeps me busy either training the girls, doing their nutrition or teaching posing but I also have a lot of non competition clients who just want to anchieve an athletic body
Were you involved in sports or fitness prior to bodybuilding and how did you get started with weight training?
I began weight training first when I was only 19 years of age. There were very few girls lifting weights then, and I used to be surrounded by powerlifters and wrestlers. I gave up after about 6 months when I got engaged to a non gym-goer, but then resumed again after 10 years of mainly aerobics, running, triathons and ˝ marathons. I was already quite muscular naturally and very slim then, so I was very easily talked into training for competition.
Was it a goal for you to compete in bodybuilding competitions right from the beginning or was it something that grew in your mind as time went on and you saw the progress in your body?
I always wanted to do bodybuilding training. Even when I was doing the short stint when I was 19. When I resumed weight training just before I almost turned 30, I saw a TV interview of a woman who trained at the gym I was at, and I thought I could pretty much be as good as she was. We were always very competitive against each other after that and I did end up beating her although in our own classes. I trained for 2 years solid before I competed. I was adamant I was not competing until I knew I could win. And I won my first, then got selected for the NZ Nationals, won that and got selected to represent New Zealand at the Australasian Champs, so I went over there and won my class in that… I didn’t win the overall though, but I got second in the overall and scored second place beating the girl who was my role model in the first place.
Can you give me your competition history?
My history goes back a long way.
My very first lot of contests which I have just mentioned where in 1994. I have done many since then. So many I have never ever listed them, so one day I do need to sit down and try to work them out or remember them. I have won all but two of my competitions where I was placed second. However on both of those occasions I was entering a regional to qualify for a National event and not in my own weight class. On both occasions I went on to win my class and beat the previous winners and gain the overall as well. I have earned the NZ Zealand Overall National Physique title 5 times with 4 of them being consecutive years. In 1996 my husband Mark and I both won our classes, then we both won the Overalls then we won the Mixed Pairs. That was an awesome event. We had a TV special done on us which was abit of a hoot…Shortly after, I had my 3rd baby and had some time off competition but still trained. I made a comeback and won the 2003, 2004, and 2005 and 2006 Overall New Zealand Titles…I did not compete in NZ in 2007, only appearing as guest poser. My wins have set a record which has yet to be beaten in New Zealand. I am not going to compete again in New Zealand. I figure why tempt fate so I am happy with my 5 prestigious titles and of course, I find it very hard competing against the girls that I train.
Which contest has been your biggest success; which has had the most meaning to you?
In 1996 I went to the Master’s World in Sicily where I placed 3rd I was blown away. We had not a very good flight, and my luggage went missing for 3 days. We got it back during the weigh in at the event so at least I had it for contest day however it hasd put a lot of extra pressure on me just not having my personal belongings.
I had 11 woman in my class and the size of the woman scared me actually so I was surprised at my placing but obviously wrapped. It wasn’t until I could look at the photos and identify that I had the symmetry and balance but just lacked the size of the girls. We came home to NZ and immediately decided it give it my best shot again so training for the next 12 months was very serious..
That 12 months training got me to the Masters Worlds in Budapest in December 2007 and I won.... out of 19 woman in my class which was an open weight category. I was the oldest in our class – well a Romanian competitor was the same age – 47 years so we were the oldest competitors, and I was probably amongst the lightest. I weighed around 55kgs although Johanna DeJager would have been abit lighter than myself.
I was absolutely wrapped with reaching the top 6 but to win, well that was the craziest foggiest moment in my life. As they announced 3, 2 I was in a daze... and all I could think about was my late mum and dad and how they would be so proud of me then.. It was the first time in almost 20 years that a NZ National Anthem had been played in an IFBB event
Please tell me something about your training routine (ie: how many days per week / training split /cardio, etc.)
When in my 12 week contest mode, I train 6 days per week. I sometimes train 2 body parts per day but always at separate times – like hamstrings in the morning and quads evening etc. I love my cardio year in and year out, so I run every day off season, but I cut that down to every second day during my contest diet cycle and replace it with my stepper or standing cycle on my spin bike so I focus on my hamstrings and glutes.
I am trained by my husband, IFBB International Judge Mark Stewart. At the moment we are training with my sponsor Moe Mousssawi from Xtreme Nutrition who is an IFBB Pro and we also train with another NZ Pro - Salah Ibraheim who is a newbie Pro at just 24 years old. We have the most awesome workouts – I call us the Xtreme Dream Team and we all train so well together. It is all very instinctive and everything just flows. I am extremely lucky to have 3 big guys bossing me around as it gets me results, and gets me totally fired up all day and everyday.
What is your favourite exercise in the gym and which one you don’t like so much?
I pretty much love every exercise, But I love to train shoulders, and I love chin ups. Hack Squats are my least favourite exercise to perform without question but I do them. I find it a mental challenge and I love to challenge myself mentally as well as physically
Which body part is your best in your opinion?
I kind of like it all... I think that even though I need more size everywhere, I am really happy with the balance. I do love my legs – and they totally motivate me further to make them even better. I cover my arms a lot more when I am getting into contest conditition. I really don’t have the mind-frame of a normal bodybuilder as I really don’t like the shredded contest condition look...outside of competitions that is. Halfway through my contest diet is a point where I love my body and I will prance around in anything then. The closer to a contest - the more I cover up. In New Zealand they are very backward in accepting muscular females here. When we go away overseas, I do wear a lot less clothing and feel more comfortable amongst the general public. I went to our local Mall 2 days ago and heard a huge overweight comment to her children that my arms were hideous. I do get abit upset about things like that –that is the sort of thing that hits abit of a sore nerve with me..
If you don’t mind would you give me some stats (best lifts and some body measurements)?
I lift as heavy as I can but I have never done any best off’s. I bench press 70kgs for reps of 8-10, I leg press 250kgs for 8-10 reps, and db curl 21kgs for 6-8 reps. My competition weight is 55 and I normally sit at 61 kgs.
What do you enjoy about training for competition....what do you enjoy about the 'off season'?
I love the contest season. I love being strict with myself and I love the feeling of going to bed each night knowing that I couldn’t possibly of done any better with my day than I did that day in terms of training and contest preparation (off season or on season). When we recently returned from the Masters Worlds in Budapest, it was almost Xmas. It is a bad time to come off a diet. Xmas day I did cardio just to burn some calories as I didn’t to keep my weight down in preparation for the Arnold coming up. I am one of those people who should compete 2-3 times per year as I love the diet phase better than the off season phase.
Please describe a typical day in the life of Jo Stewart.
My day nearly always starts with a early morning run, around 5.00am or 6.00 winter or summer although I do have times when I sleep till 7.00 off season. I have been an early riser since I was about 20. My husband thinks I am mad getting up early in the morning to run but he knows that my run time is very important to me and I can give totally to my clients and family if I have had my time. I work from home so clients are in and out here all day so I do have the opportunity to go for a run between clients if I choose to sleep in. I love to spend a lot of time on my website but I am average at it which is why it is more of a bloggy type site. I do love running the site though.
I also teach 2 classes per week at a gym down the road from me which I love. We have 3 of our 5 kids at home so it is busy busy. My husband and my sponsor are now running the first Elite and Professional Event in New Zealand on March 15th. Being the first time for this event, the organizing is taking a lot of time, mostly his time..
Mark is also the NZFBB President and the office is based from our home, so I am always busy with contacting and answering members emails and chasing things up for them. There is a lot of time doing that.
Please tell me about what you do when you don’t work out hobbies, what do you do to relax?, etc.
For several years I had a dance group. I don’t dance myself but getting the group together for several years was awesome. We are getting that back going later on in the year when I finish my competitions as I just haven’t had the time recently to oversee them and we all know a team of girls takes a lot of organizing.. I love to read so I get a lot of that done when I am not in contest season – love to shop, love to sunbathe all the girly stuff
What do you enjoy most about the bodybuilding/fitness lifestyle?
I love the training, and the nutrition side and the scope that it has given me in reaching out to people and trying to help those in difficulty with coping with adding exercise to
their days.. I love helping the contest girls see the potential in themselves and to help draw out their good points. I love being able to promote female bodybuilding and proving that age has no limit. I would never of dreamed that I would be competing at 47 and taking out a World Title. That must create some inspiration for other woman..
Mark and I have 5 children between us, two of my own (Jaimee 23 years and Brad 21 years) and 1 of our (Jordan 9 years) , and Mark has two daughters (Tash 25 years and Bianca 20 years). They are all into fitness/training to some extent however our youngest son will be the bodybuilder of the family. His favourite take to school lunch is rice and spicy tuna. Marks youngest daughter also has the genes for being a fantastic bodybuilder. She is competing later on in the year for the first time and at 21 years, she has heaps of time ahead of her so we are helping her but not being pushy..
Tell me something interesting about yourself, something people may be surprised to hear.
I used to be shy but bodybuilding helped me to overcome that. I am very confident around (too confident) amongst the bodybuilding people but get me out of that scene and I am totally self conscious. I always have to remind myself to be confident.
Also I have developed terrible fear of driving in our city. I can go the outskirts etc with no problems, but get me into the city or onto the motorway and I go to pieces. It is something I have wanted to overcome naturally but I struggle with it constantly. My husband just brought me a Navigator to help but really it is not the directions that help. It is just the panic attacks that can happen whenever. So I don’t tend to stray far from home.
What are your competition goals or personal future goals?
The Arnold – I have 6 weeks of preparation remaining and I am lapping it up. Every competition I enter with the prospect of it being my last and my best, and I wait for the International judges or critics to give some indication that it is time for me to give it up. Mentally I will never be ready to retire, and physically – my body is still improving..
This year career wise I have training dvds planned, and I’m all for grasping for opportunities to milk my bodybuilding success in my own country and to pass on the love of my sport to other upcoming kiwis...
Jo does not do sessions or wrestling of any kind. Please don't ask!!