I was born in Radford, VA on October 31, 1969. I grew up in a large extended family in a Los Angeles suburb. I was a typical child, but exhibited extraordinary strength at a very early age. My parents enrolled me in a local gymnastics program, and here is really where my gifts for building muscle became evident.
Gymnastics played a very integral role during my childhood and teenage years. I attribute much of my successes in life to gymnastics. I even landed a full gymnastics college scholarship to California State Polytechnic College, where I graduated with a degree in tax and cost accounting, and business management.
I was a very muscular gymnast, more so than the other gymnasts. I remember once, at age nine I was on, Muscle Beach, in Venice, CA. A pro bodybuilder walked up to me out of the blue and said, “When you get older, you must be a bodybuilder. You’ve got a gift”. I remember thinking, “bodybuilding is for men”, and how I would never want to look like that.
I remember almost to the date. It was early September of 2002. My husband, “Eric” and I had just come home from a family vacation from Cabo San Lucas. I was disgusted at how “soft” and “thick” I looked in my bikini after viewing the pictures. I turned to him and said, “I want to get into the best shape of my life”. Eric is a very knowledgeable nutritionist, as well as an accomplished chef. He said he would help me, but that I must be very strict with my diet. Of course, the diet change was the most dramatic change I think I ever made.
Eric began spending hours and hours on the internet, gather information on how to get lean healthfully, and how to femininely sculpt the body. It was about this time that I saw a picture of Monica Brant in one of my fitness magazines. Along with her picture was an advertisement for the 2002 “Miss Galaxy Competition” promoted by George Snyder. I was going to have her body, no matter what.
I sent in my information to George, and began working out everyday with my husband, who is also very knowledgeable about training. George accepted my application, and I dedicated the next few months to this “figure” show.
When I arrived in Orlando, FL for the competition, I took one look around at the other girls, and thought, “Either I have a slam dunk, or I’m at the wrong show”. I was much more ripped, lean, and vascular than the other competitors. While waiting backstage for my turn to go on, I was approached by a man named Mickey Garces. He complimented me on how lean and muscular I was. I asked him how he thought I was going to place. He looked at me again, laughed, and said, “You’re a bodybuilder, what are you doing here?” I remember how hurt I was. A bodybuilder, I thought. I don’t want to look like that! He then asked me to do a back double bicep pose. I had no idea what he meant.
This is how it all began. Mickey told me to go back home, and enter a level II or III NPC show. The very next weekend happened be the “John Sherman Bodybuilding Championships”, held in Houston, TX (and a level V show). It was a Thursday when Eric called me at work and said, “Do you want to compete in this show?” It is the day after tomorrow.” I said, “Why not”! Well, I won the overall. I basically copied the other girl’s poses, as I had no idea how to pose. I was addicted. The feeling of being on stage and winning was unbelievable. I absolutely had to have this feeling again!
Eric and I spent more and more time learning about diet, nutrition, safe and effective training, healthy natural supplements, etc. As my body continued to improve, and to take on the look of a serious bodybuilder, people began to ask us if we could help them with their fitness programs, diets, etc. We were both “corporate” career people, looking for something else. We wanted to work together, and here was our opportunity. We gave notice to our employers, packed our bags, and headed for Miami. We figured a “vain” city would be ideal, and we also love Florida in general.
I continued to compete, and have done quite well. I placed 1st Middle Weight and Overall at the 2002 John Sherman, Houston, TX, 1st Middle Weight and Overall at the Southern States, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; 2nd Middle Weight at the 2003 Team Universe, NYC, NY; 15th Middle Weight 2003 Nationals, Miami, FL; 1st Middle Weight and Overall at the 2004 Palm Beach Classic, FL; 1st Lt. Heavy Weight and Overall at the 2004 Bev Francis NYC, NY; 2nd Heavy Weight 2004 Team Universe NYC, NY; 7th Lt. Heavy Weight 2004 North Americans, Cleveland, OH; 13th Lt. Heavy Weight Nationals, Dallas, TX; 2nd Heavy Weight 2005 Team Universe, NYC, NY; 2nd Heavy Weight 2005 North Americans, Cleveland, OH; 9th Heavy Weight 2005 Nationals, Atlanta, GA; and 1st Heavy Weight and Overall at the 2006 Team Universe NYC, NY., 4th Heavy Weight 2006 Amateur Worlds, Santa Susanna, Spain, and 1st Heavy Weight 2007 Jan Tana IFBB Pro Show.
Training and perfect diet is as part of the day as taking a shower or going to work. I NEVER miss. Success as a bodybuilder has, among other things, a lot to do with consistency. A bodybuilder can’t just “lose it”. There are no “cheat days”. What keeps me going is remembering the feeling I had winning the Overall at the 2003 Southern States. I won this show when Eric and I were at a turning point in our careers, and our lives in general. This win came at a most perfect time, and the feeling this show gave me is one I will never forget.
People always ask me how much I work out in order to achieve the body I have. I get so frustrated with this question. It is not how many hours we spend in the gym, or how many days a week. It has to do with perfect and consistent diet, and quality workouts. Quality workouts come from the knowledge behind what your goals are. During the “off-season”, I do no cardio, very heavy weights, and eat a lot of good, healthy foods. Eric cooks all of my meals. They are always very nutritionally balanced. I guess I am pretty lucky to be married to an accomplished chef. This certainly helps, and I never miss out or have any cravings! However, as competition nears, I incorporate a couple hours of cardio a week into my schedule.
I always train 4 days on, and then one day off. I split the workouts apart by chest, back, shoulders, and legs. Eric studies my body with a fine comb, and makes changes to my workouts as needed. If my hams are lagging, he will add in a few extra exercises to get them to where they need to be.
I think most of us like to practice what we are already good at. My arms are my best gift, and I like to train them because it is easier than some of the other options.
I can’t say that I really enjoy training any body part. Training is tough. Bodybuilders are into this sport because they have a unique gift, and they love to compete and perform. That moment on stage is what we work for all year, and it is worth it. I find nothing enjoyable about the “off-season”. Since I only go up about 10 pounds due to my “clean” diet, there is really no “down time” or time for goodies for me! I love the thrill of competition, so I spend the off-season waiting and preparing for the “on-season”.
What I enjoy most about being a bodybuilder is how it makes me feel physically. I have tons of energy and am always healthy. I attribute this to my bodybuilding lifestyle.
Getting into bodybuilding has opened up many doors for Eric and me. We split our time between seasons. During the fall and winter months, we live and work in the Florida Keys at a luxury resort where we have a catering and healthy food delivery business. We also run the fitness center of a health club where we balance over 90 clients. We work with their diets, nutrition, exercise, etc. These people are, for the most part, extremely wealthy “snow birds”, and for most of them, their home in the Keys is one of many. These same people hire us to come to their northern homes “summer homes” to do basically the same thing, but on a much more custom and individualized basis. We now fill our springs and summers traveling all over the country, going to places like Maine, Chicago, New York City, Nantucket, Atlanta, New Hampshire, upper peninsula Michigan, Cleveland, and New Jersey to name a few. We are now so busy with our “fitness camps,” that we’ve had to turn away business due to lack of time. Nice problem to have!
We love this work. Our clients hire us to basically “move in”, train them twice daily, teach them everything there is to know about nutrition, and prepare all of their meals.
We run our fitness camps for a month at a time with a guaranteed weight loss (depending on the situation). The work is unbelievably gratifying!
Our business has worked very well with my bodybuilding career as it allows me to use hundreds of different gyms throughout the year. I attribute some of my success to the huge variety of equipment I am exposed to.
I can’t say I really have a typical day. I have so many things going with very little down time. I can say that every day is filled with some aspect of helping someone get healthier. If I do have time to relax or play, I love nothing more than curling up with a great big novel, taking our wakeboard boat out for some skiing in the Keys’ creeks, dining out with friends, and of course, traveling, especially internationally!!
I love the direction women’s bodybuilding has headed since the IFBB made its announcement that they would like to see a reduction in the size of women. I have begun to notice a much-needed gradual change in the look of the winners. Beautiful women, not oversized, but with the right amount of muscularity, leanness, along with feminine qualities have been winning the big shows.
This decision has led me to enter my first professional show as an IFBB,
“The 2007 Jan Tana”, and I won the heavy weight class! My next show, and every bodybuilder’s dream, “The Olympia”! This is such an unbelievable honor!
Life’s direction is all about the decisions you make. Choosing bodybuilding has not only opened an infinite amount of doors, but has brought happiness and compete fulfillment to our lives, more than we ever could have hoped for.
Stephanie does not do sessions or wrestling of any kind. Please don't ask!!