Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Interview with Bodybuilder Sherri Gray

It is my pleasure today to interview bodybuilder Sherri Gray. Hi Sherri! Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am 38 years old, married with 2 children, ages 10 and 7. I work full time and stay pretty busy with the kids' activities and my training. I started competing 3 years ago but started in Figure. I did win a show and placed 2nd in another, but the following year I was being told I was too muscular for the physique they were trying to direct Figure to. They suggested Bodybuilding. So, I started training to compete in BB and did my first show this past April. I won my class and the overall. I also did Jr.USA and placed second.

Anyway, I truly enjoy the challenge of BB and watching my body change by how I train and eat excites me! I love it and hope it sets a good example for eating clean and staying healthy for my kids, family and friends.

Wow, you look amazing for someone who only discovered Figure/Bodybuilding 3 years ago! Were you already in good shape before that?

I suppose you could say I was in good shape. I would say I looked “average”. I wasn’t overweight, I went to the gym, and played in a recreational softbalI league. I have always been athletic and stayed active. When my son was about 5 years old, he began to get involved in sports and other activities so I decided it was time to hang up my cleats and support and cheer him on! Now my daughter is also involved in different things, so I love watching both of them in their activities. I stay pretty active and love going to the gym.

I sure didn’t look like I do now, but I like to think I do not look like the “Average” woman any more either, and I like that. I love having muscle and as I approach 40 years old, I feel like I am in the best shape of my life!

As a mom of 2 kids, how (and when!) do you find time to train?

I try to plan my training around family time. I get up at 5:00 am to do some cardio so I can get ready for work and see the kids off to school. Luckily, my husband gets the kids up and ready for school so that is a big help. My job is fairly flexible so I do my weight training on my lunch break. That leaves my nights to spend with my husband and children. I may run up to the gym to do cardio at night if I don’t get there in the morning but that is after the kids go to bed usually.

Saturdays, I get up so I can be at the gym when it opens and go ahead and knock out my workout and cardio so I can get back home to spend the day with them. Sundays are usually my day off, so we relax, run errands or whatever we need to do. I love to train but I also don’t want to take time away from my family. I never want them to think that bodybuilding is more important than they are to me. Luckily, they do know how much I love it and they all support me, which means a lot.

I think they benefit from my training as well, it keeps me sane, lowers my stress level, and hopefully will help me live a longer, fuller life to be able to watch them grow up.

Where do you train?

I train at the Gold’s Gym here in town. There are actually 3 locations here and one happens to be right across the street from my neighborhood. It’s convenient to run over there in the morning to do my cardio and my Saturday training. I mainly do my weight training at the larger Gold’s. With it being bigger, it has more equipment and some newer pieces that I like to use for certain exercises. There are quite a few competitors that go to that gym, so it’s good to keep each other motivated.

Do you have any particular training philosophy that you follow?

My training usually stays pretty consistent because I think I have found what works for me. Although I do change it up with different exercises and such, I tend to stick to the following training regimen. I rotate between lifting heavier with fewer reps for a few weeks and then switch to doing an initial set of 20 reps with lower weight, then follow it with a drop set. I do this for almost every exercise. This has been a good change for me that hopefully will help me continue to put on the size I am trying to achieve. As competition gets closer I try to keep my weights as high as possible with a mid-rep range to continue to stress the muscles. I also like to throw in supersets to change things up a little.

How important is eating/nutrition for sculpting your body as you have?

Nutrition is the key, I believe, to any good training program. Taking in foods that your body can use when it needs it is very important. If you don’t keep your diet clean, all the hard work you do in the gym will not be seen. I have changed my body so much I think over the past 3 years and most of it is due to changing my eating habits. I still like to have a cheat meal every now and then, but I feel the best when I eat clean, and I know it’s the best thing for my body. I know my body is using the nutrients to grow and help me achieve the physique I am striving for.

What sorts of foods are you allowed to eat when you are prepping for a contest?

The nutrition plan changes about every 4-6 weeks depending on how I look. It also depends on how far away from contest date I am. It may add in something, take something away, or just rotate things to be eaten at different times. It really just depends. Luckily, by the rotating every 4-6 weeks I rarely get tired of eating the same old thing.

My diet usually consists of proteins such as eggs, fish, chicken, flank steak, or other lean red meat. Vegetables are normally asparagus, green beans and spinach. Fruits, typically I stick to blueberries, grapefruits and apples. Healthy fats come from peanut butter, almonds or flax seeds or the fish, did I mention PEANUT BUTTER?? Carbs are sweet potatoes, rice cakes, brown rice, oatmeal, cream of rice or wheat or even English muffins with sugar free jelly.

I sometimes also get to eat Sugar Free Pudding or Popsicles; that helps curbs my sweet tooth!

How did you first discover bodybuilding? Was it something that appealed to you immediately, or did it have to "grow" on you?

I would say that bodybuilding was something that I was interested in, but wasn’t sure how to approach it. I never knew anyone who competed and had no idea what all was involved. Not until I changed gyms and met a few new people who had competed, did it start to intrigue me more. After my experience with figure, I knew that switching to bodybuilding was the right choice for me. I feel more comfortable with it and if fits my personality much better. I feel I am truly being judged on my physique, conditioning and symmetry.

What kinds of feedback and reactions do you get from friends and colleagues, regarding your bodybuilding? Do they ask you for training/nutrition advice?

I get a mixture of reactions. Friends will ask me how my training is going and when my next show is. The big question most of the time is… “Can you eat this or are you dieting?” That one really starts to get to me. Most of the time, the stuff they want me to eat, I wouldn’t eat now anyway because I have changed my eating habits so much that it just doesn’t appeal to me any more. I enjoy and feel good about the way I look, therefore I choose to eat the way I do and that is fine with me. Others are the ones who seem to have an issue with it. I haven’t quite figured that one out yet.

I do get a lot of questions about nutrition, and I really don’t mind answering them and telling them what kinds of foods I eat. I just wish more would listen and try to eat healthier to make a change for themselves. You definitely have to want it for yourself; no one else can do it for you.

When it comes to training, people do approach me and ask me about certain exercises and what would be the best to develop certain muscles. I’m always happy to answer them and I hope it motivates them to try something new. I try to switch up my training routine every other week or so with different exercises. I enjoy seeing people doing some of the exercises we do and then telling me, hey that really works.

You started in Figure, and in such a short time at Bodybuilding, finished 2nd at the Jr. USAs in 2009. That has to be considered a successful crossover. Did you initially have any doubts about switching from Figure to Bodybuilding?

After competing in Figure for 2 years and getting the feedback from the judges that I was too muscular, and actually telling me I should consider bodybuilding, I thought it was time to make the change. I was nervous about it because it seemed so much more involved, coming up with a routine, learning more poses, I had no idea where to begin. Once I got settled down and learned the poses I really had fun with it. I’m definitely glad I made the change and it fits my personality and physique so much better. I would consider it a successful crossover and I hope it continues to be successful in the years to come. Finishing 2nd at Jr. USA’s was a thrill and I hope with the hard work and dedication I put into my training it will continue to be successful.

What is your favorite body part to train?

To be honest, shoulders used to be my favorite to train because they seem to respond quickly, but actually I enjoy training legs more so now. They are what I have been focusing on lately to bring up, mainly my hamstrings and glutes, so I put a lot into my leg workout. Due to an old back injury, there are a few exercises I can’t do so trying to come up with something to hit certain muscles in different ways keeps me challenged. When I see changes, it excites me and keeps me motivated to train even harder!

Growing up I really didn’t like my legs. I thought they were big and ugly for a lack of any other words… Now that I have gotten into bodybuilding, they are an asset and I love to work them to make them even better. When I get compliments on my legs now it brings a smile to my face. It may sound funny, but when guys tell me they would love to have legs like mine, I am speechless.

Do you try to stay close to contest weight in the off-season, or allow yourself to "bulk up"?

My nutritionist believes that “Off-Season does not mean Out of Shape”. I love that line!! I have done a pretty good job at staying somewhat lean in the off season while still putting on quality muscle. I am usually about 20 pounds heavier than contest weight in the off season.

What are your plans, if any, for a next bodybuilding competition to enter?

I am planning on doing the Arnold Amateur in March 2010.

I would love to do one of the National shows during the year, maybe USA’s, or North Americans possibly, but don’t have one set yet. I like to play it by ear and see how the first one goes and if I need more time to make improvements, then I want to take that time. I want to bring my best physique to the stage and make an impression! 2009 was a great year for me but I’d like to make 2010 a year to remember.