Hi, Gail! Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed!
Thanks for the opportunity! I am excited!
Can you recount for us how you first got involved with bodybuilding?
During college their was a bodybuilding show called Greek Physique and I decided I wanted to compete in it. I trained at the gym with many guys who offered to help me pose, diet and prepare. I loved the diet, loved putting on muscle, loved cardio, learning about supplements and loved competing! I competed in Greek Physique and won it 4 years in a row! When I left college I joined a gym back home where I was student teaching. I started working out there daily and meeting people who competed in the NPC and who told me I should do a show. I told everyone I wanted to focus on my first year teaching and just continued to train. I hired a trainer and he trained me 3 times a week. I started to see myself put on more and more muscle as time went on. I ate clean and started learning more about supplements. I decided to start attending the local NPC contests to see what it was like. During the first show I went to I had made up my mind...I WANTED TO COMPETE AGAIN! So in 2007 I started my journey toward my first competition. During the year I went to every show and met more and more people who competed. I started lifting, training and spending time with competitors and by the end of 2007 with the help of Anita Nikovich, who dieted me, I had won 1st place and the Overall at my first NPC Illinois show!
Tell us some of the things which bodybuilding has done for you as a person.
It taught me resilience and to persevere when things are hard. This has helped me get through contest prep, in the off season when bulking and in my professional life as a elementary and special education teacher.
I was struggling to find my "place" or "home" in this world. Bodybuilding is where I began my first attempt to be understood for who I am and what I believe in. It has also helped me learn acceptance for people, others perspectives and what I can't control.
Would you say that you have a love/hate relationship with bodybuilding, or is it just an endless love affair?
Usually I love it, but I get into the hate side when things don't go my way or I am forced to accept things out of my control, like holding water or how my body responds to carbs.
I was a public school teacher for five years, so I am very interested in your teaching career. Can you tell us a little about that?
It's the LOVE of my life! I have wanted to be a teacher since I was in elementary school myself and hated it! It was such a struggle for me and at the time special education students were treated much differently than they are today. I wanted to make sure no child ever walked out of school hating it like I did and was turned off to learning. I have taught in the same district for 12 years and taught 1st grade for 7 years and kindergarten for 5. I obtained my Master's Degree in Educational Adminstration and my Ph.D in Special Education. I also have a whole ton of endorsements in education. The kids I teach think bodybuilding is about who has the darkest tan onstage. They see me lose weight and think I just started eating healthier. Their comments are always funny!
What would you consider (to date) as the high point of your competitive bodybuilding career?
Winning 1st place and overall at the NPC Jr. USA's and being mentored and dieted by Dave Palumbo for all these years.
What is your favorite body part to train? Least favorite?
I hate training legs, cause they drain me, but since I hired IFBB Pro Michael Liberatore to train me I have started liking them and learned a ton about training them.
I LOVE training sholders and arms!
You are Editor-in-Chief of "Rx Girl" for RxMuscle.com … how did you land that gig, and how do you like it?
I am extremely passionate about my job at RX Girl. I am blessed to be able to get to know so many wonderful female athletes and promote them on so many levels. When I got my minor in undergrad in PR, I really thought I would never use it, being a teacher, but I didn't want to graduate and leave college so I decided to get it. It's funny 11 years later to actually be using it! I kept nagging my diet guru, Dave Palumbo about wanting to "give back" and do more for the industry, but being a full time career driven teacher, I just didn't know how. He let me help behind the scenes at RX Muscle a bit and as the site started to grow he offered me the position. I was SO excited, I didn't sleep for a week! Now it is a dream to work with and for him and share the same vision and goals for the site. I encourage any women who may be reading this to contact me for promotional opportunities.
Do you feel that the rigors of the bodybuilding lifestyle have kept you from having a normal social life?
For a while I felt like it was keeping me away from dating and that was why I was not married, but I know that finding Mr. Right is out of my control and will happen regardless of what journey I am on in my life. Other than that I have always done a good job of balancing my friends, family and bodybuilding lifestyle. Although, when prepping for a show sometimes my time for these things decrease! (just ask my mom...LOL!)
A lot of people still seem never to have heard of women's bodybuilding. What sorts of reactions do you get from friends/family/strangers regarding your participation in this rather unusual sport?
My family was always very accepting, although for a while they were concerned I couldn't balance bodybuilding and a full time career. I walked away from the friends who had preconceived notions about the sport and didn't support me pretty quickly. I never looked back either, just accepted that they weren't true friends. I get looks from strangers a lot and they whisper as I walk by. I actually love being unique and it doesn't bother me at all!
You have a Ph.D. in Special Education. Earning a Ph. D. in any field is no small feat! What gave you the drive to pursue something so ambitious?
At the age of 6 I was diagnosed with ADD, ED, BD and LD. I have attention, behavior, learning and emotional difficulties. Talk about being hit hard. EVERYTHING I did was a struggle and hard for me. I knew I wanted to get a degree in Special Education all along, but wanted to also be a principal along the way. When I graduated from undergrad I never thought I would have the money for more than a master's degree so I pursued Adminstration. The more I taught and worked with special education students the deeper in love I fell. They needed a teacher who understood them and having disabilities myself I could always relate to them well. I knew I had to get a degree in Special Education and started to run the after school program at my school and work as a principal for summer school to earn the money to pursue it. The real "drive" came from the 8 hours a day I spend currently working with these students and the love I had in my heart each day as I leave the classroom. I wanted to learn what was going on in their minds and started becoming interested in Brain Based Learning, which is what I did my doctoral dissertation in.
Do you follow any particular type of bodybuilding protocol for your training (e.g., volume, DC, Max OT, etc.)?
I often try new training methods for periods of time to stay motivated and driven. I would not say I have a particular one I love more than another. I more focus on contracting the muscle and feeling each rep and movement I do, no matter what training method I use.
What about diet? Do you eat clean all year around? Favorite "cheat" meal?
In the offseason I follow a clean diet during the week with cheats on the weekends. When prepping for a show I am a keto girl. I have found my body responds the best to it and I ADORE the way I feel on it. My favorite cheat meal is a petite filet, mashed potatos and aspargus at Outback Steakhouse! Oh...and I love pop tarts and trail mix!
Anything else you would like to say to the readers?
I want to thank all my friends (especially my incredible trainer, Michael Liberatore), my family, and fans who support me, reach out to me and follow my competitive career. I also want to thank my RX Muscle and Species family for their encouragement, advice and endless love. I could not continue to pursue my dreams in this sport without you! Not to mention.....a GIGANTIC thank you to my boss, friend and diet guru Dave Palumbo, who has been my leading inspiration in life and enlightened me in numerous ways.
Thanks, so much, Gail for doing this interview! And we wish you well in all your future endeavors, wherever they may take you!
Thanks again for this incredible opportunity! Feel free to contact me via email or Facebook!
Facebook: Gail's Fan Page on Facebook