As part of my Inspirational Women series, I have been lucky enough to have Carissa Ludlow, an ex-work friend, consent to come on my blog and share her passion and knowledge about the sport of women’s body building.
As you can appreciate from the photo above, Carissa works EXTREMELY hard to get her body in extreme shape like this and I, for one, am in awe of the dedication and determination that goes into achieving this level of body building perfection.
Like many women, I was pretty much completely ignorant about body building and what it involved, but I found it really interesting – particularly as I’d known Carissa before she took up body building and was interested to hear her story and what drives her to succeed. And succeed she does … at the end of this article I have listed Carissa’s awesome achievements in her sporting arena – read it and weep!
But now, onto the Q&A …
Q1. Have you always been fit? What had been your fitness regime prior to becoming a body builder?
I’ve been a member of a gym for as long as I can remember but was never shown how to train properly or educated about building muscle … I was your typical “no clue what I’m doing” gym goer!
I was also a middle distance runner and have completed a fair few ½ marathons. I was more cardio-orientated, falsely believing that cardio alone would give me a super tight lean body.
Q2. How did you decide to become a body builder? Was it just a decision you made one day and you just went from there, or was it a natural progression of the fitness work you were already doing?
I decided to enter my first competition in 2012, after I had been through a bit of a game-changer in my personal life. I was back to working full-time and needed a new direction in life … it was either pubs or the gym! The gym won and after placing 3rd in my first bikini competition with the NZIFBB (New Zealand International Federation of Body Building) I was hooked!
Q3. How long does it take to get from “off-season Carissa” to “competition-ready Carissa?”
I prefer to lose my weight slowly and in the healthiest way possible, so I usually start my pre-competition dieting 18 weeks out.
I have a seven year-old daughter so I have to make sure I go about getting competition-ready in the healthiest and least extreme way … kids are very impressionable and I can’t take any chances of her seeing bad/extreme behaviour around food and exercise.
Q4. How many hours a day do you spend in the gym?
The time I spend in the gym varies depending on if I’m “off season” or getting ready for a competition.
If I’m “off season” I’ll be in and out in just over an hour. If I’m in pre-comp mode I can be there just over two hours, but that’s including my cardio requirement. I don’t believe in spending long amounts of time in the gym … I’d rather be at home with my daughter!
Q5. Is it an expensive sport?
Aaaah yes – extremely expensive! When you take into account all your supplement needs (protein powder, glutamine etc,) gym membership, kilos of chicken breasts (!) competition figure suits as well as hair, make-up, shoes and jewellery! You just need to make wise decisions as to what you spend your money on.
Q6. Where do you learn your posing techniques from?
I was taught by an instructor for my first figure competition, but over the years I have researched and tweaked my posing to show off my figure in the best way possible while keeping to the guidelines of the IFBB.
I also use YouTube to keep myself up-to-date with how the Pro Figure girls are posing in the overseas competitions. Posing is something that can make or break your stage appearance so you have to practice, practice, practice! It can be pretty scary being up in front of 500+ people wearing not much at all, but this is your only 2.5 minutes to show off your year of hard work!
Q7. What is the most common misconception about your sport?
That women who lift weights end up looking like a man.
Q8. What is the hardest thing about your sport?
The hardest thing for me is the time it takes me away from my daughter, which would be the same if I was involved in any other sport. I also miss chocolate!
Q9. What is the best thing about your sport?
I love changing the way my body looks; if I have a weak point I work hard to make it a strength. It’s such a satisfying feeling seeing the changes you make from one competition to the next. On a completely different level, I love it when people come up to me and say they’ve been motivated by my journey.
Q10. Without giving away too many secrets, what would you typically eat the day before a big competition?
The day before competition is all about the carbohydrates!! Kumara, potatoes … that kind of thing.
Q11. There’s a commonly-held belief that women who do bodybuilding have to maintain that level of fitness forever or their muscles will turn to fat – what are your thoughts on this?
No – muscle is muscle and fat is fat – muscle doesn’t turn in to fat and fat doesn’t turn in to muscle. The only way you’ll put on fat is if you put in more calories than your body needs. That goes for everyone regardless if you’re a runner, tennis player, yoga addict or body builder.
Q12. You said you have an “off-season” – do you relax completely, food-wise, during that time or are you still super-careful?
I don’t completely relax; I don’t think I ever will now that I know more about food and what is in certain things.
I have my treats but also make sure my protein intake is high. My off season time is spent trying to grow, so I make sure I have excess calories and the protein intake to support that. During my off season my weight goes up to roughly 10kg above my competing weight. It’s important for me to show my daughter that her Mum is happy off season with extra weight and also happy being lean come competition time.
Q13. How hard is it to gain that much muscle definition? Women seem to worry about “bulking up” but is it really that easy?
It’s hard enough for men to build muscle and they have a lot more testosterone than us females! It takes years of hard work and heavy training to build muscle, whether you’re female or male. Women lifting weights is a good thing – the more muscle we have the faster our metabolism is, our bone density increases and the chances of osteoarthritis gets lower … AND we don’t need to make two trips to bring the groceries in!
Carissa is a Figure competitor in the sport of bodybuilding and has competed at a national and international level since 2012 with the New Zealand International Federation of Body Building (NZIFBB).
Carissa is a Mum and works full-time, but manages to squeeze in her training needs around the busy timetable of school drop-offs, work commitments, swimming lessons and playground adventures!
Carissa’s competition results:
♥ 2012: 2nd Place, Novice Figure Short, Waikato
♥ 2012: 1st Place, Novice Figure Short, Nationals
♥ 2013: 1st Place, Open Figure Short, Wellington and Overall Figure
♥ 2013: 3rd Place, Open Figure Short, Nationals
♥ 2014: 1st Place, Open Figure Short, Wellington
♥ 2014: 3rd Place, Open Figure Short, Nationals
♥ 2015: 4th Place, Open Figure Short, Arnold Amateur, Melbourne
♥ 2015: 2nd Place, Open Figure Short, Pro-Am, Auckland
Thank you Carissa for giving us such a candid peek into the world of a highly successful female body builder. I think what you do is awesome – all power to you and I really appreciate you adding a different dimension to MumptyStyle’s normal pinup-style girls! Great women come in all shapes and sizes don’t they?!
Visit Carissa’s Facebook page here.
Muscles and curves …