Figure Competitor Elsie Velazquez Talks To Muscle & Strength
What is your athletic background, and how did you get involved with figure?
I have always been athletic – excelled in track in high school – and always admired the girls in the fitness magazines. I was a single mother working full time and taking college courses part time so I had a hard time finding the time and financial resources to devote to fitness. Once my son graduated from high school I found that between working full time and going to school part time, the “fun” element was missing from my life. I desperately needed to find a constructive way to fill my spare time and I decided it was the perfect opportunity to pursue my dream of being “fit”.
I joined a gym and loved the feeling of accomplishment I got from seeing the changes in my physique. Several years after I started working out, I found that I wanted to push myself further. That is when a friend suggested competing to me. I had always been very shy and struggled with confidence so I was frightened at the thought of getting on stage. After giving it some thought, I decided to go for it. I knew that if I could bring myself to get on stage, it would be empowering…I was right! I’ve been hooked since. I never thought that being “fit” would be so much “fun”.
What keeps you motivated?
The physical, mental, and emotional transformation that I have experienced since I began working out and competing is what keeps me motivated. I struggled with confidence and self esteem issues most of my life and at the age of 38 decided that I was ready to tackle the issue head on. Deciding to compete was my way of stepping completely out of my comfort zone and challenging myself to dig deep and find out what I was truly made of.
I am hoping to inspire others who may be struggling with the confidence and esteem issues to believe in themselves…to dig deep…to dream big. It is never too late to make positive changes! My approach to life is to enjoy and make the most of every minute, every hour, every day! I apply the same principal to my training and health regimen.
What are your future goals, dreams and plans?
I am currently preparing for Junior USA’s in South Carolina on May 21, 2011 – I will be competing in figure class A. I am also hoping to earn my pro card this year so we will see how that goes!
What are your thoughts on fasted cardio?
My A.M. cardio session is usually a fasted cardio and usually steady state. I have seen positive changes to my physique since implementing fasted cardio into my program. It also wakes me up as I am not a morning person.
Which do you prefer, and why…steady state cardio or HIIT?
Personally, I prefer HIIT cardio because it is more challenging and fun for me but I realize that you need a balance of both and force myself to do steady state as well. As with most things in life, balance is key.
What are some of your best training tips for someone who just wants to look good and ripped, but doesn’t want to compete?
I believe that consistency is very important. I also suggest setting goals that are challenging but attainable. I think that setting unrealistic goals only leads to feelings of discouragement and defeat. A well balanced training program involves a balance of weight/resistance training and cardio. Since I believe that there is a difference between looking in shape and actually being in shape, I feel that it is important to follow a clean diet. This can be done without sacrificing deserts and other foods that we all love to eat. Moderation is definitely key!
What are your favorite 5 muscle building exercises and why?
Most of my favorite exercises are plyometric moves: pop squats, jump lunges, and box jumps (for lower body) as well as Arnold presses and lateral raises (for shoulders).
Which workout has worked best for you?
My body has a tendency to build muscle quickly and that is not always a good thing. After trial and error, I have found that a combination of high reps with light weights and bands for the upper body and a combination light weights and high reps along with lots of plyometric moves for the lower body work best for me. I have also incorporated running, sprints, and stepmill to my lower body workouts.
Whenever possible I incorporate boot camp style workouts into my routine to change things up. I generally do two cardio sessions a day (30 minutes each) four days a week and that increases as I approach a competition to two sessions 5 to 6 days a week. Resistance training is generally done 5 days a week with my trainer.
Do you have any gym, muscle building or fitness pet peeves?
The biggest pet peeve I have is that people do not seem to understand that you do not have to spend hours at the gym to see results. I am constantly asked if I spend hours at the gym. In all honesty, i spend more hours a week explaining to others that it is not necessary to live at the gym to see results than I actually spend at the gym working out! I am hoping to, by example, prove to others that following a clean diet and spending a few well-spent hours a week working out can yield dramatic results.
What are your best tips for getting ripped and shredded abs?
People ask me all the time how I get my abs and I dread answering the question. I have learned that the only way to have a “six pack’ is to follow a clean diet. Yes, cardio and ab exercises are important but you can spend hours doing both with little results if your diet is not in line with clean eating standards. You’d be amazed at how quickly your abs will show through when you get rid of the layer of fat covering them!
What does your cutting (eating) plan look like?
Dieting has always been a struggle for me. I was a bit overwhelmed with all the information I was reading on the Internet and in magazines and the varying opinions I was getting from others. I decided to hire a trainer/nutritionist (Mike Davies of the Fitness Factory in Columbus, Ohio) who has put me on a diet that consists of plenty of vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs.
My complex carbs are generally quinoa, brown rice, oatmeal, and cream of wheat. My healthy fats come mainly from avocado, almonds, and olive oil. Lean proteins are usually, tuna, orange roughy, lean turkey, flank steak, and of course chicken. Fruits are generally grapefruit. My meals change frequently to eliminate boredom and to ensure that I am getting the proper nutrients. Cheat meal is usually once weekly. You guessed it…pizza and cake!
Sample daily diet right now – my diet changes depending on whether I am on/of season and usually every 2-4 weeks:
- Meal one: 6 egg whites and ½ cup oatmeal.
- Meal two: 4 oz. Tuna, 1 egg white and 6 asparagus spears.
- Snack: ½ grapefruit.
- Meal three: 4 oz. Chicken ½ rice.
- Meal four: 2 oz. Flank, 2 oz. Chicken and 2 egg whites.
- Meal five: 4 oz. Chicken ½ grapefruit and 3 oz. Yam (post-workout meal).
- Meal six: Small salad with 1 cup diced veggies and balsamic.
- If hungry before bed: 3 oz. of tuna.
What are your favorite cheat meals and foods?
In order to prepare for competition, I have had to discipline myself to eat smaller portions and give up foods I once took for granted. When I am able to splurge, it is always with pizza and cake! I know most people would not pair the two together but for me, it has become the norm. I don’t think I can ever give up either so they are always what I turn to when allowed a cheat meal. I have come to appreciate both now that I don’t eat them as often as I used to.
What are some of the biggest training mistakes you’ve made?
I was guilty of two very common training mistakes that most women (and men) make when first starting training:
- I overdid the cardio! I thought that I would get faster/better results if I did lots of cardio. To compound this mistake, I was not only overdoing the cardio but I was not informed as to the best type of cardio for my body and my goals. I wasted countless hours doing cardio that was actually slowing down my progress instead of propelling me ahead. I thought that doing cardio – steady state, at that – was enough to challenge me and keep me in shape. My cardio programs are intense and change frequently and I am in much better cardiovascular shape now than I have ever been – even in high school as a track athlete!
- I was not eating enough and I was not eating the proper foods to fuel my workouts and my body. Again, I thought that if I ate less, I would see progress quicker. Wrong! Through trial and error, research, and the help of a great trainer and nutritionist, I have since figured out the proper way to train and the proper way to eat in order to be the best “me”. This has helped tremendously in the achievement of my goals.
What are your favorite meals and foods?
I have a nutritionist (Mike Davies of the Fitness Factory in Columbus, Ohio) who prepares my meals and I always get excited when I see the following on my diet: flank steak, oatmeal, Ezekiel bread with raisins, and brown rice, and yams. My diet varies but I always look forward to any combination of these foods!
How important is nutrient timing for performance and/or building muscle?
It is very important to get the proper nutrition at the right time when training for competition. At the present moment, my post-training meal is chicken, yam, and ½ grapefruit. My glutamine, vitamin B, and vitamin C which I take daily are three that I make sure are well-timed to ensure maximum benefits.
What are some of your favorite motivational quotes?
I consider myself a motivational quote and phrase junkie! I am always looking for quotes to keep me going. Here are a few that I have found myself reading often. Some are very simple but so true…
- “The best way to predict the future is to invent it” – Alan Kay
- “Strive for progress, not perfection.” – Unknown
- “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” – Lou Holtz
- “Clear your mind of can’t.” – Samuel Johnson
- “Fear is what stops you… Courage is what keeps you going.” – Unknown
- “The finish line is just the beginning of a whole new race.” – Unknown
- “The difference between a goal and a dream is a deadline.” – Steve Smith
If someone wants to connect with you, where can you be found?
I have recently launched my personal website www.Elsievelazquez.Com and can also be found on Facebook. I welcome anyone to contact me at the email address on my website if i can help in any way!
Do you have any tips for someone who is looking to compete in your sport?
I would suggest hiring a personal trainer/nutritionist if possible to get them started. If that is not an option, there are many resources online that are very helpful. Your site, as well as Natural Muscle Magazine, are wonderful sources of information. I would, however, suggest using one or two resources to avoid confusion and information overload. I would suggest that they challenge themselves daily to be the best they can be – not just physically but as a person overall. Also, I would advise them to always keep in mind that you cannot please everyone so why bother trying. I am still working on that last tip myself.
What attracts you to the natural side of sports and competition?
When I decided to compete, it was all about challenging myself and stepping outside my comfort zone. As I stated earlier, my struggle with confidence and esteem issues controlled my life. I never thought I’d overcome my issues, especially at my age. Working out and competing has allowed me to see that I am stronger than I ever gave myself credit for.
It is all me when I train, diet, and compete. Only I can take credit for pushing through the hard times, doing that last minute of cardio, finishing that last set, and walking away from the cake and pizza I love so much. The knowledge that I am strong and in control gives me confidence and that is all I need!