What Do You Do When You Injure Yourself At The Gym?
Sarah Bergstein in The 2013 Guam National Bodybuilding & Body Fitness Championships & International Invitational
An Interview with Sarah Bergstein
She's 26 years young and competed in her first figure competition in October of 2013. Sarah competed in the Guam Bodybuilding Body Fitness category. Essentially, it is what most people know to be “Figure.” She didn’t place in her class (short class) or overall, but she said it was an experience she'll never forget, and it helped her change her life for the better. I find her so inspirational and quite frankly- she is awesome. So I asked her if she’d be up for a little GBB interview. She got some great advice and tips.
Q: How did you get started?
I LOVE telling this story. It was December 2012 and I was on leave in Tampa, Florida visiting my family. I was on Instagram scrolling through photos and I saw a photo of a girl — I don’t even know her name, but the left picture was a before photo and she was an average-looking girl, and in the right photo she was lean and muscular and tanned and had an incredible physique. I said to myself, “I’m going to do that!” And I did. I asked a friend of mine to help me plan my diets and workouts and we spent all of our free time doing research and learning how to train me to become a figure competitor. I also was very fortunate to met Steve Oshiro, who I got in contact with and asked him to assist me with my prep for the competition. I met with Steve once a week and measured my weight and body fat and went over my meal plan and workouts with him for about nine months until it was time to step on stage! I owe a HUGE thanks to both of my trainers. They were instrumental in the day-to-day facets of my training. Without their help, guidance, and mostly their support, I wouldn’t have had such an incredible first experience in competing.
Q: What motivated you to compete in the 2013 Guam bodybuilding and fitness competition?
I was a cheerleader and gymnast all my life up until college and I ran track in high school. I always loved fitness and cooking and living a healthy lifestyle, but I didn’t really know how to make my diet and workouts match the physique I always wanted. I had a lot of issues with food and body image as a teenager and well into college, and I just decided that I didn’t want to live that way anymore. I didn’t want to be a victim of the food I ate and I was tired of looking in the mirror and only being mildly satisfied with what I saw. I’ve always had the determination and drive to turn my dreams into reality, and so I told myself that enough was enough and that I was going to train my hiney off to get the physique I always wanted. The competition happened to be an awesome end goal to keep me on track!
Q: During your contest prep, what were the contributing elements that kept you from dropping out?
I am a very self-driven person by nature, and when I want something bad enough, I’ll put in the work to achieve it. There was never a point during my 9 months of training that I ever wanted to quit or give up or drop out. I made the decision to compete, and I was going to see that through. It really struck a chord when people started reaching out to me for advice and to comment on my progress and to encourage me to keep going. I posted a lot of my progress on social media, and when people started following along, I realized that it wasn’t just about me and my training, but that I could use it as an opportunity to help people realize their own dreams- be it in fitness or anything else. The bigger picture for me was that I wasn’t just improving my body, I was improving my life. And when that began making positive changes in other people’s lives, it made me keep going not only for myself, but for them. I believe with 100% certainty that you can do anything you put your mind to… ANYTHING. I hope to always live my life in a way that serves as a positive example to others that your life is your own and that YOU can turn it into something you feel proud of.
Q: If you were to compete again in the future, what would you do different this time?
I am competing again in the future! I am now stationed at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, but I have continued my training since the competition in October 2013 and have made some significant improvements. I plan on competing in the May-June 2015 timeframe, and in between now and that time I’m working on getting involved with fitness modeling. I feel like the luckiest girl on earth. I am 26 years old and I know for sure that I love this fit lifestyle and that I want it to be a large part of the rest of my life so that I can help others achieve the same happiness I’ve found. So to answer the question, this time around I am a lot gentler with myself. I mean that to say I work hard not to be self-critical in a negative way, and that I don’t set overly demanding expectations for myself. After just one competition, I am new to the bodybuilding world, and I am still young. Today, I keep the mindset that I am growing, learning, and progressing, and that the only place I have to go from here is onward, upward, and forward!
Q: What are the pros and cons for you when joining a body fitness competition?
Bodybuilding is a very self-absorbed sport. It’s all about you, the competitor, and your training, your meal plan, your progress, your posing, your stage prep, your competition. Sometimes that can be draining devoting all your time focusing on yourself. I love to help people, and so a con for me is that competition prep takes up a lot of my personal time and doesn’t allow me to give to others like I’d like to. But… the pro of training for a competition is that every day you wake up and you have the chance to challenge yourself, and it is a very rewarding feeling to know that you’re not just becoming physically stronger, but mentally stronger as a person, too.
Q: How long do you normally train and diet for when you are preparing for a contest?
For my first competition, I began training in March, the competition was in October. So that is 9 months of training. For the first 4.5 months, I spent time building muscle and giving myself a solid foundation to work with. The next 4.5 months leading up to the show, I spend tailoring my cardio and my diet in order to keep the muscle I’d just put on and shed the body fat. It was such an awesome experience to watch how much your body changes based on the type of training and dieting you do!
Q: What's the number one thing you intend to accomplish next?
I fell in love with training—so much so that it inspired me to get my Master’s Degree in Exercise Science. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’ll graduate from my master’s program in August of this year and will be a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and ISSA Fitness Nutrition Specialist. Now I can take what I’ve learned from my training and my schooling and help others achieve their fitness goals. It’s a dream come true.
Q: What is your training regimen like?
It changes based on what my current goals are (building muscle or decreasing body fat). Currently, I’m working on shedding some body fat, so I strength train 6 days per week, splitting up different muscle groups on different days of the week. I also do cardio either once or twice per day (morning and evening) six or seven days per week. I also eat seven small meals per day, at about 1500 calories with my macronutrient split at about 50% protein, 30% carbohydrates, and 20% fats. Here’s an example of my training split:
Monday: Cardio x 1, Back
Tuesday: Cardio x 2, Legs
Wednesday: Cardio x 2, Chest, Shoulders, Triceps
Thursday: Cardio x 2, Back, Biceps
Friday: Cardio x 2, Abs
Saturday: Cardio x 2, Shoulders
Sunday: Cardio x 1, Legs
Q: Do you take supplements? If you do, what are they? What has it done to help you reach your goals?
I am on a very simple supplementation plan. I use all Optimum Nutrition products ordered from Bodybuilding.com. These supplements help support my training without overdoing the supplementation routine:
Optimum Nutrition 100% Gold Standard Whey Protein: Coffee flavor (the best!)
Optimum Nutrition Women’s Multi
Optimum Nutrition BCAA capsules
Optimum Nutrition Glutamine capsules
Optimum Nutrition Fish Oil
Optimum Nutrition 100% Gold Standard Casein Protein: Vanilla
Q: Can you describe the feeling of getting up on stage in front of hundreds of strangers?
My parents traveled halfway around the world from Florida to be there for my competition, and all of the Airmen from my office and some of my friends came to watch me compete. Having that much support in the audience meant the world to me, and when I walked out onto that stage and heard everyone clapping and cheering, I said to myself, “You did everything you could to prepare for this moment, and now it is here. Enjoy it!” Thank you to everyone who was there to support me on that amazing day!
Q: What do you do on your spare time when you are away from the gym?
I love spending time with friends and family, reading, writing, hanging out in coffee shops, spending time outdoors, hitting the beach, cooking, watching movies, listening to music, or learning how to do something new. My Mom tells me, “Some people are hoarders of things—you’re a hoarder of life!” I think that is a pretty accurate description.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into fitness?
It’s more of a question… and that is—WHAT’S STOPPING YOU?
Don’t wait until Monday or the summer or until it’s New Year’s. Don’t wait one more day. Don’t make any more excuses. Start now, this minute, today. Start small, and don’t ever, ever, ever, ever stop working on your health and fitness. You only get one life, and it’s important you take care of yourself so that those who love you can enjoy your presence for a very long time!
Competition weight: 125
Off-season weight: 133
Favorite Cheat Food: Thai or Indian cuisine
Healthy Foods: Chicken, tilapia, tuna, eggs, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, brown rice, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, salad, nut butters, olive or coconut oil, and almonds
Favorite Movie: Peaceful Warrior (it’s free on Netflix… watch it and it’ll change your life!)
Pet Peeves: People who say “I can’t” or who aren’t willing to try
Favorite Moto: “You control what happens next.” My friend who trained me wrote this on a piece of paper and made me keep it in my pocket. It applies to every aspect of my life.