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We sat down with our newest Team HMB athlete Carissa Joy Monroe to find out more about how she got into fitness.
Q: What first intrigued your interest in fitness?
CM: I was a year round soccer player growing up, and became obsessed with staying in shape. I loved running to stay in shape and after high school I ran and did ad-lib at home workouts. After graduating with my B.S. in Accounting and working in corporate accounting for a bit, I realized fitness was always on my mind. I daydreamed of going to the gym and realized I should pursue fitness since it was my obvious passion.
Q: What made you decide to compete in the WBFF?
CM: After people encouraged me to compete, it intrigued me and I decided it would be helpful to train toward a goal after competing in soccer all of my life. I competed with the NPC for my first competition in figure and after placing 2nd in two categories I was hooked. I obviously enjoyed competing, but wasn't sure if NPC Figure was the right fit for me, so I decided to do more research. With the inflexible posing standards and larger size I would need to attain in order to progress in the federation I decided a switch of federations would be best. I researched and asked several individuals who have been highly involved in the fitness community which federation they would recommend for more exposure. I was pointed to the WBFF, which had caught my attention in the first place as a good fit for me. I liked the idea of being able to combine my personality and my physique to present a cohesive package. With a focus on marketability, the WBFF was a much better fit for me.
Q: Can you explain the WBFF and what you have to do to compete?
CM: When I began competing with the WBFF, Paul Dillett's federation, it was known as the World Bodybuilding & Fitness Federation. They have always had a focus on marketability and recently made a switch to match their goals, changing their name to the World Beauty Fitness & Fashion Inc. Rather than just judging on physique alone, they are looking for a combination of personality, intelligence, poise, fitness and beauty/marketability. They have Diva Bikini Model, Diva Fitness Model, and Figure categories for women, and Fitness Model, Muscle Model and Bodybuilding categories for men. I'm a Pro Fitness Model and we're judged based on 40%- Overall Marketability, 40%-Physique, and 20%- Stage Presence, Poise, Confidence in two rounds – theme wear, and bikini.
There are competitions worldwide, which anyone may register for paying the necessary fees and all. Each category requires different elements so it's important to make sure to follow their standards and guidelines when entering a show.
Q: What advice do you have for someone that wants to start competing in the WBFF?
CM: First, I would recommend doing your research to make sure the WBFF sounds like a good fit. Then, I would pick a show and make it 100% your goal to compete. Go hard, or go home. Do a self-analysis to see areas you lack and lift accordingly in order to shape and develop your physique in a marketable way. Not only should you work on your physique, but stage presence and posing is huge so I would recommend practicing your stage walk and poses as much as possible.
Q: What does your training program consist of to prepare for stepping on stage?
CM: In order to train for stepping on stage I utilize a traditional bodybuilding/cardio mix. I lift weights typically 6 days a week for 1.5 - 2 hrs. and cardio for an hour on season, and adding an additional cardio session in the final weeks before competition. I break down my workouts typically into pull (back/biceps), push (chest/shoulder/tris) and leg days; switching it up on occasion to focus entirely on one muscle group that is lacking on one day. I try to stay in fitness model shape year round, but during the off season I work on building size and closer to the competition I work on cutting and fine tuning ensuring muscle symmetry and physique are all in check.
Q: What does your nutrition plan look like on a regular basis? And do you have a special contest prep diet you follow?
CM: On a regular basis my nutrition plan is not extremely strict, but primarily based on eating foods in moderation. As the competition draws closer I switch to a strict low carb diet, eliminating sugars as much as possible and increasing protein drastically. Cutting carbs has a pretty immediate effect on my body, and helps to cut and define my physique even more.
Q: What’s your favorite cheat meal?
CM: Super cheesy pizza and chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream sundae!!
Q: I know you were in a horrific accident that almost caused you to lose your legs… What happened and how has it changed you since then?
CM: Indeed, I was. It's a miracle I'm alive, and still have my legs. I still can't believe how blessed I am.
After winning my Pro card, April 16, 2011, I drove up from my home in Colorado Springs to work a promotional modeling job in downtown Denver, May 16, 2011. It was for a doctor's convention and 3 other ladies and I were working as independent contractors with a medical company in combination with Segway, handing out medical literature to convention attendees on the sidewalks of downtown Denver just outside the Denver Convention Center. It was the second day of the promo event and as my fellow promo model and I were working and conversing, just standing stationary on our Segways, we were at the complete worse location for a domino effect of an accident that ended up nearly killing us both.
A car in the middle lane attempting to make an illegal left turn hit an SUV driving at full speed in the left lane. The SUV veered off in our direction managing to make it through two poles, jump the curb, slam a trashcan and rail me into a steel fence, all without slowing down. I managed to look up just in enough time to see the SUV heading directly toward us with no time to react. My life flashed before my eyes as I shot up a quick prayer and the next thing I know I was still alive, screaming in pain, with my legs smashed and twisted between the bumper of the SUV and the steel fence. My fight and flight response kicked in as I was so thankful to still be alive but I felt like the only way to survive the accident would be to get myself out of there. I tried to pull myself out the other side of the fence swearing I'd rip off my legs if I had to; not knowing if I would be paralyzed or if my legs were already a lost cause. Thankfully I blacked out for seconds, enough time to allow a doctor attending the convention to get the SUV driver to back off my legs, catch me and lay me down on the ground. Praise the Lord I was still alive - I had sustained bilateral compound tibia/fibula fractures, and a compound left ankle fracture. The breaks were textbook impressive breaks and the surgeons had to operate on both legs at the same time, inserting rods and pins the entire length of my shin. Infection and/or non-union were huge risks and they honestly had no idea how I'd heal or if I'd be able to walk again.
I was helpless on the couch for 3 months. Relying on painkillers, wheel chair, walkers, my parents and prayers to hopefully heal up in time. I went up to Denver for 6 months post accident to check healing progression; which literally took 6 full months for the bones to fuse on both legs.
While I've always tried to count my blessings, I live each day in a much more grateful way than before. Every moment is a blessing and my health is too. It's a miracle I'm alive. God is so good! And not only am I alive, I have my legs, which I could've easily lost that day. That spot in downtown Denver could've been my memorial spot, but it's not and it blows my mind! I can't take anything for granted!
Q: After this accident what have you done in order to get back to where you are now and competing again?
CM: While I was helpless on the couch I would have my mom move free weights to the side of the couch where I'd attempt to do upper body exercises for about an hour every day. It was my favorite part of every day. Not knowing whether or not I'd be able to walk again I still needed my physical release and wanted to stay in the best shape possible. I was in physical therapy but unfortunately all that could be done was dry needling in my back to release tension. We weren't given the go-ahead to even start working legs until October or so post accident. My physical therapist, a former bodybuilder, knew I was dying to go to the gym and although my bones hadn't completely fused I ventured to the gym. Limping from station to station, but lifting and doing what I could. Using body weight exercises for my legs even though my balance was incredibly shaky. I had some very dark moments trying to process the fact that I may never be able to compete or even walk normal again, but God gave me the persistence and desire to push the limits. Once my bones fused, I decided attempting to compete again would be my goal. I only had until August to prepare for the WBFF World Championships 2012 but thought if I could do it, it would be a miracle.
I've had to change my training methods up and I've had a lot more limitations, but I've adapted accordingly. Formerly, I enjoyed running. Even before I found the weight room I ran for a release and to stay in shape. Unfortunately post accident, I was incapable of running or jumping; impact activities would result in a significant amount of debilitating pain. So I started doing alternative forms of cardio like the stairmaster, which I now love and relied more on weight machines since my balance was incredibly shaky.
Q: What’s your biggest accomplishment this far in your life?
CM: Besides earning my pro card, I would say overcoming the obstacles, by God's grace, I've experienced through this accident to fight my way back to the pro stage and come back in better shape than before; scars, limitations and all.
Q: What are your future goals and how do you think HMB will help you achieve them?
CM: I plan on competing in the WBFF World Championships 2014, and in the World Championships in future years and I know HMB has helped me thus far and will continue to help me. I'm attempting to gain size in my shoulders and rip out my legs more than before. I had two more surgeries late fall and I want to come back stronger than ever. I want to bring my best package to the Pro stage yet.
Q: What are some fun facts that most people do not know about you?
CM: I was High School Valedictorian of a 5A school. I was High School Soccer captain my Junior and Senior year at a teeny 90 lbs. I graduated Summa Cum Laude with my B.S. in Accounting. Before pursuing fitness, I worked in corporate accounting and also got my Series 7 and Series 66 to work as a Financial Planner. I won a trip to London as the Female Fittest Body for Models Health 2010.
Thanks so much for your time today Carissa Joy and we are very happy to have you representing Team HMB! We wish you the best of luck with training prep for the WBFF World Championships!