Kathy Kemper - IFBB Figure Pro

* Kathy earned her Pro card at the 2017 NPC Universe Championships

I can remember back in 2002 when I first saw figure competitors in an Oxygen magazine. I was absolutely in awe of their physiques and I KNEW that I wanted to do that one day. Sadly, I had no idea how to get involved in figure competitions, and it wasn’t until 2011 when I would first step on stage. After this, though, I was hooked. I had been involved in sports my whole life, a college track athlete, and a personal trainer for 2 years at that point, so lifting and training had been a part of my daily routine for quite a while, but competing took everything to a whole new level. I competed in 9 shows from 2011 – 2013, and then took a 3 year break. I started back up in 2016 and competed in 5 shows this year, and 1 show in 2017 where I earned my IFBB Pro card in the figure division.

Contest Prep

I typically eat the same foods both pre-contest and off-season, I just eat more of them in my off-season. I like to work with a coach pretty much year round, so he keeps things in check for me. I may, for a few days after a show, eat food that wouldn’t normally be on my plan (pizza, ice cream..etc..) but I limit that for just a few days and then it is right back to the approved foods: chicken, 99% lean turkey breast, white fish, some steak, eggs, protein powder, oats, sweet potatoes, rice, Ezekiel bread, almonds, all natural nut butters, healthy oils – these would be the majority of what I eat year round. IN my off-season I typically will get a cheat meal once a week (well I hope so anyways!—depends on what coach says!). This may go away the closer I get to a show, but that also depends on how well my body is responding; if I am responding well my coach keeps it in or uses a cheat meal occasionally.


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I have done some carb cycling and I have always felt this works well for me. This is when I will have a few days a week where I will have high carb days, moderate carb days, and lower carb days. I really like this approach for me and feel I respond well to this.

I feel I’ve responded well to a lot of different set ups – I have also done well on very low carb plans with ‘refeed’ days once a week and leaned out very well on this approach as well. The only thing that was tougher for me with this approach was that with a true ‘refeed’, you eat so much in one day that the next 1-3 days your body is almost lethargic from all the calories and it can make training hard just b/c your stomach is SO full. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed eating A LOT that one day, but the next few days could be miserable and I didn’t enjoy that part, and training suffered. Doing a lower carb approach with just a cheat meal rather than a full refeed day is much more effective I feel.

I always eat more on the days I train vs. the rest days or days I only do cardio. Training days will have more carbs (usually more pre/post workout, and in meals following workout), and days I do not train (lift weights) I will usually do less carbs overall.

For cardio, I do like to do HIIT training; it isn’t all of my cardio, but I LOVE the challenge of HIIT and trying to push myself harder and harder each time. I try to approach that just as I would lifting weights – always trying to go harder/faster. I was a track athlete for many years, so sprints come very naturally to me and that, along with sprints up the stair mill, are my two favorites!

On stage

Self-confidence: This is a part of the sport that can be very misunderstood; once you have worked SO hard to build the physique you are bringing to the stage it becomes something different than just ‘strutting onstage’ like one may feel at the beach or at the pool. Your body becomes your artwork, and you are presenting all your hard work to the judges. I have never felt that the confidence wasn’t there, mainly because I feel it is just something different altogether. I feel much better onstage than I ever have in a bikini on the beach! There are nerves and some adrenaline that I have had to overcome over the years, but I look at it as more of a performance. I don’t approach it as ‘strutting’ or ‘showing off’ whatsoever.


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Recent experience: Well, my most recent show was NPC Universe, 2017, and I earned my IFBB Pro status at this show, so it was absolutely my favorite to date of course! I compete 5 times in 2016, and I did a LOT of work on posing/presentation throughout last year and into this year. I felt very ready to hit the stage. I was very relaxed through the days before, check ins, and felt very ready. I couldn’t wait to get up on the stage – I LOVE the stage! I have learned a lot about traveling and competing as I have traveled to many shows, and I really felt very prepared and calm through this whole experience.

Life as an athlete: Well, anyone who competes knows that doing a show isn’t just a hobby, it is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and if you want to compete at a high level, it is 365 days a year. I do not like the term ‘off season’ because there truly is no ‘off season’ – just different phases throughout the year as you get closer or further from a show. I am VERY fortunate and have the most supportive husband and family. My husband has competed as well and he knows very well what it takes to get up on the stage, so he understands when I cannot go out to eat with him (or just go with him and watch him eat!) and understands when I have 2-a-day cardio sessions along with training. My family is also very supportive and never tries to get me to eat things not on my plan – they all make it so much easier for me and I appreciate this so much!

Future plans: I have competed in 15 shows, and each time I have stepped of stage I already knew what my next show would be, and I would immediately start making adjustments to be better at the next show. This is the first show I have done that I truly have no idea what my next move will be! Stepping into the IFBB is no joke, and I feel I have quite a bit of work to do if I am going to step on this stage and even start to look like I can hang with those ladies! So, I am going to keep working with my coach and work to improve my physique as I need to. It may be a good year or so before I compete again, but I do know that I will compete on the pro stage.

I have been certified as a personal trainer through the American Council of Exercise since 2003. I currently offer online personal training and nutritional consulting.

Contact me at: kathykemperfitness@gmail.com
Website: kathykemperfitness.com
IG: @kathykemperfitness
Facebook: Kathy Kemper


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