Maria Flores - Bodybuilder
Maria: My husband, Phil Cooper has been competing since 1979 and is also a national-level masters bodybuilder having won the Over-50 Superheavyweight Class at the IFBB North Americans in 2010 and 2011. When we met in 2006, I asked him to train me for a bodybuilding competition because I had always wanted to compete. He agreed on the stipulation I would get him into running condition because I was an avid runner and he was not a good runner. In September of 2007 I competed in the Lakeland Classic bodybuilding championships and did well. From then on, I was hooked. Also, the knowledge gained and the support received from my coach and close friend Tim Gardner of Team Body Tech and the tips from my buddy IFBB pro Janeen Lankowski, have helped me over the years. In addition to my husband, these two professionals continue to be a major influence in my contest preparation.
I eat pretty clean year round but tighten up on the diet the closer I get to a show. I never really have a true "off-season" where I let myself get really far out of shape. I enjoy looking in shape year round. I just don't measure my food in the off-season but still am very aware of what and how much I'm taking in. I'll manipulate my carbs, protein and fat levels depending how far out I am from the show. The diet I've found most effective to lose weight is high-fat and almost no carb other than carbs received in vegetables. I have found to build muscle I have to up my carbohydrate and protein intake and take high quality supplements such as Beverly International.
One year I was in great shape preparing for the Florida State bodybuilding championships but started my carb load way too early and with too many grams of carbs. I peaked a full 48 hours prior to the show. It's all about balance and timing. Everyone is different with their response to diet and training so it's so important to find what works for you. Cookie cutter training and diet programs will only go so far.
Right now I'm training moderately heavy with 10 reps for 4 sets with strict and controlled movement. I'm at my most muscular and largest right now and will start the leaning process after the New Year. I modify my diet to complement my training as I move closer to a show. I'll take some carbs in prior to and immediately after training as well as some good quality protein to enhance muscle growth. Cardio is a major factor in my contest preparation, especially at my age and even during the off season. There's a fine balance that has to be found in order to optimize the leaning effects of cardio without slowing down the metabolism or sacrificing muscle size.
After having served over 34 years of combined military and federal civil service, I never had a problem with self-confidence and that's especially true when you enjoy what you do. If you enjoy it, it shows. When I get on stage and I know I look good, I believe that shines through to the judges and the audience. I go on stage to have a great time and even though it's a competitive environment, I really am competing with myself to look progressively better every time I step on stage.
I most recently competed in the USA Masters Nationals in 2015. My interaction with Gary Udit and his staff has been nothing but positive. I have found that at the USA Masters Nationals and the IFBB North Americans, it is like one huge extended family with all of the competitors, event staff, press and supporters taking over the hotel and enjoying each other's company. From weighing in to interacting with fellow competitors and event staff backstage to presenting what I have worked for to the professional NPC/IFBB judges, it's three days of fun and excitement. It's what the sport is truly all about!
Currently, I'm preparing for the 2016 USA Masters Nationals. The sport is my lifestyle and the goal is to look good all of the time not just on stage. In the years I've been in competing, I've had people tell me that I motivate them just by virtue of how I look at my age. Of course the icing on the cake would be to win a coveted IFBB pro-card but looking good and motivating and helping others is truly the greatest reward.
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