Karina Rhode - IFBB Figure Pro

Karina: It was a domino effect really. I was about 30 pounds overweight. Iíd gained it gradually and evenly all over and didnít really notice it until one day I nearly fell on one of my clients doing a Thai massage. I could have really hurt him if I hadnít caught myself. After that, I hired a trainer and started to get my core strength back. I also started tracking my food. Once Iíd regained the basics of strength training, I discovered I enjoyed the challenge of watching what my body was capable of doing so I began strength training. After a few months of experimenting with really dialing in form and function I decided to see what it would be like to train like a bodybuilder. I had been reading Oxygen magazine and admired the physiques of the Figure and Fitness athletes. I found an old school female bodybuilder and told her I wanted to train ďlikeĒ a competitor but wasnít interested in competing. Well it wasnít long before she was hounding me to try competing telling me I had the drive and the symmetry to do well. I resisted for a while and one day, while pumping gas in my car, I called her and said, ďdo you really think I could compete or are you just blowing sunshine up my skirt?Ē After recovering from a fit of laughter over the words Iíd chosen, my trainer was able to confirm she did indeed believe I was a good fit for competing. So we chose my first show and the rest, as they say, is history.

My diet changes very little. Weíll add a few extra macros to take me up 5-8 pounds over stage weight so I can build muscle but we keep me very lean year around. As far as a particular diet is concerned, there isnít ďoneĒ in particular. I use a diet coach who keeps an eye on me via photos and a weight tracker I submit with my check ins. If thereís a deviation in weight up or down thatís significant or the photos show signs a particular set of macros isnít working, he may raise or lower them to achieve the desired effect. I donít count calories but I do track macros. Iíve found that calories can vary even if the macros are spot on for different foods. So, for me, the calories arenít my focus.

Karina Rhode

Karina Rhode

When I initially started competing, I wrote my own diets using a diet Iíd purchased from a supplement company as a template. It worked pretty well up until Iíd dropped enough fat that my level of leanness required more of a tailored approach. After coming in lean but flat for a couple of competitions, I hired Jason Theobald of ScoobyPrep to help guide me. I had been doing a high protein, low carb approach when I was writing for myself. He scared the shit out of me prescribing almost three times the amount of carbs I had been consuming per day! ďJust eat it,Ē he said. ďTrust me.Ē Within 6 weeks I could see a marked difference. Within 8 weeks, everyone at the gym was asking, ďwhat are you doing different?!Ē because I looked so much better and the muscles were fuller and rounder. It was really noticeable.

I train 5 days per week weight training. Legs and shoulders get hammered twice a week. The rest of the body gets it once per week. My rep scheme for all body parts starts with high reps, low weight and then each set I drop reps and raise weight. My last set in each exercise I drop the weight and do a final high rep immediately following the low rep high weight sequence (i.e. bench press: 15xís @ 95#, 10xís @ 105#, 8xís @ 115#, 6xís @ 125#, 4xís @ 135# followed immediately by 10xís @ 95#). The goal in each set is to make sure that Iím near failure at the end of each set. Lifting is the same for in season prep as it is for off-season building with the exception that I back off the weight by about 10# shy of my max about 3 weeks prior to my show to prevent potential injury.

Abs I try to hit every other or every third day. As of this season Iíve stopped training abs with weight in order to try to narrow down my waist. I keep ab exercises to basic crunches, vacuum holding, and oblique twisting. My goal is to maximize range of motion in my side and model pose twists to achieve that coveted wide back, wide shoulders, narrow waist illusion.

My cardio in season contest prep cardio is 3 HIIT sessions for 25 minutes (5 minutes warm up and cool down & 15 HIIT intervals) and 3 LISS sessions for 40 minutes. In the off season, my coach designs cardio to spare muscle and keep weight under control so cardio is kept fairly minimum at 2 HIIT sessions for 18 minutes (5 minutes warm up and cool down & 8 HIIT intervals) and 2 LISS sessions for 30 minutes.

As for balancing training with diet, this is another weird question. I have training day macros and non-training day macros if thatís what youíre asking. On non-training days I cut my macros by 30-40 grams.

I have a performance background. I had done musical theater and stage shows for most of my academic career and into my early 20ís. I actually majored in vocal performance in college. Funny thing is, if you think about it, Bodybuilding is the only sport that takes place on an actual stage. Hell, once youíve given an hour long senior recital as a coloratura soprano in front of an auditorium full of people, 5 minutes on stage flexing and smiling is a piece of cake! Bodybuilding is just another form of performance art. And I was a soprano. Historically speaking, weíre the biggest divas on stage. In the Bodybuilding world, it wasnít such a stretch to put that same confidence I had hitting glass shattering high notes into displaying a hard earned physique.

Karina Rhode

Winning my pro card a few weeks back was a pretty incredible experience.

Check in was run of the mill as per usual. Gary Uditís registrations always run smooth as glass so I knew I didnít need to fret the small stuff here. I arrived at the hotel for registration and took a few minutes to sit in the lobby and take in the atmosphere. Iíve been a massage/bodywork therapist for almost 20 years now and I find that, due to my profession, Iím pretty sensitive to a room full of emotions and it can ruffle me if I donít temper myself into that. I took some time to enjoy watching the people and getting myself acclimated so as not to become overwhelmed by everyone elseís nervous energies.

Once I felt I was sufficiently steeped and focused, I headed over to the registration room. Having done this particular event before, I was at ease traversing the registration tables and claiming my number. I took a minute to stop by and say ďhiĒ to Gary Udit and say thanks for his help in his posing clinics. I showed him my photos Iíd sent to my diet coach that morning and he said, ďtoo hard.Ē Well that wasnít what Iíd hoped to hear but I had some time. I had a full day tomorrow with nothing to do but spill if I needed to. Taking that nugget of information with me, I headed back to my hotel. After a back and forth email with my diet coach, we decided to do the Friday night steak and potato tonight and not wait for tomorrow. I was also sent on a scavenger hunt for carrot cake to try to soften my physique a little. Carrot cake unable to be found, I settled on a piece of whisky cake and a brownie from TGI Fridays. I also had to eat a package of Reeceís peanut butter cups. By the time I was done, I was so drunk on sugar I could hardly stand!

Friday at Masters Nationals was pretty uneventful (for me anyway) except for a minor hiccup of realizing Iíd forgotten a razor blade. Rather than risk shredding my already paper thin skin with a budget hotel razor, I took a stroll six city blocks to a local drugstore. Happily, on the walk back, I encountered a quiet courtyard with a huge fountain featured in the center. The sound of water merrily cascading from three tiers of concrete echoed off of the surrounding four walls of limestone construction drowning out the evidence of downtown Pittsburgh. I loved finding this space. I felt as if this little respite helped set the tone for the rest of the weekend. I took some time to enjoy the solitude before heading back to shower and make my tanning appointment.

Saturday I arrived at the venue and caught the end of the optional meeting. Hightailing it to the backstage area, I was able to snag a spot in front of a mirror and proceeded to set up my ďcampĒ area. Spreading out a sheet and positioning my cooler so I could elevate my legs while lying on my picnic area, I settled in to zen out and play the ďhurry up and waitĒ game with Jennie Gray by my side. Weíd agreed to glaze and glue each other so we wouldnít have to wait in line and that made all the difference in lowering anxiety levels!

As they called us to line up the 35+ class to hit the stage, I did my best personal mind meld with myself doing my best to look at suit designs only and not evaluate physiques. I canít do anything about the other girl anyway so why bother? I set about being blind to anything but bling, hair and makeup!

On stage I was thrilled to see the judges making eye contact with me. Thatís always a good sign in my book! I also hear my extended, iron family screaming MY name! This never has happened for me before as I always go to these events alone. I finally realize Iíve been doing this long enough to have made several friends over the years. It felt so good to know people were there who werenít my flesh and blood cheering for me! Callouts begin and I almost didnít hear my number being called! First callout and on the end in a line of six. Not bad for a 46 year old in a 35+ category, I thought! Once off stage, I made a beeline back to the staging area for my 45+ category. Jermichael Pratt catches me backstage and says, ďTake it easy out there. You turned around for your back pose and shredded up the back! It was AWESOME but itís too much! Back off a bit.Ē Taking this valuable advice into account, I head for the 45+ lineup.

45+ hits the stage and once again I almost didnít hear my number called (what the hell was my deal?)! All I knew was I was being moved around. It barely even registered there was a big, taped square in front of me before we exited the stage (indicating center stage). Even though I could see photographer Barry Brooks smiling ear to ear at me and giving me the thumbs up letting me know Iíd nailed my posing, it took three friends screaming at me after I got off stage that Iíd been put center before I remembered seeing that box! Iíd been here before though. Last year I had done the North Americans and was center and came in second so I was doing my best effort to live in denial that I had potentially won my class and the ever elusive pro card.

Between shows I relaxed with friends and did a makeup touch up. It was a humid day and I was debating if Iíd even bother trying to re-curl my hair. My friend Iryna McCraw whips around, sticks a finger in my face and says, ďYou won your pro card! You WILL look good for your photos! You curl your hair!Ē Well yes maíam!

At finals, as 35+ is being lined up, I get pulled out of line and put in the back with the other 4 ladies of the top 5! Wow! I cracked the top 5 in 35+?! I was stoked. The placings were announced and I had indeed placed 5th!

Running back to tuck my resin lady in my bag, I lined up for the 45+ only to be pulled again from the line and put in the top 5 group. One gal in our group immediately starts evaluating us and pointed at me, ďYouíre the winner,Ē she proclaimed. Again, I did everything but stick my fingers in my ears and yell, ďLA LA LA I CANíT HEAR YOU!Ē in order to keep me from getting my hopes up.

As we hit the stage for placings, they announce us. As they get down to second place, the world slowed down and I had a flash of last year where my name was called. This year was different. I didnít hear my name until LAST! Iíd won!! I was beyond thrilled!

ďDonít go anywhere!Ē about a dozen people yelled at me when I got backstage. ďYou have to go up for the Overall!Ē Hell, I was so excited Iíd won the pro card, I didnít care! Well ok. Iíll line up! Ushered back out on stage I realized I needed to dial in again as Steve Weinberger was turning us lighting fast. Once again I almost didnít hear my number when I was called to be moved! (Seriously. What was it about my number deafness?!) Well, hell, I wasnít in the center so I didnít think I was winning the Overall but what did I care? I was a PRO! Back on the diagonal they announced the Overall winner and my knees buckled as I realized it was MY NAME!!!! Holy shit! Not only had God blessed me with a class win and pro card but He gave me an Overall!!!

It took 6 weeks for that to sink in and even though Iíve done my first pro show, Iím still digesting it all.

What I do know is that achieving something like this doesnít happen solo. Through the years Iíve had an amazing core team working with me:
Jason Theobald of ScoobyPrep.com has been coaching diet and training for the last 4 years. Without his guidance and back and forth communication, I would have never transitioned into a major competitor!
A majority of my supplement stack since the beginning has been Beverly International and, thanks to their proteins, Iíve never felt deprived!
Stage makeup has always been done by Glossa Makeup (LiquidSunRayz.com beauty division) or Lily Spencer of About Mei Salon because God knows this tomboy doesnít know thing one about makeup!
Iíve also been blessed to be a sponsored athlete as well for several seasons by Amy Ardizzone of SuitsbyAmy.com and worn some absolutely gorgeous posing suits, as well LiquidSunRayz.com flawless stage color.
To top it all off, Iíve received fantastic posing coaching from Gary Udit and his team of BuckeyeProAmPosing.com!
If thereís one thing Iíd advise every competitor itís to find experts to man each facet of your competition prep and stage day. Attempting to do it yourself isnít worth the hassle or the potential loss in placings from it not being done right!

Looking into the 2016 season, Iím planning at least 2 pro shows. Iím still re-hashing the last 8-10 weeks with my diet coach so as to which ones weíll do, I donít know yet. For now, Iím working on adding back and shoulder size and narrowing my waist. Outside of training in general, Iím just looking forward to getting back to being on the grid with friends and family!

Karina Rhode
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/karina.rhode
IG: @bodyworx_by_karina

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