Sonya Riske - IFBB Physique Pro

I was in the gym daily participating in bootcamps, kickbox and teaching spin class up to five times weekly. Most of my workouts were cardio oriented. I heard about ‘competing’ from a coworker who was telling the story of her first body building competition. She encouraged me to enter a local contest and I started the prep process. By the time I competed, I was 125 lbs which is very lean for my 5’8” frame. I lost alot of muscle mass through that prep due to a super low carb and low calorie diet. My husband, a healthcare provider, knew I was too thin and started ‘asking around’ and doing research on competition prep coaches, which lead us to a local coach and this is where I started competing in the NPC. This was my first experience with a weight lifting regimen and competition prep diet. I learned how to meal prep and how to eat 6-7 meals daily. During that time I also learned I had many food sensitivities – basic competition foods like turkey, rice, egg white, green bean were on my ‘do not eat list’ so I had to learn to design my meal plan around my food intolerances. This was definitely challenging but over some time I went from 125 lbs to 155 lbs, mostly muscle gains. My first few competitions were local, with top 5 placings which lead me to my first national figure competition in the summer of 2012. I came home with an 8th placing and resolve to work hard and come back better next year.

A photo posted by Sonya Riske (@sonyariske) on

Nutrition: off season I follow a clean diet and enjoy one cheat meal weekly. Meal prep happens weekly and I keep my refrigerator stocked with healthy meals which I grab and go daily. Off season calories are higher and I rotate high carb, low carb days. Off season my weight usually climbs 10 lbs - higher calories, higher carbs, and intense workouts allow my body to make the muscle gains I need for competition. Pre contest I follow a prescribed diet from my coach. Calories drop and I usually follow a low carb, high carb day cycle. A few weeks out from competition, fats are dropped which allows me to drop to 6-7% body fat. Through trial and error I found out what does not work for me – super low carb diets – they deplete my muscle mass. My body loves complex carbs ( sweet potato, oats, veges) and I need to keep those in my diet to keep my muscles full and prevent muscle wasting.

Meal planning is super important in coordination with workouts. I know what I am eating every day and when I am eating it. There is no guess work. I don’t workout unless I have eaten at least one meal. I do a lot of squats and deadlifts. I use equipment such as kettle bells, TRX,BOSU ball, dumbbells, bands, free motion cables, weight bars, sand bags, sleds and tires when I workout. For cardio I use the step mill, rowing machine and Jacobs ladder. I train my legs, glutes and hamstrings twice weekly. Back and shoulders and arms twice weekly. Many of my workouts are an integration of cardiovascular and heavy strength training. I use a chain of compound exercises performed back to back – moving down, getting up, rolling over, jumping in the air, doing pushups, squeezing key muscle groups – all in succession. Pre contest, I do at least three full body conditioning workouts weekly which helps keep my cardio down. Most cardio is on the stair climber pre contest 25 min 3-4 times per week.

I think the confidence to get on stage comes from being comfortable with my posing routine. I start posing practice early in the year and practice daily 10 minutes am and pm. It’s also important to pose without a mirror as part of practice. I keep pictures of competitors I admire and motivational sayings all over my house and in my car. I listen to positive CDs when I drive. I try to be careful about what I am feeding my mind and what my thoughts are dwelling on. There is a saying that goes ‘ we will never rise higher than our thoughts’ In other words, we become what we think about, so I try to feed my mind lots of positive motivating images and positive affirmations to prepare myself for competition. I am also blessed to have a very supportive spouse who encourages me and helps me move towards my goals in any way he can. Also at the end of my prep, when I see the positive changes my physique has made, that is confirmation that I have met my goal and I am proud to bring that to the stage.

A photo posted by Sonya Riske (@sonyariske) on

My most memorable competition was the North Americans 2015. I decided to compete figure and also physique for the first time. I have to say I was most excited about the physique portion, because the posing was in bare feet and I had prepared well for my mandatory poses and presentation to the judges. I was up first for figure class, but didn’t make first call outs. I got off stage, refocused and prepared for my physique class. I ended up being in first call outs for physique and placed second, earning my pro card. My husband and daughter were there to witness the whole experience, which made it extra special. At this point, I had been competing six years in figure – earning my pro card in physique was confirmation to continue in physique and also confirmation to never give up.

My future plans are to compete at the pro level this next season. I have a lot of work to do during these next 11 months to be PRO ready.

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