Mandy Stafford: You Don’t Have To Compete To Win

Posted on by Athlete's Mentality
Filed in Competition

I’ve had the privilege of knowing Mandy Stafford for a couple of years now and even though she gets asked “Why don’t you compete?” all the time, this was my first time asking. I knew Mandy was extremely active in the fitness industry with photo shoots and knowing some of the top physique, powerlifting, and strongman competitors out there. And with those influences there had to be a good reason for her not to compete. Turns out I was right. Mandy embodies the Athlete’s Mentality without entering the competitive arena and shares an insightful perspective on the fitness lifestyle.

This caption is distracting you from Mandy Stafford.

Hi, my name is Mandy Stafford I am a 32 year old Mommy of one! Fitness is my passion. I love training; I can’t ever seem to get enough of it! I am often asked why I call it “training” and not working out; well the answer is simple! I am in the gym pushing myself further and further each time getting stronger doing that one more rep, adding more and more weight to the bar, and I am not in the gym working out with 5 and 10 pound dumbbells and staring into mirrors! No thank you!

I have always been interested in fitness, ever since I was a kid, I even remember doing Jane Fonda videos and who could forget Buns of Steel!! I use to lift concrete blocks over my head just for the hell of it! Don’t ask. See, I started out with the iron bug!! In high school I joined my first gym and was also in a weightlifting class at my school. In 2000 I met my best friend Donnie Thompson and he’s the one who really got me into lifting heavy and wanting to be strong!!! He taught me the difference in working out and training. This was the stepping stone that has led me to where I am today. He taught me to train with intention!

Why don’t I compete in figure or bikini? …more of Mandy Stafford: You Don’t Have To Compete To Win

Barbara Mencer: My First Competition

Posted on by Athlete's Mentality
Filed in Competition

Barbara Mencer rocking the stage in her 2-piece

I didn’t find fitness until I was in my 40’s.  Although at 5’5” and 136 lbs I wasn’t grossly overweight, per say, I was definitely out of shape and my bodyfat was an unhealthy 34%.  Newly married for the second time, I signed my husband and me up for 20 personal training sessions each at the local 24 Hr Fitness facility.  Little did I realize that this initial act of getting in shape would forever change my life.

Six months later I was 116 lbs and 20% bodyfat.  I had a full six-pack and loved my new body and energy level.  My personal trainer had become my friend and workout partner, and I was content for the next couple of years to maintain my fitness level.

Then one day I was approached while at the gym.  A gentleman asked me if I was a physique competitor.  I looked at him blankly.  The only kind of physique competing I knew about was bodybuilding and I certainly didn’t look like a bodybuilder!  What was he talking about?  Soon after, through a sequence of events that as I look back were clearly meant to bring me towards competing, I found out about physique competitions.  I didn’t have the gymnastics and dance ability needed for fitness, but figure caught my eye as something I could do.  I was intrigued!

I began researching to find out everything I could about this new world.  Back then (2005), there wasn’t a lot of information readily available to the uninitiated.  I knew I wanted – and needed – to work with a trainer who specialized in this sport.  After a brief stint working online with a trainer who was also a competitor, I felt I needed something more.  Oh, she knew her stuff alright, but I just didn’t feel connected, and her style was not detailed enough for me.
…more of Barbara Mencer: My First Competition

Get a free Athlete’s Mentality sticker at the Arnold Sports Festival

Posted on by Athlete's Mentality
Filed in Announcements

Arnold Sports FestivalThe 2011 Arnold Sports Festival is rapidly approaching and if you’ve ever been in a previous year, the anticipation should be making you antsy by now. Each year they seem to improve upon this tremendous event and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those involved for always delivering the high quality we associate with the ASF. Thank you. And a special shout out to Brent LaLonde the man behind @ArnoldSports on Twitter and Arnold Sports Festival on Facebook – it’s no easy task keeping hungry competitors and fans in the loop.

Now on to getting that free Athlete’s Mentality sticker. …more of Get a free Athlete’s Mentality sticker at the Arnold Sports Festival

Amy Lee Martin: My First Competition

Posted on by Athlete's Mentality
Filed in Competition

Amy Lee Martin continues the My First Competition series with her experience as a figure competitor making it to the stage for the first time. Amy’s competitive career started in 2007 and the NPC Indianapolis Figure was the stage where she took home 1st place overall. And this is how Amy got started…

Amy Lee Martin NPC Indianapolis Figure

Amy Lee Martin - NPC Indianapolis Figure - Backstage 1

How did you arrive at the decision to compete in the first place?

My first competition was inspired by my husband in 2007. He was competing in bodybuilding and talked me into getting on stage for figure.

After deciding to compete how did you map things out?

Lots of research on websites like and publications like Beverly International. We also had local friends who had competed in the past and helped us with posing and advice. We definitely learned almost everything on our own.

What was the criteria for picking that first show (date, location, friends competing in it, etc)?

It was a local show with an early summer date.

Did you have a trainer?

Nope 😉

Was there a diet strategy in place?

Yes, we followed a Beverly International meal plan that we found in their magazine.
…more of Amy Lee Martin: My First Competition

Amy Beaver: My First Competition

Posted on by Amy Beaver
Filed in Competition

The “My First Competition” series continues with Amy Beaver sharing her trip to the Ft. Lauderdale Cup 2010 for her first time as a bikini competitor. To view all the articles in this series, click on the “my first competition” tag link above.

On stage at Ft. Lauderdale Cup 2010

Amy Beaver - On stage at Ft. Lauderdale Cup 2010

The mental determination and focus necessary to prepare for an NPC Bikini competition is unlike anything I have prepared for in the past.

I was always an athlete growing up which took me to the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill on a full volleyball scholarship. As a DI athlete you have a strength coach who designs your lifting and cardio programs and schedules when you will workout each day. In addition to daily lifting workouts, we had 2 ½ to 3 hour practices daily. Needless to say, at this point in my life I did not put much focus on my diet as I burned off anything I ate (although I can say I was always a fairly healthy eater).

Two years or so after graduating I had gotten out of my consistent workout routine. I work in advertising sales which can become very stressful and the last thing I wanted to do was workout after a long, stressful day. I was talking to a former trainer of mine who had competed in a Figure competition years back and said I may have interest in competing. What drew me to competitions was the discipline and focus necessary to prepare. I also knew I could get into the best shape of my life. I knew that I needed a concrete goal!

So, my former trainer, Erica Miller, put me in touch with a local Team Bombshell IFBB Figure pro, Tina White, who also lives in Atlanta. We had lunch and she told me a bit about Bombshell. I immediately sent an email to Shannon Dey to get information on the training and went down for a camp. The rest is history!
…more of Amy Beaver: My First Competition

Stacy Kvernmo: My First Competition

Posted on by Stacy Kvernmo
Filed in Competition

A great retelling of Stacy Kvernmo’s first competition experience complete with a full gallery of pictures from her stage appearances in Ms Fitness USA 2006 and Ms Fitness 2010.

Stacy Kvernmo Miss Fitness routine 13

Stacy Kvernmo - Ms Fitness 2006 - Pink Super Hero letting you know what's up

After college I woke up one morning and realized I needed a goal. I had always been active while in school sports and after I graduated college I knew I needed some sport in my life to keep me focused, busy and healthy. I flew down to Dallas and tried out for the Cowboys Cheerleaders only to make it through to the semi-final round and get cut. I knew it wasn’t right for me. I was a cheerleader and not as much a dancer, which is what they really are. But the experience was one I will not forget.

Upon arriving home, I got a part-time job at a gym near my house. As the front desk girl, I was able to really watch the personal trainers work with their clients. One morning I woke up and decided that I was going to compete in a fitness competition. I didn’t know anything about it except some memories of seeing a fitness competition on TV when I was in high school. I drove out to a nearby Borders and bought my first Ms Fitness magazine and started my journey.

Unfortunately, I was always such a picky eater. I learned right away that if I was going to be successful with this I would need to drastically alter my diet. I had never had broccoli, oatmeal, or even egg whites before. I filled out a profile with some nutrition/supplement company online and they sent me a typical diet with supplement suggestions. I did order some protein, multi-vitamins, and some fish liver oil capsules I believe.

I started this diet in February of 2005. I decided that I would compete at a local Ms. Fitness competition that was going to be held in July. My starting weight was 134lbs and I am 5’6” tall. I worked out with two guy friends who were really ripped so all they had me doing was lift pretty heavy. From February to May I pretty much did my own thing until I decided to hire one of the trainers at the gym who I knew was really knowledgable.

…more of Stacy Kvernmo: My First Competition

Kickin it with Kagan: Jan, 19 with Mark Gindick

Posted on by Jordana Kagan
Filed in Health

Big Apple Circus

Mark Gindick adding to the fun of the Big Apple Circus

Being an athlete is serious business. There is no room for clowning around in the gym or on the field. Athleticism can also be found outside of the game. A person doesn’t need competition to be considered an athlete. This week I spoke to Mark Gindick, a clown with The Big Apple Circus. His training regimen and his performance schedule are just as demanding as a professional athlete, but instead of playing the game, Mark just plays. His background in Martial Arts helped Mark master his body so that he can perform amazing feats of acrobatics, strength, and endurance. To hear his unconventional, yet inspiring story check out the playback of “Kickin It with Kagan” on

Competition Ready Part 3: Am I Ready?

Posted on by Jordana Kagan
Filed in Competition


You will do what I say!

Working out is a challenge. That’s why I love it. It’s something that I could do for myself and something I was self motivated to do. With the confidence of Alex, a professional competitor, I was able to take the next step and train for the championships. With this new external motivation, I felt unstoppable.

Unfortunately, once I hired a coach, that feeling didn’t last. I still felt strong. I was still making gains, but I didn’t care anymore. Instead of loving every moment of training, instead of feeding off the sweat and exertion, instead of pushing myself to new limits, I just wanted each session to end. I didn’t care about throwing up 35’s for the first time. Besting myself was no longer important. Reaching new goals did not matter. I realized without that fire to drive me, I couldn’t compete. The kettlebell championships were not going to happen for me.

…more of Competition Ready Part 3: Am I Ready?

Kickin it with Kagan: Jan 12, Female Fertility

Posted on by Jordana Kagan
Filed in Health

Pregnant tummy

Being a competitive athlete doesn't mean you have to give up having a family

Competitive athletes are often willing to put their lives on hold so they can make it through the season. Although there are many benefits of hard training, there is a downside-particularly for women. The good old biological clock can hold out only so long, and female athletes must deal with the pressure of choosing between their careers and having a family before it’s too late to have one.

This week I interviewed Nancy Wolfson-Moche, a journalist and food educator. This inspirational woman, although not an athlete, was very active and didn’t give birth to her first daughter until she was 45. Her second daughter was born when she was 52. Her healthy lifestyle and food choices enabled conception at a later age than most. Nancy’s story gives hope to women who are still striving to meet their athletic goals and still hoping to have a family (after next season).

To listen to the interview simply go to and click “Kickin it with Kagan.”

Competition Ready Part 2: Training

Posted on by Jordana Kagan
Filed in Competition

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold did have a background in powerlifting but I'm not sure how often he used a kettlebell

I made the decision to compete in the kettlebell championships after Alexi the Russian tank told me I could. His confidence fueled a burning ambition to win. When I dropped the bomb on my parents, they were less than enthusiastic. My mom’s two concerns: 1) You’ll hurt yourself and 2) you’ll look like a man.  My dad was harder to read, but I could tell he was apprehensive by his silence. I guess it’s hard for a religious man to imagine his already spinster daughter (I was only 30) being able to find a husband when she looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger (I will never look like Arnold, no matter how hard I try). Fortunately, my friends were much more encouraging. Not only did they think it was “so cool,” several of them wondered why it had taken me so long to enter. Their enthusiasm was contagious, and solidified my determination to fulfill this new dream.

In my initial frenzy, I threw together a program which consisted of doing every exercise I could think of with as heavy a bell as I could manage. It was the sloppiest routine I ever wrote, but I was pumped on pure adrenaline and the prospect of crushing the competition. This craziness lasted two weeks.

…more of Competition Ready Part 2: Training