When you run your eyes over her contest history there can be no doubt that Bonnie Pappas has had a pretty impressive track record so far and with her recent 4th placing in the Heavyweights and 2nd placing in the 35+ Masters at the North American Championships it is certain that even greater things lie ahead. However, at this point in time not a lot has been written about this rising star. Well I am about to change that as once again RX Muscle gets up close and personal with your favorite athletes from the bodybuilding world....
Let's begin by getting to know you a bit better... where did you grow up and tell us a little about your family?
"I was born in Elmira NY and shortly after moved to Rochester NY. Our family frequently took vacations to Cape Cod and I ended up moving there when I was in the 4th grade. I stayed there until the 8th grade and then moved to Vero Beach FL. When I was in my later twenties, I moved back to Cape Cod.
My family is very close to me especially my mother, 2 brothers and 2 sisters."
Would you say you have always been athletically inclined?
"Yes. Growing up I was active in competitive swimming making it to the Junior Olympics and also played field hockey, softball and basketball. I would say I was pretty well rounded and would have played with the boys if they had let me!"
When and why did you decide to make bodybuilding a part of your life?
"I remember an aerobic instructor I worked for who had a great physique; very muscular and always thought it looked very appealing. Since they didn't let me play with the boys in high school, I had to play with the boys in the local gym... No, it's not what you're thinking, lol - ‘play', meaning lift weights with them! - And that's how I got into bodybuilding. A lot of the guys in the gym were very muscular and they kind of "took me under their wing" if you will - from that point on its history. I hated being skinny and even though I never thought I would compete, the more I trained the more my confidence grew and ended up competing in my first show at age 23."
Okay so moving swiftly forward, what do you think the biggest misconception about female bodybuilders is?
"Where do I begin...Female bodybuilding has never picked up the momentum that male bodybuilding has because the goal is to develop the muscularity of your physique, which has been historically a male dominated characteristic. It's like society has said that women shouldn't have muscle and if you do, you're the odd one out. I think that the misconception that female muscle isn't sexy, feminine or healthy is the biggest problem with the way that the general public view female bodybuilders. I could go on, but that's pretty much the gist of it."
How does the general public respond to you when you are out and about?
"I've caused a few accidents! Seriously, I love muscle, but I love being a woman. I love being able to turn it on in the gym, sweat, swear and lift with the best of them, but also able to go out and prove to the general public that female muscle can be sexy, feminine and very appealing. On that note I get great feedback from my clients who range from senior citizens to teenagers and the vast majority of people I interact with."
How do you handle those who inevitably make negative remarks?
"I believe that everyone has a right to an opinion. Most of the negative comments I get are from people who don't understand the sport, lifestyle and also out of jealously. Quite frankly, I don't waste the calories on responding to them because they serve no purpose to my life or goals what so ever."
You have said that you consider yourself to be a role model for men and women seeking to improve their health and physique, care to elaborate?
"The goal of every bodybuilder is to take home the 1st place trophy. You feel like your journey was worth it, you've accomplished a great goal, and you ride the wave for a while, but eventually the feeling goes and you are on to your next journey.
"I work with a wide range of clients and I can remember one who was so frustrated with her physique it brought her to tears. After working with her and showing her that she had a physique to be proud of, she has gained the self confidence to throw down poses to the boys in the gym. The smile on her face and the energy she puts out means more to me than a trophy ever will.
"When I know I have changed someone's life for the better through physical activity, fitness or encouraging them to be proud of themselves, that is why I do what I do."
You have your own personal training business what inspired you to begin this and are most of your clients also bodybuilders?
"Not really, I do train a few figure competitors and have helped some bodybuilders in the gym, but my clients range from diabetics to teenagers, people with physical limitations such as fused bones and prosthetics. I also have clients that struggle with eating disorders and low self esteem."
Do you think that non bodybuilders may be a little intimidated by you as a trainer?
"No. Like I said, I get great feed back and think I'm pretty easy to approach. I really do love what I do and it shows in the gym. I'll be the first person to help out some one who looks a little confused or answer a question that someone asks me."
When the name Bonnie Pappas is mentioned what do you want to come in to people's minds?
"Well, if you want the PG version, I think role model sums it up pretty good. Use your imagination for the R rated version..."
How would you describe your character?
"I love life, I love to laugh and be a positive influence to others."
What would you consider to be your best character trait?
"My energy, like I said I love to smile and I think people respond to that well. If someone is intimidated to approach me because of my physique, once they see my smile and positive energy, they usually change their mind."
Getting back to basics...what would you say is the body part you have had to work the hardest to develop and how have you gone about bringing this muscle group up to par?
"Everything below my neck. Come on, us bodybuilders always want to be bigger and better so I try think of everything as a weak point, that way each workout is a priority.
"If I were to pick one thing, maybe back and my lat spread. I have really focused on back training and using different grips and exercises to get some growth. I have really focused on the mind-muscle connection and have tried to consciously think about my back muscles doing the work during each set. Rather than just horsing down the weight using the rest of my arms, sometimes this means dropping the weight and really focusing on the muscle group being worked."
What are the biggest lessons you have learned about diet, both off season and pre contest?
"Don't be afraid to try something new, but know that the dieting process is always a work in progress. I've seen so many people do the same diet over and over again with the same results. The first time tried keto I got the best conditioning of my career. This was a big change from my previous diets which usually contained a pretty good amount of carbs. It worked, despite what people said, and I have used it as the back bone of all my diets since. A couple of tweaks here and there, but everyone's body is different, and what works for me, may not work for you. The only way to find out is to try it.
"For the offseason, I have found that I need to eat. My body type wants to stay lean, and even at my highest off season weight I stay in very good condition. I do keep it clean, but for my body type, I am still trying to get enough calories in to make the gains I need to hang at this level of competition."
Cardio....love it or hate it?
"It's a love hate relationship."
Do you believe in cardio in the off season?
"Well, I do have to walk from my car to the gym... That's about it. Like I said, I stay pretty lean so cardio is not that important to me in the off-season."
Tell us something about Bonnie Pappas that might surprise us?
"I'm a twin, most people don't know that."
What can we expect from you next?
"Hopefully a successful IFBB career!"
And finally, how can readers contact you?
Email: [email protected], or on Facebook (search Bonnie Pappas-Switzer).