As many of you know, I'm a big fan of all five Women's Divisions. I believe each one brings certain special qualities to the fitness industry. One division that has always been of significant importance to me is Figure. Although it's now flanked by Physique & Bikini, the classic Figure look remains one of the most desired - by athletes and the mainstream public alike.
For most top ranked, national-level athletes, 2014 was drawing to a close. Some had tried their luck at the USA's, Team Universe, & North Americans. With the holidays right around the corner, most people I know were hunkering down and giving their bodies a much needed rest. But others saw the possibilites and were determined to go to sunny South Florida and do battle at the prestigious NPC Nationals. Today's guest not only did battle, she won her classs, the Overall, AND is now an IFBB Pro!
Christian Duque: Without any further ado, I'd like to welcome the 2014 NPC Nationals Overall Figure Champion and New IFBB Pro Samantha Smitchko to RxMuscle.com!! Many of us were floored by her physique, but some of us may not know her story. Samantha, welcome to RxMuscle.com, please take this opportunity to introduce yourself to our audience
Samantha Smitchko: It’s so great to be here! I’m Samantha Dawn Smitchko and I am from a small town in central Pennsylvania called Morrisdale.
Off-season weight: 125
Christian Duque: It seems that everyone has a story for why they first got involved in the iron game. Take us back to when you first fell in love with the iron. Who or what inspired you to start weight-training, and who or what lit the fire within you to want to compete? How soon after you got started lifting did you notice gains?
Samantha Smitchko: My mom was actually a bodybuilder back in the 80’s, so I have always been relatively familiar with the gym. I didn’t start lifting regularly until my freshman year in college. The very first day of classes I stepped foot in the gym and never looked back! Instead of gaining the freshman 15 I lost the freshman 15! Haha. I honestly noticed gains after just a few short weeks of lifting. I lost a lot of weight and I toned up very quickly! It wasn’t until the beginning of my junior year when I met my friend Maura Gay at the gym and she told me I should do a Bikini show. I never thought I had the body type to compete, but after Maura kept pushing me, I decided to go for it.
Christian Duque: Figure has become one of the most competitive division in the industry. Some say you have the Women’s' Physique type of body, others lean towards Bikini, and some clinging to the classic look from when the division was first introduced. Interestingly, all three looks can have their day in the winner's circle. Please discuss your strategy to building the physique that's taken you this far.
Samantha Smitchko: My strategy was really to build overall muscle in a very balanced way. After lifting for a couple of years, you learn your strengths and weaknesses. So it’s crucial to assess them and adjust your lifting and training plan accordingly to create a balanced physique! Of course my major resource for my dream physique has always been Nicole Wilkins. Her physique is very easy to admire! I myself have never had the classic long, lean figure look, and my body favors putting on muscle. In my opinion, this is also the case with Nicole, and I believe this is why I admire her body so much.
Christian Duque: With regard to training, what's your approach to training in the gym? Do you it incorporate both free weights and machines, or do you have a preference? Does your contest prep training differ largely from the off-season? Please explain.
Samantha Smitchko: I incorporate both free-weights and machines into my training. I am a firm believer that it is crucial to change up everything you do and never get stuck on one type of equipment, or get hung up on a particular rep range. My training in the off season is usually smaller rep ranges and bigger lifts such as deadlifts, bench press and squats. I still incorporate high rep work into all my training sessions because as I mentioned before, I believe it’s very important to change it up and not get hung up on one particular thing! I’ve noticed a significant improvement in my muscle development since incorporating high reps into all of my workouts.
Christian Duque: With regard to nutrition and supplementation, how much time and effort goes into it each day? Do you have preset macros you're aiming for, or you eat according to feel? What's are some staple foods and/or supplements in your day?
Samantha Smitchko: Probably about every other day I prep my meals which takes about 2 hours total. In the off season I stick to preset macros, but I don’t go overboard with weighing and calculating like I do during prep. My favorite staple foods are sweet potatoes, jasmine rice, asparagus, green beans, lean beef and peanut butter! I don’t take many supplements in the off season- usually just some fish oil and whey protein. But while I’m prepping I take a lot more to help my metabolism and to ensure I am getting adequate nutrition while being on such low calories. Some of them include a multi-vitamin, Yohimbine, fish oil, and green tea extract.
Christian Duque: Let's talk about the Nationals. I've heard this was somewhat of a last minute decision for you? Along with the USA's, Nationals is one of the toughest events to turn professional at, and it always has been. It's at the end of the season, and with so many competitors on stage, it's very easy to fade away. Doing this contest requires serious GUTS! What was your mindset like?
Samantha Smitchko: Yes, it was very last minute! My original plan was to just do the East Coast Championship in New Jersey on November 15. Then, the day before the show, my coach Shelby Starnes said I should do Nationals in Miami the following weekend! So I said WHOA! Let’s just see how this weekend goes first! After all, this show in Jersey was only the second Figure show I’ve ever done! I ended up placing Overall Figure Champion so I said, hey, let’s go to Nationals!
Upon deciding at the last minute that I was going to nationals, my thought was that my ultimate goal is to be IFBB pro- so why not just go and see what happens? I have the opportunity, I’m already prepped and good to go, why not do it? This way even if I did poorly, at least I would know where I stood among the best in the NPC!
Christian Duque: Walk us through the moments before and after the prejudging, from the night before to pumping up backstage, to accessing the competition once it was all said and done. How happy were you with your hair, makeup, tan, the lights, etc? Was this a magical moment when everything tied in together perfectly - or - were you just going through the motions & hoping for the best?
Samantha Smitchko: Getting backstage before prejudging was so intense! I looked around and EVERY girl there looked incredible. Despite how intimidating it all was, all of the girls were so nice. I guess a big part of it is the fact that we were all feeling the same emotions at that time. Nervous, excited, anxious, etc. So we all found comfort in one another and the environment was not as competitive and cold as I thought it might be!
When I got first callout I was STUNNED! After I got off stage I went and found my mom. I hugged her and we stood there and cried right in the middle of the crowd…haha. It was such an emotional experience for both of us because I already achieved what I thought was the impossible!
That night when they announced that I won overall for my class, and I about had a heart attack! But I still had to go head to head with the other class winners for overall, so I couldn’t get too excited just yet! After we did our quarter turns for what seemed like two hours, and they called my name for overall champion, I had to question it. “Wait, did they say Samantha Smitchko? Is that my name? Wait, it IS my name! I’m Samantha Smitchko!” I thought I was dreaming! And not only did I win overall, but 4x Figure Olympia Nicole Wilkins presented the overall award? Are you kidding me?!! It truly was a dream!
I was actually very pleased with my makeup/tan/ hair. Etc. It is so hard to determine what you are going to look like under those crazy stage lights! I kept questioning it and thinking maybe my tan wasn’t dark enough, maybe my makeup wasn’t dark enough, etc. Especially since I do my own hair/tan/makeup/nails, it makes it even more nerve wracking! It was actually emotional for me to look at all the stage photos after the show. It was like looking at photos of someone else- more specifically, like looking at photos of an IFBB Pro that I never thought I’d be.
Christian Duque: I'm a firm believer that having an IFBB Pro Card is far more than a vehicle with which to earn more money. I believe IFBB Pros are role models to the world. What are some plans on and off the stage that you'd like to realize in the future? What does being a Pro mean to you?
Samantha Smitchko: The number one thing I want to do is be an inspiration to other women. I want to inspire them to achieve their fitness goals and if I can be the inspiration behind one girl reaching her fitness goals whether it be weight loss or going pro, that is what makes it all worth it to me.
Christian Duque: With regards to your Pro Debut, there seems to be one clear advantage in going Pro at Nationals – there aren't too many shows left. This almost forces the athlete to take a break before jumping on the Pro Stage. Do you agree that that's a good thing - or - are you ready to get in the mix right now? Also, do you have any idea when your Pro Debut will be?
Samantha Smitchko: For me personally, I agree that it is a good thing to take some time off before my pro debut. I don’t believe that just because I won my pro card means I’m ready to jump right into competing on stage with other IFBB Pros. I need some time to improve myself so I am ready for that caliber of competition! I’m not sure when my pro debut will be yet. But I’ll keep my social media posted!
Christian Duque: I'd like to thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Please let your friends & fans know where they can go to stay up to date with. Also, please take this opportunity to thank all those that have helped you along the way.
Samantha Smitchko: Thanks so much for having me, it is such an honor! I’d like to thank my diet coach Shelby Starnes for getting me where I am today- I could have never done it without him! I’d also like to thank my posing coach Kenny Wallach- he dramatically improved my stage presence and took me to the next level. I also have to thank my mom and dad. Without them backing me emotionally and financially I never would have went to Nationals!
Thanks for reading, and be sure to follow me through this next step in my journey as an IFBB Figure Pro! (It still doesn’t feel real!)
Facebook: Samantha Dawn Smitchko