Spotlight On IFBB Women’s Physique Pro: Gillian Ward

Category BenchPressWorld RecordAugust2014you compete in: Women’s Physique Division
Date of birth: August 11th, 1977
Hometown: Originally from Queens, New York. Currently reside in Cedar Point, North Carolina (a small coastal town near Camp Lejuene) with my husband Mac and baby bulldog Lucy.

Career: Gym owner, personal trainer, strength coach, consultant/writer.
After 20 years in the fitness industry my husband and I opened a black iron strength and conditioning gym, Crystal Coast Strength & Conditioning in the fall of 2012. Our primary objective at the gym is to teach barbell strength training methodology. Our mission is to improve quality of life though training, education and community development.

Competition history: My first physique competition was the NPC North Carolina State Championship in April of this year. I won my class and the overall women’s physique division. My second competition was the NPC Jr USA National Bodybuilding Competition the following month. I placed 8th and learned a tremendous amount about the sport and my training from the experience. I took the summer to improve and grow as a physique competitor and competed for the third time at the IFBB North Americans Bodybuilding Championship on August 30th. I won my class in both theDanRay2monthsbeforefirstshow open and the master’s divisions and was awarded my IFBB Pro Card. It is important to share that although I have only been competing in this sport for roughly 6 months, I have been training like an athlete for 35 in a variety of disciplines.

I began gymnastics at the age of two. Prior to going to college I was a gymnast and a track and field athlete. I competed at the national level in gymnastics and at the state level in New York in track and field. Additionally I competed in the USMC Physical Fitness Competitions that included push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, a 300yd shuttle run and standing broad jump. In 1995 I was the USMC National Physical Fitness Champion.

Throughout my twenties I dabbled in ballroom and modern dance as well as mixed martial arts while remaining a dedicated gym rat. As I approached 30 I found CrossFit and competed in the 2008 CrossFit games. I placed 3rd at the CrossFit games after three months of specialized training. CrossFit was the gateway for me into the barbell sports – powerlifting and weightlifting – my true passion. Since 2011, I have enjoyed success as a powerlifter, including a win at the 2013 SPF National Championship and setting SPF and GPC world records in three weight classes – 165, 148 and 132s. Most recently in August I set a SPF world record in the 132s for my bench press, deadlift and Push/Pull total.


Next competition: I will make my pro debut on November 1st in San Diego, California at the IFBB Ultimate Warrior’s Pro Women’s Physique. It is my goal to compete this year, learn from the experience to better prepare for the 2015 season.


In your opinion, how importaDanRayJrUSAsnt is motivation and confidence when aiming to accomplish a goal?
Both are equally important, though I must say that I believe true motivation comes from within. External factors can provide a boost when needed, but the only way to succeed is to want it with conviction. I believe that we must have a clear grasp of our expectations and limitations. Finally, none of this happens without hard work, we reap what we sow, and what we put in is what we get out. Nobody else can make it happen for someone else – coaches can provide the tools, spouses and friends can provide support, but it is ultimately the competitor that must do the work.

Self-confidence is also imperative. Without confidence in ourselves, others will lack confidence in us as well. By confident I do not mean boastful or arrogant, but rather a quiet, internal confidence, one that says, “I’ve got this – reach for the stars, take big leaps, teach other’s along the way, lead by example and be proud of what you put your name on.”


In your eyes, what combination of hard work and natural ability is needed to reach the top?

I’m not sure that I can put a percentage on either one because both are necessary. One without the other won’t win championships. To be a champion both are necessary and to stay a champion the hard work can never be slacked on. However, of the two, I feel that hard work is more important. There are many champions that capitalize on a small amount of talent by working harder than those with more natural ability. But the one that worked the hardest with the most natural ability is going to win every time.


What are some motivational strategies that have or currently work for you?GeneXphotooff seasonLasVegas

I am entirely self motivated which has come from over 30 years of being an athlete. This does not mean that I can do this without the support of others – just that I hold myself to a higher standard and that I am willing to push myself harder than anyone that loves me would.

My key strategy is that every moment is a new opportunity for improvement. Every meal, every workout, every rep, every article written, every client that I coach provides an opportunity to learn. I try to learn from the mistakes of my past and remain critical of myself in my search for self improvement. I do not dwell on prior mistakes. Every new experience is a chance to be better than before. If I fall off the wagon for one meal, I have an opportunity to improve three hours later when I eat again. If I miss my heavy squats during a workout, I have a chance to hit them again 3-4 days later with success. For me, it’s all in the positive outlook. The best analogy would be that life is an ongoing series of “second chances”. We always get to have do-overs to improve. The question is whether we have learned and are we better for it?

Give me some examples from your life where confidence has helped you to achieve?
Any of my athletic accomplishments from the past three decades, but more importantly confidence has helped me have healthy, lasting relationships with my friends and family, has been the pillar for the opening and success of my business and is one of the attributes that my husband finds most attractive about me. Confidence in one area of life often spills over into others.
What do you find the most challenging about competing?

Balancing personal relationships and professional responsibly with the demands of preparation, diet, and training. When I am training for a contest, I often become very single minded and focused and other aspects of my life suffer. This is why I find it important to have breaks between competitions. Even though I am one of the most competitively driven people you will ever meet my family, friends and community come first.

What are youNewbulldogpuppyLucyr top 5 key strategies for success?
1. Be realistic about you expectations – we only get out what we are willing and capable of putting in.
2. Be accountable to yourself – don’t rely on others to push you or blame other’s for your short comings.
3. Learn at every opportunity that you can and share that knowledge with others.
4. Be the kind of person that you aspire to be. Treat and respect yourself like a champion
5. Enjoy the process; it’s all about the journey. The end result is never as rewarding as the process. There is enormous satisfaction in the work – embrace it!

What is your favorite protein powder? Why do you like it?
Trutein chocolate peanut butter. I love the taste and the versatility in recipes.

Favorite Inspirational Quote:
“No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training…what a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.” – Socrates

In closing, who would you like to give a shout out to?
I am incredibly grateful to have the best support teamJamesCookphotNorthAmericans that any individual can have. I have the most devoted family, understanding friends, helpful colleagues, and supportive community. Without their support my success would not be possible. Individually I’d like to thank my husband, my parents and sister, my friends Christis, Staci, and Amber as well as my friend and coach Lauren Valentino.

Additionally I have had great support and sponsorship from Jay Lech of Nutrimax Performance Nutrition and Paul Carter of Lift Run Bang. My staff at the gym has been incredible though this whole journey – they hold down the fort at home which allows me to travel to competitions, give seminars and pursue my dreams. Also, I would like to thank Mark Rippetoe who turned me on to barbell strength training which opened up a whole new world for me.


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