StrengthAddicts.com!! Gillian just won her class at the NPC North American Championships and earned
her IFBB Pro card. Gillian, thank you for doing this interview. Please introduce yourself to our audience.Gillian Ward: My name is Gillian Ward. Some of you may know me by my maiden name, Gillian Mounsey. I am 37
years young, 5/4″ tall and my competition weight (WPD) is between 125-130lbs. When I first entered physique
competition early in the spring of 2014 my contest weight was 140lbs. I was big for the Physique Division at the time
and have since streamlined my physique and brought some of my size down. I intend to keep my off-season weight
around 140lbs. In the past few years I competed in powerlifting and olympic weightlifting at roughly 148lbs and
in the 165lb class on a few occasions when unable to cut to 148. My bodyweight generally sat at 150lbs. I was born
and raised in Queens, New York. I now live in eastern North Carolina with my husband and partner, Mac where we
own and operate a strength gym, Crystal Coast Strength & Conditioning.
Christian Duque: Take us back to the first time you lifted, who or what inspired you to get involved with weight-
training, and how long thereafter did you begin to notice changes in your physique?
Gillian Ward: I’m not sure I can recount my first actual lifting session because I was so young but I have been
obsessed with physical exercise, performance, and strength since I was a toddler. My parents enrolled me in
gymnastics at the Flushing YMCA at the age of 2 and I have not stopped in the 35 years since. As a very young
child I did strength & conditioning training to improve my gymnastics. At the time it was mostly in the form of
advanced calisthenics. Obsessed with the pursuit of strength, I asked for a weight set in sixth grade and
joined the weightlifting club when I entered Junior High. This training was entirely self motivated, what can I
say, I was an odd kid. My childhood role models were Nadia Comaneci, Mary Lou Retton, Rachel McLish, Cory
Everson, and my grandmother, Shirley Mounsey. My grandmother was the epitome of strength, beauty, class,
and femininity rolled into one package.I was driven by the desire to accomplish physical feats that were unthinkable. I always believed that the physical and
mental abilities of the body were limitless and that I was capable of what my imagination, hard work, and
perseverance allowed. I dreamed of being a super athlete/super hero. As I child, I always dreamed of taking flight
and loved to soar through the air when I was tumbling. I noticed that the stronger I became, the higher I flew.
I’m not sure that I ever personally noticed changes in my physique. I was more concerned with performance. Others
started noticing my muscularity in about the fifth grade and I was given the nickname “arms” by one of my
gymnastics coaches. By the seventh grade I carried the kind of muscularity that caused a lot of comments and
stares and left me feeling a little self-conscious. I did not seek this physique, it was a by-product of chasing my
Christian Duque: Let’s talk about the striking the balance – achieving a stellar physique that’s both structurally
competitive while classy & feminine. What’s your approach to training in the gym? Do you train heavy/light reps, high
volume, or do you mix it up? Does your training change during contest prep?
Gillian Ward: My training has adapted throughout my journey to accommodate my ever changing goals and
pursuits, but the staples are the same. Prior to competing in the women’s physique division, I spent the past several
years as a powerlifter/weighlifter. I found the barbell sports via CrossFit and fell in love with them. The backbone of
my training is large compound barbell movements – primarily the squat, deadlift, press, bench, clean, and snatch.
Additionally I do lots of body weight exercises and advanced calisthenic/gymnastics movements. This is mostly
comprised of pull-ups, dips, push-ups, pistols, advanced plyos, rope climbing, handstand skills, high bar skills, basic
tumbling, and jumping rope. Many would find it simple and a bit old fashioned. They are moments performed in gyms
100 years ago. As a competition nears, I add in a small amount of “body part” work by the way of dumbbells,
increase my reps, and decrease the load. I train in varied rep ranges throughout the year and within single workouts.
It builds both the mind and body to get under heavy loads so with the exception of the four weeks leading up to a
physique competition I incorporate heavy lifts.
Christian Duque: Tell us about Ward’s Gym. When & why did you start this facility, and please discuss future plans.
Gillian Ward: My husband and I opened Crystal Coast Strength & Conditioning in December of 2012. My
experience from more than a decade and a half of working in the industry laid the foundation and gave us ability to
enjoy instant success. My husband is an active duty Marine which is what brought us to North Carolina. After
several long discussions we decided that the timing was finally right to bring my vision and knowledge to the public.
Prior to that I worked at several other facilities and out of my home garage gym. Additionally, I had taught many
seminars, travelling around the country to do so. Crystal Coast Strength & Conditioning is eastern North
Carolina’s only black iron gym offering unparalleled individual and group instruction in strength training and basic
barbell methods. CCSC has the most knowledgeable and experienced staff anywhere in the region combined with
top of the line equipment. Our most potent tool is the barbell. Basic barbell training is the most efficient and effective
form of exercise for members of any demographic. It is safe and universally scalable to all levels of ability or current
physical condition. This is the foundation of our methodologies and training ideology. Barbell training has the
greatest impact on an individual’s functional strength and body composition (i.e. ratio of fat to muscle), and in
athletes, it creates the foundation of ALL other athletic qualities. We are a Starting Strength gym. This means that
we teach Starting Strength methodology (by Mark Rippetoe) to our novice lifters. Additionally we own and operate
an in house CrossFit affiliate – CrossFit Emerald Isle. My primary goal is to teach people and give them the tools to
help themselves and others for years to come. At CCSC we seek to improve quality of life of our members through
training, education and community building activities. We hope to expand and open up additional locations in the
Christian Duque: In terms nutrition, it seems everyone has a different approach. Some advocate the keto diet,
others stress the need for the RDA food pyramid, low fat lifestyle, etc. When you plan and prepare your meals, what
are the macronutrients you aim for (in terms of carbs, protein, & fats)?
Gillian Ward: I have enlisted the help of a professional nutrition coach, Lauren Valentino, since my decision to
enter physique competition last January. I follow a very specific meal plan that is updated weekly as a competition
approaches. Overall calories come down leading up to a show with protein quantity remaining relatively stable.
Carbs and fats are both decreased and are manipulated in quantity both daily and weekly. My pre contest diet is
composed of fish, poultry, a limited amount of beef, eggs, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, very limited fruits (blueberries,
apples) and vegetables (primarily spinach, green beans, zucchini, squash & asparagus). I eat exactly what I am
told 6x per day with no deviation. I provide diet and training to clients that have gone on to win their own
competitions however I find that that I lack the ability to look at my own needs objectively without bias. I also enjoy the
accountability to someone else and have found a friend and kindred soul in Lauren. Manipulations to my diet are
made based on my bodyweight, measurements, weekly photos, energy level, training demands, sleep pattern and
recovery ability. I generally need approximately 8 weeks of strict dieting to prepare for a show.
Christian Duque: Piggybacking off the last question, I’ve noticed that many Physique competitors tend to stay
between 10-15lbs from their stage weight. Do you ever bulk up or lead wild & crazy off-season type lifestyle? Is there
any benefit to doing this in your opinion? Put another way – do you want me to gain any more muscle – or – do you
want to maintain and perfect the amount of muscle you already have?
Gillian Ward: My goal in the off-season is to be strong, healthy and have the right hormonal environment in my
body for maximal performance gains. Maintaining contest condition is not realistic, healthy, or conducive to
growth and repair. Ideally I sit 10-12 lbs over my contest weight in the off season. Since I have trimmed down size
this weight will be lighter than it has been in the past. I am fortunate enough to be a true mesomorph. I do not easily
gain fat with my eating. I like to make a joke that I have mind control over my eating and that I can turn anything into
muscle. You name it – corn syrup solids, partially hydrogenated oils, refined sugars, artificial dyes, gluten, sodium –
all of it. It’s the way I poke fun at myself. If left to eat how I wanted, I would eat like a 12 year old child left unattended
at a carnival. Staples of my diet would be sugared cereals, brownies, cookies, ice cream, cupcakes, and pizza. In
the off-season I indulge in these foods in moderation but make sure to get in my quality nutrients first. These would
never be recommendations that I would make to others, however it has worked for me. Small indulgences on
regular occasions prevent binge eating and disordered patterns in my experience. Also, I like to enjoy life
& socialize with family & friends when not in contest prep & it can’t be denied that food is a huge part of our culture.I am not interested in putting on any more muscle as I am one of the more muscular women competing in women’s
physique. My goal is to maintain, fine tune, and perfect what I have already built through
35 years of training.
Diet is the most instrumental part of this in my case.
Christian Duque: What role do supplements play in your fitness journey? Are there any type of products (protein
powders, multi-vitamins, creatine, etc) that you’d call staples in your arsenal?
Gillian Ward: Jay Lech of Nutrimax in Jacksonville, NC has provided me a lot of knowledge regarding
supplements. Supplements, SUPPLEMENT a good diet, and because I get most of my nutrients from food, I do not
have tremendous need for a lot of supplements. There are a few that are staples for me. I find that the use BCAA’s
while training to be beneficial and truly enjoy Scivation’s Xtend. I take a pro-biotic and magnesium daily, and
use protein powder in the off season. During my pre-contest diet the protein powder drops out entirely in favor of
whole foods. I like to have a whey protein and a blend at my disposal – I can’t say that I have any specific brand
loyalty. I shop by quality, taste, and price.
Christian Duque: Let’s talk about the North American. How much time and effort went into planning this event? Talk
to us about the whole contest, from the moment you arrived at the venue to when you won your class. Did you know
this was going to be YOUR moment to shine?
Gillian Ward: I made the decision to do North Americans hours after a disappointing finish at the NPC Junior USA’s
in late May of this year. The Jr USA’s was my first national show and it was only my second NPC competition in
women’s physique. My first competition was the NPC North Carolina State Championship in April 2014. I
won my class and the overall Women’s Physique at that competition. I learned a lot from my experience at
the Jr USA’s and knew what I needed improve for future competitions. I felt like I had unfinished business and lacked
closure so I decided to compete in one more competition this year. All that know me know that I do everything to
extremes. I am one of the most competitive people that you will ever meet. When involved in a pursuit, I seek it with
a vengeance, leaving no stone unturned. For me it’s not the destination alone, it’s the journey to the destination that
is equally important. I’m not sure if this is a blessing or a curse – those close to me find the quality both scary and
endearing at the same time. I strive for excellence, I strive to be the best, and I strive to do things that have never
been done before.
From the moment of my decision to compete to the day of the contest my focus was sharp and singular. I have a
wonderful support team in my husband, family, and friends. I am fortunate enough to be in a position in life that
allowed me the ability to prioritize the preparatory needs of this contest. I started my contest diet the week of July 4th
and cleared my calendar with the exception of work responsibilities through the North American Championships.
The training piece is natural to me – I have been an athlete for three and a half decades and training is always part
of my life. I do not know life without training. The diet, cardio, and posing were new challenges that I learned and
developed while I continued to do what I love to do – train. For me closure was to getting on stage and knowing I left
no stone unturned. When I arrived at the North American Championships I knew that I had succeeded at
my goal prior to taking the stage. I had brought together the best package I was capable of and I had given it my
all. I wanted to win but I had an enormous sense of satisfaction knowing that I gave it my all during the process.Much of the weekend is a blur to me. It’s almost as if it happened to someone else. What made it incredibly special
was getting to share it with two friends and fellow competitors –
Lauren Valentino (also my coach) and Amber
Demme Sparling. Additionally my husband was there – he is my biggest supporter and without him none of this
would be possible.
I really enjoy getting on stage and performing, so the individual routine at finals was the highlight for me. I believe
that my background in gymnastics and dance is instrumental when it comes to getting on stage in front of a crowd. I’ll
confess, I love the spotlight and the opportunity to express through movement. My Aunt Millie (now 94 years old)
recently gave me some photos of one of my early acrobatic “performances” in her living room at the age of 3. Some
things never change.No, I was not certain that this would be my moment to shine but I trained and prepped as if I was absolutely
convinced of it. I knew that I was equipped to handle not winning but I was not equipped to handle quitting our cutting
Christian Duque: Now that you have the coveted IFBB Pro Card, what plans do you have for the future. What does
being an IFBB Pro mean to you and are you planning a 2014 pro debut – or – will you rest & train for 2015?
Gillian Ward: I’m going to let the cat out of the bag right here. My pro debut will be November 1st at the IFBB
Ultimate Warrior’s Pro Women’s Physique in San Diego, California. My intention is to see where I stand this
year and what I can improve upon for the 2015 season. Being an IFBB Pro is a huge honor and accomplishment to
me. Since I have only been a Pro for a week, I’m not quite sure the true meaning that it carries for me yet. I do know
that my goal is to make it to the Olympia stage as so many other amazing women have done before me.
Christian Duque: I’d like to thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview. Please take this opportunity
to thank all those that have helped you along the way. Also, please let your fans know where they can go to keep up
to date with you (website, facebook, IG, twitter, youtube)
Gillian Ward: My success has not happened in a vacuum. There have been several people that have been
instrumental and supportive beyond words in my journey. First and foremost is my husband who has supported
in me by believing in me through and through and creating a life for us that enables me to train and live like a
champion athlete. Whenever my will or self-confidence gets shaken he is there to pull me through. I cannot thank my
best friend and sister, Alissa enough. Alissa is also an athlete in her own right. My dear friends Christis Raimo
& Staci Rudnitski are my everyday sounding boards and confidants. They have stuck by my side though this roller
coaster of a journey and have been unconditional friends. I owe them.
For many women, getting motivated to weight train is easier than ever; after all, there are a wide range of health- and physique-related reasons to pick up the iron. Unfortunately, as women, we just don’t have the level of anabolic hormones in our body that men do, so building bourrinage is, and probably always will be, more challenging. This does not mean, however, that it’s impossible ! It’s just going to take a strategic approach.
Here to share some of their best tried-and-true muscle-building tips are the fit beauties from NLA. Listen, learn, and grow !
The ' eat no more than absolutely necessary ' approach won’t suffice if you want to add force. In fact, figure pro and NLA-sponsored athlete Jessie Hilgenberg says eating enough is one of her top priorities, which is one reason why she leapt at the opportunity to show us what’s in her fridge.
' It’s all about eating to fioul your muscles, ' she says. ' A lot of us can’t get over that hurdle of gaining muscle, because we simply aren’t eating enough to support and maintain growth. '
She likes using the IIFYM ( if it fits your macros ) approach, as it allows her to figure out the best formula that fits her body. ' It breaks it down into how much protein, carbs, and fat you should be eating for your activity level, ' Hilgenberg explains, ' and often, it’s more than you think ! '
There’s nothing wrong with full-body workouts. Many women are able to build appreciable bourrinage by training every major force group a few times a week, especially when they first start. But if your total-body approach isn’t taking or has plateaued, it might be time to try a body-part split.
This is what finally worked for NLA athlete and bikini competitor Theresa Miller, which is why she advises hitting each main bourrinage group alone for maximum intensity. ' It’s important to come up with a good weekly training schedule that best suits you and your body type and goals, ' she says. ' I like to devote specific days to focus on certain force groups such as shoulders, back, and legs. '
There are many ways you can organize your split. For example :
2-4 workouts a week : Push/pull ( squats and pressing motions one day, pulling motions the next ) 2-4 workouts a week : Upper body; lower body3 workouts a week : Legs; push; pull4 workouts a week : Chest and triceps; back and biceps; legs; shoulders and abs
Here’s the catch : These workouts should still be hard ! Embrace the challenge, and find out what #legday is all about. It could be just the thing to take your results to the next level.
When you increase kcal and protein, it can be tempting to up your cardio as well. After all, you don’t want to gain the wrong type of weight, right ? Jessie Hilgenberg says that mental trap might be just the thing that’s holding you back. ' You don’t need to spend hours doing cardio—especially when you’re looking to add force, ' she says.
It can help to think of it this way : Every calorie you burn on the treadmill is one that your body won’t use to build muscle. If you’re looking for a challenge to replace all that cardio, Hilgenberg advises hopping into the squat rack and pushing new limits rather than continuing to submit to your old ones.
For NLA athlete and bikini pro Amy Updike, results came when she started really adding weight to the bar. ' I try to lift the heaviest weight I can while still maintaining proper form and reaching the range of 8-12 reps per set, ' she explains. ' Heavier weight for me means the force has to grow in order to lift it. '
Don’t expect to get a lot stronger overnight, though. Slowly add weight to the bar, giving your body a chance to rise to the challenge. While you may not add weight to every lift in each workout you do, you should see a gradual upward trend. If it’s been six months and you are still using the same weights, consider this a clear sign that you need a change of approach.
When you’re doing endless reps with tiny light weights, you can get away with sloppy form. That changes once you commit to lifting heavier. Form needs to become a top priority !
' Don’t get sloppy, ' advises Miller. ' Always do slow, controlled movements when hitting each rep. This will help you feel the movement and the burn in the right places.
One great thing about that 8-12 rep range is that it is low enough to help you gain some strength, but high enough that you’ll feel that essentiel mind-muscle connection—the feeling that helps you ensure you’re sérieux the right muscle fibers and getting the most from each exercise you do.