Amateur Fitness Competitor of the Week: Betsy M. Harris

Amateur Fitness Competitor of the Week: Betsy M. Harris! - Pics and info and more!
  • Name: Betsy M. Harris
  • E-mail:
  • Age: 32
  • Where: Chicago, Illinois
  • Height: 5' 5"
  • Weight: 140 Lbs., Contest: 128 Lbs.
  • Years Bodybuilding :4
  • Favorite Bodypart: Legs
  • Favorite Exercise: Calves
  • Favorite Supplements: Curvelle and Eatsmart protein by Isatori, Glutamine and Muscle Synergy by Beverly.

How Did You Get Started?

I got started as a gymnast at age three. Sports were a necessity in my family and I learned at a very young age about discipline! I didn't have much of a choice! My father is and has been professional football coach in the NFL for thirty years (currently with the Buffalo Bills) so as you can imagine I grew up in a pretty sports intense environment!

I competed in gymnastics for over ten years and trained everyday for four hours a day after school. When I fractured my back in high school, I was devastated and had to take four years off of training. When I was in college I started working out again and my body started transforming! After college at Michigan State University, I became a high school teacher at Purcell Marian High School in Cincinnati.

During my fifth year of teaching I had a near death experience. For an unexplained reason, I suffered a massive blood clot in my brain. I was lucky to have survived and the doctors told me the only reason I survived was because I was so fit. When I came out of the hospital a month later I decided that it wasn't really teaching literature that was my passion, but it was about teaching fitness, so I became a personal trainer.

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I was living in Columbus Ohio when I began competing in fitness. People would ask me if I competed and I would say no... and they would say... well you should! Luckily, professional fitness superstar Jenny Hendershott lived in Columbus so I contacted her. We have been friends and she has been my mentor ever since. If there is one person in my life that has influenced me and my choices in the fitness world, it has been Jenny. I owe her a lot.

I am currently part of her pcunit (phatcamp unit) and travel all around the country with her teaching women about fitness, how to prepare for shows and how to balance life, relationships and career with an active lifestyle.

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You can learn more about what phatcamp is at

What Workout Plan Worked Best For You?

For me, if I want to get lean I run and do interval sprinting. In the same sense though, too much running really kept me too lean and I had a hard time at the beginning of my career at fitness shows.

I was dieting down and still running six miles a day---bad idea!!! After my first year of competing the judges told me I needed to go eat a couple of cheeseburgers next time!! After my first few shows I started learning how to diet and train better and actually won a couple and got second at the Jr. USA's in Charleston in 2005.

With my success, I started taking fitness a bit too seriously. Not only was I overtraining in the gym, but I was completely mentally and emotionally burned out from all of the dieting and training (basically for my whole life!) I just needed a break! So I took a year and a half off from competing and gained 50 pounds, yes you read that right, 50 pounds! I needed to take a step away from fitness and not be so extreme, focus time with my husband, family and friends. I'm glad I did it and it truly gave me appreciation for those who lose great amounts of weight. I spent the last two years traveling with Jenny H. and the phatcamp tour, touching hundreds of women with my story.

Last month, I competed again at the Arnold Amateur Classic and got third place in the fitness tall round (Full Amateur Results). I was so emotional after the show, I couldn't believe how hard I worked and how much better I looked than I did when I first started competing. This time I did it right, and I think coming from a heavier place helped me, as opposed to starting super fit and then trying to diet down... Here are some pics of me from the Arnold amateur:

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Currently my training still incorporates a lot of cardio for competition season, but more sprinting and not so much long duration running. I train my legs really really hard to lean out. This is what helps me rev up my metabolic rate and this is specifically what I do with my female clients when they want to lose fat... the legs are key!

During the season I will do one hour of cardio in the morning and one hour of cardio in evening after routine practice. I do cardio six days a week. In the off season I do one hour of cardio everyday, still incorporating sprint work and interval work. I train one body part a day and I train very fast. Sometimes people look at me in the gym like I am a crazed maniac, but they get use to it. My weight training is almost like a cardio workout and I superset and triple set everything.

Arrow Typical Leg Training Day:

What Nutrition Plan Has Worked Best For You?

Mike Davies does my nutrition for me during the season. I send him weekly pictures and that really helps me stay honest. As far as dieting, it really depends on where I am. If I need to lose fat, a typical diet would look something like this, in season:

Arrow Sample Fat Loss Diet:

    Meal one: serving cream of rice
    Meal two: grapefruit
    Meal three: 3oz protein source, 1/2 cup peppers
    Meal four: 4oz protein source, 10 asparagus spears
    Meal five: 3oz protein source, 3 egg whites, 4oz yam
    Meal six: 6 egg whites

    For Competition:

    The keys for me during competition season to look lean are:

  • 2 gallons of water
  • No extras, that includes sweeteners, salts, mustards, anything extra, even though its no calorie, still hurts my physique. I have to really tighten it up the last few weeks.
  • Pack food ahead of time and measure everything!
  • If I'm lean enough and far enough out, cheat meal once a week...or a refuel day as I call it. I will just eat more carbs that are on my diet when I'm feeling depleted.

One thing I have really learned about myself is that I absolutely need carbohydrates and fat in my diet. Balance is the best for me. I cannot totally eliminate one food group or else I will wind up bingeing on it later. I've tried to low carb the diet and it has always reversed itself on me and I have been sorry later on.

Arrow Sample Off Season Diet:

    Off Season: My diet looks more like this:

Meal one: 1/2 cup oats, 4 egg whites
Meal two: Small apple/protein shake
Meal three: Can of tuna, large salad
Meal four: Yogurt, fruit
Meal five: 5oz whitefish, sweet potato, green veggies
Meal six: Protein shake or pudding

What Supplements Have Given You The Greatest Gains?

Honestly, any protein shake that has good fat in it (flax, safflower, etc.) Flax oil, glutamine, some branch chain aminos are helpful and a lot of Vitamin B complex, C and B12.

Right now I am totally loving eat smart by Isatori. The best part about it is that you can buy a base of protein and then have three separate flavors that you can add into the base. That way you don't have to buy three separate jugs of protein if you want different flavors.

I also love Curvelle, their new energy booster made specifically for women. I love glutamine select and Muscle Synergy by Beverly when I am dieting.

Why do you love Bodybuilding?

I love teaching. And I love teaching women about fitness and helping them attain their goals. I love watching their bodies change and seeing their confidence. I also love the fact that I feel like I really know what I am talking about.

I always tell people, I really don't know that much, I really don't! But I do know about fitness and diet and I really understand how a woman's body works! So I feel confident when I am helping women and truly believe my own advice... now... If I could only figure out everything else! Ha!

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I also love competing in fitness because,, well honestly I am an exhibitionist! I absolutely love the routine part of fitness. I love doing gymnastics at age 32! Who would have thought??? I love watching my own body get better and better and I love inspiring my clients to get better as well.

What Are Your Future Bodybuilding Plans?

I want to get better at competing. I want to be able to look at myself and say, I did the best I could in preparing for this show, I put in 100 percent for the diet and the routine and training. As of yet, I haven't been able to say that. I want to stop relying on my innate talents and start really focusing on how I can get better. I can do better and I struggle with this, that is why it is my goal.

I want to continue to be part of Phatcamp with Jenny H and continue to help women. I love my job at Lakeshore Athletic Club in downtown Chicago and I want to continue to grow my group training business. I want to be the best trainer in Chi-town!

What One Tip Would You Give Other Bodybuilders?

    1) Have balance in your life... this is a hobby! Surround yourself with positive people but don't let fitness rule your life
    2) Have a sense of humor
    3) Go to a phat camp!

Who Are Your Favorite Bodybuilders?

Jenny Hendershott, Latisha Wilder, Adela Garcia, Heather Bear and Lishia Dean.

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