Bodybuilding.com Fit Team Member Spotlight: Anna Rigas

Sometimes a challenge comes along that is so great that after you face it, you're just not the same person anymore. Anna came back from a terrifying diagnosis and set her sights set on the national stage!

When Anna Rigas joined the Bodybuilding.com team five years ago, she was a customer service rep, tap dancer, and a pageant competitor who admits she took to the stage for "selfish" reasons.

In the spring of 2012, six weeks before she was set to graduate with a bachelor's degree in political science from Boise State University, she received terrifying news. She'd suffered from depression, sinus problems, and a deviated septum. But a CT scan revealed a tumor a little smaller than a tennis ball in the frontal lobe of her brain.

Her surgeons let her finish college, hoping it was a slow-moving cancer. Three days after she graduated, she went in for surgery. The procedure left her weakened, exhausted, and unable to perform many mental and physical tasks that the rest of us take for granted. She forgot how to walk, climb stairs, and her abilities to feel emotions and even feel hunger were affected. Tap dancing was out of the question. She spent two days in ICU, six more in recovery, and then basically slept for three months at home.

Ultimately, the biopsy determined that the tumor was non-cancerous. She didn't need chemotherapy, and she hasn't had a recurrence. Her death sentence had been lifted. "I thought I was going to miss the rest of my life," Anna says. "I feel like I got myself back."

She kept it quiet, not knowing what lay ahead. But those days are done. She has done some local bikini competitions, but will take things up a notch when she takes the stage at the Nampa Civic Center November 1-2 2013 in the Miss Idaho USA Pageant. She will compete with a new message: "Never think you can do something tomorrow." Anna didn't even know if she'd have a tomorrow. It took a little luck, a few excellent surgeons, and a lot of hard work, but Anna learned to dance again.

Q
Tell us a little about yourself. What is your
position at Bodybuilding.com? How long have you worked here?

I started with the company in February 2008 and I currently work with customer service. I recently assisted the e-commerce risk team with preventing fraudulent activity on the site.

What was your fitness level before working at Bodybuilding.com? You were a dance major, right?

I was in good shape as far as your basic human being was concerned. My specialty was in tap, and it's a shame there aren't more opportunities in Boise for that type of dance. Once I started working here, I found out how out-of-shape I was and how terrible my eating habits were. It made me realize how uneducated we are in health and nutrition in America.

You are set to compete for Miss Idaho USA next spring. What's it like competing on that sort of circuit?

I am the current Miss Ada County USA, and I am actually competing November 1-2, for the state title! I'm definitely going into it with a winning attitude. I worked very hard all year, so hopefully all that hard work pays off with the sash and crown. Win or lose, just getting to know the ladies who I compete with is a treat. They are intelligent and driven young women who strive to make their community a better place.

How do beauty pageants and bikini competitions differ?

They are very similar in the physical preparation that is required. I spend hours in the gym and have a strict diet that I adhere to for both competitions.

The biggest difference is in the mental preparation. In bikini your biggest worries competition day are how your suit fits, how your tan looks, and strutting your stuff on stage in front of an audience. In a pageant, you have your physical appearance and stage presence along with your interview skills, as well as communicating your ability to be a positive role model. It's a lot more stressful, but it's a job I'm more than ready for.

How has competing has made you stronger as an athlete and person?

The bikini competition made me stronger both mentally and physically. It taught me the self-control I need for pageant prep, and also taught me how to keep on a healthy path in my daily life.

What is it like working at Bodybuilding.com? Does it create a helpful fitness environment?

Working at Bodybuilding.com could not have been a bigger blessing. Everyone I work with is encouraging of my goals and wants to hear about my progress. It keeps me accountable.

The View From the Stage

The Miss Idaho USA pageant isn't just about pretty girls. It's about educated women working to make their communities a better place. Miss Ada County Anna Rigas is in her third year competing. She works with special needs children in her free time and wants to be a role model for young women who struggle to find their place in this world. "All the women are so driven," Anna says. "They're more than just pretty faces." The pageant helped Anna form a better positive self-image, and she hopes to help other young women do the same.

As our company changed over the years, do you find that you had to change with it? How so?

I was so young when I started working here, so I feel like both the company and I have had quite a bit of growing up to do. It's amazing to see how many people we are reaching now, and with that comes more responsibility.

How does the Bodybuilding.com environment influence your health, fitness and appearance goals?

Bodybuilding.com gave me the confidence to actually change my appearance. Before working here, I was sure that the way my body looked was just genetics and there was nothing I could do to change it. After learning about how weightlifting can drastically change the way a body looks, I went for it full-throttle.

You had to have surgery last year. What kind of challenges did that entail?

I was diagnosed with a brain tumor last year, and after graduation from Boise State University in the spring I immediately went in for surgery. It was definitely a life-changing experience. When you are faced with death before your thirties, all the things you haven't done are sort of thrown in your face.

Luckily, the tumor ended up being benign, and I didn't have to go through any kind of chemo or radiation therapy. It was a long recovery, and I definitely had quite a few challenges. The first right after surgery was actually remembering to eat. I completely lost the feeling of hunger, so I had to set an alarm for every 3-4 hours to remind myself to eat. I had a few rough days immediately after surgery, and I had to recover very basic balance and a few motor skills.

But all in all I had a very successful surgery. So far I have had no recurrence in the tumor and am on a healthy path.

What are your co-workers like?

My co-workers are absolutely fabulous! My friends Megan Leonetti, and Starr Ramos keep me accountable every morning, and kick my booty with new and challenging workouts. The rest of my coworkers are always asking about my goals; it keeps me focused.

How did your co-workers from Bodybuilding.com inspire you to reach your goals?

My first inspiration was Matt Biss. He was my trainer when I started, and he taught me how to lift weights. He inspired me to do my first show.

What is your favorite feature on the Bodybuilding.com website?

My favorite feature would have to be our workout plans. They are all so awesome, and can always be relied upon to give me a stellar workout when I am too lazy to make one for the day.

You're preparing to take the LSAT exam. You're not planning on leaving us are you?

Yes, I'm studying to take the LSAT in January, but I'm definitely not planning on leaving the company. I would like to go to Concordia Law School here in Boise, so I can enroll in the tuition assistance program, and maybe work in the legal department one day!

Have you participated in the employee transformation challenge?

I did participate in the transformation this year! I made a huge change in both my eating, and lifting habits. It helped me to learn how to make healthier choices in my daily life, as well as prep for a competition.

You've had a few photo shoots already. Do you have any tips for someone heading into their first shoot with a professional photographer?

My first suggestion is to really think about posing before you get there. Practice in the mirror to figure out what poses look most flattering on you. It sounds silly, but it'll make you stand out to the photographer.

Second, make sure you get a custom spray tan, and know if there will be a hair and makeup artist hired. If it's your first shoot and you have little to no experience, make sure you hire someone to take care of your hair and makeup if one isn't provided.

What are your future goals?

Right now, I am setting my eyes on getting into law school and completing my education. Because Bodybuilding.com has such an awesome tuition reimbursement program, it will definitely help me reach my goals. I also have silly aspirations of doing some kind of fitness modeling some day, and working here is definitely beneficial for that.

This has been a sort of wild year for you. What has it taught you about yourself and what you want out of life?

It has been a wild year! I would say the biggest lesson I learned is to never think you have tomorrow. Being diagnosed with a brain tumor is scary enough to start flashing back and realizing that you haven't done half the things you wanted to do. I knew right away I needed to do something to be a role model and share my story, which is why I decided to do the Miss Idaho USA pageant.

Anna's Lifting Schedule

Each day includes 15-20 min of cardio and stretching before and after the main workout

Day 1: Cardio
  • Step Mill Step Mill Step Mill
    1 hour



Day 2: Legs, Booty
    Superset
  • Freehand Jump Squat Freehand Jump Squat Jump Squat
    3-4 sets of 30 sec
  • Dumbbell Step Ups Dumbbell Step Ups Dumbbell Step Ups
    3-4 sets of 12 reps per leg
  • Superset
  • Barbell Walking Lunge Barbell Walking Lunge Barbell Walking Lunge
    3-4 sets of 1 min
  • Seated Leg Curl Seated Leg Curl Seated Leg Curl
    3-4 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Superset
  • Barbell Hip Thrust Barbell Hip Thrust Barbell Hip Thrust
    3-4 sets 15 reps
  • Barbell Walking Lunge Barbell Walking Lunge Kettlebell Side Lunges
    3-4 sets of 15 reps
    (shown forward with barbell)
  • Superset
  • One-Arm Kettlebell Swings One-Arm Kettlebell Swings One-Arm Kettlebell Swings
    3-4 sets of 15 reps
  • Ball Leg Curl Ball Leg Curl Ball Leg Curl
    3-4 sets 20 reps



Day 3: Abs Circuit
    Perform 3-5 times
  • Plank Plank Plank
    60 seconds
  • Jackknife Sit-Up Jackknife Sit-Up Weighted Jackknife Sit-Up
    12-15 reps
  • Sit-Up Sit-Up Sit-Up
    12-15 reps
  • Air Bike Air Bike Weighted Bicycle
    12-15 reps
  • Sit-Up Sit-Up Sit-Up Toe Touch
    12-15 reps (shown with arms crossed)
  • Crunches Crunches Crunches
    15-20 reps



Day 4: Cardio
  • Stairmaster Stairmaster Stairmaster
    40 mins
  • Bicycling, Stationary Bicycling, Stationary Bicycling, Stationary
    10 minute intervals
    (30 sec as fast as possible, 30 sec rest)



Day 5: Back, Biceps, Triceps
    Triset
  • Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown
    3-4 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Dumbbell Alternate Bicep Curl Dumbbell Alternate Bicep Curl Dumbbell Alternate Bicep Curl
    3-4 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Triceps Overhead Extension with Rope Triceps Overhead Extension with Rope Triceps Overhead Extension with Rope
    3-4 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Triset
  • One-Arm Dumbbell Row One-Arm Dumbbell Row One-Arm Dumbbell Row
    3-4 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Standing Biceps Cable Curl Standing Biceps Cable Curl Standing Biceps Cable Curl
    3-4 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Triceps Pushdown Triceps Pushdown Triceps Pushdown
    3-4 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Triset
  • Seated Cable Rows Seated Cable Rows Seated Cable Rows
    3-4 sets of 12-15 reps
  • EZ-Bar Curl EZ-Bar Curl EZ-Bar Curl
    3-4 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Bench Dips Bench Dips Bench Dips
    3-4 sets of 12-15 reps



Day 6: Shoulders and Chest
    Superset
  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press Dumbbell Shoulder Press Dumbbell Shoulder Press
    3-4 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Leverage Chest Press Leverage Chest Press Leverage Chest Press
    3-4 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Superset
  • Power Partials Power Partials Side Lateral Raise
    12-15 reps
  • Incline Push-Up Incline Push-Up Incline Push-Up
    15-20 reps
  • Superset
  • Seated Cable Rows Seated Cable Rows Seated Cable Rows
    3-4 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Cable Crossover Cable Crossover Cable Flyes
    3-4 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Superset
  • One-Arm Side Laterals One-Arm Side Laterals One-Arm Side Laterals
    3-4 sets of 12-15 reps (shown with dumbbell)
  • Leverage Incline Chest Press Leverage Incline Chest Press Leverage Incline Chest Press
    3-4 sets of 12-15 reps



Day 7: Rest

Nutrition: Sample daily meal-by-meal breakdown

Meal 1: Morning
Meal 2: Post-Workout
Meal 3: Lunch
Meal 4: Mid-Afternoon
Meal 5: Dinner
Meal 6: Before Bed

Supplements

Before breakfast
With Breakfast
Morning after training
Afternoon before lunch
With Lunch
Before Bed