For 2011 Arnold Classic Pro Figure champion Nicole Wilkins, a win at the Figure Olympia, the most prestigious event on the Figure circuit, would position her as unquestionably the best competitor in her division. She won the Olympia in 2009 and placed second in 2010. She expects this year's Olympia will see her returned to her proper place, seated on the Figure throne.
There appears to be little stopping her from achieving her mission, with improvements made to her conditioning and the continued tightening and shaping of several key muscle groups, including her arms, calves and waist.
Last year's Olympia found Wilkins surprisingly off her usual stellar form. She showed signs of water retention at prejudging and that may have cost her the title. In a post contest interview, Nicole made no excuses and instead promised to come back better than ever in 2011.
She wasn't kidding around. She won big at the St Louis Pro Figure in March, and of course won the Arnold Classic in March. She again showed her famed conditioning, perfectly balanced size and streamlined shape. Is she saving her best for September 16?
She will need to be in the best shape of her life to retake the crown she lost, to be named Ms. Figure Olympia.
Q: What improvements have you made to your physique since you competed in the 2010 Figure Olympia?
My goal after the last show was to continue to work on my conditioning. In figure it is a fine balance between coming in too soft and too lean. My shape is where I want it for the most part, but this year I have focused on shaping up my arms, tapering in my waist, building my calves and tightening up my glute/hamstring tie-in.
Q: What do you think it is about your look that gained you the runner-up spot at the 2010 Olympia?
I felt off last year at the Olympia. I came into prejudging holding a little water and unfortunately that cost me my title. I came back this year at the Arnold with more of the look I was trying to achieve and won, so my goal for this year's Olympia is to be better than that.
Q: What kind of physique are you hoping to present onstage at the 2011 Figure Olympia?
Right now I feel the best I have ever felt this far out from a show in my entire career. I am so focused and positive right now. I am in competition with myself at this point. I just want to be better each time I step onstage.
Q: You are known for always being in shape and on point with your presentation and muscle shape/balance. What do you do to achieve such great shape and how do you maintain it from show to show?
Thank you! My training is geared toward shaping my body to look a certain way. I focus on my weak areas in the beginning of the week and my stronger areas toward the end of the week. Some muscle groups I train really hard and heavy, others lighter and with higher reps.
I am also constantly taking progress pictures in and offseason to gauge my progress. I really think this is a must for all physique athletes.
Q: How often do you include cardio training in your regime? What is your cardio schedule?
I am a cardio queen [laughs]. I absolutely love it and would rather do more cardio and than eat more [laughs].
I tend to put on muscle pretty easy, so I do a lot of high intensity interval cardio sessions to keep my legs lean and my waist small. I do anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half, 5-7 days a week.
Q: What do you like most about pro figure competition? What keeps you motivated to compete year after year?
I love seeing my hard work in the gym pay off. When I was younger and competing in sports, I always felt like I was just adequate. I never felt like I had found 'my sport' per se.
When I started winning figure shows I finally felt like I had found what I was really good at. It is a great feeling and it challenges me to meet new goals and have something to strive for in the gym. I also feel that becoming an advocate for health and wellness is what I was meant to do.
If I can motivate someone to reach their goals purely by example, then I'm doing my job.
Q: How would you describe your competition mindset? What kind of competitor are you?
I suppose those who are around me most would describe me as optimistic and focused. When the going gets tough, I get tougher [laughs]. I know there are going to be good days and bad days and I really try to embrace them as they come. When I am in the zone, there is no stopping me.
When Kim Oddo (my trainer/nutritionist) says 'Nicole, if you don't get your $#!* together, you are going to get your butt kicked,' it is all I need to get my head in the game. Tell me I can't do it and doubt me, because it just gives me more motivation to show you that I can.
Q: How would you describe your current approach to training?
I like variety. I get bored easy and I love a good challenge. I want to feel spent and sweaty after most workouts. I do traditional bodybuilding workouts, but I never do the same thing twice.
Q: Have you made any changes to your training the past year? If so, what have these been and how have they helped you to improve your physique?
I have made a lot of changes. For my legs, I used to train them very heavy. Soon they became overpowering so I changed up my leg training to plyometrics and track workouts with separate hamstring/calf days. I have consistently trained my shoulders and back heavy to balance out my lower body.
For arms, I went a couple years not training them at all because they were a bit too big. This is an area that I have always been self-conscious of. Now I train them with moderate weight and slow, focusing on the squeeze and mind-muscle connection.
Q: Could you describe your current nutritional approach?
I carb cycle. On days I have low carbs, my fats are higher and on days I have high carbs, my fats are lower. My protein is consistent, staying between 1g/lb [of bodyweight] up to 1.5g/lb.
Q: How do you address post-training nutrition? What do you do following your workouts to begin the muscle re-building process?
Post training nutrition is the most crucial time for muscle building. I always eat within 30-minutes of training: this meal comprises a protein source with a carbohydrate to replenish depleted glycogen stores. I also drink BCAAs during workouts and take L-Glutamine post workout.
Q: What is your view on supplementation?
Q: Which supplements do you take and why?
On a regular basis I take: Multivitamin, Met-Rx Joint Complex, Met-Rx BCAAs for muscle recovery, L-Glutamine for muscle recovery, Met-Rx L-Carnitine (helps promote fat burning), Met-Rx CLA, HMB and Vitamin C (enhances immunity).
Q: This year's Figure Olympia will host the usual top-line competitors, you included. Who do you see as being major competition for you and why?
Each girl on the Figure Olympia stage is considered the best in the world. At this point I am in competition with myself only. I am focused on bringing in the best physique I possibly can on that one day and hopefully take back that title.
Q: What are your major strengths as an IFBB pro competitor?
My goal is to be a good representative for the sport. I train girls and guys to compete in the NPC, I promote my own show (NPC Nicole Wilkins and Natural Michigan Classic) each year, and I work for an amazing company, Met-Rx, and attend almost every national show.
I try my best to motivate others and practice what I preach.
Q: You hold the two biggest titles in figure competition: the 2009 Figure Olympia and 2010 and 2011 Figure International. What would you like to achieve competition-wise before you retire from the sport?
My goal is to be the first IFBB Figure Competitor to hold both the IFBB Figure International and IFBB Figure Olympia titles in the same calendar year.
Q: You came so close to winning the 2010 Figure Olympia. Where do think you will place this year, and why?
My heart is set on the gold. I have put in the work, so the rest is up to the judges. I'm just excited to be back up there again for the fourth time. My goal is to accomplish what I set out to do in my post interview after last year's Olympia.
Q: What message would you like to give to your fans who will be watching you compete at the 2011 Olympia?
I want to thank everyone for believing in me and supporting me throughout my journey to this year's Olympia. I have a very strong support system at home and I wouldn't be where I am without them.
I have also released a new DVD, "In Pursuit of a Dream", and this outlines how I have gotten to where I am at so my fans can see how my journey has unfolded. I really appreciate the positive emails and messages through my Facebook page and through my website and hope to do you proud.
See you in a few weeks.