Athlete Interview: Erin Stern Prepares For The 2013 Arnold Classic

2012 Olympia Figure champ Erin Stern has placed second at the Arnold Classic for three consecutive years. She wants to break the pattern. Find out how she plans on doing it!

Two-time Figure Olympia winner Erin Stern is gunning for glory at this year's Figure International. Since she turned pro in 2008, Stern has yet to miss an Arnold lineup—but she has yet to win. She landed in the runner-up spot the last three years. This year, Stern is determined to add the Figure International title to her ever-growing collection of wins. With Nicole Wilkins out of the running, she is well-poised to do it!

Although she's known for presenting a balanced, full, and healthy physique, Stern is constantly motivated to improve. Following her victory at the 2012 Olympia, she began planning for further physical refinements.

In rigorous following of the Figure judging criteria, Stern is shapely, yet muscular and proportionally perfect. If she procures the same condition which secured her second Olympia title, she'll have the figure to beat at the 2013 Arnold Classic.

As a favorite to secure first place at this year's Figure International, describe the winning look you plan to present.

As competitors, we are always trying to improve upon our previous best. I took this off-season put more size on my calves, shape my hamstrings, and maintain balance between my upper and lower body.

I wasn't happy with my look at last year's Arnold—I was too small and flat. I plan to bring a look similar to what I brought to the 2012 Olympia: balanced, full, and healthy. We'll see how it goes!

For four years you have continued to improve as a pro Figure competitor. How do you ensure steady progression from year to year?

It's a learning curve on all levels. With each show, I learn more about my body and how it works. I read the latest articles and science findings, try new workout techniques, and also work on my mind and spirit.

Competing and fitness should be sustainable, healthy, and fun. So I work hard, eat well, and rest. It's a simple formula, but it takes work to implement it.

You have been competing in figure since 2009. What is it about this division that appeals to you most?

I love figure. It allows for muscle with femininity. We get to lift heavy and train hard, and then wear beautiful suits and heels. We are scored on all aspects of what we bring to the stage. I think it encourages competitors to not only get into great shape, but to take care of all other aspects of their appearance.

In 2012 you won each Figure event you contested with the exception of the Arnold Classic. Is your narrow Arnold loss in 2012 motivation to win convincingly in 2013?

Yes! I have been second place in Columbus for three years in a row. I want to win. But, to me, winning is about bringing a physique that beats my previous best, and not the placing itself.

In the past, I've made the mistake of aiming to bring a better physique than another one of my competitors, or to simply win the show. I'd rather set objective goals. This way, I compete against myself. If I do my best, I'm happy with my showing, regardless of the placing.

Every time you compete, many people expect you to win. How do you handle the pressure to perform? Does it ever become overwhelming?

Yes, I'm only human. In 2011, I was absolutely overwhelmed with the pressure. I felt that bringing a better physique than I brought to the 2010 Olympia was the only way I'd be successful. I wanted to make everyone happy, but I neglected myself in the process. I became really sick before the Arnold, and therefore didn't look my best.

I found that the best way to handle the pressure is to make a plan and stick to it. I focus on what needs to be done. I have learned to filter the feedback and understand that I won't make everyone happy. But I can continue to do good, give back, and take care of myself. It sounds cheesy, but it all goes back to balance.

What has been your training approach as you prepare to contest this year's Arnold?

I lift heavy, incorporate sprints, plyometrics, and HIIT. I don't do any low-intensity cardio.

As a figure competitor, how does your prep differ from a bodybuilding contestant? What major nutritional considerations must you adhere to when dialing it in during the final weeks leading into an event?

I think the major difference is cardio and carbs. I tend to do more HIIT and sprints, and less low intensity long duration cardio. I eat fruit and other carbs until the last week of the prep.

When dialing in, I focus on overall macros, rather than strict caloric intake. If I'm hungry, I eat. As the contest gets closer, I clean up my diet by cutting little things like dairy and diet sodas.

Could you outline your current nutritional strategy?

I eat 5-6 small meals per day. I try and maintain a 40/40/20 balance of protein, carbs, and fats.

Do you switch up your training from year to year, or are you consistent in your gym activities?

I switch it up. My physique constantly changes, so my routine should also change. For example, sometimes I carry more muscle, so prior to competition I do more supersets to drop it.

To what extent do you assess yourself following each event?

I study the contest pictures hours after pre-judging. I'll go back weeks later, and study again with fresh eyes. I often compare progress pics to those from previous preps. It is my main method of self-assessment.

What do you find most enjoyable about figure competition?

I love meeting new people and traveling!

Who do you consider to be your toughest competition at this year's Figure International, and why?

Myself. Winter always makes prep more difficult, and making improvements over the next few weeks will be tough work.

What would you ultimately like to accomplish as a Figure athlete?

I want to teach and help other women incorporate balance into their lives. I want to help other women be strong, healthy, and natural. I learned that success in the gym equates to success in all other aspects of life. Women don't need to step onstage to experience that—they just need to pick up a weight.

What message would you like to give to the many fans who will be supporting you at this year's Figure International?

Thank you! I could not do this without you. Your words of encouragement and support mean the world to me. You share your stories of triumph, and it motivates me to push harder. Even though I have not met many of you, you are like family to me. Much love!