Fitness Amateur Of The Week: Parental Guidance

Nothing stops Sarah from hitting the gym. She powered through nine months of pregnancy doing cardio and eating clean to pick up where she left off: the bikini stage!

Name: Sarah Serna
BodySpace: sarahserna17
Location: Waynesville, Missouri
Age: 28  Height: 5'2"  Weight: 116 lbs
Years Competing: 1

How did your fitness journey begin?

I played soccer and softball year-round while growing up, which kept me in good shape when I was young. I joined the military at age 18 and maintained a decent level of fitness through both Army PT and cardio, but after having my first daughter in 2008 my fitness level decreased and the pregnancy changed my body. I was able to get back down to my pre-pregnancy weight fairly quickly, but I did it the wrong way; I ate very little, did lots of cardio, and didn't weight train.

January of 2011 is when my real turnaround happened. I was at a healthy weight, but unhappy with my physique. I wanted a fit, shapely, athletic look, but had no idea where to start. At the time, I was stationed in Germany and heard about a figure competition the military was hosting and decided to enter. The competition gave me a goal and a reason to educate myself in fitness and nutrition. From there, I spent huge amounts of time researching training and nutrition articles, and reading stories of women who inspired me and had physiques I aimed to emulate.

I spent 12 weeks preparing for the show while exploring every aspect I could about fit living and it changed my life. I ended up placing first in my height class and winning the overall. I fell in love with training and eating clean foods. I was amazed at the results it brought me and wished I started sooner.

What fitness regimen delivered the best results?

When I need to build muscle, I use moderate to heavy weights and lower rep ranges. When I established the muscle mass I want, I use lighter weights and higher reps to tighten and tone. This is especially important for my legs; I really have to focus on keeping them in balance with the rest of my body and not allowing them to get too big. When training glutes, however, I still go heavy since I'm continually trying to build a more rounded backside. This type of training is necessary and works to build a bikini physique. Squats, deadlifts, and lunges are a must.

My training plans differ from week to week. Exercises are varied to keep my body guessing. I hit every body part once, with the exception of legs which I do at least twice a week, and abs, which I rarely do at all. I'm able to achieve the desired amount of tone in my abdominals when I do other exercises that incorporate ab muscles and by eating clean. Many women think having tight and toned abs is nearly impossible after having children, but it can be done.

Day 1: Legs


    • Leg Extensions Leg Extensions

      Leg Extensions

      5 sets of 15 reps
    • Shoulder-Width Leg Press Shoulder-Width Leg Press

      Shoulder-Width Leg Press

      5 sets of 20 reps
    • Switch Jump Lunges Switch Jump Lunges

      Switch Jump Lunges

      5 sets of 15 reps


  • Narrow-Stance Squats Narrow-Stance Squats

    Narrow-Stance Squats

    4 sets of 15 reps
  • Walking Lunges Walking Lunges

    Walking Lunges

    4 sets of 10 reps each leg

Day 2: Shoulders/Triceps


    • Shoulder Press Shoulder Press

      Shoulder Press

      4 sets of 15 reps
    • Wide-Grip Overhead Barbell Raises Wide-Grip Overhead Barbell Raises

      Wide-Grip Overhead Barbell Raises (shown with medium grip)

      4 sets of 15 reps
    • Rear Lateral Raises Rear Lateral Raises

      Rear Lateral Raises

      4 sets of 15 reps


    • Arnold Press Arnold Press

      Arnold Press

      3 sets of 15 reps
    • Lateral Raises Lateral Raises

      Lateral Raises

      3 sets of 15 reps


  • Cable Rope Push-Downs Cable Rope Push-Downs

    Cable Rope Push-Downs

    3 sets of 15 reps
  • Skull Crushers Skull Crushers

    Skull Crushers

    3 sets of 15 reps
  • Dumbbell Kickbacks Dumbbell Kickbacks

    Dumbbell Kickbacks

    3 sets of 15 reps

Day 3: Back/Biceps
    • Wide-Grip Pull-Downs Wide-Grip Pull-Downs

      Wide-Grip Pull-Downs

      6 sets of 8 reps
    • Close-Grip Seated Cable Rows Close-Grip Seated Cable Rows

      Close-Grip Seated Cable Rows

      6 sets of 8 reps


    • Reverse-Grip Barbell Rows Reverse-Grip Barbell Rows

      Reverse-Grip Barbell Rows

      4 sets of 15 reps
    • One-Arm Pull-Downs One-Arm Pull-Downs

      One-Arm Pull-Downs

      4 sets of 15 reps


    • Hyperextensions Hyperextensions


      5 sets of 15 reps
    • Supermans Supermans


      5 sets of 15 reps


  • Preacher Curls Preacher Curls

    Preacher Curls

    4 sets of 8 reps
  • Seated Dumbbell Curls Seated Dumbbell Curls

    Seated Dumbbell Curls

    4 sets of 12 reps
  • Incline Dumbbell Curls Incline Dumbbell Curls

    Incline Dumbbell Curls

    4 sets of 15 reps

Day 4: Legs


    • Leg Curls Leg Curls

      Leg Curls

      5 sets of 15 reps
    • Weighted Bench Step-Ups Weighted Bench Step-Ups

      Weighted Bench Step-Ups

      5 sets of 12 reps


  • Seated Leg Curls Seated Leg Curls

    Seated Leg Curls

    5 sets of 12 reps
  • Stiff-Legged Deadlifts Stiff-Legged Deadlifts

    Stiff-Legged Deadlifts

    5 sets of 12 reps

Day 5: Chest/Shoulders/Glutes


    • Dumbbell Pull-Overs Dumbbell Pull-Overs

      Dumbbell Pull-Overs

      5 sets of 12 reps
    • Incline Chest Press Incline Chest Press

      Incline Chest Press

      5 sets of 12 reps
    • Lateral Raise Lateral Raise

      Lateral Raise

      8 sets of 8 reps



  • Hyperextensions Hyperextensions


    4 sets of 20 reps
  • Butt Machine Butt Machine

    Butt Machine

    4 sets of 15 reps

Day 6 & 7: Off

What nutrition plan fueled your body?

Proper nutrition is by far the most important ingredient to a fit body. By that I mean eating clean foods consistently. Eating the proper macronutrient proportions for each meal is essential, as is eating every 2-3 hours to keep my body fueled and my blood sugar levels stabilized. I do occasionally have a cheat meal, usually on Saturday afternoons. I simply replace a clean meal with a cheat, enjoy every bite, and get right back on my meal plan. I drink at least a gallon of water per day, with lemon, and drink lemon, mint, or cinnamon tea at night with a packet of stevia to help with my sweet tooth.

My meal plan changes monthly in accordance with how my body is changing. This is an example of a typical diet I would follow.

Meal 1
  • Egg Whites

    Egg Whites

    4 whites

  • Spinach Leaves

    Spinach Leaves

    1 cup

  • Oat Bran

    Oat Bran

    1/2 cup

Meal 2
  • Tilapia


    3 ounces

  • 1% Cottage Cheese

    1% Cottage Cheese

    2 ounces

  • Lightly Salted Rice Cake

    Lightly Salted Rice Cake

    1 cake

Meal 3
Meal 4
  • Chicken Breast

    Chicken Breast

    3 ounces

  • P28 Bread

    P28 Bread

    1 slice

  • Cucumber


    1/3 sliced and 2 thin slices of tomato soaked in balsamic vinegar

Meal 5
  • Chicken Breast

    Chicken Breast

    3 ounces

  • Grapefruit


    1/4 grapefruit

  • Peas


    1/3 cup

  • Sweet Potato

    Sweet Potato

    3 ounces

Meal 6
  • 99% Lean Ground Turkey Breast

    99% Lean Ground Turkey Breast

    3 ounces

  • Green Beans

    Green Beans

    1/4 cup

  • Squash


    3 ounces

What supplements gave you an edge?
With Meal 1
With Meal 3
With Meal 6
With Every Meal

How did your passion for fitness emerge?

After transforming my body through 12 weeks of show prep, the physical and mental results were something I knew I didn't want to live without ever again. Just a few months after that show, I became pregnant again. To be honest, I was a bit nervous about how to handle being pregnant and staying fit. My aim was to make it as easy and smooth as possible for me to return to my normal training routine after giving birth. To do that, I had to keep up on my fitness during pregnancy. I continued eating clean about 75 percent of the time, allowing myself the occasional treat of Ben & Jerry's. I also did cardio up until the day I delivered. The combination of clean eating and cardio really helped to make the transition to post-natal recovery much easier.

After my daughter was born this past May, I was ready and eager to step it up and bring the discipline needed to get back in shape. This time around, I was going to do it the right way and create the best version of me. Living fit allows me to set goals, both big and small. Working toward goals every day fuels my passion. I knew getting back in shape would take patience and persistence, but I removed any self-doubt and dove in. I enlisted the help of Shannon Dey and the coaches at Team Bombshell to help me on my journey. With their guidance, and the knowledge I now have, I will compete again and continue living a fit lifestyle.

Living fit drives and keeps me convinced that this is the right way to live because of the balance and structure it provides. Working out and eating clean energizes me, keeps my mind clear, and allows me to stay focused in all aspects of my life. Of course, I have days where this isn't the case, but overall, fitness has greatly improved my quality of life. It has made me a better mother, wife, friend, and person. We're all busy people with obligations and responsibilities outside of the gym. Finding balance is important; with all that goes on in my life with kids, training, college classes, etc., having balance allows me to enjoy the journey. It is truly rewarding.

What/Who motivates you to live a healthy lifestyle?

There are many things that motivate me to continually improve and endure through days when I'm less than energetic about hitting the gym. Having different sources makes it a little easier to keep pushing. Accomplishing the smaller, daily goals I set for myself is motivating. I also know that living healthy is one of the best examples I can set for my kids. I love it when my 4-year-old asks if I have gone to the gym yet and how she knows that protein and vegetables should be eaten with every meal.

My husband, who is my biggest supporter and fan, is a huge motivator for me. Not only does he encourage and inspire me to work harder, but he makes sacrifices so I can pursue my dreams and aspirations. Healthy living is something we enjoy together; I look forward to Sunday morning when we wake up and immediately start food prep for the next week. One of us entertains the kids while the other cooks. It's fun and conducive to goals we both share.

I find lots of motivation in women who have stories and journeys that I can relate to. On the flip side, I'm motivated by women who ask me what I did to create my physique. I love having the opportunity to share my story and knowledge in hopes that it inspires them to live better.

Establishing and maintaining a level of fitness is physically and mentally challenging at times, as most can agree, and there are times when I cannot seem to find motivation anywhere. I think that self-motivation is the most important of all motivators. Finding inspiration within yourself and digging deep on those weak days drives me to do what I do. I appreciate every ounce of support and motivation I get from my family and friends, but it would be detrimental to depend solely on them for motivation. I truly believe that I alone must be my biggest motivator; I need to want to aim higher and be better for myself in order to reach my goals.

Where did you go for inspiration?

On days that I'm lacking energy and don't want to do cardio, or if I'm seriously contemplating skipping the gym, I will literally stop and have a conversation with myself. I think about how I will feel if I skip out. I remind myself why I do what I do and what I do it for. It never fails. I go get my workout in and leave feeling accomplished with no regrets.

What are your future fitness plans?

I'm currently training to compete in the NPC bikini division and am looking to do a show in March 2013. Ultimately, I would like to earn an IFBB pro card and compete alongside women who inspired me to start my competitive journey in the first place. What an honor that would be.

I would also love to work as a fitness model and become someone who represents the sport and industry. I want to share my story with others and provide inspiration to those, especially moms, who want to live a fit lifestyle.

One of the greatest things about fitness is that there is no end to the process; it's a lifestyle commitment that is ever changing and evolving, just as life does. New goals can always be set and there are always ways to improve. Every day I work at bettering my physique. I feel such a sense of accomplishment when I go to bed at night knowing that the decisions I made that day were the right and helped me get closer to my fitness goals.

What is the most important fitness tip?

Be consistent in your eating and training regimen. As challenging as that can be at times, it's the key to successfully transforming and maintaining your physique.

Who is your favorite fitness competitor?

It would definitely have to be Nathalia Melo. Since I began my fitness journey, she has been a huge inspiration to me. She has such an admirable work ethic and I appreciate her dedication to fitness, which has made her a champion.

How did help you reach your goals?

BodySpace is an amazing tool that I use to track my progress and meet other people who love fitness. The contest opportunities affords people are great and I particularly appreciate the support shows toward the military. I order my supplements through and it's awesome how quick my orders ship. When I was stationed overseas, I still got my order within a few days. I also love the Fitness 360 articles and video features on the site. It's always awesome to see how the pros do it.

Trainer Credit & Thank You: I would like to give a huge thanks to my husband for his continued love, sacrifice and support, and for being my biggest fan. He's by my side every step of the way, and for that I'm so grateful.

I would also like to give a big thank you to Shannon Dey, Rob Rosetti, and the coaches and ladies at Team Bombshell. Their support, guidance, and expertise are helping me to become the best possible version of myself.

I also need to thank the folks at Anytime Fitness in Waynesville, Missouri, for running such a great facility. Their 24-hour gym is the only one in town and that accessibility makes sure I get my workouts in.