Q. Hi Valentina. For the record, how tall are you, how old are you and what is your contest and off-season weight?
I'm 5'5, 42 years old, and my off-season weight is 160 lbs, but not right now. I'm competing in the light-weights at 135lbs, and I'm getting closer to this weight.
Q. Where were you born?
I was born in Kharkov, Urkaine.
Q. Is Kharkov a big town?
Yes, it's a fairly big town with over 1 million people.
Q. Where are you living and training now?
Right now I am living in the Seattle area - the city is a little ways away - and I am working as a personal trainer at Bally's. I like working at Bally's because they are better than other fitness clubs that I've worked at before - the business is better.
Q. What were your reasons for moving to America?
In 1997, I won the World Championships, I took the overall and I turned pro. Living in America, there is more opportunity for bodybuilding, so that's why I moved. My family is still back in Ukraine, but I don't get the chance to visit them often. I've been in America for five years.
My mom, my older sister and 2 nieces are back home.
Q. Do you find that American gyms are different here in America? Are the bodybuilders different? What about training and nutrition?
No, things are pretty much the same. When I started here the first gym that I worked out at was kind of hardcore.
So, we didn't have all of the equipment, so we used free weights - I think that free weights are the best for bodybuilding, and I prefer them over machines. You get a greater range of motion and it requires more coordination and you work harder.
Q. You mentioned that there is more opportunity for bodybuilders here in America. Is bodybuilding a big sport in the Ukraine?
Yes, its pretty popular. We eve have some commercial competitions sometimes. Ukraine has a few champions, like
Oleg Zhur, who competed at the Mr. Olympia in 2002.
Q. Lets talk a bit about your training. What is a sample week for you look like? What is your split?
Usually I start with my weakest body part, which is my shoulders. So, I do my shoulders on Monday, and then on Tuesday I do my upper back. My chest I need to maintain, so I do that on Wednesday, and I do lats on Thursday.
My favorite body part I do my arms on Friday. On a regular basis I train five days a week and then take the weekends off.
Before a contest I workout non-stop for a couple of weeks.
Q. When you are in a pre-contest diet before a show, do you eliminate alcohol from your nutrition plan?
I am not a heavy drinker, but I don't eliminate alcohol totally pre-contest. I don't drink every week, but once in a while I will have a drink to help me relax a little.
Q. What does your supplementation plan look like during the year, and also before you go into a show?
liquids amino acids,
Q. I know that you will be at the Bodybuilding.com booth during the Olympia. It can be quite tiring to work booths, but when work a booth what is the most entertaining part of being there?
Meeting my fans. I love my fans. This time, I am devoting this show to my fans; I am competing for them. I work with Bodybuilding.com year round, and my fans from all over the world wanted me to come back and I promised that I would.
Q. When fans approach you, what is the most common question that they ask?
They ask me about training, nutrition and diet, and of course where I am from! *laughs* They ask a lot about nutrition and dieting, because that is the hardest part!
Working out is fun, but dieting isn't, so most people ask about that.
Q. Sometimes at shows when you work the booth, I notice people hanging around, almost stalking you the whole time. Do you get this a lot? Do you get any strange e-mails?
I do get a lot of e-mails from my fans, but they are mostly all good. I do get a few disturbing e-mails, but they are rare. Some guys like the muscular women, and sometimes they ask me for private sessions, but I don't do that because that's not me.
Some ask for wrestling sessions, and so many bodybuilders do that, but that's not my thing.
Q. How is your final week of training going for the 2004 Ms. Olympia? Are you doing anything different for this show's preparation than in previous shows?
My preparation is pretty much the same as what I usually do. I'm not using any protein shakes or bars, and I just stick with natural foods like chicken, turkey, eggs, vegetables, greens. I also take potassium and magnesium.
The shakes and the bars cause you to hold water, so it doesn't work for me.
Q. Can you give us the inside scoop on your new routine?
I have a new routine this year, and? I can say only that it is going to be a very entertaining routine! I want to keep my fans in suspense so I can't say a lot about it. But, I will be very alive!
Q. Going into the show, do you think that Lenda Murray is beatable this year for the overall?
If she comes back, no one will beat her, but she is not coming as far as I know. Last year I saw her at the Olympia and she said that it was her last time. She may have qualified but that doesn't mean that she will compete.
I hope this time that I win, but you never know. I do my best - it's all that I can do.
Q. Your first international show was the International championships in 1993. What inspired you to begin competing?
I was not confident with myself, so that's why I started. When I started I had no idea about bodybuilding, but after I got into bodybuilding with my trainer, I started doing contests and I was inspired by
Cory Everson. That was really inspirational for me.
Q. What is the biggest highlight of your career?
When I won the Ms. Olympia in 2000.
Q. Who is the best photographer that you have worked with, and why?
Bill Dobbins. He is very professional. He works fast and does good shots.
Q. What tips can you give to women who want to get into bodybuilding and make it a career?
Well, first, she shouldn't think of it as a career. Bodybuilding is about making yourself feel good - it's about giving yourself confidence.
A woman should work on her body, and not just because she wants to come up and show it off on the stage, but because she wants to do it for herself.
Bodybuilding has to be a lifestyle first. She should work hard and bring up the worst parts of her body, and she should also have an image of how she wants to look in the future. One day, if she works hard, she could come up on the stage.
Patience is needed, and it will take time, dedication and hard work.
Also, get a good personal trainer when you are first starting out. But, of course, she needs to get a good personal trainer who has a skill in bodybuilding - not just in fitness. Some trainers can get certified from doing some classes for a couple of weeks - but an experienced trainer is a must.
Q. If you could change one thing about women's bodybuilding, what would it be and why?
I have all the respect for female bodybuilders who work really hard, but I would like to get it back to the way it was back in the 1980's during the era of Cory Everson. A more feminine look.
I think that it would make it more accepted in the mainstream.
Q. In five years from now, where do you see yourself and your career?
It's hard to say, but someday I want to open my own private club. I see myself helping people to get into shape and into the healthy lifestyle.
I want to work as a personal trainer, but to be self-employed. I like independence. I like to do my own thing and I like to give the orders!
Q. Obviously your fans like and admire you, but then sometimes you get people that come to the show that try to take it farther than a platonic relationship. Has anyone ever tried to use a pickup line on you?
No, not really. Nobody dares. Maybe in their dreams or fantasies! They ask me if I am married, but that's about it.
Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
When I'm working out, it bothers me when people bug me and break my focus!
Q. So, who do you think is going to win the Mr. Olympia this year?
I think if Ronnie Coleman comes back he will win again. I think the Gunter will get second. That Russian guy, Fedorov is coming, and I wish him luck. I think with his physique he can get in the top ten. He is pretty big but I don't really like his physique - he is too thick in the waistline, and a lot of guys are like that these days.
| Ronnie Coleman
| Gunter Schlierkamp
Q. How can your fans reach you?
My fans can come and see my at the bodybuilding.com booth during the shows, and my website is currently under construction and will be up soon!
Interview questions brought to you by Bodybuilding.com. Questions asked by Clayton South.