Monday, July 23, 2012
Stephanie Mule Interview
Photos 1 and 3: Dan Ray
Photo 2: De La Vega Photography
Photos 4-5 RX Muscle
Stephanie Mule is someone who I will always point to when I hear that illogical comment that "bikini competitors don't train hard". Because as I said, that comment is illogical, and Stephanie proves that. Stephanie brought an amazing package to the national stage in 2011 including an impressive fourth place finish at Jr. USA's. She is taking 2012 off for personal reasons and hopefully whether in bikini or possibly figure, we get to see her in 2013 because Stephanie is pro card material. Stephanie is one of those people who you can say would be fun to train with, but also super fun to just hang out with. She has an awesome attitude about fitness and just every day life.
Q: Can you talk about how you got started in the gym?
A: Like a lot of people I know, I just wanted to lose a little weight, tone up, just get a little bit healthier. A couple of friends had joined the gym so I joined with them. I became addicted to it and took it to the next level. After a month or so they fell out of it. I met my ex boyfriend who was a bodybuilder, and he introduced me to taking it to that level. I became so intrigued that I just rolled with it.
Q: How long where you training when you decided to compete and why did you decide to?
A: I had been training for almost a year. When they announced the bikini division was going to enter the NPC in 2009, I had mentally committed myself to trying a show since I didn't feel I was ready for figure, which is where I aspire to be. I knew I needed a lot more work in the gym. I wanted to do if for the experience and see if it was something I enjoyed. It was a new challenge.
Q: A lot of people, you say "bikini" and they think it is some T&A thing, did you have to explain to people it wasn't that at all, and that it was really about fitness?
A: No, I really didn't have any problems with that. I think I felt more resistance, not from others, but from within the bodybuilding community because at that time bikini was just being introduced and there weren't any clear cut guidelines. No one really knew what they were looking for or what the image was going to be. It was really walking into it blindly just trying to figure out as we're going along. It seemed like a lot of people on forums and things felt that any girl could compete in bikini, you didn't need to diet or exercise, and I was working really hard at that time to bring what I felt was a good package to the stage. So, I took a little offense to that and became defensive in that regard.
Q: Some people say after competing the first time it becomes an addiction, was that the case for you?
A: I guess for lack of a better word, I would say yes. It was a thrilling experience, a proud moment to get on stage and stand in front of people, to be judges against other girls. So, yeah, I wanted to take it to the next level after that and see what my potential was. Yeah, I guess in a way it is an addiction, as long as it is a healthy thing. You wanna be your best, bring your best, feel your best, look your best, so as long as you are able to do that, it is hard to remain sane during prep, as you can understand from your practice preps, but as long as it is all positive, I think it is not a bad addiction to have.
Q: In 2011 you took fourth at Jr. USA's and tenth at Jr. Nationals, how did you feel about those two shows?
A: I felt pretty good. I had just gone through some things in my personal life that could have distracted me, but instead I through myself even deeper into prep. I felt really accomplished that I was able to show up and present my package. You never know what judges are looking for. I had to stop training upper body for a few months for those shows because my coach was afraid I would become two developed and cross the line into figure. So I was happy. Right after that I got back to training upper body, I no longer had to do multiple, three to four leg days a week. I had great experiences and met more friends and got back to working hard and prepping for this year, which isn't happening for other reasons. I have no complaints.
Q: From those shows, where do you feel you could have been better?
A: Oh boy, I always critique myself harder than anything. So I am sure there is a lot of things I could point out. Maybe the earrings I wore to how I walked on stage. Sometimes you get those jitters and don't put one foot in front of the other haha. I tried my best and was happy and that is all you can do. If it doesn't work out, be better next time. I was grateful I got to celebrate after with some close friends and that made it even better.
Q: You are taking this year off, is that by design or other reasons?
A: I didn't plan to, I began prep in January. Around mid march things weren't flowing how I hoped. You need to be in a certain frame of mind, and part of me was and part was dealing with personal things. It felt like I was struggling more than the last couple years. I went through a few weeks of questioning and analyzing things and deciding if I would feel regretful or like a failure if I held of my plans. I had to weigh the pros and cons of everything, from cost, time off work, dealing with things, I literally made a list and talked about it with my coach and friends. In the end when I made the decision to work on being balanced and healthy and still train hard, but postponing my competing plans, everyone was supportive and said whatever I did they would be there to support me. That made me feel a lot better because I felt I would be a failure. Life happens and you have to roll with the punches.
Q: Is it hard at all to be doing the training but know you aren't competing?
A: No definitely not. I love the gym. I am there two to three times a day. I don't struggle with that part. I didn't know how I would feel when show dates approached, if I would be said or disappointed for not pushing myself to the stage. It was the fear of that looming date coming and going and how I would feel knowing I wasn't part of the group of girls on stage. I had a lot going on, and still do so this decision was for the best. In the interim it helped me get to a better place mentally. I was struggling with trying to eat normally after a show and get back on an off-season diet. I didn't wanna gain to much fluff, so I was having this internal struggle with myself between eating as much as I needed to maintain my workouts and improve myself without looking to fluffy. Now I am trying to look healthy and fit. I lowered my proteins a bit, filling up more on vegetables and my strength is still high. So I mix it from day to day and stick to clean foods, but a little less restricted and it has helped me feel better mentally and physically.
Q: Are you paying attention to the shows still this year?
A: I am a little removed from it this year. I do pay attention to certain shows where I had friends competing and wanted to be supportive of them. But not as closely involved as years past. I am still happy for everyone who has done well this year.
Q: So, is the plan to compete next year or is it more wait and see?
A: For now it is wait and see. I would like to compete again, but for now I am really content with what I am doing. So, I just need to see what happens, see where my finances are at, cause it is expensive to travel. I will figure it out. Maybe take another year off. If and when I do get on stage it will be the right time.
Q: When you do compete again, would it be bikini or figure?
A: I think there is a chance I would be doing figure. My coach, Tammy Patnode, was strongly encouraging me to do figure this year. I wanted to give it a whirl. I don't know if I fit what they are looking for in bikini anymore. I have definitely put on a little bit of size, so I am sure that I would be more close to a figure girl. That is what I was striving for when I first competed. So there is a good chance it will be figure. We will see what happens. Ultimately I would love to be on a physique stage. I love the physique ladies. The routines look like so much fun.
Q: In the gym, do you get a lot of the unwanted attention or stares?
A: No, not at all. I don't think the guys at my gym pay any attention. i have been there since they opened three and a half years ago. Most of them are respectful. If anyone does come up, it is a girl asking how I did an exercise or telling me how they want to look like me. It feels nice. It is nice you can inspire people just by being motivated and working hard.
Q: Are photo shoots something you enjoy doing?
A: If I didn't enjoy them, I definitely wouldn't do them. I think they are fun, playing dress-up can be fun. When I am in competition shape, I only look like that for a short period of time and am proud of the work I put in to get there. It is nice to have photo memories of that experience. One day I wanna look at them and be proud of my accomplishments.
Q: If you could spend a day training with one person who would you pick?
A: Oh boy, that's putting me on the spot, there are so many names that come to mind. I would say my fitness friends I admire. My coach Tammy Patnode, she lives six hours away and we have never trained together. Being around people I am friends with who I admire. Heather Payne who you interviewed recently, she is so hard core and I love her to pieces. My friends at the local level who don't live near me. Those are the kind of people. Distance keeps us apart so we cant train together.
Q: Anyone you want to thank?
A: Tammy Patnode, she has been my coach the last three years. She is an inspiration and has helped me through lots of ups and downs. All my friends and family, they put up with me through my dieting times and support me when I am on stage. I am thankful to have them in my life. My brother from another mother Rich Wallace. And thank you for the opportunity to do another interview.