20 Questions with NPC Figure and Cover Model Monica Mark

1) Please introduce yourself? What makes you special? Who is Monica Mark?

My name is Monica Mark and I am a 24 year old figure competitor, fitness model, and personal trainer. I was born and raised in San Diego, but currently reside in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. I am a driven, dedicated, and competitive individual that enjoys to workout, cook, and constantly learn. I play hard and work hard, but I also enjoy some down time during my week where I can enjoy the simple pleasures in life such as sleep, listening to music, or just kicking back and relaxing. I like to think of myself as confident, humble, and kind hearted.

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2) Please tell us a bit about your family, friends and surroundings?

I have an awesome family that has always supported me. Both of my parents have set great examples for me in leading a well balanced and healthy lifestyle as well as being a good person. I have 2 younger brothers that have always been supportive of my dreams. I try to surround myself with positive minded individuals who are also kind hearted and hard working. My fianc?e (a competitive bodybuilder) and I train together and prepare all of our meals every night; we support each other in our competitive dreams as well as in our life dreams.

3) How did you start competing in figure?

I started competing as my 2006 New Year’s Resolution. Since I was 18 years old, I have wanted to compete in figure. Monica Brant was my original inspiration as her pictures helped me to realize the type of physique I wanted to build.

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4) What is your personal policy (not what the judges want) about conditioning and muscularity when coming into a show? Soft or hard?

My personal policy about conditioning and muscularity is to have a muscular physique while maintaining feminine curves and a bit of softness. Keeping the femininity and muscular fullness while showcasing appealing lines and great conditioning is the biggest challenge in figure.

5) What is your idea of what judges want in a Figure competitor? Do you think judges are clear enough with competitors about how they want you on stage? It seems in Canada they are very clear unlike in the USA.

Monica Mark
Figure is relatively new in the physique industry and I believe that judges are just now fine tuning exactly what it is they are looking for. Since this is a subjective sport, there is a bit of individual preferences within the judges; however, I think the trend of winning physiques is slowly becoming clear as the years go by.

6) For the next shows what do you think you need to work on physique-wise/conditioning-wise? If anything!

For the next shows, my main focus will be in improving the depth of my abdominal musculature as well as in improving the symmetry of my calves relative to the rest of my legs. I would also like to tighten my quads and glutes/ham tie-ins a little more. Finally, I want to improve on my posing and stage presence.

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7) What is your typical training routine in the gym (per day, include sets and reps!) How much cardio do you do before a show?

My typical training routine is anything but typical. I add as much variety as possible to my training on a weekly basis. I do keep my reps in the 12-20 rep range with relatively short rest periods (45-90 seconds) and my sets per body part are usually in the 12-16 range. My legs usually require a little more volume, and my lagging body parts I train 2-3 times per week. My cardio usually starts with 4o minutes per day early in my pre-contest and is adjusted accordingly as my body progresses. I have done up to 110 minutes per day of cardio broken up in 2 or 3 sessions.

8) What is your pre-contest diet? (per day, 1 week before the show)

My pre-contest diet is predetermined by my nutritionist Kim Oddo. I eat staple foods like oatmeal, cream of rice, rice cakes, green veggies, chicken or turkey breast, fish, yams, egg whites, natural peanut butter and protein shakes. The quantities of each vary as my body progresses or as it responds to the diet and training. I do eat 6-7 times per day every 2 to 3 hours and drink at least 1-2 gallons of water every day.

9) How do you go about dropping your water before the day of the show? How much water do you drink the day of the show. Please be specific.

Since I started working with Kim Oddo, I keep my water relatively high up until the night before the show. Leading up to the show I eat asparagus with every meal as a natural diuretic, but keep my water consumption relatively high. The day of the show I merely sip on water through the day.

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10) What motivates you to train/diet and compete? Are there any competitors you looked up to?

My competitive spirit and dedication motivate me to train and diet hard. My role models like Monica Brant inspire me, while my fellow competitors drive me to work hard and stay disciplined as I know there is “no free lunch.”

Monica Mark
11) Please tell us an interesting experience you had at a show recently, be it a fun thing or something rather not so fun?

My best experience this year at a show was working with Kim Oddo for the first time for the Ironman. Besides being a great nutritionist and trainer, he is a great friend and through him I had the opportunity to meet a lot of great people at the show. It was a more than a pleasure to meet so many new faces in the industry, including my first fitness role model Monica Brant. Although I had met her before, having her sit next to me with our group at dinner was awesome.

12) What is your personal opinion about the figure, fitness, bodybuilding industry we are in? Anything you would like to see changed?

My personal opinion about this fitness industry is that we need to make the best of it and have fun. I like to bring my personal best to the table and enjoy it. I like to leave all the politics and drama out of it as this is one of the pleasures of life that I truly enjoy. As long as I know I did my best, I let the chips fall where they may and do not point fingers or place blame on anyone.

13) What has been your hardest challenge to overcome either in your personal life or competing career?

This year my hardest challenge to overcome has been all the changes in my life. I moved from Arizona to San Diego and have now settled in Rancho Cucamonga. I have come back into the fitness industry as a personal trainer after being out of the personal training business for three years. All in all, change is good; it just takes some getting used to the new environment, new work, and new schedule.

14) Did you make any changes to your contest prep for this show? Water intake, carbing up, etc…

Since this was my first year working with my nutritionist Kim Oddo, we made many changes from my last show. I started doing more cardio early on in my contest prep, kept my water intake higher than normal, and used “cleaner” carbs (i.e. Yams and Oatmeal) to carb up before the show.

15) What is your opinion about the 20% rule the IFBB issued to some female athletes? Why do you think they did it? Do you think competitors will follow it? Or it will get lost around somewhere?

I like the 20% rule the IFBB issued to female competitors. I believe females should still look feminine, and I truly believe we can still have good musculature without going overboard. I think judges now see that bigger isn’t always better, or more attractive. Smart competitors will definitely follow the rule or they will sacrifice placing well in future shows.

16) How did you feel about winning the 2007 Ironman? Describe a bit of that whole experience. Did you expect to win that show?

Monica Mark
I felt both honored and shocked to win the 2007 Ironman. I have been training for this show since August of 2006, and all the hard work paid off. I felt I came in the best that I could, but you never know what the competition will bring or what the judges will prefer for the winner.

17) Please tell us about how you were raised and did you have any interesting experiences while growing up?

I was raised in a traditional catholic family where good morals and ethics were part of growing up. My parents always have led by example, and I am lucky that they guided me in the right direction to be a modest, humble, caring, hard working, and a driven person.

18) Do you have an athletic background? Gymnastics, soccer, volleyball or what?

I have been training and working out since I was 18 years old, but I did grow up playing competitive tennis and a few years of tap dancing.

19) What is a typical day in the life of Monica Mark? From waking up to until going to bed?

A typical pre-contest day in my life consists of waking up, doing cardio, getting ready for the day, and taking on a few clients or doing office work. I typically lift weights in the late morning or early afternoon with my training partner when we have a bit of a break from our clients. The afternoon consists of more clients or office work followed by either more cardio and/or tanning. I typically get home around 7 or 8 pm where I prepare our meals for the next day and eat egg whites as my last meal. I like to wind down by watching tv just before bed, or I might get lucky and get a massage.

20) What is your current occupation? Please tell us more about it, what do specifically do in your job?

My current job is as a personal trainer and fitness director. Since I work in physical therapy and personal training studio, my day consists of training clients or other administrative duties such as calling insurance companies, attending meetings, or growing the business. I am lucky to have enough flexibility in my day to eat, train, and schedule appointments as necessary. I do plan on re-enrolling in school to finish my degree in exercise science this year.

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