Natalie Richards - Bikini Competitor

I was a “tiny human” my entire life. I was 88lbs soaking wet in college. I was always athletic and I grew up with a gymnastics and cheer background, but never had much mass to me. I started lifting after my college cheerleading days were over as a way to stay in shape. Once I began to notice change in my body, it was an addicting habit and I began lifting more strategically and heavily to shape my body and gain the curves I never had. A couple of years later, I felt I had maxed out my potential on my own and wanted to set a new fitness goal. This is how I ended up deciding to compete for the very first time in fall of 2016.

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My diet from off-season to pre-contest gradually changes in the duration of prep. My off-season diet is still rather “clean”, just with much higher amounts of complex carbohydrates than I would consume during “pre-contest”. I also get more simple sugar from post-workout “treats” to feed my muscles during off-season. These items are obviously restricted pre-contest. I have found multiple methods to be effective in loosing weight and building muscle. I am a firm believer that everyone is different, and every prep is different and you have to learn how to read your body to gauge what to do at that given time. I have had huge amounts of success with high carb/low fat diets, as well as in high fat/low carb diets just depending on what my body is optimizing at that given time.

As mentioned above, I have had success and failure with the same diets- just at different given times. For instance, last fall I was very heavy on carbs and low on fats with great results. Whereas this spring, I found my body rejecting and holding onto the carbs and doing bettie with low carb, high fat. The human body is always changing and you won’t yield the same result every time you diet or prep.

My training has changed multiple times based on how my body has responded and what changes I've had to make to my physique. My regimen always contains lifting and fasted cardio. I have also in different instances added plyometrics and hiit to my routines. Most recently, I have been solely focused on steady state cardio and lifting weights daily. My diet works hand in hand with my training. For instance, on days where I simply need to condition and maintain the muscle I have I consume less carbs than on days where heavy duty lifting is taking place. On those days, I do consume more carbs for fuel. On off days during prep, I don’t consume carbs at all to keep from storing them as fat so close to show.

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Building self confidence to get on stage was the most difficult part of competing. My first 3 shows, I wasn’t very confident at all in fact. It took going through a couple of preps and getting “stage time” to really grow that confidence. The more you believe in yourself as well as the prep process as a whole, the more confident you will be come stage time.

My best athlete experience to date was at Jr. Nationals in Chicago this past June. The girls competing there were all so nice and supportive. Back in the competitor room before finals, all of the girls were exchanging treats, taking photos with girls they had never met before, net working, wishing each other good luck. It was a truly rewarding and humbling experience to know that although the industry can have its share of “bad apples”, that there are genuine humans who share the same passion.

Being an athlete affects my whole life on multiple levels. At times, it can be stressful because it means waking up at 5am and leaving home to complete cardio, before going straight to work, and then straight back to the gym, to only see your home again for maybe an hour before going to bed. On the flip side of things, being an athlete does a lot of good for my life. It keeps me on top of things and very organized. You have to be organized to succeed as a competitor because every component of your day has an effect on your body and that overall goal. It also gives me something to constantly work towards and look forward too. I am a very goal oriented person, so having a constant goal to work towards keeps me motivated in all aspects of life.

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Future plans. I am currently 9.5 weeks out from NPC Nationals in Miami and 7.5 weeks out from the NPC Gladiator in Chicago. I am SO excited for both of these shows. The NPC Gladiator was my first show ever as a competitor last fall. I placed 2nd here last year and received my national qualification. NPC Nationals in Miami was my first National Level show last season and I couldn’t be more excited to hopefully come out on top and as a Pro just a year later :)


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