Stop Chasing Skinny Episode #5

What it Really Takes to Train for a Fitness Competition with WBFF Pro and Competitive Fitness Coach Janelle Nicolo

In 2007, I started training for my first fitness competition which started a whole new chapter in my fitness journey. Going from a complete and total cardio queen to a physique competitor required a change in almost everything I was doing for my training and nutrition. This is also the year I met this episode’s guest, Janelle Nicolo.

Janelle and I competed on the same competitive fitness team and then in 2011 I went from competitor to coach where I had the pleasure of coaching with Janelle.

I am often asked to coach competitors but I have hung up my sparkly suit training and direct all competitive inquiries to Janelle and her team, Body Ambition. Janelle’s coaching style and philosophy is totally in alignment with my own personal philosophies:

  • Taking care of the metabolism and hormonal balance through sound training and nutrition practices.
  • Pre-screening potential clients for the mental toughness it takes to compete at such a high level.
  • Assisting competitors get back to a maintainable lifestyle post-show.

Fitness competitions hold a special place in my heart and I encourage anyone who thinks they can do it to go for it. I learned so many things about myself through my years of competing.

Stephanie’s Competition History

2011 WBFF World Championships Fitness Model, Top 5; Bikini Model, Top 10
2011 Fitness America Pageant, New England, Bikini & Figure, 4th
2010 WBFF World Championships Figure, 3rd
2010 Fitness Universe Pageant, Miami, Bikini & Figure, Top 10
2008 Fitness America Pageant, New York, Bikini & Figure, Top 10
2008 Fitness Universe Pageant, Miami, Bikini & Figure, Top 10
2008 Fitness America Pageant, Atlantic, Bikini, 3rd PlaceStephanie Ward Fitness Keenan

Visit my photo gallery here.

Listen here where Janelle shares her 9+ years of experience in the industry, training/diet style, and what it REALLY takes to step onto that stage.

stop chasing skinny podcast


Show Notes

Describe your ideal client and why. This sport is way more of a mental game than people realize.


Having a client that is willing to trust me and be open minded to my suggestions throughout the process. I always hold my clients best interest at heart, I don’t just diet clients to get them smaller, I truly care about their well being from the inside then the outside package, therefore If I don’t think your ready for the stage mentally never mind just physically I will work with you through the process to make the journey a lifelong success!  A client that is wanting to transform for the right reasons is important too! You’ll gain confidence in all aspects of your life with this sport if it’s done correctly under the right guidance. I’ve worked with everyone from women with past and current eating disorders to athletes who have a drive like no other as well as all different body types and personal needs. A coach should be able to customize a program for YOU and that is just what I do to help my clients succeed.

What is the difference between general fitness and training for a competition? My lifestyle programs are geared towards achieving that athletic look but that is still very different from competitive fitness.


Training for a fitness competition takes a lot of mental toughness! You will realize things about yourself and your strength as a whole that you never thought you would, which is truly why I love this sport! The training is a bit different as you go through a series of phases on my programming to built the physique to it’s most symmetrical structure. It’s like artwork! You may not have the best legs, but we will fight those genetics to get them, you may not have a booty, but I will take you through a series of techniques to round and lift it (ps they don’t call me the booty whisper for nothing haha). Ultimately we will work to build YOUR best SELF from the inside out! I have a variety of techniques for my build phases (without requiring you to gain xx amount of weight), cutting phases and then the final shred phase for the stage! It’s such an awesome process to learn what you and your body is capable of with dedication!

Please describe a day in the life of a physique athlete off-season and an athlete who is within just a few weeks of a competition. Please share your training philosophies… talk about some common things you see people doing wrong, etc.


In season utilizing food for fuel for your lifts and conditioning is very important. So learning nutrient timing around those times is key. A big misconception out there in the industry is that more is better in regards to exercise and cardio and less is more in regards to food. This couldn’t be more wrong! I work with my clients to help you understand why you need your certain amount of macro and micro nutrients to see changes in your body. Why Good fats & good carbs should not be extremely dropped when competing and why BCAA’s and certain supplements for some to ensure you are getting in enough vital nutrients.  I also like to utilize refeeds even in prep so you aren’t over dieted and then want to go binge either. This is also a great trick for the body to respond in a diet phase when done right and timed right!  In the off season I also set perameters for my clients to know how much of a healthy range of macro-nutrients (protein, carbs, fats) as well as refeeds and any treats they should have in order to really see the progress they strive for even though the stage may not be near. It’s important to live your life and not stress about food, but it is also important to know why you should not have crap food in your body like yellow #5 and other chemicals that are in a lot of food out there, and know that if you are working hard in the gym, eating to fuel your goals is important to feel good too!

So many people compare themselves to cover models on fitness magazines as their goal as an every day look. How is this potentially damaging and what is the real deal on what fitness models look like when they are not on stage or prepped for a photo shoot? I feel like once someone realizes just what it takes to look like that cover model, it is easier to understand what the picture of health looks like. I hear the phrase, “it must be nice” all the time.. until they see exactly what goes into it.


Cover models are often not an attainable look, a lot of them shoot when they are “show ready” or diet for a few weeks to get there and might even deplete a bit to get that look. You also have to remember there are  technology tricks to help highlight them even more than in real life. I’m not saying they all are, but please recognize that this look is not an everyday one even for some of the best of them.For the ones that do look like that all of the time which is rare, they work extremely hard to be at that leanness, often not having any “treats” or straying from a day at the gym. cardio conditioning and weights daily (6 days a week) is most likely used.

If someone has been considering competing, what are the steps they need to take?


I suggest using a coach! If it’s not me, then please do your research on a coaching style that fits your needs but someone that can also guide you too! They should be able to customize a program for you because not everyone is the same even though the end goal is in a way. They should ask you a series of questions about you and your needs also to create this plan. I personally look at client food logs to make sure I create a custom plan for you! Same with training. If you are someone who only lifts light weights a few times a week and doesn’t know your way around the gym too much yet, I will not design a crazy 6 day plan for you that you won’t stick with.   A coach should also be able to guide you to know what federation and division is best for you too as well as help guide you to suit and theme suggestions and designers and sites too. Posing is also an extremely important part, knowing how to have confidence on that stage and make those judges fall in love with you is not easy! I myself spend a lot of time with my clients on posing in person and via skype! I do encourage you to watch some shows and videos on youtube and see what federations you might personally like. But then a coach will also help you determine the best fit for you, some have more age divisions like 45+ and others have more divisions like a commercial model division and model division for those not looking for a really strong fitness look, but more of an attainable fit model look year round.

Please describe your coaching services and how people can find more information about you.


My Competition Prep program is a custom designed program using a holistic approach! This program is for those looking to compete in a fitness, model, bikini or a figure competition. It doesn’t matter if you want to compete in 3 months or a year, this program will take you there and myself and my team will guide you through the proper phases you need to get to the stage such as building, cutting and shred phases as well as the reverse diet to back you out from a show to a healthy attainable look year round! All of my training and nutrition is custom to your individual needs and also offers the following:
  • Weekly check-in with your coach
  • individualized meal/macro & micro nutrient planning in all phases of prep (as well as guidance on re-feeds, treats etc. specific to the client)
  • bi-weekly protocols starting at 12 weeks out where Janelle will walk you through what needs to be changed/adjusted nutritionally
  • monthly workouts custom designed for your goals; build, cut, shred, peak week
  • BA manual with everything you need to know about federations, divisions, what you need and more!
  • access to the energetic BA private show prep facebook page filled with motivation, inspiration, recipes, supplemental workouts, show info and more from other like-minded individuals on the program
  • guidance choosing suits, theme wear, gowns, jewelry & photo shoot looks
  • connections with approved BA vendors for hair, make-up and tanning and photo shoots
  • scheduled team calls for support, show info and motivation
  • access to the BA mobile app
  • COMING NOVEMBER…Members area access on
I will also be holding my annual “Strut & Sweat Seminar” on Jan 17-18th 2015!  A weekend full of everything you need to know when looking to compete as well as some special quests and designers in the industry! Sign up via email or on our website in November! You can learn more about our team at our website our Facebook page Body Ambition Fitness (link: ), Instagram @BodyAmbitionFitness and Twitter @BodyAmbitionFit
Feel free to email me personally at also
I look forward to working with you and helping you reach your goals of the stage!