How to Become a Fitness Model, According to Real Fitness Models

Instagram @suzannecover

So, you want to be a fitness model? Apparently, you’re not alone. According to Google’s recently released data on what the world is searching for on the Internet, there’s a lot of interest in becoming a fitness model. You know, as in those people who make deadlifting their body weight and doing pull-ups look absolutely effortless. From the outside, it doesn’t really seem like that hard a job, especially if you’re already really into fitness. But we decided to talk to some real fitness models to find out what it’s like to work in the industry. You might be surprised just how much hard work goes into it. (Related: I Make a Living As a Fitness Model On Instagram)

How to Get Discovered

The first thing you need to do to work as a fitness model (just like any other model) is to get discovered. While some models go to open calls or contact modeling agents directly, the two fitness models we talked to had much less traditional paths to starting their careers. Alex Silver-Fagan, NYC trainer, yoga teacher, and Wilhelmina fitness model actually got discovered while she was training for a bikini competition. “At the end of my senior year of college, I started to prep for a bikini competition, which is a bodybuilding show,” she told us. “I trained and dieted very intensely for three months. Part of this process usually includes a photo shoot, to create images and memories of how your body looks-lean and shredded.” Long story short, after Alex had her photos taken, the photographer she worked with insisted that she send her photos to an agent in NYC. “The rest is history,” she says. “Along with studying to be a trainer and a group fitness instructor, I began doing photo shoots to build my portfolio and eventually began booking jobs.” (You’ve seen her modeling workouts like this one in the pages of Shape!) But she didn’t make it big immediately. “I spent a year with a smaller agency before Wilhelmina finally offered to sign me. What people don’t realize is that sometimes you have to start small and work really hard, before being recognized by some of the bigger-name agencies,” she explains.

Suzanne Cover, who is also signed to Wilhelmina, has had an even more unconventional path to the fitness modeling industry, and her story has everything to do with social media. “I never thought I’d be a fitness model! I was ‘discovered’ on Instagram by a smaller fitness agency just a year ago,” she says. “I was honeymooning in the Caribbean and in my post-wedding loopiness, posted a photo of myself wearing a bikini bottom and a real-life starfish bra. As in, I came across some live starfish while snorkeling and just went for it. The photo was reposted by the bikini brand I was wearing, and a handful of fitspo accounts. The next thing I knew, a modeling agency reached out to me.” So basically, it was fate. But the confidence to move ahead with the idea didn’t come immediately. “It took nearly three weeks for me to even work up the courage to make an appointment, but I finally did and went in for an interview. It was 100 percent conversation: no measurements, bikini appearances, or photos, which was what I had been fearful of those foolish three weeks I didn’t respond!” Since Suzanne didn’t have a portfolio, the agency recommended that she book some test shoots to build one up. “I booked my first job right away, and after being pressured to sign a contract I didn’t understand-something everyone should be careful about-I asked a friend of a friend for industry advice. She suggested I reach out to Wilhelmina Fitness before signing anything, which I did, and was offered a contract by them shortly after.”

The Day to Day of a Fitness Model

Once you get signed, the hard work really begins. Shoot days are fun, but they also can be grueling. On days when you’re not shooting, you may be working another job, like Alex who is a trainer and teaches all kinds of awesome classes in NYC, or Suzanne, a former Wall Streeter who is a sommelier and runs her own wine consulting business. But on a shoot day, what can you expect? First, an early call time. “I typically get a workout in early in the morning before my call time,” says Alex. “This is simply because shoot days are very draining and I know that by the time ‘wrap’ is called, I will just want to go home and go to sleep! Sometimes I also have to head to the gym to teach a class or train a client after the shoot, so I like to know that my own sweat session is done for the day.”

Next comes hair and makeup. “Every shoot starts with hair and makeup, which still feels like a treat to me and is a nice way to decompress from the must-arrive-on-time transportation hustle,” explains Suzanne. “At some point, the creative director or trainer stops by to walk you through the shot list for the day. Then you’ll visit wardrobe, have another hair and makeup touch-up, and you’re in front of a camera.”

Now, the real work starts. “As a fitness model, more often than not ‘shooting’ involves some sort of exercise and is typically pretty physically taxing,” says Alex. Suzanne agrees, saying, “I recently shot a campaign for Technogym’s new stair-stepper and must have run two long flights of stairs, full speed, no less than 50 times-all for a five-second clip in the commercial!” Yep, that’s a lot of stairs. “The finished product was a full two minutes in length to give you an idea how much work goes into it. I couldn’t walk normally for days afterwards!” Ouch.

The Challenges of Being a Fitness Model

Aside from the physical challenges that fitness models face on set, there are some other obstacles they’re constantly dealing with. Number one? Always having a camera-ready body. “I would obviously stay in shape year round regardless of if I was a model or not, because I’m a trainer, I love fitness, and I also love treating my body well,” says Alex. Even so, there’s “basically just a constant pressure to always have abs and to always look a certain way.” Plus, being compared to others at castings based on your physical traits takes some getting used to. “Sometimes you just simply aren’t right for the role or the particular job and you have to be okay with that. It’s not just a job, it becomes a part of your entire life,” she says. Plus, confidence is key, even when you know you’re being judged. “There is so much more to modeling than just being pretty in front of a camera, and I didn’t fully appreciate this coming into the industry,” says Suzanne. “Body awareness and, more importantly, confidence, is essential. If you don’t step in front of that camera not just telling yourself, but actually believing you are Sasha Fierce, it’s going to show and you’re not going to get the job.”

In addition to looking great, you also need to be able to execute at a high level physically. “People don’t understand that most fitness models are hired because we can physically perform a lot of exercises and have endurance for what is required on shoots,” Alex explains. It’s not just that fitness models look stronger than regular models, they actually are. “We’ll be able to do the 20 push-ups necessary for the perfect shot, or run around your set for almost a mile just to get the perfect running image. It’s not just about having abs, it’s also about being fit and being able to move well.”

Another tough aspect? You’re always on call. “The last-minute nature of the industry can be very challenging,” notes Suzanne. “I rarely know my schedule in advance, which can make it difficult to make commitments in my personal life. There is often same-day notice for castings and sometimes only one-day notice for job bookings.” And then there’s the fact that as a model, you’re basically a freelancer. “Until you’ve been at it for a while, the paycheck is not consistent,” says Suzanne. “Sometimes you kill it and sometimes it’s crickets. Fortunately, my wine consulting company keeps me pretty busy, which makes it easier to take slow periods in stride.” Sounds like having a side hustle is pretty essential in this line of business.

The Perks of Being a Fitness Model

Though it’s a tough job, the doors that fitness modeling can open are undeniably awesome. “Fitness modeling has introduced me to a lot of amazing people who work behind the scenes in the fitness industry, and thus gotten me more modeling jobs as well as ‘contributing’ jobs as a trainer,” Alex says. “One of the coolest things for me is being able to provide fitness content, whether that be tips or even a workout, and then being able to model that myself. I hope that modeling continues to help me network with more people and really brand myself as a trainer first, and as a model second.” Suzanne notes that while she’s not too sure how it happened, modeling has accelerated her career as a wine expert. She says she has more opportunities than ever before, and may even be venturing into other forms of media, like television.

The Bottom Line Advice If You Want to Become a Fitness Model

If you’ve made it this far and you still want to be a fitness model, here’s the advice our girls have for you: “Take care of your body and try to keep in mind that even though your job is to look a certain way, fitness in general isn’t all about aesthetics,” says Alex. “Keep the joy in your movement.” And if you’re trying to get signed to an agency, reach out to local photographers and start to build your portfolio. “You have to have some sort of baseline before an agent will consider you. It’s also good to gain experience behind the camera and figure out what it’s like to move for a photograph and to work with different photographers.”

More than anything, Suzanne says you need to “just get out of your own way and do it. Start your portfolio. Go to an open call or submit your photos to an agency. Send those emails! You’re already fit enough, pretty enough, toned enough, tall enough-you already have everything. I really think the fitness industry is trying to become more representative of all types of bodies these days.” Don’t be afraid of rejection either. It’s just part of the deal. “No one books every casting,” she says. “If you let ‘no’ stop you before you’re even in the door, how can you ever expect to make it as a model?”

And one last thing: “Find a buddy with a camera and go shoot together. Practice. Again and again and again. Those glamazons that look fabulous no matter what they’re doing are experienced, not gifted freaks of nature who woke up perfect. A good model really knows what poses and angles look good on their body and is not shy about working it,” Suzanne says. You’ve got to practice to get to that level, just like anything else.

What It’s Really Like to Be a Fitness Model

Photo: Alex Palombo

Admittedly, it can be a hard habit to break: Opening Instagram, looking at the toned, acne-free models in perfect form and thinking, “Ugh, she’s fit; she’s got abs; her life must be perfect.”

While comparing your body (or life!) to someone else’s is sure to do more harm than good (it’s proven, in fact), there’s one thing you probably overlook: Many of these women do this for a living. Trainers, influencers, and yes, athleisure-clad fitness models make a living by exercising. Waking up every day to sculpt a six-pack is quite literally what gets them that “glamorous” gig shooting photos for the latest Nika sports bra.

But it’s still, well, a job. We asked NYC-based fitness model Chelsea Aguiar, founder of Athaya Fitness, to tell us what it’s really like being a fitness model.

Secret #1: Rejection happens every day, multiple times a day.

“For every 100 casting calls you go to, you may get two jobs,” says Aguiar, who has been modeling consistently for about four years. Growing up as a dancer in Santa Fe, NM, Aguiar had to get comfortable with criticism and rejection when she wouldn’t get a part. Then as an adult, when she found a love of strength training and entered a bodybuilding competition in 2011, her physique was once again on display for critique from a new audience, so she had to learn to put any self-doubt in the back of her head. (DYK that more and more women are trying to gain muscle through diet and exercise?)

While she decided to move to NYC to pursue acting, she began taking more fitness classes while auditioning, and it was then that she realized her passion for fitness. She became a personal trainer, and from there, heard about colleagues who also worked as fitness models. She’s been focused on that ever since, but Aguiar is quick to point out that her career hasn’t exactly been easy.

“It was rejection over and over and over again. Some companies brought me in five times only to say no once more,” she says.

So while you may flip through a magazine or see a commercial on TV and think how good the girl with rock-hard abs must have it, Aguiar says what most people wouldn’t know is that she and other models have been told they looked “wrong” hundreds of times before they booked one single job.

“I’m five-foot-six, and definitely one of the shorter girls at most castings,” admits Aguiar. “I’ve even been released from jobs before for being an only inch or two too short.”

Secret #2: Fitness models have insecurities, too.

Soon after Aguiar entered the industry, she realized the harsh reality that professional fitness models have just as many insecurities as the next girl. Hey, their bodies are constantly being picked apart.

For Aguiar, she says she’s been working on the relationship she has with her body her whole life. “I remember getting my period at 11 and all of a sudden being highly concerned with how my body looked in clothes, what people thought about it, and how it compared to my friends’.”

And even models aren’t immune to bullying. “In middle school, a boy in my class pointed out to everyone that I had hairy arms, and the boys teased me for it until I graduated high school,” she says. “I still get embarrassed when I notice it in pictures.”

Although studying dance for more than a decade growing up ultimately helped her develop a connection to her body that has guided her modeling and fitness prowess, doing pliés in front of a mirror five nights a week made Aguiar wish she had “smaller shoulders, less muscular arms, thinner thighs, and higher arches in my feet.”

“What changed this loop of negativity for me was realizing that people’s opinions of me only matter if I allow them to,” she says. Her go-to solution for overcoming nagging insecurities: yoga and friends. If it’s been a rough day, she says she gets out of her head with a long, relaxing yoga class or group run with other women who make her laugh and inspire her.

” really hard, so it’s essential to have a strong sense of self, and remove your heart from those situations,” she says. “Nothing in life is assured. You have to work hard, show up every day, be your best, and be open and warm.”

Secret #3: There’s no such thing as dieting.

Cheat day? Psh. Taking a week off of training? Yeah, probably not. For fitness models, staying in shape means that weekends of overdoing the takeout and mixed drinks are off the table. Aguiar, who fully admits to not shying away from a pizza, says that kind of willpower can be difficult.

But when the struggle gets real, she says she remembers why she sticks to a healthy diet…and it’s not just for her career. “I eat as preventative medicine and because it makes me feel my best, not because of my job,” she says.

Aguiar is also quick to dispell any rumors that fitness models (or any model for that matter) just don’t eat or go from starving themselves to binging between jobs. “There’s no such thing as dieting between jobs, says Aguiar. “You can’t yo-yo diet because of the frequency of auditions,” she says. “It’s often 12 hours of notice or getting a surprise call to jump on a train to shoot with Reebok the next morning. You don’t have the liberty of preparation.” (Here’s what SI swimsuit model Nina Agdal has to say about food and fitness.)

Secret #4: You need to perform like an athlete.

There is a lot of pressure to be the first to nail the technique of the latest workout trend or do mid-air splits to capture the best photo, says Aguiar. “It’s overwhelming and scary,” she says. “Every day there’s pressure to learn a new skill or a new trick to add to your résumé. The more you can do with confidence and ease, the greater your chances of booking that next job.”

So much like a professional athlete, it’s Aguiar’s job to nail that headstand or crush those box jumps. “Training two hours a day, six days a week isn’t always fun,” says Aguiar. “Healthy doesn’t have to look like me. This is a pretty extreme end of fitness.”

But even then, if you nail the form, the nutrition, the diet, and the skills needed to book a job, that still doesn’t mean you’ll get it. “This week I lost a big job to a dear friend of mine, and I was crushed at first,” she admits. “It was complementary of my skills as an athlete, and I had felt confident and comfortable during the audition process. When I first heard she booked it, I had myself a little pity party. ‘Why not me?’ Then I realized, I didn’t lose this job because I was inadequate. I lost this job because my friend is a badass and was the best woman suited for the job. It’s important to remember that the strengths of others do not diminish your own.”

Secret #5: You need to earn your success.

At only 5 feet 6 inches, Aguiar walked into a talent management agency at 24 years old thinking “This is my big break!” “I had been dieting so hard and was turned down almost immediately,” she says. “I was heartbroken. But looking back, it was a blessing in disguise because it allowed me time to cultivate fitness and wellness as a lifestyle, and build my portfolio.”

Instead of throwing in the towel, Aguiar started a fitness Instagram account. “I researched the types of activities and photos that were in the magazines I hoped to one day be featured in,” she explains. “Then I reached out to every photographer and model tagged on the magazine’s Instagram and asked if they would be willing to collaborate or do a ‘test shoot’ with me.”

After two years of hoping it would all pay off, her hard work finally did when she was invited to Wilhelmina. “This time they called me,” she says with pride. “And I left with a contract.”

Secret #6: Yes, fitness models support the body-positive movement.

More brands are beginning to use models of all different body types (*confetti*), embracing real, beautiful female bodies in campaigns from Aerie, featuring gorgeous it-girl Iskra Lawrence, or Addition Elle’s NOLA activewear line promoted by models Ashley Graham and Jordyn Woods. Even Nike is finally getting real by offering plus sizes and promoting the idea that beauty and strength come in more sizes than one.

And Aguiar is all about it. Particularly, she says she’s inspired by Athleta for representing women of not only different body types but of multiple generations and ethnicities, too. “Their Instagram gives me the girl-power feels,” she says. “And the athlete in me loves Reebok’s imagery, from CrossFit, to yoga, combat, and dance. They promote athletic physiques across multiple disciplines.”

In fact, Aguiar says that fitness modeling has become the greatest platform for so many strong, confident women to take ownership of what beauty and health really mean.

“We absolutely need to expand the range of body types represented in advertising and media,” she continues. “It’s important that as the fitness industry continues to expand, we don’t reinforce misconceptions of what ‘ideal health’ looks like.”

  • By By Jahla Seppanen

Want the Body of a Fitness Model? Find Out What it Really Takes

My good friend Kelly Booth is a NSCA-certified personal trainer and fitness instructor. We met in college (since we had the same major) and worked together as trainers and fitness instructors during school. Kelly has always been fit. She has toned arms, a trim waist, and can kick my butt in the weight room. She even trained for a marathon and ran it all by herself. Obviously, she’s dedicated to fitness.
A few years ago, Kelly shocked her friends and family when she decided to compete in a women’s figure competition. Unlike female bodybuilding, figure competitors aren’t as muscular—they’re strong but feminine. But according to most people’s standards, they’re still pretty ripped. Kelly looked great and was already fit, so I wondered why she wanted to change her body so much. Even though they look like the epitome of fitness, male and female body builders alike do some not-so-healthy things—food restriction, dehydration, overtraining and more. Luckily, Kelly is a smart girl and an experienced trainer. She also had her best friend on board to train with her, as well as an experienced coach to guide her through it.
Over the course of several months, I watched as her body transformed—she developed larger, stronger muscles; reduced her body fat; increased her definition; and suffered through some major dietary restrictions (I’ve never felt to guilty about eating in front of someone!) to reach her goals. I’ll never forget when she told me, “I have abs now; it’s kind of disgusting,” she laughed. After seven months of hard workouts and diligent dieting, she placed sixth in her class during her very first competition! Go Kelly!
I realize that most of you probably don’t want to be body builders or land the cover of a muscle magazine. But most of you DO want to drop body fat, increase muscle tone and look better. I think we often compare ourselves to the women on magazine covers and then lament about our fat thighs or belly rolls in comparison. But what does it really take to look like THEM? And more importantly, is looking like that worth the suffering it takes to get there? I decided to interview Kelly about her experience, and she told me straight up, without sugarcoating it, exactly what how hard it was to stick to her strict diet, what her workouts were like, and how she felt about her body before and after her transformation.

Here’s a photo of Kelly before she trained for the competition.


You looked great before you trained for the figure competition. What was your body like “before” and what did your workouts look like?
At 5’2-1/4″, (that quarter inch is important!), I weighed about 106 pounds and had 24% body fat. I worked out 5 times a week. I alternated between upper and lower body strength training. I would do cardio at least 4 times a week for 45 minutes or so. I also taught fitness classes: Spinning (2 times a week), toning classes (4 times a week) and Pilates (3 times a week). Although I taught many classes, I never considered them part of my workouts. Including them, I probably exercised more than an hour per day 6-7 days per week. Overall, I was happy with my body. If I wasn’t doing competitions, I would have never changed anything.

What was your diet like then? Did you count calories? Did you watch what you ate?
I ate what the average person would think was healthy. Sure, I’d eat ice cream and cookies or whatever, but in moderation. I ate balanced meals, but I didn’t count calories or anything. I ate when I was hungry—whatever I felt like eating at the time.
How did you become interested in bodybuilding?
Since I had been in college, I missed competitive sports (like I played in high school). I did run a marathon, but I’m not a runner! I like lifting. My friend said, “Why don’t you do a figure bodybuilding show?” I already thought I looked toned, but I didn’t realize I wasn’t “muscular” enough for figure competition. So, I started to train! I trained for 7 months, trying to gain more muscle.
What specifically is the type of competition that you did?
In female bodybuilding, there are three categories. First is body building (when you get extremely muscular and you do all the poses that the male bodybuilders do). Then there’s figure, which is what I did. You’re more feminine and you do all the “manly” poses, but you do quarter turns and a “relaxed” modeling pose. Women on the cover of Oxygen magazine—most of those girls are “figure girls” in real life. You stand there and try to look pretty. Then there’s a fitness category, which is like a gymnastics routine, but they also have to do the quarter turns too—it’s more in depth than figure, but the body shape is similar. Oh, and there’s a new category called “bikini,” which is a fit-looking girl without being dehydrated or striated. These are more “model” bodies, like on the cover of more mainstream fitness magazines like Shape.
During the first 4 months of your training, you were in a strength-building phase. What was it like?
I lifted weights 5 days a week, but did hardly any cardio (3 times a week for 30 minutes). I worked on one muscle group per day for no longer than an hour. We were lifting extremely heavy weights with low reps (no more than 8). The goal was to gain muscle—as much as possible—and because I’m a female, I can’t get extremely bulky. It takes a while. I followed the same routine for 2 months, then changed it for the last 2 months.
During the strength phase, I tried to eat healthy, but I just ate MORE of those healthy foods. I ate more calories to help my body build muscle. I started to eat oatmeal and eggs in the morning (as most bodybuilders do). I got in a routine of eating every 3 hours, so, 5 meals a day and 2 of them were protein shakes. I didn’t have to eat a lot more protein because I naturally ate a lot of protein before. But I did become more conscious of measuring things. And I didn’t just eat when I was hungry. I had to eat even when I wasn’t hungry!
After 4 months, I gained 10 pounds. I probably gained about 3 pounds of fat and seven pounds of muscle. Probably a lot of it was water though because muscles contain so much water.

Below is a photo of Kelly training during her strength-building phase.


Are these results typical?
I think it is if you stick with it. The training was a big part—I never missed a day.
What came after the strength phase?
We had to maintain our muscle mass and drop our body fat for the show itself. They say it should be 12%-16% for females, which is pretty low, but it all depends on the person. Some people can look like their body fat is 20% and be 30%. I “held my fat” pretty well, in my opinion. I don’t hold it in my stomach—I hold it in my legs, like most women tend to.
Our workouts changed focus from building muscle to maintaining muscle and dropping fat. We did more reps (12-15) but we still tried to lift heavy weights for upper body. On legs, we changed completely—high reps to failure (20-30 reps) of leg exercises, because we didn’t want to make our legs bigger. We did cardio 4 times a week for 30 minutes, and that gradually increased every 2 weeks until we reached 60 minutes of cardio 6 times a week on top of our strength training.
What was your diet like at that time?
Three months before competition, I stopped eating bread. I limited myself to 1,400 calories a day. I would only eat oatmeal (in the morning), eggs, chicken, protein shakes, sweet potatoes, more chicken, broccoli, some almond butter or avocado (for healthy fats), tuna or fish and salads (spinach, bell peppers, broccoli, and fat-free dressing with less than 6 grams of sugar). I ate like this for 6 weeks straight. You are not supposed to cheat at all—no going out to eat. No sugar. Very few carbs—oatmeal, sweet potato, brown rice—that’s it.
It gets worse. Six weeks out, I followed a stricter diet, which was basically no carbs, except on a “carb-load day” twice a week, when I’d have a banana, sweet potato, oatmeal, almond butter, and green beans. The purpose of carb-loading is to give yourself energy until you can carb load again. This is when I saw my body fat start to drop.
I’m bored just thinking about it…
I would try to spice it up a little bit. I came up with different salads and seasonings. I liked to make my own dressings for all the salads. My mom helped me come up with recipes. I like to cook so I came up with creative ways to enjoy what I was allowed to have. If you’re not creative with your meals, it’s extremely boring. I was always thinking of new ways to make the foods I could eat.
To be honest, I never cheated in that 6 weeks. When I felt low on carbs, I’d eat a Luna bar for carbs (I had like 4 over the course of 6 weeks). That satisfied my chocolate fix and gave me more energy. I never ate ice cream. I never ate a cookie. I kept it fun by changing up my meals. I took expensive vitamins, too.
How did your body change after this phase?
My body fat dropped extremely fast. In 6 weeks, it dropped from 24% to 19.8%. I weighed 112. I did get bigger, according to my measurements. My waist went up to 25-1/2 inches during my strength-building phase, but when I was “cutting,” it went down to 22 inches. My overall body proportions didn’t change a lot. And I don’t have boobs anymore. They went away…and I don’t think they’re coming back!

Below is a photo of Kelly (complete with spray tan and custom-fit suit) on the day of the show! Note the difference between this “show” look at her photo at the top, which is what she looks like on a day-to-day basis.


1,400 calories is not a lot when you’re following such a strenuous workout routine. How did you feel during all of this food restriction and heavy exercising?
On the strict diet, I could tell a difference. I felt really out of it (my brain needs carbs). Once, I lost my phone for 2 hours, and I was talking to myself, looking everywhere for it, and it was right in front of me. I wasn’t tired, but I got a lot of sleep. I did drink some black coffee or green tea for energy (and for something other than water, which I drank a gallon of each day). I was really carb-depleted. I felt weak and couldn’t work out as hard. And I was moody! Sometimes I wouldn’t want to talk to anyone. I could only stand talking to certain people, like my workout partner and my trainer—because they were the only ones who understood how I felt and what I was going through.
Is this healthy?
Well, it’s looked at like a sport. It’s not something you can maintain. The diet I was on, you should never do more than 6 weeks.
For the average person who just wants to look better, is a nutrition and fitness plan like this realistic? It doesn’t seem healthy for the average person.
It’s not! And competitors who follow it should never do it for very long. This is not a weight loss diet. This is a competitive body builder’s diet. I’m a personal trainer, and I would NEVER put a client on this diet. The first week I was on this diet, I felt like I was going into shock. I felt like my brain was trembling in my skull! I worked with a trainer who is a bodybuilder who could help supervise me, and help me know when it was OK or not.
But to look like that and have that definition and such low body fat, there is no other way than to restrict your diet and work out. It’s not one or the other—it’s the whole package. You can’t look at food as a pleasure. You have to look at it as energy to your body, fueling your body.
I have to ask: What is the first thing you ate after the show was over?
I ate a Reese’s Cup, a Rise Krispies treat, LaRosa’s pizza . The next morning I went to a brunch buffet. I had a little bit of everything: waffles, muffin tops, scallops, black raspberry chip ice cream (that ice cream hit the spot!), chocolate chips on my waffle with whipped cream, some vegetables, a lot of fruit, some cookies. I did an extreme carb overload. They recommend not to “binge,” but to eat some stuff that you want. Don’t go crazy. Eat what you’re craving. But then, you have to get back on to your normal diet. You don’t want to go all crazy with cookies—your body is so malnourished that it will absorb everything you eat!
Would you do it again?
I did like it. I am doing another one. My next goal is to define my abs more (on stage) and define my legs more and get bigger lats. I liked the competition. All the women I met were like me—they’re crazy ! In between competitions, I am going to go back to a less restrictive diet, though. My goal is to get my “pro” card. I’m going to eat a piece of pizza if I’m not “cutting” to prepare for a competition. For the most part, I’ll stick with eating clean. But there’s nothing wrong with enjoying other foods like ice cream in moderation.
Here’s a photo of Kelly and her training partner Kirsten backstage at the competition.


Special thanks to Kelly Booth for the photos and interview! Congratulations on your accomplishments!
Would you be willing to stick to a diet and workout routine like Kelly’s to achieve the fit, defined body of your dreams? Do you think it’s worth it?

How to Be a Fitness Model (or just look like one)

Advice from a real life fitness model.

I recently was contacted by one of my fans who was writing about how much she loved POP Pilates when I found out that she was a fitness model too! I was intrigued and invited her to do an interview with me. I think you guys will love getting a peak into a real fitness model’s diet and workout routine. We may not all be from the pages of SHAPE or Maxim, but we can surely do what we can to look it! Introducing the beautiful and super fit M.C.! (What a cool name)

Name: M.C. Barao

Age: 31

Weight: 110 lbs.

Height: 5’4”

Ethnicity: Filipino

C: Why did you decide to go into fitness modeling? How long have you been doing this?

M: I didn’t pursue modeling until after college. I already had a job and a daily routine, but I wanted something more fulfilling. I was one of the girls that would look in magazines, see billboards and posters and say “I want to do that! Be that!!”. Being one of the girls chosen to help promote a product was so alluring. The desire to become a model grew daily. An opportunity presented itself through a local magazine’s model search. I thought to myself, here’s your chance – do something! I went to the open call not knowing what to expect. As soon as I stepped through the doors my confidence was crushed. Every single one of the girls were taller, beautiful and had way more modeling experience. When I finally got over that silliness, I started focusing on what I can do to stick out in my own way. I sure can’t make myself taller – the one and only thing I had complete control over was fitness. That same day, I started replacing my meals with healthy options and got a gym membership. I worked so sO SO hard and it paid off. I made it to the FINALS! I suddenly found myself focused on just winning… then (pause for effect) …got 1st Runner Up…

I was devastated. At that moment, it didn’t even occur to me that I met so many wonderful people in the modeling industry, made new friends and gained my first modeling experience – which was what I wanted in the first place. I know now that I focused on the wrong thing at the time. So for the next 3 months, I didn’t step into a gym and ate unhealthy meals and lost all my muscle that I worked so hard to build and gained 10 additional lbs….

One day, I was going through some photos from a party I went to – and I saw one of me! I didn’t even recognize myself. Needless to say, it wasn’t the most flattering shot. I went from having a fit and tone body to having a muffin top. Just from seeing that photo, it was as if a switch turned on in my head. I told myself, “Self.. don’t EVER waste the hard work you went through… learn from from all experiences no matter the outcome.” I didn’t care how hard it was going to be to get back on track – I wasn’t happy with myself and was determined to do something about it. After 5 months of healthy eating habits and exercising, I was back, BABY! This was the moment I decided to be a fitness model.

I’m happy to say that 2011 is my 3rd year promoting fitness 🙂

C: What is the best way to break into the fitness modeling world?

M: It’s not as difficult as some may think. Fitness models’ resume are their bodies and the way they carry themselves. If you look and feel like you can promote fitness, then it’s easy to persuade others that you can do the job. All the opportunities that came my way were the result of researching and networking. I recently moved to NYC to kick up my fitness modeling another notch! I want to find an agency who will be a great fit 🙂 As soon as I find a great agency, I will share with you as to which I prefer… finding my own opportunities or working with agencies.

In the meantime, when you are presented an opportunity to promote what you believe in – GO FOR IT! You’ll never regret doing anything you believe in. I must say, every single modeling experience I’ve done that I was so scared of doing was THE most exciting times of my life…. and it all started with being petrified… HAHA!

C: What is your sample meal plan and sample workout plan when preparing for a photoshoot?

M: Cardio is key – biking and elliptical are my faves (plus they’re easy on the knees). For about a week, I do 45 minutes in the morning when the metabolism rate is at it’s peak. I hold off on weight/strength training until after so that I won’t be sore on the day of the photo shoot.

Sample meal plan:

Bfast: Protein shake (Currently, I’m drinking Optimum Nutrition Cookies n’ Cream) Bowl of oatmeal with walnuts, almonds, cranberries and raisins

Mid-morning snack: My fave snack is a banana with a some fresh strawberries (try Driscoll’s strawberries – each batch is always perfectly sweet!)

Lunch: Mixed green salad with fat-free vinaigrette dressing topped with roasted almonds -OR- A whole wheat sandwich with grilled chicken, spinach and sun-dried tomato spread.

Mid-afternoon snack: Hand full of orange cuties, pineapples, grapes or a banana. Yogurt 🙂 (my absolute fave is the low-fat Wallaby Dark Chocolate… ahhh I want one right now)

Dinner: Mixed greens (they have these pre-packed and pre-washed at your local grocery store – pick your fave! Mine are the ‘Baby Greens’) topped with toasted almonds and grilled chicken or salmon.

C: What is your sample daily diet with no show or shoot in place?

M: Bfast: Protein Shake Bowl of cereal (I love me some Trader Joe’s Very Berry Clusters cereal. It was oat clusters, multigrain and corn flakes, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries – YUM!)

Mid-morning snack: You guessed it… bananas and strawberries 🙂

Lunch: A whole wheat sandwich with grilled chicken, spinach and sun-dried tomato spread/or pesto 🙂 I also like the grilled chicken or grilled tofu teriyaki they have at Whole Foods. They tend to give about 1.5 servings so for $7.00 you get a little more than a meal! Perhaps a mini snack for later… YESSS!

Mid-afternoon snack: Dark chocolate yogurt :9 with fresh strawberries

Dinner: Ahi-tuna, salmon or grilled chicken with brown rice and steamed veggies. (Pick up your favorite protein and marinate it with a little lemon juice, olive oil and favorite seasonings) Add a side mixed baby green salad and I’m all set!

I center my meals around chicken and fish then add salad, whole grains and fruit as sides. Combined with multi-vitamins and a protein shake post work out will help you feed your muscles and nourish your body 🙂

C: What’s your favorite healthy meal?

M: Quinoa Salad with Avocado Dressing from ‘sNice… sooo gooooood

C: What’s your favorite bad food!?

M: UGHhhh… Cassey you had to ask, now I’ll be thinking about it all day 😛 I LOVE LOVE LOVE mint chocolate chip ice cream on a waffle cone…. yummy!

C: Have you always been fit?

M: Most of my life I’ve never been too thin or overweight – just right in the middle and far from having a tone body. It took a lot of work for me, but once I focused on my goal… changes were inevatable. Living the fit and healthy lifestyle is one of the few things in life where the results are 100 % positive physically and mentally.

C: Tell us something fun about yourself!

M: I’m fluent in French… JK! Hahaha… but I’m learning. I want to travel the world, and learning new languages helps in enjoying the experience 🙂

C: What’s your #1 fitness model tip?

M: Work out with someone more fit that yourself – they’re able to push you to a level that you normally you wouldn’t go on your own.

♥ mcbarao.com <— You can follow her on Tumblr! Thanks M.C. for your advice. We love you!

Fitness models workout videos

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