Interview Of the Week with Kristel Klein: What does it take to be a bodybuilder?

Kristel Klein is one of the girls I competed with in London at my first show in 2015. She is Estonian, incredible and someone to learn from. I’ve been following her career since we started our fitness journey and her physique, her stage presence, her professional accomplishments and her work as a personal trainer always made me admire her. Now she shares her thoughts about bodybuilding with BWG.

Why bodybuilding?

I have always been very active but I got into bodybuilding and fitness properly after I got my personal trainer qualification. I saw an image of a female bodybuilder and I challenged myself to do the same! I still remember that day so well, it was one of those crazy lightbulb moments that I just couldn’t get out of my head so it had to be done. I started looking for prep and posing coaches the next day.

I was fit looking before, but I really wanted to take my physique to a whole new level and see if I could do it. I was not working as a personal trainer when I signed up for my first bodybuilding competition but doing a few shows definitely helped me to build a PT career once I started my work at a gym.

I started by teaching a few classes a week (LBT and core classes) then I continued to work as a PT at the same gym. It wasn’t easy to get started. It took me 2 years to build myself up and establish a decent client base. At first I did it part time which is probably why it took me so long to get going. Once I had my handful of clients, I gained a lot more confidence and experience and the rest is history.

What does it take to be a professional bodybuilder?

It takes everything – your whole life will change. Someone without strong willpower and discipline cannot succeed in professional bodybuilding. I suppose it’s possible to make a living out of competing but I never got that far and I think most of the benefits come after competing and not from the competitions themselves. For instance, you might find sponsors or get other offers from the fitness industry. The fitness industry is not as shiny and nice as it looks. It takes a lot of hard work to succeed.

How did your life change when you started to compete?

When I started prepping for my first competitions, I still lived a pretty ‘normal’ life – hanging out with friends, traveling and enjoying life. However, the closer to the competition, the more things I had to give up and in the last months leading up to it, my life was all about training, prepping food and counting calories. I stopped going out with friends to avoid having to deal with food and drink temptations. I think in a way the whole process made me so much stronger both mentally and physically but it also separated me from my friends and meant that I had no social life outside the gym.

After my first competition my life changed for the better. I started paying a lot more attention to the food I was eating and training became more of an obsession. It was hard to let go of that super fit and lean physique that I achieved for the competition. By now, 6 years later, I have found a nice balance where I do everything in moderation. It took me years to find this happy place and really fall in love with the fitness lifestyle. I train 4-6 times a week, eat healthy most of the time but allow myself a treat when I feel like it. Having that freedom to go for a burger or chocolate whenever I want to actually makes me want them less. During competition prep, the more you can’t have something, the more you want it.

Is competing healthy?

Yes and no. It depends how it is done and who is coaching you. Some coaches really starve their clients and that can and most likely will backfire after the competition when the competitor ends up with an eating disorder. Even when it’s done in a ‘healthier’ way and calories are kept higher, I wouldn’t call competing many times a year a healthy lifestyle.

The hardest thing about competing is trying to stay sane when returning to ‘normal’ life after a show without picking up bad eating habits or becoming too obsessed with training.

Is it worth it?

Competing has led me to a better and stronger physique. I have gained lots of new friends and acquaintances in the same industry and it has really boosted my PT career. When people see I can achieve something myself, they are more likely to think I can help them do the same.

Doing shows helps to set new goals that help me stay on track and give life new purpose.

It is a bumpy ride with lots of physical and emotional ups and downs. It is not a cheap hobby. You have to give up on lots of things you love for the sake of doing well in a competition. But I love the glamor and that moment when you step on stage feeling and looking like million bucks. The stage moments are indescribable, you’ve got to experience it to understand. Those 60 seconds you spend on stage in a show are worth all the effort and sacrifice.

I haven’t been on stage for the past 2 years but even at my last competition I could see that it’s all getting more and more expensive and the standards are getting higher every year!

I think the whole industry is becoming more about money now compared to what it was years ago when I first competed. But I’m still thinking about returning to the stage – and this time I will do it as a mommy.

I am currently 7 months pregnant so I know that my future will be changing diapers and bonding with my little one for a while. I am really looking forward to returning to exercise after giving birth as I learned post and prenatal training and it would be great to practice it all on my own body too.

So how long do you think a female bodybuilder can compete?

I think there are no age limits in bodybuilding. Quite often, the older you are, the better you look. I’m not sure if this is to do with having a stronger mindset or if you’ve just built and shaped the body for longer but I’m in awe of all women that are in their 40s, 50s and over and look stunning at the shows! That’s my life goal right there. Also, moms who lift are incredible.

Last but not least let’s talk about you as a personal trainer.

I absolutely love my job and the satisfaction I get from helping other people achieve their goals. Every time someone comes a step closer to their final goals, I feel like a proud mama.

And if someone is thinking to compete? Doing a show would be a great challenge for anyone. You learn so much about yourself during the process. But if someone doesn’t want to go so extreme, it’s good to start with a mini transformation for a photoshoot. That will require a similar preparation to a fitness competition but is less stressful. Whatever your goal may be choose your coach well!


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