I recently interviewed an interesting Chicagoan, Christina Riordan, known in some circles as “Chrissy,” known in other circles as “Riordan Steel.” The handle suits her, as she is currently involved in building a body of steel; it also suits her because she has an unmistakable steel resolve. She is training for the NPC Illinois Bodybuilding’s 2012 Illinois State competition Saturday, May 12, at the Copernicus Foundation (a/k/a The Gateway Theater), 5216 West Lawrence Avenue, Chicago.
This moniker also pays homage to Ayn Rand’s book “Atlas Shrugged,” in which one of the main characters created a company called Rearden Steel. Ms. Riordan was deeply inspired by this book–and Ayn Rand’s philosophies in general–and found herself strongly motivated by the steely resolve of the central characters.
Perhaps you’ll immediately picture one of those super-muscular oiled up women who resemble their male counterparts, but this is a different type of competition: instead, Ms. Riordan will appear on stage in a bikini and high heels, in a contest called “Figure” in the “C” category (since she is tall at 5’8”). It’s all about image in this competition, the total package of what it means to look truly good as a woman. A worthy goal. We are bombarded with Internet ads that cry out “Look good naked”—isn’t this what we all want.
There are four types of these muscle contests for women: 1) fitness, during which contestants do floor shows to music, akin to gymnastics; 2) bikini, during which competitors compete for whoever has the best body; 3) figure, which goes beyond bikini to a truly toned figure, yet still extremely feminine, modeling in two-pieces and high heels; and 4) bodybuilders, in which contestants build bigger muscles and compete more like the male body builders: oiled up and barefoot in very scant apparel so all the muscles can be seen and evaluated.
Chrissy describes what will win the contest in her category: “Winners are judged based on who looks the best. For figure competitors, no body fat, weight or measurements are taken. You have to have the ‘total package’ visually. Who[ever] holds the most lean muscle in the right places (back, hamstrings, shoulders, etc) and definition, who[ever] is the ‘most symmetrical,’ being lean, hair, tan, makeup, POSING, and the walk on stage is huge.”
Riordan owns two businesses, but while she’s keeping those afloat, the main focus of her life for a sixteen-week (four-month) time period, which she is now almost half-way through, is this contest. One of her businesses is a marketing promo product company. Basically, this company will put a company’s logos on marketing materials. Much of her business is driven by customers who are looking to be represented at conventions, but any company looking to market can call on her.
Her other business is personal trainers. She herself used to train, but now she’s concentrating on her own training for the upcoming competition and has a staff of three personal trainers. She has an AFAA certificate and her staff is certified as well. Yet she has found that nothing she’s ever embarked upon prior is as intense as training for this show. Personal trainers have their own personal trainers. In Riordan’s case, she has a training coach and a posing coach.
Riordan, who grew up on Chicago’s north side, admits she was a tad on the chubby side as a youngster, but she was fortunate to have a mother who was serious and knowledgeable about nutrition and a father who lifted weights and had her hoisting her first barbells at the age of twelve. Soon the baby fat was gone, replaced by a healthy, athletic girl. She attributes who she is today in part to her inspirational parents.
Check out her blog and you’ll start to get the idea how intensive this endeavor is. Meals are small, devoid of carbbohydrates (except for the first three meals of the day, usually including eggs and oatmeal), heavy on white fish and vegetables, and consumed every 2½ hours. Sleep is important too; nine to ten hours a day would be ideal, and Riordan often gets close to that. Muscles need sleep time to refurbish after a day of rigorous training.
Riordan belongs to three gyms, including USA Gym, Bally’s, and FFC and utilizes the variety of weight machines and treadmills they offer. Cardio exercise is very important in burning off fat, building stamina, etc. She does 70 minutes of cardio, then works out, alternating one to two muscle groups on a rotating schedule day by day.
She takes a variety of supplements but says she takes far fewer than many bodybuilders. These include: fish oil (apparently fish is even more important than we thought for a good body), branched chain amino acids (which keep muscle on plus optimize digestion), acidophilus, a green food supplement (because during this period, she does not consume fruit in her diet), plus a daily multi-vitamin-mineral, which probably we all should be taking.
Ladies and men, now is the time to start getting yourselves beach-body ready! Who couldn’t benefit from starting a diet and exercise program now that will have you looking buff on the beach. We can all learn from and feel motivated by Riordan, though we may not choose to diet and exercise to the extent that she does—but maybe we should.
During the competition, Riordan will wear what’s called a “figure suit,” a two-piece which is expensive and custom made, plus high heels. She says her heels are “not very tall” at 5”–well, that’s a higher heel than most gals can walk in gracefully! Shortly before the show, she will get a spray tan. Did you know that a tanned look can enhance muscle definition? You might want to add getting a tan look to your to-do list this spring, ladies and fellas.
I asked Chrissy what she would recommend to the average woman looking to tone up and slim down, especially the stubborn tummy area. Her reply: “Everything you do has to do with the stomach.” That area of the body is also known by fitness enthusiasts as the “core.” Strengthen your stomach muscles, folks, and your whole body will be stronger and improved in more ways than you know.
Chrissy’s advice: “Diet is 80%. You can workout until you are blue in the face 7 days a week but if you’re also eating McDonald’s everyday after your workout you will achieve NOTHING. Eat 6 SMALL meals a day instead of eating 2-3 big fat ones and keep it healthy!!! Nothing out of a box (or can usually). fresh, organic, whole foods. But you don’t have to go to whole foods and spend all of your money to achieve this.”
As if four months of intensive training and dieting aren’t enough, shortly before the competition, it escalates. Per Riordan, here’s what happens behind the scenes: “Semi permanent tan the day before which lasts for days. Some people carb deplete and water deplete themselves the last few weeks/days before the show. Some people lift weights and workout…before stepping on stage in order to give their muscles an extra pump! Yeah!!”
It’s not inexpensive to enter the contest, get the training, the supplements, and the necessities for the show. But if she wins, she will take away not only a trophy, but so much more that will propel her onward to continued success in life. She has confessed, however, that after the competition, she plans to get at least part-way back to “life as usual.” She will start to eat the things she loves again and likely enjoy some martinis now and then. So why is she doing this? She wants to “achieve that look” and prove to herself she has the willpower and determination to do this. The rewards will enhance every aspect of her life.
If you’d like to catch Riordan in this competition, tickets are now on sale. Chrissy Riordan is a high-energy go-getter who is striving to be the best she can be. Let us be inspired by her as we cheer her on!