Talking Muscles, Weights and Protein Shakes with Fitness Competitor – Christa Selner

How did you get into fitness and why did you decide to compete? 

Well, I was an exceptionally active child. People literally swear that I ran out of the womb. I was always either chasing or being chased by siblings, climbing up trees or the occasional doorway, and throughout school I was in gymnastics, basketball and track and field.

I’ll never forget the moment I fell in love with muscle definition – I was competing at the Wisconsin State Track and Field Championships for pole vaulting my senior year and a friend of mine snapped a picture of me holding my pole right before I was about to sprint down the runway. We were all looking at it after the jump and everyone around me was like “AHH! That is the PERFECT shot for your record!!!” (I now hold our school record with that jump) and here I was like “Woah! Look at my shoulders!!!” It was the first time I was able to see actual definition in my deltoids and I was floored! I went off to college and starting actually lifting in the gym to build instead of for a sport and it was all history from there – my love of cardio had switched to my love of lifting and I haven’t looked back since.

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Now, as for why I decided to compete, get ready for this Hallmark moment. Just over a year ago my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and shortly therein after my stepfather suffered a heart attack. I had been toying with the idea of competing for over 2 years but my life was never in the right place to take the plunge because I knew the hard work, time and dedication this sport takes to be successful and if I wasn’t in a position to give it 100% I wasn’t going to do it. Both my mother and my stepfather have made incredible strides in regards to their health and fitness and when my mother went into remission, it was that moment that I decided “If not now, when?”

So I took the next few months to mentally, emotionally, and financially prepare myself to compete – I joined Gold’s Gym, got hooked up with my trainer Nate (who is EPIC), saw a few bodybuilding shows, and got hooked. I looked at the NPC calendar and found a show, the NPC Badger State, that was perfect not only because it was a local show (I wanted my family to be able to come) but it was in October, National Breast Cancer month (and yes, my mother bawled at the show).

What are your current fitness goals?

I’m a firm believer in goals – my high school guidance counselor would call shananigans, sorry for being a pain Mr. Morgan – but I’ve found that when I set goals, whether small or large, I work harder and progress and it’s just so rewarding when you achieve those goals. Currently, I’m at a really exciting point in my fitness realm because I’m going to be starting a new workout routine and nutrition regimen on Monday – yeah toast!

My newest long term goal has me pretty pumped (pun intended). For the next few months (until the end of February) I am going to be doing an off-season bulk, followed by a 3 month “cut” for a show in June, the Titan Open, and I will be competing in (drumroll…) Figure 😀 My first show I competed in the bikini category and though I did well, I want to mix it up and see what I can do in the figure category. Because of that, I have many short term goals, predominantly being to add more muscle to my shoulders and my booty – can never go wrong there.

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The training volume to compete in the figure category is a bit more intense too, which is something I’m really looking forward to. The nutrition aspect of the process is really interesting as well, being that I didn’t start prep this far out for bikini, I’ll have plenty of time before the actual show to build a decent amount of lean muscle before the “cutting” phase starts, so all-in-all I’m excited for what lies ahead.

What is your favorite workout style?  

I used to be an avid runner, but now lifting has definitely taken its place. I especially love lifting heavy – that’s how you’re going to build good muscle so that when the nutrition does its job you end up with great definition throughout. Aesthetically I find the most visual changes when I lift heavier than going lighter or doing endless bouts of cardio. However, you need a healthy combination of all of it.

The body needs variety in order to continue progress and stave off plateaus. I have days (normally during the beginning of the week when I’m most focused and ready to kick some butt, literally) where I’ll do heavier sets of exercises to start off (6-8 reps, 8-10 reps) and then finish off with higher volume (10-12 reps, 15-20 reps). Same goes for cardio – some days I do high-intensity for 30 minutes, sometimes moderate-intensity for 45 minutes, some days are no cardio, some days are cardio in the morning with a 15-20 minute post-lift high-intensity cardio session (woof). It’s all about having a great mixture, both within your lifts and your cardio workouts – helps you keep seeing results and, more importantly, keeps your sanity intact.

Where does your motivation/inspiration come from? 

I’ve always been my biggest critic – people are going to come and go in your life, so the only thing you can be completely sure of is that you will be stuck with you for the rest of your life (however I think astro-projection would be pretty sweet). So a lot of my motivation does stem from myself, especially in regards to training for a show, and I’ve believed that from the beginning, the only person I was ever “competing” against was myself. I knew where I started and where I wanted to be and seeing what my body could do was a constant motivator.

With that being said, I had A LOT of outside influence and support, some from people and places I never expected.My family has always been my biggest fans and my greatest supporters. I could tell my mom that all I did in my undergrad was sit in my dorm and make little houses with toothpicks and marshmallows and she would still think I was one of the most successful people in the world. My dad has always been proud of me – a lot of “You are a Selner, so go out there and kick some a**” were said throughout this first prep. Both of my parents are remarried and I’m one of four so my brother, my sisters as well as my stepparents have been part of the backbone that kept me going and pushing through.Christa with family after Badger State Bodybuilding Competition

In addition to my family, I have been incredibly fortunate to have the strong and unyielding support from everyone I work with at Gold’s Gym – Milwaukee. The ENTIRE staff has been so involved and interested in what I’m doing (plus they put up with me on my low-carb days) that I am truly touched and blessed to work for such a great company with such amazing people.

One of my biggest supporters, he has been with me from the very start, is my friend and trainer Nate Dunston. He comprised my training as well as my workout regimen for my entire 16 weeks of prep and has constantly and consistently been there for me, both in and outside of the gym, answering all my questions, comments, concerns, always rooting me on and I am SO happy to say that he will also be helping me prepare for this next phase.Bikini Competition - Christa and Nate

Honestly, without him, I would not have gotten as far as I did (dude even stayed backstage with me THE ENTIRE SHOW to make sure I was calm and relaxed – though every time he told me to sit, naturally, I was up and pacing – sorry Nate!) I actually keep my medal at my desk because though it was me up there onstage, it was truly a team effort – I felt like I was competing for Gold’s Gym – Milwaukee, my home away from home and the family I never asked for but am sure glad has my back (as dysfunctional as we may be :D).

If you had to choose only 3 lifting moves – which ones are your favorites? 

I love anything that has to do with core and glutes. I always rate things in this order: boobs, butt, abs – the first, either you have or you don’t, and if you want them you can save up and buy them. The second, butt, takes hard work and discipline. And the third, abs, require a combination of training and dedication to nutrition – “abs are made in the kitchen” – without the proper nutrition to back up your training, you could have a six-pack, but hiding in a cooler. Three exercises I’m loving right now are:

Ham raises – I’ve seen the biggest improvement in my “ham-glute tie-in” from doing this exercise.

Standing oblique crunches with a plate – give great oblique definition

Cable Face Pulls – this exercise really helps give my rear delts definition

What advice would you give to those just starting a fitness routine or looking to compete? 

For those just starting get into a fitness routine, the best advice I can give is to be consistent, be patient, and be creative. Find something active that you love to do – and then do it. If you can find a way to work out where you enjoy the time you’re putting in, you’re going to continue you do it because you love it. If you want more direction or are new to fitness, heck, even if you’re a veteran like I was, join a gym or get together with a personal trainer, or both! That’s how I started – I joined Gold’s Gym – Milwaukee, met Nate, and now I get to share my journey with all you lovely people.

Aside what anyone tells you, exercise should be fun, so whether you enjoy swimming, kickboxing, yoga, lifting, trail running – whatever it is, do it, because as far as I know we live one life and if there’s one thing that I feel everyone should invest in it should be your health and fitness.

Now, for those of you looking to do their first competition, the BEST piece of advice I can give you is this: do it healthy, and do it for YOU. I was so fortunate that my first show prep went so well and that I did have a great support system around me. If anyone ever tells you that 700-800 calories a day are what you need to restrict yourself to in order to be successful, punch them in the face (okay don’t actually punch them in the face but maybe give them some “crazy eyes” and walk away). If what someone is telling you sounds crazy, IT IS. This sport can really mess with a person’s self-image, both males and females, so continue to have in the back of your mind why you wanted to do it in the first place.

I wrote a list of the reasons for why I wanted to do a show and carried it with me in my gym bag so that any time I felt tired or unfocused or, even at times, lost, I took out the list to remind myself that I was doing this for reasons that were much deeper than a piece of metal. Find reasons that go beyond the visual aspect of the sport because THOSE are the reasons that keep you not only going, but fuel you to work harder and end up with even better results than you had ever anticipated.

Do you listen to music while working out and what is your favorite workout song(s) for a killer workout jam session? 

I am a very musically-oriented and musically-motivated person so music is essential to my workout routine. When it comes to style of music though I’m kind of all over the place – I love almost every genre known to man. However, when it comes to working out, I’m a rock person all the way. Theory of a Deadman on Pandora is my go-to. I really love “Life is Beautiful” by Sixx: A.M. – any time the song comes on it’s like an insta-jolt of energy (as if I don’t have enough already – I’ve been asked if I can be “bottled”…)

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