WENDY RUSSO INTERVIEW
Posted on May 7, 2013
With 35 years of experience in athletics, training, nutrition and fitness , Wendy has come into her 50′s as a highly successful and recognized personal trainer and fitness guru. Starting out as the skinny kid in school who was active in sports and moved into weight training to gain weight, she has never stopped since. Recently at 50 years old, she competed in the Senior Olympics gold medaling in powerlifting, swimming and track and field events. This is not all her hobbies but some, as she lives her life to be physically active and take on a challenge. She is a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach and specializes in training all age groups, levels of fitness, male and female from overweight to underweight and every weight in between. Recently she can be viewed on her you tube channel showcasing some of her personal training routines. She wants to continue this as a tool to spread her expertise and help people to get healthy and fit. “Whatever I can do to motivate people, whatever works. I am learning more and more about this world of technology and know through it, is a power of outreach that I just cannot do from my small town.”
Find Wendy on: Facebook | YouTube
When did you start training and what motivated you to start?
My life story is highlighted in the background tab on my website called “My very own 10 steps to becoming a personal trainer” It is a short but longer version of this. When I was 15 I was a basketball player in school, I weighed 96 lbs. soaking wet. Everyone was growing big but me. I got pushed around on the court way too much and the coach basically sat me on the bench and told me to take weight training before I got really hurt. I signed up for weight training, quit basketball and starting swimming and lifting weights. I fell in love with weight training. Strength and conditioning coach took me under his wing and helped develop me into a power lifter/ bodybuilder. After High School I competed and went towards the bodybuilding side because I could play a lot of sports, stay active and still look good, where powerlifting was really a dead sport back then- especially for females. Plus I found out through x-rays I have scoliosis and 2 bulging discs in my spine, so all that heavy squatting was hard on me. I was strong, but I wanted to look good more than be strong. So when I say 35 years of experience, I literally started lifting weights seriously at 15 yrs. old and here I am 50, and never stopped. Even for 10 years as a golf professional, I still lifted weights and played other sports. I was told by my fellow professionals I would never get to a higher level of playing because of my “cross training lifestyle” (It was seen as a hindrance back then) so I gave golf lessons instead and kept lifting weights and playing other sports.
Has there been a time in your life when you have ever considered giving up? And what motivates you to keep going?
I seriously thought of giving up weight training for golf during that time I was almost convinced that was hindering my progress. I gave up for about 6 months, and got really skinny again and it did nothing to help me play any better, so I started lifting again. The diagnosis of scoliosis drove me harder to keep my spine and core strong so I would never end up with a cane, and the bulging discs really are a part of scoliosis- it just happens. Believe me, I was really laid up when each disc first bulged, but it even drove home harder the need to stay in shape. I started seeing a chiropractor when I was 16 and have always kept a close relationship with one over the years. I believe in massage therapy (I was one of those also) but first and foremost, nothing beats staying in shape for being healthy.
What does your typical training routine look like, and did anybody influence you and your training?
There is no typical training routine for me! Every few months I change it all up. My training styles come from a few leaders in the field, but as a personal trainer, we all get stuff from somewhere, it’s how you put it all together and apply it that makes you successful or not. Especially in this day of cross fit, p90x, plyometrics (add names here) all the big name workouts that are selling like hotcakes. I just love training. Take a look at my videos to see what I do these days. I do like having a routine day, as I schedule all my clients, I must schedule my workouts too. I always train with someone and if someone cancels on me it throws me all off, but I can typically find someone to fill their place. I never work out alone lately. I had enough of that while training for the Sr. Games, so right now the past few months I do this- Cardio (swim& run) on Tuesday and Thursday, strength train on Monday, Wednesday & Friday,
and work legs and core specifically on Saturday. I also do a 30 minute plyometric type- core training each M&W morning at 6am. I ride my bike whenever I can- but only for a few miles and not as a workout per se, just because I want to get out on the road. While training for the Sr. games last year my training schedule was much more intense and specific. I would say now I am just taking it easy till the next big personal challenge comes along.
What does your typical diet look like? Do you have cheat days/meals? Do you drink alcohol?
I don’t use the word “diet”, I like following a nutritional plan. There is so much information on the internet it is mind blowing. As a coach I try to find what’s best for each person I am training and apply it to them. We all are different. I am a little over the top personally, but I feed myself based on what I am doing. I can cut up in 4 weeks at any given time, and eat thousands of calories and not gain a lb., but only for short periods of course. I eat very clean most days. Recently I went off sugar and processed foods (a very difficult task for a sugar-holic and someone who ate pasta every single day of my life), and then I read a book called, “Wheat Belly” and am just beside myself. The sad thing is the American Heart Association, Diabetes Association, the food pyramid and anything else you can think of, they have it so wrong. If it was correct, then why the heck are heart disease, obesity and diabetes the biggest killers on the planet? I mean, c’mon we are all guinea pigs to these lies and as people get sicker and sicker more is revealed , but never enough to change their way of thinking, resulting in destroying people’s lives,. I eat to fuel my body, change my life (genetics), extend it, feel good and lastly, look good. But let me tell you- people are so addicted to food these days, ( I was too) I wonder when are the Physicians ever going to stand up and say your health starts with the quality of food that goes into your body?? I mean will they ever? I too am a guinea pig as I search to find out what is the best to eat, not to eat, etc.,, Listen, I can get on a soap box. I would love to be on a TV. show where I can talk about this, but the sad thing is, the people that listen, do it right, it’s the ones that don’t listen
don’t do it and are dying out there. I have cheat meals or cheat days, I don’t drink alcohol, or anything really except hot tea and water. I can say at least 95% of each week I eat very clean, and healthy.
Do you use many supplements? What do you use them for, and what have you found the most effective supplements to be?
Once again let’s talk guinea pigs; Right now I use a multi vitamin with all kinds of antioxidants in it. Now that I think about it I have used a multi my entire life (started with Flintstones for kids when I was young!) Other than that I love BCAA’s. I use a powdered form that is pure with no flavors or colors in it- it taste like aspirin in water, but I drink it while working out. I use pure glutamine at night before bed; I use extra antioxidants and Krill oil. I have a cabinet in my kitchen filled with whey protein powder and vegan protein powder and super foods. I do not use herbs unless I am using them for medicinal purposes. They are very powerful and I don’t want to mess with that. I have to say the only sweetener I use is stevia- that goes for all my protein powders too.
Do you have any inspirational figures you look up to? How have they influenced your life and your training?
The worst part of this question is forgetting someone who had an impact on me and my life. I mean, I am 50 years old! I have known lots of people over the years! So I will be very pointed and careful about this and just name the few that have been the biggest part of influencing my life. Listed in the order they came into my life, starting at age 15: Coach Chuck Almeida, Bill Phillips, Pastor Larry Linkous, Marty Goldman, Ron Preacher, Dr. Kareem Samhouri (he is the only one I do not know personally) Corrine Ham, and every single client and or friend I have had over the years which I have personally told they inspire me. Other than those I listed, I am inspired by people who work hard to reach healthy goals and never stop trying no matter the circumstances they face in life. Living a healthy lifestyle leads to happy people who live vibrantly and passionately. I am drawn to that.
Is there anything you are working towards in the future?
I want to be a relevant source for people looking for information on achieving and continuing a healthy, fit lifestyle. I figured the first 50 years of my life was my biggest leaning experiences, although I never stop learning- but now the last 50 years (yes I plan to live to 100) I want to show and teach those that want to learn. I want to continually be a motivator for people to live healthy lives. It all starts with me. I am the example of all I want to bring to those whose lives I touch, whether it be in person, through videos, magazines, internet or all of the above. Technology is great- although I may be considered a dinosaur when it comes to it, I try my hardest. I have always said I want to be a female Jack La Lane- but now I want more than that.
What is your overall goal or your dream?
Didn’t I just answer that above? Laughs out loud. I really want to be all I can be and do all I can do to help this world get healthy and fit. I have literally saved some lives of clients who were on a fast road to an early grave. That is not my biggest goal, although it is quite impacting, my biggest goal is to help thousands come to realize it is possible to live healthy and fit. But in this day and age, with time flying so quickly (at 50 it does) it starts with them. They must want it to do it. I can’t tell anyone ultimately what to do, I have found through experience that I can lead many, but I can’t be there with them to slap them on the hand each time they do something to hinder or destroy themselves. I can’t make choices for them. I can only live it in front of them to see, and hope I move others to do as I do- to have what I have.
Where did you hear about Physique of the Week, and what do you think about it?
The young man I was helping get ready for his first bodybuilding show had applied for it a week after his show and asked me to vote for him. I went to the site and was amazed by what I saw. To me it looked like the perfect avenue for me to expand my wings into the world of internet exposure. I think you should take your entire weekly winners and have a Physique of the month, then take all the monthly’s at the end of the year and have a Physique of the Year!! But the person must be in shape for every contest (basically all year around) to be eligible.
Finally, If you could give our readers one piece of advice, what would it be?
Being healthy is NOT all about how you look. Yes, great bodies are good to look at, but if you live healthy, eat healthy and have healthy habits you will look great. Anybody can get in contest shape, but what is your shape after the contest? Are you overweight, sluggish, unhealthy and unhappy? Make this a lifestyle. One you can live with. Don’t ever go to extremes to get there, because you will extremely lose your results once you attain them. Just make good choices each and every day, with some off days in between. In the end you can say you did it. I am 50 and I have never stopped – and I plan to go to 100 living this way. You can too, but you have to decide each and every day. I do, I really do.
Geez, was that one thing or many? Sorry. I’ll stop now!
Last week I had the pleasure of attending a bodybuilding show, but this time not as a competitor.
I had been helping a young man named Ricky Carrillo get ready for the Jacksonville Physique Contest.
I met Ricky when he was 14 and playing basketball at the YMCA. He was an all-around athlete (athlete of the year at his High School) and is now an engineering major at UCF. While in HS, he would talk with me about weight lifting and nutrition. Once he went away to college, he took everything he had learned and applied it. Ricky came home for the Holidays a whopping 200 Lbs., when prior; it was all he could do to hit 150! He had been eating and training like he wanted something.
“Throughout my life, I was always the skinny kid. In 8th grade, I was ecstatic when the scale reached a whopping 100 pounds…By my senior year of high school, the scale finally hit 150 lbs., mostly due to added height and minimal muscle gains. In high school I always wanted to get bigger, but I never got the results, mostly due to a lack of knowledge on the subject, and extensive sports activities. I trained for increased performance in basketball, cross country, and track. After high school, I became increasingly interested and, some would say, obsessed with hypertrophy training. I spent my free time learning how the body functioned and how this correlated with muscle and strength gain. Wendy and I became closer friends through our mutual interests and talked often about nutrition and training. Our conversations sparked what would soon become more than just a hobby; bodybuilding through healthy eating/living became my lifestyle.”
Ricky came to me one day in December and said he wanted to cut up. I asked,” For what?” I am unsure he had anything in mind except to just try it. I suggested he get serious and register for a show. With some time and contemplation, he registered. When I saw him in January, I will never forget the day he lifted up his shirt for me. I said, “My gosh kid, you have gotten fat!” He looked massively muscular to others, a young man who had gained muscle. To me with a show in mind, he was fat. Needless to say, it was time to start a diet. He has studied a lot about nutrition and we would talk during the weeks ahead and decide what he needed to eat and how. He was getting to know his own body real well and that is a big, big part of being a successful competitive Bodybuilder. His approach was pretty direct:
“I came to Wendy in need of advice about how to turn my hope of one day competing into reality and she replied, “Well, go sign up for a show then!” With that being said, I found a contest to enter and began my first ever contest preparation.
January 2013, 12 weeks out from the show, I was 200 pounds and around 14-15% body fat. We wrote my diet and training plan and I “checked in” with Wendy continuously to stay on the right track. I soon found out dieting and training isn’t the only thing involved in a bodybuilding contest. I began my preparation with little to no knowledge of the important art of posing.”
Every week I would see Ricky and he would pose for me. I took photos as we watched his complete transformation into the bodybuilder he would become. We had some assistance from Big Mike, in posing. Mike has competed for years and he knows first hand what the judges look for in a guy. I just know what I look for in a guy, so Mike helped with the tweaking as Ricky listened to both of us with earnest intent:
“Wendy and Mike met with me every week to help me fine-tune my posing ability so I could display my body in a way that would make me competitive. I went into the show being able to pose comfortably and with confidence.”
Ricky was like a sponge soaking up all we had to offer. It was a beautiful display of discipline and determination. A clear cut reason he did so well. And then came the final week….Ricky writes;
“Perhaps the most confusing time for a bodybuilder is what is known as “peak week.” Sodium & water loading, carb & sodium depletion, “switching salts”, then carb loading, water depletion, weight management, shaving, tanning, grooming and posing (with the little posing trunks)…there was enough to keep track of that I needed a notebook just for peak week. With the help of Wendy’s experience, I was able to navigate my way through peak week and drastically improve my conditioning, lower my body fat and bring out the striations in my muscles.”
I need to add- through the 12 weeks, his bodyweight dropped to 165Lbs. The night of weigh in, he officially weighed 170lbs. By the evening show he was about 174lbs. Middleweight all the way!
“Now for the moment of truth, SHOW TIME. Stress levels are high, risking high cortisol levels and drastic body changes, inexperience causing restlessness and uncertainty. But, with Coach Wendy’s steady assurance and expertise, and support from my family & girlfriend, all of those hindering emotions were kept at bay and I was able to focus on “getting the job done.” I placed 3rd in my first competition in the most competitive division of the show. The judges had incredibly motivational and encouraging things to say to me after the show and my excitement grew beyond what I had imagined. Bodybuilding is now my lifestyle.”
It was quite an experience for me to be back in the arena again. I always want to be on stage when I am at the show, but I really don’t want to go through all the stage ready discipline anymore. We spoke to the judges to get a critique. They said he needed to come back darker (tan) next time and keep doing what he is doing regarding weight training and diet. They also said he reminded them of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger! This was enough to get Ricky excited to keep on going. His thoughts:
“I want to express my thanks and gratitude to my Coach Wendy, my family, my girlfriend and supportive friends who were there for help during my preparation and for being a part of my journey to make my desire to compete a reality.”
Incentive, no doubt. We all need it to move forward. I will use it and so will Ricky.
See you next time.
With Sugar Free February under our belt and Wheat Free March winding down, I am wondering, how is everyone doing? I personally have been doing real well.. I have had some bumps along the way- as everyone does, but I have maintained no sugar or wheat in my diet. Everyone knows that I have had some planned “free days” the key word is planned and I made a conscious effort to add those forbidden foods into my day here and there. But for the most part, I will say I have been successful.
How about you? Did anyone lose weight during this time? Did anyone notice some health issues went away? Did anyone notice feeling better overall? Did anyone start a workout program because they felt so well? These are things I am wondering because going sugar and wheat free will have this effect on people. Its amazing how great we feel when we get all the junk out of our system. Sometimes we never knew we felt bad to begin with. So let me hear from you.
Now on to April
Plans for April are to continue being sugar and wheat free. I am going to start working on presenting some exercise routines in my videos for people to use and start a program- either at home or in the gym. Right now I am getting my feet wet and trying different things, but I have been getting feedback and suggestions about what others want to see. This is all for you! Not for me. I want to bring you what you want and need to get healthy, stay healthy and live a longer and healthier life than the path you were on when we met.
The first weekend in April I will heading to the Jacksonville Physique Contest with a young man I am training named Ricky Carrillo. I will post his photos and story that week. I also have been working on trying to make some real photos of myself to start making those motivational quotes/photos they post all over face book. I love them , but I am tired of people posting pictures of someone they don’t know,(and may never meet) just because the pictures says something like “Work hard train harder”……. I don’t know. I decided to try to come up with my own series of photos, and I am asking for some good quotes to use that would motivate you. So please – suggestions are welcome. All this is underway in April.
It is Spring and it will be a great month. Please continue to follow me on face book and You Tube. I posted the links on my homepage here at this website for you to click on to get to either. Keep the comments coming. This is all coming together but always a work in progress! Stay Healthy and Happy. And Happy Easter!
Flashback two years ago, My 38 year old half- sister had an unexpected heart attack. She was overweight, smoked and did not exercise. The Drs. blamed it on genetics, but no one on that side of the family had heart disease, so I am not sure how that all was rationalized. I do know one thing, being overweight meant her diet was terrible. It really was. Was that the cause? I will never know, but all I can do is pray to God those so -called genetics didn’t trickle over to me. If they did, I will do everything in my power to not allow anything into my body (via food) that would obviously cause heart disease.
The more I study, the more I am seeing Medical doctors writing about the links between sugar, cancer and heart disease. That is one reason I felt so strongly to lead people through a no sugar month. Recently after reading the book “Wheat Belly”, I am learning about a connection with wheat products (ie. processed foods) raising insulin levels as much as sugar, thereby causing the same effects on the body as sugar—which lead to a higher risk of cancer or heart disease.
It’s not quite mainstream media yet, but with more medical doctors being on TV and some others with great websites being so well recognized and followed, I believe our health care system will eventually follow suit and start spreading the word about the awful foods we continue to put into our mouth on a daily basis.
Just last week my 68 year old Aunt had an unexpected heart attack. The cause? All we know is she is overweight and eats lots of that awful food. She will be changing her eating habits immensely this week, hopefully for the rest of her life.
Yes, my sister and my Aunt both lived through their heart attack experience, and now they officially have heart disease. BUT they both have the option to change their lifestyle- eating properly and exercising, or just stay the same. The choice is theirs alone. Just like the choice is mine alone what to put in my mouth daily. This month I choose to go wheat free. I hope many join me on this journey. It may be hard to do, but it can’t hurt and chances are if we adopt the new style of eating, it may prolong our life and definitely make us look and feel healthier while living it!
I am going to be doing some writing this week regarding not only the end of the official sugar detox , but what do we do next?
I hope for those of you who followed along, you realized some things. and for those of you who tried to follow along, I hope you realized some things too. After all- this is all about getting heathy inside and out. Not necessarily losing weight, although that is a by product of sugar free, it is not my main goal.
The book “Wheat Belly” which I am almost done with, will probably lead me to “Wheat Free March.” I have to sit down and finish the book. But I am thinking this is where my March will be headed. I hope I have some suggestions.
Someone asked me if I already had eliminated wheat- because they never saw it in my meal plans. My answer- “well most wheat is in processed foods” (when was the last time you chewed on raw wheat?) And most processed foods have sugar in them, so therefore – no wheat. Now I suppose I could eat Kamut for a cereal in the morning, and possibly wheat free bread, but I didnt. I really didn’t eat any starches at all in Feb. I wanted to eliminate any possibililty of my body having any insulin surges after pushing my blood sugar past the normal “post meal” point. (I think that would be in the 80’s-90’s if measured?) I know blood sugar levels and insulin is the big issue we are trying to control going sugar free, but now I am finding that to be true also in wheat consumption. (learning from the book) So this leads me to pondering March.
This is what I know so far (not finished with the book yet). I will be adding Quinoa to my diet, continue with the squash, and rutabaga(I love that stuff) and add sweet potatoes and maybe a white potato here and there. When it comes to rice– call me crazy but I opt for the white rather than brown rice ( I can hear the squeels now) Listen, when was the last time you saw Sushi wrapped in brown rice?? I LOVE Sushi and when I go out I get a roll or two wrapped in cucumber, but also a roll or two in white rice. So that with an occaisional plain rice cake sometimes completes my rice consumption.
Before I finish this post I want to shout out to my friend Phillip Henderson. He will be opening a franchise in Gainesville, Florida on March 10th called “How Do You Roll“. Guess what they make??? SUSHI! The guys who own the franchise were on the show Shark Tank last week, and I do believe from what I saw, this store will be the only one in Florida! I will be planning on going to the grand opening and eating lots of sushi- with white rice! So that all said, I look forward to finshing the book and coming up with my March meal plan layout. Lets get through this last week of Sugar free February together. Enjoy the week!
My Prayer for Children
I saw a news report that childhood obesity and type II Diabetes in children is on the rise- rapidly. And they (whoever they are) are trying to “decide” what to do!! Apparently a little school in Georgia came up with the idea of sugar -free schools. Can I get an AMEN out there? They showed this school in Georgia that has been sugar free for 10 years….. Now where the heck has every other school been during this 10 year time? The kids at this school have been proven to be smarter, in better shape (duh) and have less discipline problems across the board. How long does it take to figure it out?? A few years ago, I was told, when trying to assist in a nutrition program for Florida schools that they cannot remove vending machines from schools because of the MONEY they generate! I think my jaw hit the table as I was trying to keep my composure at a meeting I was attending. Believe me, I said all I could, the discussion lasted a while, but because of the power of the $$$ , people just blew me off as the local YMCA health nut. They had this attitude that things are so bad in local schools with budget cuts already that they would be better off to prostitute student’s future health for money. I was livid, but had absolutely no influence. Believe me; I had a voice in our area regarding children and obesity. I visited schools yearly and talked to kids about exercise and nutrition. I promoted free kids exercise programs at our Y that encouraged kids to learn activities that they can participate in for a lifetime. I sat down with parents from time to time and got personal with them about what they are feeding their children. I tried unsuccessfully to start a physical education program for kids who are home schooled. This was a big part of my job and I took it seriously, but my hands were tied with exactly what I was able to do.
Anyway- what gets me is what parents feed their kids, then the kids are at school 7 hours a day and schools destroy any chance of healthy that they may have. So back to sugar free schools. Let’s see how long it takes for more schools to catch on, but believe me, you watch, it will all be about $$$..and then years from now …well, I could go on forever…So I will end by saying this to all the people who have kids, once you get your “back to health” routine going, please don’t leave your kid out of it. Even if they are little skinny kids- and the Dr. says they need to fatten up, don’t allow them to start making unhealthy habits that will destroy them later in life. I know you think they need sweet “treats” for whatever reason, but you are setting the stage for them to turn into what you are trying to get out of. Make sure they eat right and exercise. You can do it- and they will love being able to be like mom or dad. This is one of my passions, and I have an audience here on the web that can help plant more seeds than I could from a small town gym.
My prayers are for kids everywhere to get the start they need to establish healthy lifestyles. It will be healthy parents who promote this. Thanks for listening.
Coach Wendy –
Personal Trainer & Wellness Coach with Joey – Powerlifting Medals!
After 30+ years in athletics, coaching, teaching, competing, and lifelong learning, my passion is to drive myself to be the best I can be. I live my life through hard work and dedication to lead others by example. I train myself daily, spiritually and physically, knowing it’s not just about bodies anymore; It’s about the whole person.
It is my desire to touch the lives of as many people as possible so that they too may desire to be the best they can be, inside and out. Because of this passion to help others, I decided to start this website, along with ” Coach Wendys Fitness 4U” facebook page. I wanted to do more, reach more and ultimately impact more. This site is a work in progress. I have so many ideas and not enough skills to implement them all at once. I would love to hear your feedback and suggestions as I daily update this site. My next big move is to get exercise videos made and start posting them weekly. Most importantly, I want to be a part of your life as you decide to make the decision to get healthier and happier in the coming years. Scroll through the tabs above and learn more about me. I welcome you and hope you enjoy what I have to offer.
Just do it. That was mine before Nike ever coined it!