Many of our fans are fitness competitors. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the world of bodybuilding and physique competition, it requires months upon months of hard work and dedication.
Lexie Clarke and Francisco Cicila are two Quest employees who have been undergoing that same rigorous training. From adhering to a very strict diet plan and hitting the gym two to three times a day in order to be ready for the stage, it was a full-time job on top of a full-time job. Like many of you Questies, we’re coping with the realities of coronavirus and what it means for our personal and professional goals.
We originally planned to share Lexie and Francisco’s journey with you, from their early days of preparation through ramping up for competition to the final results. Then everything changed. But just because gyms and fitness competitions are closed or cancelled across the country, doesn’t mean we’re not proud of the hard work and dedication from two of our employees. With that in mind, please enjoy our sit-down with Lexie and Francisco.
[this interview was conducted at the beginning of February, 2020]
Q: What started you down this pathway to competition?
LEXIE: For me, fitness has always been such a big part of my life. It’s my biggest love and I’m always searching for life’s next challenge. The idea of constantly growing and pushing myself to my limits is the most rewarding challenge, so competing in the fitness world made sense.
FRANCISCO: This is my first cycle of competition, but it stemmed from something similar. Fitness started as an escape in high school to get away from a certain crowd I was hanging out with. From there it just kind of stuck. Constantly trying to challenge myself and it grew into a lifestyle. I figured the next step as far as challenging myself is to make it competitive. It’s my first time but it’s an interesting process already.
Q: Where does your passion and drive come from to endure the struggles inherent in fitness competition?
LEXIE: For me, I’m always trying to push past what I think is my breaking point. It’s amazing what happens during this process to your mind. You redefine your own impossible because you encounter so many breaking points where you’re forced to figure out a way to get through them. I mean, there are so many amazing athletes out there and they didn’t get where they are by just staying comfortable.
FRANCISCO: I completely agree with that. I believe that once I personally get comfortable, my potential is going to stop and I don’t want that. I think that’s why I’m doing this. One of my biggest idols is Kobe Bryant, so it’s hard for me to just say ‘okay, I’m fine with where I’m at’ – especially in a sport or competitive setting. That’s just my mindset.
Q: Francisco, you mentioned you got into this to break away from a crowd you were running with. How did you make that switch and how did that switch affect where you are now?
FRANCISCO: Back in high school I was hanging with the wrong crowds. I wasn’t doing good in school, wasn’t showing up to class sometimes, things like that. My uncle was the one who got me into fitness. As a kid you can’t make the connection, but he helped urge me to follow my love of sports by getting into fitness. I played football and soccer my entire childhood. And since I love sports and love to eat, he pushed me to get in the gym. It was a way to get me out of the hole I was in and break away from the direction I was heading. It took a while, don’t get me wrong. The first couple of months I’d go once a week. Miss a month, go a day, miss a week. Then once I started seeing the first bits of natural growth, I was like ‘okay, now I’m gonna lift this amount of weight.’ That kept pushing me to want to go back every day. Next thing I knew I was just naturally gravitating toward that. I got excited to go. It got me away from that crowd and moving in the direction I am now.
Q: We talk to a lot of people with similar stories for our Transformation web series. One of the more common themes is that initial hump and how difficult it is to change your lifestyle. What would you say to folks who are stuck in that starting-up rut?
FRANCISCO: Oh, man. It takes a while (laughs) I’m not going to lie. It wasn’t until after my first year and my uncle riding my ass about going [to the gym] that I finally took it seriously. It didn’t click until I saw those first results. If you can get to that point, you’ll get hooked.
Q: Francisco sounds like he had a powerful motivator in his uncle. Lexie, did you have a similar experience or was it more of a self-motivation thing?
LEXIE: I would say it was mostly self-motivated. Same trajectory though. Loved sports my entire life, was an avid athlete. Moving into fitness development was kind of a ripple effect. In college I started to drift away, you know, living the typical college lifestyle, but even with hanging out with my friends and visiting bars and all that I was still getting up the next morning and going to the gym. I actually tried to motivate others to come with me. When I realized that this was a part of me, I think my path was really similar to Francisco. I would accomplish a goal and push myself further. Eventually I cut out the college lifestyle and really started to focus. That’s when I started seeing real progress and that’s where competition came into play. It was a snowball effect of pushing, seeing results, pushing, seeing results.
Q: Now that you’re both going to the gym twice a day or more for competition, do you feel guilty if you miss a day?
LEXIE: Absolutely. I think for anyone out there struggling to stay motivated, you have to make it a routine or it fails.
FRANCISCO: Honestly, if I miss a day I feel like shit. I’m 10 weeks in, which is more [time] than I’ve dedicated into any one specific goal. So for me if I miss a meal, I get grumpy. If I miss a workout, I’m like “how dare you?”
Q: Switching gears here, what’s your training schedule like now? How are you eating? What’s the routine?
LEXIE: I’m about eight weeks out from performance so it’s absolutely no sugar time for me. I can’t eat anything processed, only whole foods. Carbs tend to vary throughout the process. Closer to the show you start to cut that out. I drink a gallon of water each day, strive for seven to eight hours of sleep, which is hard with a full-time job and six days a week of training. I have six cardio sessions a week on average. But you adjust based on how your body is responding.
FRANCISCO: For me it’s a little different than [Lexie’s] because she’s in the cutting stages, I’m still trying to pack on weight. I’m at 4000 calories per day. Lots of carbs, a lot of protein, a lot of fat. It sounds like a blessing, but eating that much food every day, every single day, the exact same foods is not so fun, but it’s worth it.
I wake up at 6am and already have my meals prepped. I head to the gym, do 35 minutes of classic cardio and come to work. I have my breakfast. I have two more meals throughout the work day, so by the time work is over, I’m on my fourth meal. I go straight to the gym, get my workout in, usually an hour and a half to two hours. Then I have a post workout meal, which is two scoops of protein, some carbs, a couple strawberries and then I have dinner when I get home. So six meals a day.
Q: For people reading this who might be interested getting into competition, what tips/advice do you have for them to get started?
LEXIE: The first thing you have to have is the right mindset. It’s hard. Social media doesn’t help, because you’re only seeing the best parts of people’s journey. You see the end results; you see the sparkly bikinis and that’s only a tiny portion of what goes into it. You won’t understand the amount of work that goes into it until you actually do it. You have to basically be willing to say, ‘I’m willing to sacrifice pretty much anything for this.’ It’s also extremely expensive with all the food you need to buy. I would recommend you be somewhat financially stable, so you have to be at the right place in your life to start.
FRANCISCO: Totally agree with social media. It gets in your head when you see people posting results and if you’re four weeks in and not seeing those same results you start to doubt yourself. Stick with it. It’s your journey. You have to believe in yourself and believe that you can get through anything. It’s going to be worth it in the long run. Set a goal and go for it. If it takes you longer than others, that’s fine.
Lexie and Francisco received the unfortunate news that their competitions wouldn’t be moving forward. Which, in the interest of public safety, is a good thing. But we’ll be back later to catch up with our two lifting Questies to check on their progress and find out how they’re keeping on track while working from home. Until then, stay safe, stay healthy.
FRANCISCO’S FULL EATING PLAN
- 80 grams of oatmeal
- A cup and a half of egg whites
- Two whole eggs
- Seven ounces of beef
- One tablespoon of coconut oil
- Five ounces of asparagus
- A cup of white rice
- 8oz of chicken
- One tablespoon of coconut oil
- Five ounces of asparagus
- One cup of rice
- Two packets of cream of wheat
- Two scoops of protein powder
- Two scoops of protein powder
- Light carbohydrates
- A couple of strawberries
- 8oz of mahi-mahi
- One tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
- 5oz asparagus
- Cup of rice
LEXIE’S FULL EATING PLAN
- No food, straight to the gym
- Two small eggs
- Lots of mushrooms
- Small amount of tomatoes
- One tablespoon of olive oil
- 30g of oatmeal
- Small amount of strawberries
- Protein shake
- More chicken
- Basmati rice
- 100 grams of cabbage
- 100 grams of snow peas
- 95% lean beef
- Sweet potatoes
- Two cups of broccoli