It was just less than a year and a half ago that Shantal joined team Sexy-Strong and began her transformation, one that truly revealed a prize worth mining. We aren’t just referring to a beautiful body worthy of a crown, but to a strong, confident athlete that has inspired others along the way. Beginning her fitness journey training with Sexy-Strong coach Meriza-Deguzman Ciccone, she has been making big improvements continuously with each show that she competes in, proving exactly how committed and hard-working this military bikini babe is! She recently took first place in her class and won overall open bikini at Musclecontest’s NPC Ultimate Warrior Championship – with rock-hard determination and a booty to go with it! Her goals are set high and include getting one of those IFBB Bikini Pro Cards, which we know from her track record – is absolutely possible! Join us in our support of this Sexy-Strong featured athlete!
When and how did you begin training for bikini competitions?
I started training with Meriza (head trainer of Sexy-Strong) in her lifestyle program on August 23, 2015. I didn’t know this sport existed at the time, and back then I just wanted to lose weight and maintain it. I decided to start competing when I met Danielle Lipski after her second show and she won the overall in Ultimate Warriors 2015. I kept thinking to myself, I want to look like her. Everyone kept congratulating her and my coach was very proud of her. I felt that the “lifestyle” plan wasn’t for me anymore and I wanted to do something more than just maintain my weight. I told my coach that I wanted to start competing and she said after the holiday we would start to cut down.
How long have you been training with Meriza?
I got in touch with Meriza on Aug 19th for a lifestyle plan and started my plan on Aug 23, 2015. I started to workout with her 3 months after my first assessment and I fell in love training with her. She really pushed me to my limit and she would help me correct my form. I did her group session and all the girls she trains motivated me through her brutal workouts. Also, we all like to compete against each other to see who can lift heavier or do more reps, it’s awesome. Especially when I am prepping for a show, all the girls would push me harder and just help me stay motivated. However, when I train with the figure girls…. That is a different story.
What motivates you to compete?
Honestly, all the sexy-strong team and 619 family. But, I love my transformation from each show. How my muscle definition starts to form more and more after the shows and just being proud of the accomplishment right after the show. AND of course…. The FOOD. I love to see how my coach just feels so proud of me and how all the sexy strong girls come out and support each other.
What are some of your long-term goals?
My long term goals for this sport is first to get my IFFB Pro card. Once that happens, I really want to go to qualify for the Olympia! Watching the Olympia this year just motivated me. The energy and the hard work that all the pros put to get to that level is amazing. Also, I want to become a mini Meriza, for instance, seeing the transformation of a girl that you helped and just seeing their joy. I want to become a coach but we will see how that goes.
How do you feel about your upcoming show (NPC Ultimate Warriors, 11/5 at time of the interview)?
I feel pretty good about it. This will be my 4th show, the NPC Ultimate Warriors. I had my assessment with Meriza yesterday and I felt great! I am hoping to win my class and overall in this show. I am confident that I am bringing the best package yet. I feel like that every show. I am my own competition and my body already looks a lot better than my last show and that’s what excites me the most. For me the bigger my class the better! More competition!!!
How is prep for this show different?
My cheat days I still get FROYO that’s the exciting part! But also I get no carbs or fats my last two meals. I get fish again in one of my meals…I don’t miss fish these days. My cardio is more intense and insane. My heart rate goes all the way up to 175-178 bmp, and that is just insane for me! No fasting cardio…yet.. hoping and praying she will keep it like that. Prepping for this show, I am much more tired. Meriza took away my pre-workouts because I burn fat really fast now, and pre-workout makes me lose weight faster and also makes me burn muscle, and we don’t want that!!! I do have caffeine pills to boost my energy, but that doesn’t seem to do anything since I grew up on coffee…I’m addicted to coffee!
Have you made any changes in your prep for this show as far as training?
Yes, a lot of changes! We are trying to define my abs a lot more now, so I have to workout my abs everyday. My last prep I only had to do them twice a week. For leg day, I am limited to what I can workout. I can only do glutes and hammies because my quads got so big during my off season. Taking in more carbs and having more energy, I was pushing myself on the leg press with more than 6 plates on each side. I love to lift heavy! I sorta became a bikini quadzilla..but the coaches don’t want that, I had to start running again to lose my quads.
Do you have any cheat meals or major cravings?
Heck YESS!!! I get cheat days, coach tells me it’s important to re-feed your muscles and rest them to build more. It always depends on how I look while I am prepping for a show. Every prep is different for each show. For my first show prep I did not get any cheat meals, just a high carb day. The second, I only got burgers on Sunday. Third show prep, I got sushi and burgers and an extra burger when I looked too lean during the weekdays – this was an amazing feeling. This current prep I get sushi, burger, and froyo. My major craving is my mom’s food… I want Hispanic food all the time!!! Some empanadas, sweet plantains, CHEESE, beans, CHOCOLATE, PORK (especially the crispy skin). I know that I eat a lot of chicken but I do crave some Chinese NYC style chicken wings with crinkly fries. I do crave a lot of food but I stop and think to myself, I have worked so hard to get the body I have today; eating this everyday will ruin it. Off season, I enjoy myself once a week and then back on prep. This is a lifestyle.
How do you maintain such discipline?
I think being in the military has made my mindset so disciplined. One thing that I love and hate about myself is that I cannot lie to a person. If I cheat on my plan or miss a day of training, I feel so guilty after that I have to tell my coach. But that only happened once and that was because I was sick! I have never missed my meals or ate off plan unless my coach allows me to; however, when I am prepping for a show, everything has to be perfect. I don’t want to go on stage and say “man if I didn’t miss that one cardio session I would have placed higher.” I want to go on stage and say I gave it my all and now I know what to improve on.
Competing on stage where judgment is quite subjective, how do you keep thoughts of doubt from deterring you?
Okay, I will be honest with you guys but at first I would say “that was rigged, I should’ve won”…but take a step back and look at the pictures when they are posted and you can see what went wrong. You may have had more abs than the other girl but your waist was too big and her waist was smaller. Every show I do now I know what I can do to improve my body. Training, eating right, posing, hair, makeup, all of these factors come to play when you are on stage. After the show is over, I would go to the judges and ask what I can do next to be better and take that information and work my butt off to place higher. And it has been happening every show.
What advice can you share with women looking to taking their fitness to the next level and want to compete?
EVERYONE’S PREP IS DIFFERENT, EVERY COACH IS DIFFERENT!!! This is one thing girls keep struggling with. Every girl would ask me what I eat and how many carbs and calories… honestly every show I have done is different. My third show was my easiest prep so far due to it being back to back to back. This prep is more insane….however, nothing, I MEAN NOTHING, will every compare to my first prep ever. Everyday I would think of my first prep and pray I wont ever go back to that prep.
Anything else that you’d like to share??
Wise words from one of my teammates Mo, she told me to be careful after my shows… “don’t let the inner fat kid come out and take over.” A lot of competitors lose their minds with food after their first prep or any show. Be careful and have a balance when you are off season. Just think about how hard you have work and to throw it all away in less than a month. Some girls gain up to 30 pounds and have to do a first prep all over again. Many bikini competitors get out because they just don’t want to keep doing the endless cardio and lose all the weight again. Just have a balanced off-season prep ready and ease your way into it. Not all at once. Off season I still follow a plan because my main goal is to hit that Olympia stage! It will happen I promise, no matter how many years it will take, I will do it! Keep yourself motivated! XOXO