Karen Elliott is this year's Ms. Fitness USA champion. The 30 year-old has been competing for five years and has placed second in Ms. USA in 2001, fifth place at Ms. World the same year; in 2002, she placed fourth in both the USA and world divisions. Karen is now in training for next year's USA competition which will be held in September this year.
Karen grew up in Moraga, CA and has always been involved in gymnastic which is a huge asset in the Ms. Fitness competitions. She participated in private club gymnastics until the age of 18 and after high school, she moved to Eugene OR where she studied dance and theater at college.
To get into competition shape , Karen starts training three months ahead of time by reducing her body fat. She's doing yoga, gymnastics and working with a choreographer since a large part of the competition focuses on graceful movement and poise. She works out in the morning at the gym spending 1/2 hour on the cardio first and then weightlifting for forty minutes. Karen's a big believer in always changing her routine in order to combat boredom and keep herself motivated. She stays on the same routine for four weeks then she switches. She breaks up her weight training into "splits" doing back & bis (biceps) one day, chest & tris (triceps) another day, hamstrings & shoulders the next day and quads & shoulders the final day of her weekly weight training cycle.
In the way of nutrition, Karen believes that you should eat a lot of whole foods. "I don't eat anything out of a bag or a box. She likes Kashi Go Lean and Good Friends cereal after working out (a puffed whole grain that does come in a box, but we know what she means). Sounding a bit like the Kashi spokesmodel, "It's only 90 calories and 7 grams of fiber per serving."
Since Karen is also a professional cheerleader for the Seattle Seahawks, she is famished after her training and practicing and finds the cereal is a quick way to quell her hunger pangs. She always eats a balanced meal consisting of 40 grms protein, 40 grms carbs and 20 grms fat. She eats a lot of chicken, salmon, tuna with mixed veggies and for carbs, she'll have brown rice or sprouted grain bread and popcorn if she needs a snack.
"I always read the labels to figure out what I can have. I get my healthy fats from the fish I eat and I mix 1 Tbs flax seed oil in with my Myoplex protein shakes," she says. She has a shake usually after working out for a quick fix. If you get enough of the good fats, you're body won't hold onto the bad fats." As for splurging, Karen says, "If you really, really want it and you have a craving, let yourself have it and don't beat yourself up. Have it and get back to training." Karen says her only downfall is sushi which wouldn't be so bad if she switched to sashimi (only raw fish and no white rice).
Since Karen is sponsored by EAS, she takes their multiblend multivitamin and a calcium supplement. She also takes the Emergen-C electrolyte powered drink mix and a multi-B vitamin. Karen has no long-term plans at the moment except to focus on the Ms. Fitness USA. "I really want to enjoy this year. Let me just get through this year. It's so much work and commitment. Fitness can be so self obsessive. Oh, what am I eating...oh, I have to get to the gym..."
Since she is engaged, even with her busy schedule, Karen takes time to help her fiancee with his business but it's tough she says cause she's so focused on herself and the competition. Karen attributes a lot of her success and self-confidence to working with a life coach. He helped change her perceptions of reality in order to release issues that had been getting in the way of her success and happiness. "Every athlete should have a life coach. I highly recommend it to anyone," she says.
"I owe my success to my support team of EAS, supplement sponsor Rob Boucher, life coach, Marc Castillo, fitness coach, Sondra St. John, choreographer, Dr. Greg Tenn, chiropractor, Forrest Avery, photographer Carlos, my fiance, for putting up with my training year after year!!" Karen says. New Living Magazine says, "It always helps to have a support team and fan club behind you!"
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Front cover and inside photos courtesy of Forrest Avery, Avery Productions and www.MsFitness.com