Growing up, Monique Lopes was teased for her muscular build. Little did she know that it would soon open her eyes to a different side of fitness she had never even heard of. Competing is an amazing, sparkly, and magical world that drives her ambition.
1. What do initially drove you to compete in bodybuilding shows?
A few months before competing in my first ever bodybuilding show, I didn’t know the world even existed. I used to love CrossFit and I was going to follow my fitness dreams in that way until a personal trainer at my gym asked me: “How many weeks out are you?”
I was confused and had no idea what he meant by that. After he explained a bit, I went home and did some research. My life changed. I saw strong, beautiful bodies similar to mine and in my eyes, they looked amazing!
Growing up, I was teased about my “muscles” and at this moment, I knew – I’d found a place where I fit in and belong. I was excited to explore it… instantly!
2. What aspects of competing do you enjoy?
I love the level of discipline and resilience one needs while competing. Not just with the preparation, but with everything else in life as well. I thrive off having a goal and working towards it through structured training and routine. It unites like-minded humans too while providing a platform to express yourself and make incredibly special friendships.
I love the journey of progress and the actual glamour stage time on the day. The electrifying adrenaline rush is magical. I love being on stage and allowing my 2% girly girl in me to be free.
Competing helped me to learn – and continue learning – how mentally strong I can be. It’s boosted my confidence in knowing and truly being reassured that HARD WORK and CONSISTENCY will always pay off – directly and indirectly!
3. How do your fitness levels, training, and your diet when you’re prepping for a show compare to your everyday lifestyle and training?
While prepping, my training is a lot more structured and strength-focused with a precise weekly training split focusing on the different muscles groups of the body with added cardio to boost fitness levels.
It’s also quite structured during my everyday life because I genuinely just love it. I include a lot more circuit and HIIT training, functional and plyometric movements when I’m not necessarily “in season” and prepping. The goal is always the same though – progress, strength, enjoyment, and health.
My eating while on prep is a lot more disciplined than when I’m not prepping. I stay clear of dairy and keep sugar to the very minimum (no Woolworths Chuckles). I take extra care of the added oils, how the foods are cooked, and portion sizes. I’m also a lot more mindful as to what I eat throughout the day.
When I’m not prepping, I’m a little more relaxed and although I love healthy eating and it’s just my preferred way of fueling my body, I’m a lot more intuitive and I allow myself to indulge in my favourite “off-plan” meals.
4. Do you think that this way of training and eating is sustainable?
To be honest, my approach has never been extreme in any way. So yes, my methods can be quite sustainable. My main priority is health and wellness and I’ll never compromise that. I’d rather prep for a much longer time than resort to extremely restrictive actions.
I still need to be able to live my life outside of prep in terms of business, family, and relationships. In my very own personal opinion, you have nothing if you don’t have your health, so compromising that is never an option for me.
5. How do you think prepping for competitions has benefited you?
Prepping for competition has taught me how strong I am – both mentally and physically. It’s allowed me to get to know myself on a deeper level. The competing experience has shown me that hard work always pays off and that you can truly achieve anything you set your mind to.
It’s also taught me the valuable lesson that no matter how much help, guidance, or tools you have, only YOU have the power to make something happen for yourself. You have to put in the effort.
I’ve also loved how it’s been an incredible platform for me to show the world who I am and share my passion with it. It’s opened so many amazing doors for me and it’s given me an exposure boost within my career.
6. What don’t you like about competing?
I’m so used to always focusing on the positives, so this one was actually quite hard.
However, at times, I don’t like how it turns on your “comparison to others” switch which can result in doubtful moments. I also don’t like the extreme side of the sport where individuals compromise their health. Even though I know in my heart who and what I am, I cannot help but feel a bit down when someone associates me with the negatives when I know I’m not.
7. Can you give us a breakdown of what happens a week before show day aka peak week?
My “peak week” with my new and beyond incredible coach JP has honestly been so pleasant.
No extreme water drops, no endless hours of cardio, and no cutting out of any food groups whatsoever. I even have fruit right up until the day before the show and I don’t eat white fish all day every day either.
My peak week doesn’t change much from my other weeks, it’s just a little extra precise, so no extra peanut butter here or there and definitely no extra sneaky sweet potato fries or a bowl of popcorn either. We don’t even cut out salt or spices.
My training even remains the same. Peak week is not bad at all when it comes to my particular approach and I absolutely LOVE IT! The only thing I do eliminate is eating out at a restaurant from about two weeks out.
My workouts become an absolute priority during that time… even if it means training at 3 in the morning on a busy day. Peak week – I tick all the boxes!
8. What would you tell someone who hasn’t ever competed before that wants to compete?
My advice or tips can go into so much detail, but to keep it brief, I’d tell them that if it’s been a consuming thought in their minds and hearts – they should explore it. Don’t let fear or doubts talk you out of getting to know more about yourself and what makes you a little happier.
It’s also so important to mention that it’s not easy … AT ALL! It’s not always glamourous and you have to be willing to sacrifice a lot of immediate “pleasures” to achieve optimal results and success in the sport.
They must be extremely CLEAR as to why they want to compete and understand that it is a real sport and they need to be prepared to fully take on the ATHLETE lifestyle. What’s also really important to mention is that the individual’s INITIAL relationship with food should be strong and stable as the sport, if misguided, can result in disordered eating and further health complications.
Don’t be in a rush. Give yourself a realistic timeframe to prepare and never compromise your health for a competition. Choose a coach wisely. He or she must be knowledgeable, experienced, and have your best interest at heart at all times – not theirs and lastly – if done correctly and for all the right reasons – competing is so amazing, sparkly, and magical.
9. What are your future plans when it comes to competing?
I’m still having so much fun exploring my options and taking my time to figure out what exactly makes me happy. So lots of exciting things are to come in 2022.