Westfield, New Jersey
Stats: 36 • 128 lb • 5’4”
Gig: Interior designer
Down but Never Out: Overcoming obstacles has defined Vanessa Romond’s fitness quest. “I’ve suffered from osteoarthritis and spondylolysis since I was 18, and recurring lower-back and neck injuries have forced me out of training for months at a time,” she says. Always athletic, Romond participated in track, skiing and kickboxing in high school while also earning NCA All-American honors as a cheerleader. She made it her mission to re-establish her fitness groove after having her second child. “I started strength training and focused on stabilizing my core, and my overall pain management really improved,” she says.
Fit Fam: Romond typically heads to the gym after dropping her kids off at school. “I’ll do HIIT cardio mixed with free-weight and bodyweight exercises three or four times a week, and I try to get outside for a run once a week,” she says. She also makes the time to exercise with her family. “We love to do 5Ks and mountain hikes with our daughters,” she says. “Our 5-year-old, Ella, even competed in a Spartan Race with us last summer.”
Magic Moment: Romond recently did a fitness photo shoot, and while going over the images, she got a reaction from her daughter she’ll never forget. “Ella looked at the photos and said, ‘OMG, mom, you’re like superwoman!’ If that’s not motivation to live a fit and healthy lifestyle, I don’t know what is.”
Stats: 36 • 140 lb • 5’4”
Gig: Online personal trainer
Cardio Queen: Kyra Williams’ “aha” fitness moment came when she was 23. “I had just graduated from college and weighed 165 pounds,” she recalls. “I was eating calzones and whole pizzas in one sitting, and I felt horrible about myself.” Williams turned her life around by initially just eating less and doing hours of cardio. It worked (a little), then a friend introduced her to Oxygen magazine and lean muscle became her No. 1 goal.
At a Cross-road: Williams dropped from a size 8 to a size 2/4 and did three bikini shows, but she did not enjoy the process of that kind of competition. Her introduction to CrossFit in 2012, however, changed everything. “I fell in love with the sport — it’s all about performance,” she says. “I’ve put on at least 10 pounds of muscle and am back up to a size 6, but I am more balanced. I don’t stress about every morsel of food, I still have cocktails on the weekends and I eat butter on my steak. This is the best I’ve ever looked or felt.”
Sharing Her Journey: These days, the NASM-certified personal trainer, CrossFit Level-1 trainer, and USA Weightlifting and USA Powerlifting coach is aiming to grow her business while continuing to test herself in competition. “I’ve done more than 10 CrossFit events and made the regional team in 2016,” Williams says. “I’d like to try an Olympic weightlifting meet and a powerlifting meet at some point, as well.”
Stats: 42 • 120 lb • 5’2”
Gig: Fit lifestyle coach
Serious Setbacks: “I was always the athletic, strong, healthy girl who could work 12-hour days, train twice a day and still take care of my loved ones,” Angel Scott says. “But this strong, healthy girl also completely ignored every sign her body was giving her on two separate occasions — first when I developed rhabdomyolysis due to overtraining at age 31 and again before my diagnosis of Graves’ disease at 41. Both times, it could have cost me my life.”
Winning Ways: Now 42, Scott uses weights as her weapon to combat and manage her disease. “Maintaining strength is a top priority because Graves’ causes muscular weakness — the less I lift, the weaker I feel,” she explains. “A typical workout week for me includes an upper-body day, a lower-body day, a total-body conditioning day and a flexibility/mobility day. I also like to throw in some hot yoga.”
Function Over Form: Scott credits her mom and her husband as her dream team, whose support enabled her to come back from illness and injury, and even win the 2003 Fitness Canada Toronto regionals. “With every obstacle, I’ve become stronger and have learned to appreciate my body not for the way that it looks but for all it does for me every day,” she says. “I know firsthand that if you’re not your healthiest, you can’t be anything to anyone.”
Little Falls, Minnesota
Stats: 28 • 155 lb • 5’7”
Gig: First-grade teacher
Teacher, Role Model: Fitness has always been a part of Brianna Sanoski’s life, from exercising with her mom growing up to high-school gymnastics to pro Figure and Bikini competitions. After earning two degrees in elementary education, Sanoski began teaching first grade and coaching gymnastics. “My students and athletes see me with a gallon water jug and eating my healthy meals and ask a lot of questions about fitness,” she says. “Seeing how much of an impact I make pushes me to continue bettering myself.”
Strength to Persevere: Fitness has been Sanoski’s touchstone through some very tough times. “When I was 15, I was raped by one of my brother’s friends,” she says. “At first, I drank to cope with the pain, nightmares and PTSD, then I turned to fitness. Lifting weights and running helped my anxiety and made me feel stronger.” Exercise was also there when Sanoski went through her divorce.
On the Go: In addition to strength training, Sanoski also loves avid hiking, skiing and bow hunting. “I use a calendar to keep track of all my jobs, responsibilities and fitness goals, and when I’m meal prepping, I’ll also plan my workouts,” she says. Sanoski’s advice for aspiring fitness enthusiasts? “Exercise to be fit, not skinny, eat to nourish your body, and always ignore the doubters. You are worth more than you realize.”
Stats: 32 • 115 lb • 5’2”
Gig: Eligibility worker, Kern County Department of Human Services
New Motivation: Valerie Quinonez has had a gym membership since she was 11 years old, but she didn’t truly get serious about fitness until she was 26. “It was a few years after I had my daughter, Ashira,” she says. “I had toxemia during my pregnancy, so I rapidly gained an extreme amount of weight for my body size. I started lifting to fill out my stretch marks and loose skin with muscle, but then it became a desire to be strong and gain as much muscle as I could.”
Stand and Deliver: Quinonez recently took second place in Bikini Class B at the 2017 NPC MuscleContest Excalibur Championships. “I have scoliosis, so placing top five is winning for me,” she says. “The scoliosis affects my workouts and my overall symmetry, and I have to really use the mind-muscle connection to hit the intended bodyparts. I’ve also learned how to hide flaws onstage by standing using certain presentation techniques.”
Mind Matters: As a single mother, Quinonez credits fitness and bodybuilding for helping her achieve her own dreams as well as helping her daughter achieve hers. “I’ve discovered an inner strength and confidence and would love to be an example to anyone who feels discouraged because things are not quite perfect in life,” she says. “No matter where you came from or what your current circumstances, you can achieve anything you put your mind to.”
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