Teresa Stramandinoli | Rare Breed Athlete and American Bully Owner

Teresa Stramandinoli | Rare Breed Athlete and American Bully Owner

State your name, where you are from, and your profession.

My name is Teresa Stramandinoli, born and raised in New Jersey. I am a personal trainer and coach at Rare Breed Athletes, where my boyfriend Mike and I transform our clients’ lives, mind, body and spirit.

How long have you been a fitness competitor?

Eleven years! I did my first figure competition in November 2009.

What would you say motivated you to get started with fitness?

At first I just wanted to look more athletic. Once I started lifting, my confidence grew and my body started to change. I was amazed (and still am) that I could sculpt my body with my hard work. I got hooked.  

It wasn’t too long before it became more than just looking good.  The more I pushed myself in the gym and dialed in my nutrition, the stronger I became mentally.  I love that no matter what is happening in the world or in my personal life, this is something I have complete control over.  It is my sanity, my purpose, and my drive. I can’t imagine my life without my fitness lifestyle!

Tell us about your background in fitness. What titles have you won, and what has been your greatest moment in the sport?

I have been competing for 11 years, and I usually do about 2-3 shows per year.  As an amateur, I always did well and placed in the top 5, yet I was never able to grab that top spot until 2018.  I took 4 years away from the stage, and continued to train hard and build my body.  When I came back after that time off, I finally achieved my goal of earning a pro card in the figure division.  That was probably my greatest moment in the sport, as it is the only show I have ever won in my career.  I am not discouraged.  It just makes me want to work harder.  

I do this for myself, first and foremost, not titles.  If you compete just for a placing or a title you won’t last long in this sport.  It is very subjective and there are so many factors out of your control on show day.  You can place first in a show, and 5th at another show a week later…it’s just the way the sport goes!  Every show has different competitors and different judges, so I do my best to focus on bringing my personal best each time, and I’ll just keep plugging away until my time comes.

What are some of the obstacles, if any, that you had to deal with when you got started in the fitness world?

A lack of understanding from those around me.  Bodybuilding is a complete lifestyle change, and friends and family didn’t quite understand the changes at first.  I stopped drinking and partying. My parents are from Italy. In our culture, everything revolves around food. I was raised eating pasta every night. It was difficult for them to understand why I started to eat differently, and how I could pass on so much delicious food.  

My mom was also afraid I would turn into a man from lifting weights (a common misconception).  Once she saw my dedication and the results of my efforts, she became really proud of me and my new passion. When those closest to me realized this wasn’t just some fad I was trying out, but a true lifestyle for me, they accepted and respected it.  Now my parents call me before I go to their house, so they can ensure there is food I can eat, especially when I am in training for a competition.

The other challenge I had in the beginning was acquiring the knowledge of training and nutrition.  I would read as much as I could on my own and apply it but I knew to really step my game up, I needed an experienced coach, and they were hard to come by when I was starting out.  You didn’t have dozens upon dozens of “physique coaches” back then.  Luckily, I manifested the right people in my life that were able to help me get started with competing.  The training and nutrition for getting on stage is another animal, and you really have to know what you are doing to get stage ready.

What are some of the qualities that you believe have helped you reach your goals?

100% that I am a “testa dura” as we say in Italian.  It means “hard head”.  I am stubborn and that might not always be my best quality, but when it comes to my goals, it is my greatest strength. Once I commit to a competition, I become so laser focused that I will not let anything stand in my way. The more I feel uncomfortable and want to quit, the harder I claw my way through prep.

What is your favorite healthy food? 

Oatmeal and rice cakes, with peanut butter and sugar free jelly. I love my carbs!

What is your favorite cheat meal? 

Definitely a greasy burger and fries!

What advice do you have for young females looking to become fitness competitors?

Spend a few solid years in the gym building your physique through weight lifting before you start prepping for a show.  Bodybuilding competitions are not weight loss contests.  Whatever division you compete in, you need some muscle mass, shape and symmetry.  Be patient. It will take longer than you think, especially if you are not using PEDs, but it’s so worth it!  

Invest in a good coach to help get you to your goals.  It will save you time and wasted energy having a “blueprint” to follow versus trying to figure everything out on your own.  Do not let anyone make you feel that you have to take gear either.  You can accomplish so much with time and the right nutrition and training protocols.  There is no magic pill so whichever path you take – natural or enhanced – be prepared to work your ass off and sacrifice.  This sport is not for everyone.  If you get into this and you feel you are thriving off of the structure and it’s impacting other areas of your life in a positive way, then this sport is for you.  

Lastly, as corny as this sounds, enjoy the journey.  Know you will never be perfect, but you can get better every year if you remain consistent.  Let the distance between where you are and where you want to be excite you.  You will be surprised by your own potential!

Do you have any dogs? 

I have an 8 year old American Bully named Bane.  He’s my baby!

What inspired you to get involved with the bully breed?

I chose to get an American Bully because of their temperament. They are loving, loyal, and gentle.  They are wonderful family dogs. Bane’s love for his family is endless. He follows us around all day, and loves to give as well as receive affection.  It amuses me that some people are frightened by them, because they have the softest hearts!

What type of food do you feed your dog?

Bane was on a raw food diet at first, but his stomach was too sensitive for it. Now I mix high quality kibble with home cooked foods like chicken, beef, green beans and sweet potato.  He has a raw marrow bone as a treat on occasion. Bane also loves peanut butter and rice cakes. I am not sure if it’s my influence, but he likes to eat like a bodybuilder. He also loves fresh baked cookies from Bingsbarkinbakery.com.

What type of fitness regimen do you keep your dog on?

We go for 2 long walks a day.  In the winter, he wears a weighted vest during our walks. It’s not too heavy and he seems to like it. It keeps him focused during our walks. I walk him more when I can, but I have to be careful with the heat in the summer, as he is very sensitive to that.

What are some of your favorite things to do with your dog?

I enjoy going for hikes, napping together, and playing fetch.  Bane loves to play fetch, so I get a kick out of it. That’s when he seems to be happiest.

In your opinion, what are the characteristics of a responsible dog breeder? 

In my opinion, a dog breeder should make health a priority.  It makes me sad to see some of these “exotic” breeds that were created because someone wanted a dog that looks cool or different, and they caused them to have health issues. It’s just not fair to the animal. 

I also believe breeders should properly vet the family that is taking any of their pups. All too often, people don’t realize what a commitment having a dog is, and they give up very easily.  Having a dog is rewarding, but it is a huge commitment, and you have to be dedicated to taking care of them.

Switching back to fitness, how has this global pandemic affected the fitness community?

It’s been challenging, especially for gym owners.  But from the perspective of an athlete and competitor, I think it showed us what we are really made of!  Many of us were without a gym for most of last year, but we got creative, we adapted, and we refused to let Covid derail us from our goals. I was in awe of the caliber of athletes that turned out for my last competition this past November. It is truly amazing what you can accomplish when you have the determination to succeed. 

Are you still able to train regularly, even with the new capacity rules at the gym?

Yes, I train 5-7 days a week because I built a home gym during the pandemic. I train there exclusively and did so for my entire 2020 competition prep. You would be surprised what you can accomplish with the basics. Free weights are king. I have no plans of going back to a commercial gym when restrictions ease. I think this is my new way of life! 

Who do you look up to in the fitness or bodybuilding world?

When I first started out, I was inspired by figure competitors like Gina Aliotti, Ava Cowen, and Erin Stern. But to be honest, I wouldn’t say I “look up to” anyone now. There are athletes that I greatly respect and admire, but this sport has taught me that I can only be the best version of me. So that is what I continuously strive for, beating my last performance and improving my physique year after year.

Tell us about some of your goals for this year?

I’m not big on broadcasting my goals. I prefer to work at them privately, but I will share one for this year. As an athlete, my goal is to add 2-3lbs of muscle to my stage weight. If you ask my coach, he will tell you the goal is 5lbs – haha!  And I will certainly strive for it, but as a drug free female competitor, 2-3lbs in a year is incredible progress.  

It will take a lot of work and sacrifice, but thankfully my boyfriend and coach supports me 100%.  I have goals as far as shows and placings as well, but some goals are so big you just can’t put a timeline on them. The deadlines for those goals for me are: “as long as it takes”.

What other hobbies or interests do you partake in besides fitness?

I love to bake and create new recipes!  I even have a small side business selling my creations.

What is one of your favorite quotes?

“If you don’t sacrifice for what you want, what you want becomes the sacrifice”.

What do you think of Bully Girl Magazine?

I love Bully Girl Magazine, because I absolutely love the breed, and you guys do an amazing job of showcasing it in a positive way. It’s cool to learn about the bully community and see so many gorgeous, healthy dogs. This breed definitely deserves it’s own dedicated magazine.

 

Photo Credit: Rosario Zinnanti

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