A few months ago I met Sam Ly, a rising star in the fitness industry in both competitions and modeling. Fresh off of her win at the OPA Naturals, she is quickly making a name for herself and has an IFBB Pro Card in her crosshairs as she prepares for the Nationals this year.
At the 2012 Olympia, I managed to spend some time with Sam at the PharmaFreak booth. I, of course, had to wait to see her because the PharmaFreak booth was out of control with their fans wanting some of their incredible samples and pictures with their even more incredible athletes. Their roster also includes fitness industry celebrities – Dean and Leigh Brandt.
1) Sam, you’re one of the newest fitness athletes to be heating up the scene. How did you first get into fitness?
I was going through a really tough time. I had just gotten out of a serious relationship. I needed an outlet to take out my aggression. I started hitting the weights HARD, it became an obsession. The best feeling is when you are mad or upset, you go to the gym and take out all your frustration and leave feeling amazing. Shortly after that, 2012 came along. I never make new years resolutions but I wanted 2012 to be all about me and I wanted major changes in my life. So I made 3 goals as my New Years resolution.
i) Eat healthy! I’m used to eating REALLY bad. I’m addicted to greasy food and salty treats.
ii) WORK OUT! build muscle! I weighed 100lbs all my life, looking like skin and bones with a couple of curves.
iii) Face one of my fears. Biggest fear- stage freight, anything public with an audience. I have always been a shy girl, still am.
I know that the only way I could accomplish my new years resolution is with a goal. If there is no gaol, I lose interest and motivation quickly. I kept seeing all these random fitness girls showing up in my facebook feeds, who weren’t my friends. Everyday single day. I had a light bulb moment, why not compete? You have to eat clean, train hard in the gym, and go on stage. I am a very competitive girl who LOVES winning. I was sold from there.
2) You have a touching story about how your obsession with training came about. What happened?
I was in a serious relationship and literally became a housewife. I sacrificed everything; job, friends, moved away from family (huge step, as i am a family woman), moved to the United States, lost my independence during this process (which I value a lot, being an independent woman). I opened up her own salon at the age of 20. I went from owning my own business to being someone’s housewife because I couldn’t work in the United States. I lost myself in that relationship, eventually things didn’t work out. I was angry for awhile but am very thankful now because I regained my independence and I wouldn’t be as successful right now if I was still in that relationship. Everything happens for a reason, just be patient and appreciate – the good and the bad because God has a plan for you.
3) I hear your diet wasn’t exactly ideal for fitness. What did you used to indulge in and how did everything change?
McDonalds is my weakness, poutines, pizza, pasta…anything you shouldn’t eat, I was eating. Everything changed when I started training for my first show. I never knew how much diet played a role with how we look. You know that saying “you are what you eat?” it is completely true!!!!! If you eat bad, you are going to look and feel bad. If you eat good, you are going to look and feel good. I have a high metabolism but looking back at my pictures before I ate clean there is a huge difference.
Yes i was skinny but I was totally bloated in the lower abdominal area and in my face. All the sodium and sugar, WOW! When I say dieting, I mean eating “clean” not “eating less”. People think when I’m dieting, I’m not eating, or I’m eating salads all day… WRONG! I eat more than I ever have and you will never catch me eating just a salad.
image by Gord Weber
4) We always love hearing the emotions that a competitor goes through when they step on stage for the first time. Can you tell us what it was like getting up on stage the first time?
I didn’t have a coach or a trainer. I had no clue what I was doing. I was terrified. Leading up to the show, I almost quit everyday and I was freaking out with anxiety, thinking negatively about the outcome. I kept scoping out my competition and it made me sick to my stomach because everyone was a lot muscular than me. (*** FYI – competitors, never look at your competition. The only competition you have is between you and the judges)
I was nervous, scared, happy, excited, bad anxiety, anxious, you name it. But once I got to the show, I started telling myself “this is YOUR stage. That trophy is YOURS. You have already WON”. Positive affirmation really works. Mind over matter. As soon as I started reciting those phrases, I got that adrenaline rush and I was ready to win it. Moments before they called my name I was still shaking, literally shaking, hands, my knees buckled, even my lips wouldn’t stop twitching as I smiled, but I kept repeating those words in my head and all of the sudden I was on stage killing it. When they announced me as the winner my jaw dropped. I’m pretty sure I froze because I don’t remember much accept hearing my best friend and my mother screaming my name. It was surreal even up to this day.
5) You had some nay sayers with regards to you being able to win a show. What happened here and how did you use that to fuel your motivation to prove them wrong?
Yes, I had plenty of nay sayers who are now jumping on my bandwagon (ha!). At first I took it to the heart but then I turned it into motivation. Like I said before, I am very competitive. You tell me I can’t and I will prove you I CAN and I WILL! Every time I wanted to quit or give up, I heard their voices in my head and that just made me go even harder.
Vince with Sam at the 2012 Olympia PharmaFreak booth
6) With you accomplishing some your fitness goals and conquering the fear of public speaking, you’re actually doing what you deemed impossible. You’re a spokesperson for PharmaFreak and Core Synergy. What projects are you currently working on?
I have already made three motivational videos, two with PharmaFreak and one for Flex Online Magazine. Those were so amazing to work on and am booked to shoot more. There are some things in the works with Core Energy that I can’t reveal yet but I am truly excited!
7) With regards to PharamFreak, Don and Alex are great friends of ours. How does it feel to be aligned with a powerhouse company in our industry and representing their amazing products?
They are both amazing! I couldn’t ask to be teamed up with such an elite team. Their products have helped me get to where I am with building size, cutting down and shredding up for my competition. Hands down the best supplement company I have ever tried.
8) You’ve been tearing up social media with all of your latest modeling pictures. What is it like to shoot with the various photographers you’ve worked with and who did you have the best photo shoot experience with?
I have shot with various photographers but the two that stood out the most were Drew Haran and Gord Weber. AMAZING Photographers, more like artists, beyond talented. So creative, really fun to shoot with, made me feel comfortable and the pictures were breath taking. I highly recommend those two. I plan to shoot with both of them again really soon and I can’t wait!
9) What are your favorite body parts to train and why?
I love doing abs because it is super easy to do. You can literally do it anywhere, anytime, with equipment, or without. I instantly see results. A flat stomach is so sexy 😉
10) With aspirations of being a legend in our industry, who inspires you and why?
I am new to the fitness industry so I barely know anyone. The one fitness model I knew of was Melissa Leigh Morrison. I saw her on the Fit and Firm magazine and Status magazine before I started competing and I was smitten. Funny story, she is currently my teammate with Core Synergy so I got to meet her at one of our events. She is the most beautiful woman on the outside but truly such an amazing and inspiring woman. I don’t know anyone more dedicated, motivating, and disciplined. I look up to her and all of her success.
image by Gord Weber