How I Earned My Figure Pro Card

I’d never do the same drill twice in one week. Monday HIIT wind sprints in between lifting workout Thursday.

By: Karina Rhode
Magazine 15 #2

So here I am at 40 getting ready to start my professional bodybuilding career! I can’t help but smile for several reasons. My favorite reason being I’ve proven to myself (and my nephew) that there are no limits. What you were yesterday does not define who you are today… And it’s only what you think about yourself and your abilities that matter the most when you have a goal in mind. Knowing this, I am so excited about my pro debut (which will be when I’m 41). I’m nervous, excited, thrilled, laughing hysterically and ready to have the time of my life. None of this happens, however, without a plan.

Training goal shock the body to be stronger

At the time of this conversation, I had just taken the OCB Circle City Championships Overall Figure title in May of 2009 and was in full tilt preparation for what was to be my first shot at a pro card.

Determined to, back up my words with action this conversation became one of my primary motivators. Not only was it a verbal throw down in my mind (I do love a challenge), but it was a chance to show my nephew that you should NEVER allow someone else to dictate how you’re going to feel about yourself.

Ms. Natural Natural Indiana

On September 26, 2009, on stage in front of my friends, family (including my 16-year-old nephew), I captured my second overall title, Ms. Natural Natural Indiana Overall Figure Champion, AND MY PRO CARD!

[ Read Karina’s article in 20 #3 “Journey to IFBB Figure Pro Card” ]

Karina Rhode posing contest line up

I started competing at 38 years old in the fall of 2007. If someone would have told me, "The year you turn 40, you will win two overall figure titles and earn your natural pro card." I don’t know what I’d have said. Reason being, at that time, I had no idea how to eat or supplement for this sport. I was all over the map in the nutrition department with not so fabulous results. Starting January 1st, 2009, I committed to going full out on my diet.

Diet Various Phases

With B.I.’s Blueprint for Success and Pre-Contest Workshop Manual & Study Guide, I finally had a plan that was easy to follow. Found several diets that catered to my needs in various phases from building muscle to shedding fat. All I had to do was decide what phase I wanted to be in!

Because the plan gave me several ideas of meats, veggies, and carbohydrates from which to choose, I found my meals to be my own game of Iron Chef. The plan also had a schedule of when to eat what foods! Could it get easier can than that? Okay, sure it could. It also had some free foods I could enjoy or use to snack on or beef up a recipe size without hurting my calories! Yeah! Now I’m happy!

I’d buy all my veggies a couple of times a week and prep them for fast access meal preparation. I could whip up a salad or stir-fry in 15 minutes flat! To make sure we had plenty of "ready" protein on hand, my husband would grill up a family pack (8-9 pieces) of chicken breasts. God bless my husband. That man is a master with chicken breast on the grill!

From there, I merely had to mix and match meat with veggies. I had a few favorites, but could easily create new ideas at a snap because all the tools were there. Here’s a day at a glance for me. I never once felt deprived. I’ve included some recipes as well! (See end of the article for the recipes noted in the meal plan).

Nutrition at a glance

  • Meal 1: 6 egg whites, ¼ steel cut oats (pre-cooked), ½ grapefruit
  • Meal 2: UMP iced latte or mocha (see recipe*) + 1 oz. of almonds
  • Meal 3: Chunk Salad (see recipe*)
  • Meal 4: 1 scoop MP
  • Meal 5: Indian Chicken (see recipe*)
  • Meal 6: Carb-load Cookies** (Monday, & Thursday) or 1 scoop UMP (Sat, Sun, Tue, Wed, Fri.)


Beginning in January of 2009, I began the following regime: Six GH Factor: upon waking and six before bed Wow! Talk about feeling invincible. There’s something about that GH Factor that made me feel like I was 20 again! I was amazed that it could enhance my energy during the day and yet allow me to sleep soundly while supporting my recovery cycle at night:

  • I love this stuff! One Super Pak Vitamin in the a.m. I’ve taken vitamins before, but this is the first time I could feel that my body’s nutritional blanks had finally been filled in.
  • 2 Mass Amino tablets with each meal (6 times per day) 2 Lean Out with each meal (6x’s/day) 2 Ultra 40 with each meal (6 times per day).
  • With this part of the stack, I found that they worked best for me if I gave them a 20-30 minute start prior to my meal. This seemed to really round out my ability to build shapely muscle while trimming fat.
  • 2 scoops Glutamine Select with each training session
  • This helped me get the most from my muscle during training. I found that I had more strength and less soreness. I was amazed at the recovery enhancement!
  • At about 8 weeks out, I powered out my stack by adding: three 7-Keto in the morning & mid-afternoon
  • As the calorie reduction kicked in, I could tell this saved me from any energy spikes or crashes. It really helped keep me feeling balanced.
  • Swapping out my Mass Amino Acid Tablets for 2 Density with each meal (6x/day) two Muscularity with each meal (6 times per day). By far, these are my two favorites! Wow! What a change! Within 48 hours of adding these two supplements, I could see why B.I. recommends them if you’ve got it in your budget. By far the most powerful and rapid results I’d seen. Even folks at the gym were asking, What did you do differently? – because suddenly I was absolutely ripped. My shoulders looked fuller than they ever had and my legs were beginning to show cuts I’d only ever dreamed of!
  • One Energy Reserve with each meal (6 times per day).
  • This was the icing on my supplement cake. I feel an extra little punch from these that helped keep me moving all day long.
  • Ultimate Muscle Protein & Muscle Provider.
  • Getting adequate protein in my diet was always a problem until I found these two supplements. I love the added boost to my recovery from Muscle Provider, and the Ultimate Muscle Protein is so versatile I can use it to replace a meal or sweet, late night, healthy treat that won’t wreck my hard work.

Training HIIT never looked back

Halfway through 2008, I discovered High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and never looked back. I used to have what I called "chipmunk butt" – if my butt were a chipmunk’s face full of nuts, you’d know where I stored my fat. Steady state cardio did little to break into these problem areas. By implementing a mixed variety of HIIT drills, plyometrics and steady state (only for recovery purposes), I finally had the last key to unlock those problem chipmunk cheeks!

Sample Week’s Cardio Schedule

  • Monday: HIIT
  • Tuesday: Plyometrics
  • Wednesday: Steady State
  • Thursday: HIIT
  • Friday: Plyometrics
  • Saturday: HIIT
  • Sunday: Steady State

I’d never do the same drill twice in one week. Monday’s HIIT could be wind sprints on the treadmill in between lifting sets while Thursday’s HIIT might be hill sprints outside in the 3 acres of yard (yeah, the neighbors think I’m looney-toons). My goal here was to shock the body to be stronger functionally. By never doing the same thing twice, my body was constantly changing and growing in cuts and definition. HIIT training also builds muscle while burning fat. Thanks to the HIIT, my hamstrings were finally making a showing! The final result was a physique I was absolutely thrilled with! Athletic, svelte and mazingly stronger!

Favorite HIIT Drill – Treadmill:
10 minute warm up walk
Increase incline to 2 & speed to 8.5
Sprint 10 seconds
Jump off to the rails and rest for 20 seconds
Repeat 10 second sprint/ 20 second recovery
Sprint 15 seconds
Rest 15 seconds
Repeat 15/15
Sprint 20 seconds
Rest 10 seconds
Repeat 20/10
Sprint 25 seconds
Rest 5 seconds
Repeat 25/5
Sprint 30 seconds
Recover 30 seconds
Increase incline to 3 & speed to 9 & repeat 5 minute drill above.
Increase incline to 4 & speed to 9.5 & repeat 5 minute drill above.
Cool down with 5-10 minute walk.
As far as lifting is concerned, I love to go heavy. I enjoy the challenge of getting those 8 reps under a load of iron that leaves my legs burning and shaking. It doesn’t matter what part of the body. Give me heavy weight! Since I’m still trying to coax more definition out of my hamstrings and tie-in, I find myself targeting that part quite a bit.

Favorite Hamstring Exercises:

  • 4 sets 8-10 reps each
  • Cable straight leg kickbacks
  • Single leg hamstring curls with Swiss ball
  • Stiff leg dead lifts
  • Leg press (feet high to target hamstrings)

Individual Presentation

Have fun! You’re already beautiful and sexy; you don’t have to prove it by emoting any further. I’ve seen some pretty tacky presentations that killed competitors because they wanted to make it "sexier" than it was. Unfortunately, it came across as trashy and it hurt them in the judging. Go out and have fun. Walk like you’re enjoying a day with your friends. Present yourself to show your athleticism. Smile like you’re the life of the party. You’ll have an individual presentation that will steal the show, and you’ll still be able to run for a political office if you want to when it’s over!

Quarter Turns:

While the shower is getting warm in the morning, I practice quarter turns Full Monty. Black out the windows if you need your privacy, but practice naked. It’s so much easier to see the anatomy you want to practice showing if there’s nothing in the way of a hip flexor or abdominal line. If you like what you see when you’re nude, you’re going to love it when it’s dolled up in your posing suit! Doing this first thing in the morning also helped keep me focused towards the day on what I was working. It kept me on track with my diet and helped me see where I was doing well or needed more attention where gym work was concerned.

Carb-Load Cookies
Keep in mind; these are NOT your Momma’s cookies. They’re NOT overly sweet and they are very different texture-wise cuz there’s no flour in them. The sweetness comes from the potato and the banana. I pre-measure several packets of the potato & banana and freeze them together so they’re ready to go. The potato and banana are by weight so if you don’t have a portion scale, you’ll need one.
6–oz. sweet potato (baked in the peel, peel removed) 4 oz. ripe banana
1 small yellow zucchini or Chayote squash, grated (approximately 1 cup)**
1 cup rolled oats
1 tbsp almond butter
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cardamon
1 tsp cinnamon
Mash all ingredients together in a bowl with potato masher. Allow mixture to set for at least 10 minutes (longer if you can) to moisten the oats. Spoon onto greased cookie sheet and flatten and shape into rounds. Dust tops with additional cinnamon.
Bake at 400F° for 30 minutes. Allow to cool on cookie sheet long enough to set up. Remove to plate lined with
paper towels or cookie rack. May be served warm or cooled
for a chewier texture. Makes 2 ½ dozen.
**If you prefer to eat your veggies separately, these may be made without the grated squash.  The recipe just won’t yield as many cookies.  You will also need to reduce the baking time to 20-25 minutes.
I like to bake them long enough until they show a little browning on the top oats. I like them a little on the crunchy side. :)
UMP Iced Latte or Mocha:
I’d make this my mid-morning snack/second cup of coffee treat. I much prefer this to any coffee house confection. Use a flavored coffee, French Pressed brew or an espresso for a variation on the theme!
1 scoop UMP
1 full blender cup of ice
hot black coffee
Fill blender cup to rim with ice (appx 2 cups ice). Pour hot coffee over ice to ½ or ¾ full of coffee. Add 1 scoop of vanilla (Latte) or chocolate (Mocha) UMP. Blend for a refreshingly healthy iced coffee house treat! You can add more or less ice/coffee for a thicker/thinner consistency.
When I have to travel and eat my lunch a couple hours later out of the house, the biggest pain is making sure it’s won’t go bad because my ice packs didn’t stay cold. This salad helps keep itself cool! PLUS because it’s made with all my pre-prepped foods, it only takes 10 minutes from fridge to cooler!
1 cup of the following diced & tossed together – red, yellow, orange, green peppers diced
¼ red onion, diced (free food)
2 ribs celery diced (free food)
1 cup frozen peas
4 oz. cooked chicken breast – cubed
1 tbsp Newman’s Own Olive Oil and Vinegar dressing
Toss everything in a bowl and mix together. Put in plastic to go container and go! The peas will thaw by the time lunch arrives but will help your ice packs keep stuff chilled! Adding more celery can also help you feel more filled up without hurting your calories. On those hungry days, I use onions and celery a lot!
Indian Chicken with Hummus:
This will make the family happy and keep you on track as well.
This is so good; it had my husband was asking, when’ Indian Chicken night?
I’d eat this on my carb load night, as the few extra carb grams from the teaspoons of hummus weren’t a bad thing for me then.
This is also great cold the following day! With a little practice and timing, you can have this tasty spread on the table in about 30 minutes.
Indian Chicken (serves 2):
10 oz. chicken breast – cubed
2 cups red, yellow, green, orange peppers cut into chunks
2 cups onion (free food) cut into chunks
1 can diced tomatoes in juice
McCormick’s Red curry powder & Hot Madras curry powder
Sautee chicken with curry powders until just cooked through. Add in peppers and onions and toss with chicken until warmed through and still crunchy.
Add in tomatoes and cook until warmed through. Season with more curry & sea salt if desired.
1 can garbanzo beans – drained – juice reserved
1 tablespoon Tahini
1 large clove garlic
drizzle of olive oil
1 palm full of coriander
1 palm full of cumin
juice of ½ lemon
red chili flakes (to taste)
Sea salt (to taste)
Toss everything except for the juice from the garbanzo beans in the food processor and blend. Add just enough juice to bring mixture together into desired consistency.
For the family, use the hummus as you would a bed of mashed potatoes and ladle the chicken over it. As for you, take a small amount of the hummus and stir it in to your chicken mixture to bring flavors together.