Romero rising

IFBB figure competitor Felicia Romero is ambitious, grounded and is — unfortunately for the rest of the pro ranks — a quick study

July 22, 2008
Romero rising
No one was more shocked at the 2006 NPC USA Championships in Las Vegas than Felicia Romero when this green, virtually unknown figure competitor walked away with top honors and a pro card in her first-ever national-level contest. "I never had aspirations to take it to the pro level," confides Felicia. "But I love the routine and the lifestyle, and this is a good outlet for my competitive nature."

Felicia built her love of competition through years of sports. She ran track and played volleyball and softball in high school, and continued to play softball at Arizona State University (Tempe) as a right fielder.

Ranked sixth in the nation at the beginning of her freshman season (2000–01), the ASU team was asked to teach the embryonic Greek women's softball team a thing or two that summer. "Greece was hosting the Olympics in 2004 and needed to put together a team," Felicia says. "We were invited to help show the girls how to play. We literally had to teach them the basics — like how to throw! I don't think they did very well at the Games."

Back stateside, Felicia continued to play softball on the college team and began lifting casually both at school and a local Gold's Gym, where she met boyfriend James Adams. Soon after she was certified as a personal trainer and started working with clients. In 2001 the duo opened their own studio called J&F Personal Training in nearby Mesa, Arizona. Felicia graduated in 2004 with a degree in political science, and afterward took the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) in preparation for law school. "My mom was pushing me toward being a lawyer, but I didn't feel like it would make me happy," Felicia says. "I wanted to do something fitness-related."


FIGURING THINGS OUT
Felicia kept up her Gold's membership and trained there several times a week. That's where she saw a flier for a figure competition. "I had never heard of figure, and at the time it was kind of new," she recalls. "I knew there was nowhere to go with volleyball or softball now that college was done, so I decided to try this figure thing." She studied online photos of figure competitors to learn how to pose correctly, read magazines such as MUSCLE & FITNESS AND M&F HERS for nutritional and training information, and picked the brains of other competitive women at Gold's about swimsuits and tanning.

"I really had no idea what I was doing, especially with the posing, and I was really nervous about competing," she admits.

Apparently she knew enough, because in 2004 she entered her first NPC show and placed third. Now completely hooked on figure, Felicia did two more amateur shows, then paired up with nutritionist-to-the- figure-stars Kim Oddo in 2006. "He helped shape my body into something great just by changing some of my food choices," she says. "I started eating more fish and different types of fats like almond butter. I also wasn't eating enough, so I went from five meals a day to seven." Within the year Oddo had her in winning shape, and a few months later Felicia competed in the USAs, which brings us full circle to her surprising pro-qualifying win.

In 2007, she competed in four pro-level shows. Felicia placed third at the California Pro Figure and took fifth at the Shawn Ray Pro Figure, then won the Jan Tana Classic Pro Figure, which qualified her to compete at the Figure Olympia in Las Vegas. "It was really neat to stand onstage next to icons like Jenny Lynn and Monica Brant at the O," she says. "I didn't place, which was fine since I was up against a lot of girls with more muscle maturity than I have, but it was a great learning experience."

Although she's ambitious and determined to place better in 2008, Felicia remains level-headed about the sport as a whole. "I do this for me," she says. "It's a hobby, and I know I can't do this forever, but it keeps me in great shape and I love it."


BUSY BODY
In her alternate life, Felicia has plenty on her plate besides competing to keep her occupied. Besides running her studio and training up to 15 clients a day, she's also a real estate agent and sells homes during her lunch hour or on breaks between clients. "I also recently started back at ASU to get my master's in exercise and wellness," she says.

Felicia wants to be a good role model for her family as well. "I come from a Hispanic background, and my mom likes to cook and eat," she explains. "When she saw me starting to lose weight, she thought I was doing something unhealthy. But I sat down with her and explained it. Now she's my biggest fan, and my two younger sisters want to get into sports and get healthy like I am."

Although she tries to eat as healthfully as possible, Felicia still enjoys traditional Hispanic food on occasion. "My mom makes the best green chile and chicken enchiladas," she says. "But I'm pretty sure that won't be on my [contest] diet for 2008, so I should enjoy them while I can!"

SNAPSHOT
FELICIA ROMERO

Birthdate: June 16, 1982
Birthplace: Gilbert, Arizona
Current Residence: Mesa, Arizona
Height: 5'3"
Weight: 112 pounds contest; 120 pounds off-season
Occupation Business owner, J&F Personal Training; real estate agent; professional figure competitor
Career Highlights: 2008: California Pro, 1st. 2007: California Pro Figure, 3rd; Shawn Ray Pro Figure, 5th; Jan Tana Classic Pro Figure, 1st

Lara McGlashan (laramcglashan.com) is a certified personal trainer and co-author of Kim Lyons' Your Body, Your Life, in bookstores now.

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