Erin Stern

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In 2008, Erin Stern came within three centimeters of a shot at Olympic glory. That was how narrowly she missed the high-jump qualification marker of six feet. However, at the time, she was more than half a decade removed from her daily collegiate track-and-field routine at the University of Florida, where she had been a Junior All-American and team co-captain — no 3 p.m. weight-room meeting, no dedicated plyometric workouts with the team, no post-practice therapy from the team trainer. She was doing it all on her own. “The only practice I was getting was competing at the meets,” she admits.

This setback temporarily halted Stern’s track-and-field dreams but provided the motivation she needed to pursue something else that had long held her interest: Figure competition. We’d say the rest is history, but the affable 33-year-old beauty, who has won two Figure Olympia titles, is still writing it. These days, the hard-training Florida native is working to inspire other women to pursue a healthier lifestyle, sometimes in ways that are anything but expected. And she hasn’t given up on breaking that six-foot barrier in the high jump.

You could have pursued anything after hanging up your track shoes. Why Figure?
It was something of a chance thing. After track, I just decided it’d be something fun to train for. Even as a track athlete, you want to look good, so that was always something I aspired to. I think everyone says Monica Brant was their idol, but there was one poster I remember of her on a beach in a bathing suit, and I couldn’t get over her legs. It was something cool to try to emulate.

Your training is unique in that you use a lot of Olympic moves and sprints. Why is that?
I still train pretty similar to how I trained in college. There’s just something about picking up a lot of weight and throwing around barbells and dropping them on the platform. And I love sprints. But this type of training also ties the muscles together. When they work together, they flow together. I haven’t gotten any of the other girls to train with me like this, but I’d love to! With the Olympic lifts, you just need a good coach and you need to start with light weights to build the motor skills that are required. This type of training is also great for conditioning.

How did you get involved with Dymatize?
I’ve always used Dymatize products — even in college. I had heard that they were looking for an athlete in 2010, and I talked to the girl who was doing the hiring. It just sort of worked out. I got the interview and they were interested. It’s amazing to be able to be a sponsored athlete with a company whose products I truly believe in. I don’t ever have to be fake. They make over 200 products, and I use a lot of them, but I love the Iso-100 protein, the Recoup, which is BCAAs and glutamine, and the L-Carnitine.

You’ve gotten a lot of attention for your stance on competing clean. Why is that so important to you?
I hope that people see that having a good physique is something that’s sustainable. I hope they see that you can step onstage and be a picture of wellness. You just have to have a little bit of patience. It takes time to build muscle. You have to learn the science of nutrition. I want to keep girls from taking shortcuts and harming their health.

You’re the reigning Figure Olympia queen. Who do you think has a realistic shot of unseating you in 2013?
I never focus on the other girls. Whenever I worry about what other people are going to come in like, it takes away steam from my training. But I see Nicole Wilkins as a threat based on our past history, and she always looks fantastic. The judges love her look, too!