| Interview With
IFBB Figure Pro Ellena Tsatsos-Reidie|
With Kostas Marangopoulos, M.Sc., CPT.
October 5th, 2011
It is not very often that you come across an
IFBB pro athlete with a Greek name, especially in the women's categories.
When I first heard of Ellena in 2009 and after seeing her competitive photos, I
made a mental note to myself that this young lady would definitely go far in the
sport and also to...schedule an interview!
Fast forward to 2011, Ellena went on to become a successful IFBB professional
figure athlete, placing as high as 5th in her pro debut and competing in big
shows such as John Lindsey's Tournament of Champions in California and
the 2011 Sheru Classic in India, among some of the world's best figure
After the 2011 Tournament of Champions, I spoke to Ellena about scheduling an
interview and as time allowed we had a great chat.
Before the interview, I would like to share with you a quote from Ellena,
that left a big impression on me about her character, ethic and determination:
"I hope to achieve world wide acknowledgement and appreciation from the
bodybuilding industry; many people are unaware as to the commitment and drive
you need to have to be a competitor. Being a role model to young Australian's
during the highest ever epidemic of obesity and eating disorders is very
important. I train 5 days a week, for an hour day at Dohertys Gym in Brunswick,
Australia. The commitment comes first to my body and soul, learning to listen to
them both, not just your mind".
Enjoy the interview!
Kostas: Hi Ellena, how are you, I would like to welcome you to our
interview and start by congratulating you for your excellent competition at the
Tournament of Champions. Was this your second pro show?
Ellena: Thank you very much, good to be here! Actually, it was my third.
My first was the 2011 IFBB Australian Pro in Melbourne, my second was in New
Zealand, and yet this time it was much better, it was the first time competing
as a professional in America. So it was a much bigger lineup than say Melbourne
and New Zealand. I think we had about 10 for Melbourne and about 7 for New
Zealand, we had 23 at the Tournament of Champions.
Kostas: And this was a tough show, right? Looking at the line-up, a
lot of girls enter these contests in the USA.
Ellena: They do! I guess, you know, I chose the show closer to the
Olympia because I wanted to compete against the best. I mean, as a professional
anyway you are going to be competing against, you know, fantastic physiques. But
I really wanted to kind of throw myself into the defending just before the
Olympia because I knew that there would be a lot of people trying to get
qualified to get to the Olympia and the girls that have already qualified would
have used the show as kind of warm up as well.
I guess I just wanted to get in there and see exactly what’s happening in the
professional world. So, it was a good wake up call for me as well and a really
good learning experience, I know exactly what I need to do, to do better, and I
think it was a rough ride for me to actually get to this point to get picked.
You know I had a few problems in the start of my prep, just with my body not
responding as well, I think my body is a little bit tired and I’ve done a couple
too many shows this year.
Pretty much I think my body needs a break and I need to get my metabolism back
to normal but you know it was a really good learning experience and I had a
really good time. As much as, just because I didn’t do as well as I hoped, it
doesn’t mean that it took away from the experience at all. I learned a lot and
I’m going to take the feedback with me and you know, hopefully make better
changes for my show in India.
Ellena At The 2011 IFBB New Zealand
Kostas: You are going to compete in India?
Ellena: Yes, I am already signed up to go to India.
Kostas: Excellent, I wish you best of luck with the show. You know,
Michael Kefalianos will also be competing there as well.
Ellena: Yes I know! It’s going to be a huge, huge show in India. It’s the
first time India is having a professional bodybuilding show and bodybuilding and
fitness is huge over there. You know my husband and actually got married in
India, my husband is a bodybuilder too and people would just stop us on the
street and ask questions and ask diet advice and training advice.
Kostas: I know, I get emails from India about training and nutrition
advice all the time.
Ellena: Yeah, it doesn’t surprise me!
Kostas: Yes and you know people ask “what can
supplements can I take" or "what can I
eat”, and you would think with the internet all the
information would be readily available. Unfortunately that is not the case.
Training and nutrition knowledge is very basic in most cases.
Ellena: Exactly, you are right. A lot of them are vegetarian as well. So
most of the people would ask us for advice, you know, we are vegetarian, and I
guess even two of the greatest bodybuilders from India are vegetarian as well.
So, it just goes to show that there are ways around it and that just because you
are vegeterian, it doesn’t mean that you can’t do it.
Kostas: Are you vegetarian too?!
Ellena: No! Hello! What "vegetarian" to a Greek?? (laughs)
Kostas: So, do you come from a Greek family?
Ellena: Yes, both my parents were actually born in Greece, in Kastoria.
Kostas: Oh, great!
Ellena: My mom is from Inoi and my dad is from Grevena. They are from the
north, they both came to Australia when they were quite young. I was born in
Australia and I guess my family wasn’t a very traditional Greek family, like
they were strict but I was allowed to finish greek school. You know, after grade
six I didn’t have to continue on to high school, they didn’t speak much Greek at
home. The only person that would really speak Greek to me was my yiayia and a
lot of the times I couldn’t understand her anyway.
Kostas: That’s nice. So you do speak a little bit of Greek, right?
Ellena: A little bit yeah. It’s not that good though. I’m ashamed to say
(laughs). I understand more than I can speak!
Kostas: Did your parents speak Greek at home too?
Ellena: They speak Greek but only when my yiayia was around. They never
spoke greek in the house. It was English all the time. Only my yiayia and
pappous speak Greek to me.
Kostas: And do you go back to Greece often, or no?
Ellena: I’ve been twice so I’d love to get there more often but I guess
with what I do and because my husband is a business owner as well, I’m a
business owner, we both compete, our schedules are pretty busy, because he is an
amateur bodybuilder and I have professional shows, so it’s pretty hard to travel
for holidays and for leisure as opposed to traveling for competitions and shows
and stuff. But I would love to take my husband to Greece, take him to the
islands and just have a proper holiday, or even a proper honeymoon ‘cause we
didn’t have a proper honeymoon yet.
Kostas: You know, I was surprised when I found out that you were
competing because of the last name change.
Ellena: Oh yes!
Kostas: I was used to you as Ellena Tsatsos.
Ellena: You can still use Tsatsos-Reidie if you like. It’s been really
different I guess because I established my career as Tsatsos so when I got my
pro card I was actually already married so it was a fresh start as well. Yeah, a
fresh start as a Reidie as a married woman I guess.
Kostas: So, when did you get your pro card Ellena?
Ellena: Well I was offered my pro card last year when I won the
Australian nationals and I asked if I could compete at the Arnold Classic as an
amateur first, before I accepted my pro card, mainly because in my mind I had a
certain amount of goals that I wanted to achieve in a certain way.
And I had never placed at the nationals before, you know, for two years I didn’t
place at all. So my goal last year was to place at the nationals and then if in
time eventually be asked to do the Arnold Classic and then a few years after
hopefully I could get a professional card. And last year at the nationals
instead of placing I won my category and then I won the nationals, so that to me
was crazy. I thought oh my gosh, I’ve been thinking hopefully I could get third
place and just place, instead of walking away with nothing.
And then to be offered a pro card, just a few weeks later I though “Hang on,
this is not the sequence”. I wanted to do this, I had a set plan, and this is
what I want to do, I really always wanted to go to the Arnold Classic and
compete and the Australian IFBB allowed me to do that. So, when I returned, a
week after the Arnold Classic I got my pro card in time to compete at the
Australian Pro Show in my home town.
Kostas: That’s wonderful.
Ellena: It was very exciting, I was glad to make my pro debut at home, in
front of friends and in front of family.
Ellena At Her First Pro Show, The 2011
IFBB Australian Pro
Kostas: Were you always into sports or how did you, you know, evolve
Ellena: A a child I did a lot of baseball, swimming and running and a lot
of dancing, but through my high school years I guess I rebelled and I stopped
any kind of physical activity. I was a little bit of a troubled child I guess, I
was pretty cheeky, I would run away from home and drink, I took a really bad
turn in my life and I guess I was just throwing my life away. Trying to get back
on track, I went to the university and got myself a job, I was still going out
and drinking and partying and it felt like all I did was go to work, go home, go
out the whole weekend, and it was "groundhog day" and the same thing would
happen every single week.
And I just needed a change. My friend and I decided to start off at a gym just
to kind of to get fit, and to change our lives around. And from there I guess I
really started seeing changes in my body just from training, not dieting or
anything like that. They came up to me and told me that I should compete and I
guess I had the assumption that women who compete are muscular and I wasn’t sure
if I liked the look of this physique that I’d seen. So I went to a bodybuilding
show and I had a look, and I still wasn’t really sure.
The girls that I’d seen up on the stage were really muscular and really lean and
really hard in the face and I was a bit of a girlie girl and I didn’t want to
lose my femininity so I guess I was a little bit turned off, but then, you know,
I was sitting at home one day, and I kind of was reflecting back on my life and
I felt like I hadn’t really accomplished anything, so I decided to go ahead and
do it. You know, I was gonna diet, there was a show coming up in 3 months time
and I thought it’s just this one show, and I picked a goal for myself and I
didn’t care how I place or how I did, I just wanted to reach a personal goal for
Kostas: I have to say, your story is very inspiring
and a lot of young women will be able to relate to you on a personal level.
Ellena: Yeah, so I did that, one competition, the first competition I
competed in I won, and I won a trip to the Nationals I guess, and I competed
with a few different federations in my first year and I kept doing really well.
So I just kept winning these shows and I ended up doing about seven shows within
a couple of months, and finally a trip to New York to compete. I competed in
Miami, so I guess fate maybe smacked me in the face.
Kostas: Sure did, funny how fate works sometimes.
Ellena: So you know it was an accident, I’d say, just getting into it
Kostas: Very interesting how that happened.
Ellena: Yeah, it was a bit of a surprise.
Kostas: Did you meet Michael (Kefalianos) at the Aussie Pro Show this
Ellena: Yes, I’ve met Michael. I’ve met him a few times actually. The
first time he came to Australia to compete where he qualified. He qualified for
the Olympia that year?
Kostas: Yes, 2009.
Ellena: Yeah, he won the wild card.
Kostas: Yes, 4th place.
Ellena: He came in fourth yes, I met him that year and I also met him this
Kostas: And yesterday you met fellow
Greek Figure Pro Eleni Plakitsi right?
Ellena: Yes, finally I met Eleni!
Kostas: That’s great!
Ellena: Yes and we’ve been talking just online and stuff and I was really
excited to meet her, she seemed really friendly. You know, we really hit it off
it was almost like we had already known each other, or we’d already met. You
know, we are very alike in some ways, and very different in other ways. Yeah but
she’s a great girl, and she has fantastic potential, she did really well at the
Phoenix Pro, and she could have placed better at the TOC.
I thought she was going to place a lot better than what she did but yeah, she’s
awesome and I definitely see myself catching up with her again, and competing
with her again, so I’m trying to convince her to come to Australia in March to
do the 2012 Aussie Pro Show and she’s thinking about it.
Ellena Backstage With Greek IFBB
Figure Pro Eleni Plakitsi
Kostas: That would be really nice. Then you’d have all the Greek
Ellena: Yeah that’s right.
Kostas: Awesome. What are your plans from now on?
Ellena: Well, I’m gonna go back home spend some time with my husband, and
train and go to India to compete, and then that will be my last show for the
year and then I’m going to compete in Australia at my hometown in March and from
there I’ll probably take the rest of the year off. I haven’t really had a break
in the last five years so I think I’m going to take at least, you know, a year
off after my show in March next year.
Kostas: I personally think that's always a good idea.
Ellena: The body needs a break and just focus on work, I guess competing
you kind of have to put a lot of things on the back burner, with work and your
social life, and you know everything else…
Ellena: Family, they have to come second sometime and I just really want to
focus on spending time with my husband. I have a few trips planned for birthdays
and weeks we’d really want to go on a honeymoon and not worry about training and
dieting. So after the show in Australia in March it’s really time for friends,
family and holidays.
Kostas: What else do you do apart from competing, I think you work at
Dohertys Gym if I’m not mistaken?
Ellena: Yeah, I’m a personal trainer at Dohertys Gym, I train a lot of
clients there for weight loss or just for other specific goals. I also help a
lot of the competitors at the gym with posing. It comes in handy too especially
when I’m preparing for a show cause I mean I’m always at the gym anyway. It’s
good. Dohertys Gym is a really cool gym. It is very industry focused as well so
it’s really easy to stay motivated. You know, there are lots of pictures up on
the wall of bodybuilders and figure competitors so it’s a really good place not
only to train but to work as well.
Kostas: Michael has told me the same thing when he trains there.
Ellena: And all the pros go in there, it’s a gym like no other gym I
Kostas: How do you like to spend your time when you are not competing
or training for a show?
Ellena: Usually it depends if I’m competing or not. When I’m not
competing, me and my husband have a family-holiday house, down by the beach,
where we like to go away, and just take time out and relax. There are hot
springs there that we go to for massages and just take time out from the world.
Sometimes when you are competing, all you do is focus on competing and training
and it’s really nice to kind of go away and just relax and forget about
We also are big foodies, so we like to try new restaurants and try different
cuisines and usually at the start of my prep walk we’ll have one kinda of a
cheat meal and then go find a new restaurant and go out and stuff like, that so
it’s fun. We’ve got two cats at home that we treat like our children. We are
normal people I guess, we do normal things, it’s just that we compete!
Kostas: Sounds like a great life to me! Let me ask you about figure a
little bit now. What do you like the most about the figure category and the
Ellena: I think especially with the IFBB it’s probably the most feminine
category and classic category as well. What I like about it is that you don’t
have to get too lean or too hard. They still like a little bit of, you know,
body fat and shape so you still look feminine. I mean, I could never see myself
doing bikini, or doing physique, or bodybuilding or anything like that. I guess,
I can’t tell you what attracted me to the sport at the start, because I wasn’t
attracted to the sport at all but I have, I guess, through competing in every
other federation pretty much I preferred the look, that IFBB was looking for.
I think it’s much easier to achieve as well. I mean it’s still hard work, and
for me it’s hard work to get lean anyway, but I guess if I was competing with
another federation I would have to get a lot leaner and I guess it’s not really
a look that I like. I prefer the look of the IFBB figure girls.
Kostas: I see your point. Did you try to make any improvements since
your last show and if so, what were they?
Ellena: Yeah, going into the show I really wanted to develop my upper
body a little bit more, and try to lean out my legs. I guess I succeeded in my
upper body but not in my lower body. I always struggled with my legs and trying
to get them lean, and try to get them hard and I guess that comes through
dieting. It was such a struggle to lose body fat this year, I just didn’t get to
where I wanted to be. I always have a vision of where I’d like to be on stage
and I was really far from that vision lower body wise, but upper body wise I was
pretty happy, but I managed to, you know, maintain muscle and get a little bit
more shape through my shoulders and a little bit more width through the back
that I wanted to do.
I guess my overall goal is to, you know… I would love one day to actually get a
really nice glut hamstring tighting, and get a really tight butt and tight legs.
That’s my main goal and it’s been my main goal from day one, five years ago.
It’s a struggle but I guess if I didn’t have anything to improve on then it
would just be boring and it wouldn’t worth competing.
Kostas: Exactly. When you said before that you are trying to lean out
your legs, dis that come from dieting or a lot of cardio, less weight training
maybe? How did you achieve that?
Ellena: Well I don’t train my legs. I haven’t trained my legs for about a
year, I haven’t trained my core for about a year, mainly because the muscle mass
is already there, it’s more diet and cardio really for my legs, and you know
this year, this show I was on a really low calorie diet and nothing was really
working for a really long time. That’s why I need some time off to get my
metabolism back to normal so I can burn fat when I’m on a more than 1500
calories per day.
Kostas: That usually happens when somebody diets for a really long
time on a severely restricted caloric intake. Did you do that?
Ellena: Yeah. I mean, it was hard to lose body fat. I started about 14
weeks out and even on 1500 calories it was really hard to lose the weight,
slowly slowly reducing calories the weight would come off very slowly and I had
to go to drastic measures like eating fish for breakfast. I was eating five
pieces of fish with lettuce and sometimes vegetables, and your body gets to a
point where it doesn’t want to do anything anymore and just stays where it is.
I tried a few high carb days and low carb days, and carb cycles and stuff like
that just to kind of shock the metabolism to get it fired back up again. I guess
the body is a crazy thing and my body is always changing and it stops
responding, you know to the same diet so every prep has been really different.
It has never been exactly the same as it was. I’ve done high carb, I’ve done low
carb, I’ve done everything and it never works for the second time. I have to
Ôá ÁãáèÜ Êüðïéò Êôþíôáé In The Gym
Kostas: Tell us a few things about your training. You said you didn’t
train your legs with weights for a year, what about your upper body? What’s your
split? Do you train your upper body more often during the week?
Ellena: What I do is usually have a plan. I normally do a single body part,
so on Monday, I’ll do shoulders, you know I work on the body part at the start
week that I most want to improve. So I train shoulders on Monday, Tuesday I’ll
do chest and I’ll do back and then I’ll have a day off on Wednesday. Then
Thursday I’ll do chest and Friday I’ll do hamstrings and Saturday I’ll either
have a day off or I’ll do a full body workout depending on where I am in my
prep, but usually the first.
Probably about 8-10 weeks out I’m doing single sets to really focus increasing
the weight at each set, and closer to a show I’ll start doing supersets or
trisets, and really getting the heart rate up and bringing into it a
cardiovascular workout, cause I want to get some blood to the muscles, give
them a good pump, and work out a good sweat too.
Sometimes I go on instinct and how I’m feeling, I don’t always stick to the
plan. If I really really want to train a different body part when I get to the
gym, I’ll do it. I’m not so strict on my routine; I’ll do what I feel basically.
Kostas: What do you do for cardio? Do you do cardio every day, twice a
day, before a show? Do you do high intensity cardio or medium intensity?
Ellena: It really depends where I’m at I guess, usually I do cardio six
days per week. Because I start work at 6 am sometimes I’ll get up at 4am and do
an hour or 45 minutes, I’ve got a bike at home. I wouldn’t say it’s high
intensity but intense. It’s not like a hiit or anything like that, but it’s
pedaling at a fast pace, and you know really working up a sweat, I’ll do that
for 45 to an hour and after my clients and after I train, I’ll hit the stepper
or hit the bike again for another 45. So, I got up to 2 hours of cardio per day,
6 days a week before a show, mainly because my body needs it. You know,
especially this time around with my metabolism slowing down I had to keep moving
my body and working on my legs with the stepper or with the bike.
Kostas: Are you sponsored by anyone, like a supplement company?
Ellena: Yeah, I’m sponsored by it’s a product called Maxine’s Burn. They
are an Australian company, they are also the owners of Max’s, I’ve been with
them for the last 4 years. Only recently they launched their female line
Maxine’s Burn. I’m the exercise trainer for their website so people go online
and ask training questions and I answer them and we do training videos and I
also do blogs for the website as well. My bikinis are sponsored by a lady called
Jo Rogers and her company is Style On Stage. They are two Australian companies
and I’m also sponsored by PKE which is tanning, and they are also an Australian
Kostas: What do they do?
Ellena: They do tanning products.
Kostas: What did you think about the Tournament of Champions and the
organizer, and how did it all go?
Ellena: John Lindsey is the organizer of the
show, he’s fantastic, really really nice man, everything was pretty well
organized. We turned up, we had our meeting on time. You know, there was a
little bit of a hiccup backstage, before prejudging we were told to be ready in
5 minutes and girls were missing, and no one was ready, people were still
getting spray tanned…!
Kostas: That happens…
Ellena: They slowed down the judging beforehand and they did like a ten
minute break so we can get ourselves ready and composed and make sure we look
our best on the stage. We went out for the prejudging and it was fun, it got
really hot up on the stage but it was fun. The crowd was great, you know,
sometimes when you do a show, sometimes the crowd is really quiet and they don’t
get into it at all, sometimes it feels really quiet when you are on the stage.
But everyone was loud, and it was a really good show. We had a really nice break
in between when me and Eleni just went back to the hotel and relaxed and ate. We
had rice cakes and peanut butter, all the stuff that we usually are not supposed
to have. The night show was good like that, the atmosphere totally changed for
the night show, the girls were a little bit more relaxed backstage, and everyone
was getting photos, and everyone just had fun out on the stage.
Everyone worked it and showed a little bit of their personality and it was
really fun. It was a very good show. It was a great experience, you know
regardless of where I placed it was a fun experience. It was really nice meeting
a lot of the athletes and a lot of the girls, a lot of them I looked up to as an
amateur, and being so far away in Australia, yeah cause a lot of the
professional are in the US, there are not many in Australia. It was really nice
to meet them and a lot of them are really down to earth and fun girls, so it was
a really good experience for me. I learned a lot and I can walk away from this
experience with a little bit of knowledge under my belt, and I know what I need
to do for the next shows and just trying to improve.
Bodybuilding Magazine Spread About
Kostas: How was the judging panel at the show?
Ellena: There was a mixture at the panel. The head judge was female, I
think there was another female judge and the rest were male. The head judge
actually gave us actually our scores and had a chat with each competitor after
the show which I thought it was great and she gave us feedback and had a chat
with her and she said that everything on the front was fine, she was happy with
condition and symmetry it was just when I turned my back it was my hamstrings
that let me down or the lack of detail in my hamstrings I guess you can say.
Like I said before, that’s something that I really need to work on and mainly
through diet, you know, just getting lean, I guess being a Greek woman with
Greek genetics it’s harder to kind of being lean in the glutes and the legs, one
day I will get there!
Kostas: Well thank you very much Ellena, it was a pleasure and an
honor talking with you!
Ellena: Awesome, thanks so much Kosta! I would love to take this
opportunity to thank my sponsors Jo Rogers from Style on Stage, Maxine’s Burn,
Max’s and PKE tanning. I also would like to thank my husband who has put up with
my really bad mood swings, and helping me with my prep. Also my clients for
being really understanding for my emotions as well as my motivational level too,
they are fantastic, I train a really good bunch of girls and they understand
completely when sometimes I am a little bit tired. I do my best to motivate
everyone and my clients totally understand where I am coming from some days,
they are really good supporters and they really motivate me a lot of the time
Note: You can learn more about Ellena by visiting her official website at
http://www.ellenatsatsos.com or via
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