Interview with Figure Competitor Katrinka Danielson
Katrinka Danielson is one of those models who leaves the impression that she just loves every minute of being fit. She’s been featured on the site twice—once in a solo shoot at the Arnold in Columbus and last time in tandem with Sara Butler at the Emerald Cup in Seattle—and both times the charming and beautiful figure competitor shined for the camera, lighting up every frame with her energy, joyous smile and engaging personality.
However, as Katrinka shared with me in a recent interview, she wasn’t always the perfect picture of health that she is today. Growing up on a farm in the tiny hamlet of Vida, Oregon, she was overweight as a kid. Later, peer pressure turned out to be a positive thing and by middle school, resolving to become more active, Katrinka joined the track and cheerleading teams. It was just the turnaround she needed.
Athletics were a start but her transformation really began to take shape when she hit the gym and started to closely watch and study her nutrition. In 2006, six months after starting a serious weight training program, she fell in love with the challenge of competing after attending her first figure show. A year later, she made her own figure debut.
Now 35, Katrinka continues to make noticeable improvements to her outstanding 5-foot-3, 115-122-pound physique (133 off season) and sticks to the rules with her nutrition, morning cardio times and workouts, resisting unhealthy shortcuts of fast food or damaging detours of after hours drinks with friends. Training for next season with renewed confidence, the prettiest Ninja Turtle of all time could very well be hitting her stride.
Dean: Were you always active and fit growing up? What kind of activities or sports were you involved in when you were younger?
Kat: “No. In fact I was the opposite. I was raised on a farm in the country as one of the ‘well-fed’ kids in the neighborhood. My family made large dinners and we usually ate late at night. I had a wonderful childhood but I was quite plump, promise. I have the pics to prove it. Once I hit jr. high I realized that my friends were all much smaller than me and it was time to start getting more active. I enrolled in track & field and also did cheerleading during the football and basketball season my jr. high and high school years. This helped slim me down a ton but I was still quite flabby, just smaller. I didn’t know the proper way to eat. That came way later in life.”
Dean: When did you first begin working out with weights and thinking about fitness as a lifestyle?
Kat: “I was very interested in getting ‘skinny’ during my jr. high and high school years, but crash diets and juice fasting only achieved a ‘skinny-fat’ look and didn’t help me much with my flabby legs. I was raised a hunter with my daddy and became very interested in bowhunting when I was 18. My high school sweetheart taught me the ropes and it was then that I realized how important cardio was, as you can’t just sit in a truck and shoot your bow out the window when you see an elk. It was the bowhunting that drove me to get my butt into a gym and start working on my fitness so I could be a better hunter.
“I joined 24 Hour Fitness around 23 years old but still didn’t understand the importance of a meal plan and weights. I went many years trying it on my own. Finally at age 29, I was fed up with my failing diets and no-change in my physique. I joined Gold’s Gym and decided I was going to let someone who knew what they were doing help me out! I met my trainer/husband Travis Danielson at Gold’s Gym when I was 29 and it was then that I learned the all-important protein/carb/fat ratio and the introduction to ‘leg day,’ upper body workout, etc with weights which became not only a lifestyle but an addiction. I loved the results!”
Dean: How did the changes feel when you started developing more strength and muscle?
Kat: “AMAZING. At first I was disappointed to see the scale go up because I had relied on my weight to determine my goals but it was incredible when I saw quad muscles and back muscles I didn’t know my body could produce.”
Dean: What motivated you to try competing in figure and when did you start? Did you have a role model in the industry that inspired you?
Kat: “After training with weights for about six months I went to my first figure competition, the Ironman, in Portland, Oregon. I saw one of the girls change her physique from flab to ‘fab.’ She looked amazing and I fell in love with the challenge. I was also very motivated by the IFBB Pro Figure Model Kristi Tauti. She won the overall at the first show I ever attended in 2006 and went on to go pro. I was impressed to see her onstage looking so amazing after having a baby just over eight months earlier. I thought WOW! If she could do it, so could I.
“Another person that inspired me was Genevieve Moreno! An incredible competitor that worked out at our gym around the same time I did and her changes to her physique were outstanding. Her fiancé, Eric McCormack was her trainer and it was awesome to watch their dedication together. I was motivated to give it a shot and took my chances at the 2007 Emerald Cup (very big show to attempt for my first show but I was like ‘why not, might as well shoot big’). I placed seventh out of 12 girls. I was happy but it just pushed me to go harder and take a better placing the next time I competed.”
Dean: What changes to your physique have made you most proud so far and what areas are you trying to improve?
Kat: “I am so grateful for my entire overall change. My shoulders, back, glutes, legs—everything—is a complete 180-degrees from the look I had before I joined the gym. Because I’m so short and pretty pudgy at one time, I’m always hardest on my midsection, glutes and legs. My trainer has me hitting them twice a week, so with dedication and perseverance I know I will achieve that top five at nationals next year.”
Dean: What kind of reaction have you gotten from family and friends on your healthy look and habits? Have you inspired anyone you know to begin working out?
Kat: “The changes to my lifestyle and my physique have definitely spawned positive and negative reactions. Most of my family and friends are very supportive and happy to see me succeed in a healthy lifestyle but there are always some that would rather see you fat and miserable than in-shape and happy. Mostly, they’re unhappy because I don’t drink alcohol or eat fast food when they do and it irritates them that I’m not joining in.
“I get my cardio in every day and try to get to bed during the work week around 9:30-10pm and this puts a damper on the people with ‘not-so-healthy’ lifestyles. Some are also very critical of my muscle gain. They say I don’t look feminine anymore and that it’s a man’s sport! They are usually the overweight, unhealthy friends that don’t go the gym and have no idea what the difference is between a protein and a carb. Sad. All I can do is smile and encourage with actions.”
Dean: Could you share a memory when you surprised someone with your physique or strength?
Kat: “My mom has probably been the most impressed with my overall change! I was moving last year at the end of 2010 and I decided that I didn’t want my 30 gallon upright fish tank. She was very excited to take it home but needed help carrying it down the driveway to her car. The water was out of the tank but the rocks and decorations were still at the bottom. I picked the tank up with both hands and said ‘lets go!’ She almost fell over as she couldn’t believe I could lift such a heavy object! When she got home she asked one of her neighbor friends to carry the tank in her house. The neighbor was 6 feet tall and must have weighed at least 220 lbs. He could barely pick it up and had to set it down several times before making it to the fish stand inside the house. My mom still tells that story when she introduces me to people. She’s very proud mommy!”
Dean: What’s next for you? Any upcoming shows you plan to compete in?
Kat: “I’m training right now for the Emerald Cup 2012! It’s the 30th year anniversary and I’m starting now to really make sure my physique is tip-top. Very dedicated! Depending on how I place at the Cup, I will be taking my physique to Nationals in Las Vegas in July!”
Dean: Do you have any thoughts on the new physique division?
Kat: “It’s funny you ask. The last show I competed in, every judge said I was ‘too muscular.’ They said I needed to take my physique to national level and compete at the new physique division. After watching USAs this past summer, the woman are amazing and, yes, I can see some femininity but I am an all-heels, blingy-suits and sexy hair kinda girl. The routine to music looks like a lot of fun but having to do the mandatory poses without my high heels? Sniff, sniff. I would have to put on a lot more muscle to hit the national stage and I seriously look like a Ninja Turtle when I put on too much muscle. Lol! Not a good look for me!”
Dean: What would you say are your biggest goals with working out and being involved in the fitness industry?
Kat: “Hmm… Biggest goals working out? I would have to say sticking with my meal plan in the off season, lol. Especially around the holidays. But competing at several figure shows has taught me that there is no such thing as an ‘OFF’ season, so it is quite the challenge to live the fitness lifestyle when you know you won’t be onstage anytime soon… Staying motivated and learning different ways to cook your chicken… Keeping variety in my life!
“Being involved in the fitness industry has helped me gain more friendships and meet some amazing people with incredible, motivating stories. I want to be the figure model people remember as encouraging and motivating, too! I LOVE helping others achieve thier goals and it would be an honor to take my pro card next year and show others that you don’t have to be fit your whole life to achieve your fitness goals. Hard work, dedication and motivation I would say are the prime ingredients for my success so far!”
Dean: Anything we can help you promote (website, sponsors, personal training biz, etc) or any special shout-outs you would like to give?
Kat: “Absolutely. I am in the process of looking for a sponsor for my upcoming competition year. In return I am available for promotional photo shoots, videos, assisting with booths at bodybuilding shows, etc. I’m very focused and dedicated—starting my program at 24 weeks out this year and planning to take the overall at my next show. Then moving on to nationals in Las Vegas next July! Any help in that area would be greatly appreciated.
“I want to give heartfelt thanks to my loving, supporting husband/trainer Travis Danielson. I would not be typing these interview answers if it wasn’t for him and God for giving me the abilities and gift of life to hit the weights. I also want to thank Genevieve Moreno (dear friend and gym sister) for all of her love and support. Gen died this past summer in a tragic river accident. Her loss has made me appreciate my short time on earth and the many wonderful family and friends that surround me! I would love to achieve my pro card next year but more than a pro card, I LOVE the challenge and the climb that I have to take to get there!”