Name: Erin Fergus
Division you will compete in: PRO Women’s Physique
Weight/Competition Weight: 139/125
City: Greenville, SC
Years as a vegan: 4
Why you became a Vegan: I grew up in southeast AL in the country and was surrounded by all types of animals, including pet chickens. I visited Washington, DC with my parents after high school graduation in 2001 and saw some PETA demonstrations that helped me make the connection between my friends and my food. I stopped eating chicken, pork, turkey and beef the next day but continued with locally caught seafood from the FL Gulf Coast and eggs. I was interested in veganism for a while, but I wanted to take it in steps and educate myself along the way It wasn’t until around fall 2007 that I gave up eggs and started to be “vegan at home, vegetarian at restaurants.” When I moved to Greenville, SC, I had all the resources I needed and had educated myself on just how bad the dairy industry is. My decision was motivated by animal and environmental welfare, but health benefits are a perk because cancer runs in my family. I made the decision to begin training for bodybuilding at the same time as I transitioned to vegan, so my physique is my most powerful form of activism.
OCB No Gear Classic, May 2017 – Women’s Physique Pro Card Winner
INBF South Carolina Bodybuilding Championships, April 2017 – Ms. Fit Body Pro Card Winner
OCB No Gear Classic, May 2016- 2nd place open physique
Naturally Fit Supershow, July 2015 – 1st place open physique
NANBF Trojan Classic, August 2014 – 2nd place open physique
INBF Naturally Fit Games, July 2014 – 1st place open fit body, 1st place novice heavyweight bodybuilding
Carolina Supernatural, June 2014 – 4th place open figure medium, 3rd place open heavyweight bodybuilding
OCB Presidential Cup, 2013 – 3rd place fitness model
OCB Emerald Coast Classic, 2013 – 1st place novice figure short, 4th place open figure short
Carolina Supernatural, 2013 – 6th place open figure medium (last in my class, but the most humbling yet motivating experience!)
What drives you to compete: I want to be my best, and I challenge myself to be better every day and definitely every year. It’s more than just physical; you have to be 110% mentally and emotionally committed to be successful. I take everything negative in my head and turn it into fuel for workouts and to set higher goals. In the hardest parts of contest prep, I think of horrible cases of animal cruelty and factory farming. Being strong and placing well as a vegan athlete blows people’s minds, makes me a role model and promotes a change in our industry. I want to be the most positive and influential walking billboard for our lifestyle that I can be, and I love it when competitors ask about my diet because they are tired of the stereotypical bodybuilding diet that is heavy in meat, eggs and whey protein.
What do you see as the biggest advantages of being a vegan athlete: I never get sick, I never have to skip a workout, I can train hard six or seven days a week, I sleep well, I recover very quickly, and most important, I have a clear conscience because I am not contributing to animal cruelty. I think the biggest advantage is that I can educate others that there is a better way. My initial progress picture compared to my current physique is the perfect visual to show people just how much can be accomplished without animal products. When I first started I encountered some negativity, but most people I interact with are genuinely curious and open-minded. I love that I have gained enough muscle that people just want to learn more my diet and training instead of being negative or sarcastic. One of the biggest things I have noticed about vegan vs omnivore competitors is that my contest diet food in enjoyable and I feel pretty good up to the end. Other competitors tend to be quite lethargic and miserable during their contest preps.
What types of supplements if any do you use?: All vegans are different, but I am someone who enjoys learning about and trying supplements. I teach personal training at a community college, so I need to know what is out there and help my students learn about options that may help or harm their clients. I use Krealkyn creatine, which doesn’t bloat the way creatine monohydrate does, Kaged Muscle vegan sourced BCAAs, and protein powders such as Powerootz, Raw Fusion, Plant Fusion or Utopic daily year round. During contest prep I use CLA, l-carnitine, and Deva EPA/DHA oil blend to help me with leaning out while preserving muscle. I’m starting back on Clean Machine Cell Block 80 and now trying the ahiflower oil. I also take multivitamins, including B12, iron, calcium, CoQ 10 and magnesium. The last two are the best migraine preventatives I’ve ever used.
How would you describe your diet while preparing for a competition: I work with Dani Taylor for my nutrition during contest prep. We work with five or six meals a day, and it’s mostly simple foods: oatmeal, bananas, peanut butter, sweet potatoes, tofu, homemade seitan, protein powder, brown rice, quinoa, rice cakes, coconut oil, and tons of green veggies (a lot more than I’d ever choose to eat when not in prep mode!) My favorite are broiled Brussels sprouts, but I challenge myself to eat a lot of spinach, kale and broccoli too. I do carb cycling with some days having higher and some lower – the closer to the stage, the more lower carb days. I eat similar food every day, but I change my spices and condiments depending on my mood to keep things interesting. Flavored mustards, no sugar added salsa, specialty salt blends, flavored liquid stevia, herbal teas, decaf coffee, and fresh cilantro are saviors.
Favorite food in your prep diet: Everyone sees my “protein mousse” and is intrigued by it. It’s literally protein powder mixed with water, so I’m going to change the name to “wet protein”. I slather peanut butter on kamut cakes (they are half the calories of rice cakes so I can have more) and then top them with the protein concoction. To take it over the top, I sprinkle chocolate sea salt and then slightly broil them so the edges of the cakes taste like popcorn.
How would you describe your training for a competition: I do very little cardio other than warming up before lifting and walking my dog in the offseason. As I get closer to competition, I slowly increase steady state and intervals on the elliptical (I have feet and knee problems that prevent me from running), and HIIT on the stepmill or with battle ropes. I lift heavy all the way up to peak week so that my muscles can be as full as possible. I generally lift seven days a week, which usually includes two days of legs, back/bi, chest/tri/shoulder, one day of shoulders on their own and three days of ab work. Despite training on fewer calories at it gets closer to competition, I become more motivated because it’s amazing to see muscle striations and veins popping as I become leaner!
Favorite exercises: Most of the things I do are tried and true basics. For abs, my most improved muscle group, I like hanging leg raises, ab wheel, decline sit ups and basic crunches and bicycles on the floor. I have also worked on my glutes, and part of that includes things like side lying leg lifts, donkey kicks and fire hydrants with 10 lb ankle weights. I also incorporate major barbell movements including bench press, squat, deadlifts of all forms, rows and overhead presses as strength and mass builders year round. Back day is my favorite, and having Versa Gripps has significantly increased the amount of weight I can move.
How many hours a week do you spend training?: 10-15
Today I am most proud of: Never giving up. I joke that the “R” in my name stands for “resiliency,” but deep down I believe it. I have a naturally thick waist and straight torso, and judges told me after my first competition that I would have to do major work on my physique to ever be successful. It’s taken a long time and a lot of hard, very specific work on those target areas (wider lat spread, smaller waist and rounder hips/glutes), but I have been watching my shape slowly change. In four years I put in year round work that took me from being last place in my first competition to winning pro cards in both I did this year. Each year I have become more motivated, more focused, and more disciplined, so it’s been equally rewarding to see me internal progress. I’m excited to work on a pro stage worthy package and to probably start at the bottom again. The journey is far more important than the several minute “destination” on stage.
Personal website or blog:
Facebook personal page: https://www.facebook.com/erin.fergus.58
Facebook athlete page: https://www.facebook.com/girlybodybuilder/