Hardbody Road To The Olympia: Canadian Fitness Star Fiona Harris

IFBB Fitness Pro Fiona Harris will be competing in her first Olympia in just a few weeks. She’s already made an immediate impact on the pro ranks by finishing in the top three in both of her pro shows. Even more amazing is that she wasn’t even a pro at the start of 2012. We caught up with Fiona to learn a bit more about her and her background. She shares what it’s like to go from gymnastics to cheerleading and how that’s helped her on the IFBB stage. She shares a sample work out, the importance of having a coach and more. Check it out.


Fiona Harris

Born in:
St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada

Currently Live In:
Welland, Ontario, Canada

Specialist Representative – Pharmaceutical Sales

What did you want to be as little girl?
Like most kids, I wanted to be a doctor.  I always wanted to help people feel better when they were sick.  As I got older, I realized I wasn’t interested in devoting so many years of my life to school.  My current profession still allows me to work closely within the medical field and help optimize patient’s health. It’s a great fit for me.

What age did you start gymnastics?
I started training when I was 4 years old.  I continued my gymnastics career until I was 16 years old.  At that point, I transitioned into cheerleading.

What level did you reach?
I competed at level 8-9 provincially.

How did you get started in cheerleading?
My high school had a high level competitive cheerleading team.  Once my coach found out I had a gymnastics background, she strongly encouraged me to join.  I started with the team in grade 10 and then slowly transitioned over the next couple of years from gymnastics to cheerleading.   Gymnastics is a difficult sport to continue as you reach your later teenage years at a high competitive level.  This was a way to continue my love for gymnastics in a new sport.

What did you enjoy more, cheerleader or gymnastics?
Gymnastics will always be in my heart.  I grew up training so many hours a week; it was like my home away from home.  I gained lifelong friends that are still close with me to this day.  It is definitely a sport that teaches you self-discipline and commitment.  I attribute my drive, hard work, strong work ethic and love for athletics to my years of competing in gymnastics. Cheerleading however opened many doors for me.  It enabled me to work all across the United States as a professional cheerleader.  It was an amazing learning experience.

How did you get your start in competitive fitness?  
I have always continued to be an active individual, training in the gym and involving myself in different sports to satisfy my competitive drive.  But, I felt my progress with my physique had stalled and I was looking for a new challenge.  I reached out to my long-time friend and IFBB Fitness Pro Mindi O’Brien to shake things up.  While training with her, I was exposed to her team of figure and bikini competitors.  I was inspired by the dedication and commitment to their sport.  Mindi had always encouraged me to compete, but it took some time for me to come to the self-realization that I had the potential and belonged on stage with these other amazing competitors.  I competed for the first time in November 2010.  My goal was simple – overcome my fears, step on stage and display all my hard work.  Never did I think I would walk away with a first place trophy.  And that was it – one show and I was hooked! The competitive fire was re-lit inside me and it has been burning ever since.

fiona harris routine

Fiona fly high in Pittsburgh

What aspect of your gymnastics background do you feel has helped you the most now that you’re competing as a pro?  
Having a gymnastics background can definitely be an advantage when competing in fitness, but by no means is it a requirement.  Many of the best fitness competitors in the world have little to no formal gymnastics training.  There are so many other important components to the routines such as flexibility, strength and showmanship.  More important than the elements, gymnastics instilled the key qualities that are essential for any successful competitor – drive, dedication, discipline and a competitive fire.

How important is it to have a good coach/trainer?   
Absolutely imperative!  I am a firm believer that you are only as good as the people you surround yourself with.  My success to date has been the direct result of my coaches Mindi O’Brien and Dennis Beitler.  Ask them the same question and they will say it is due to all my hard work.  Honestly though, without their direction I wouldn’t have been able to achieve as much as I have, as quickly as I have.  I have learned so much from them as coaches and as friends.  It is important to have a strong support system around you that knows how to capitalize on your strengths and identify your weaknesses so that you can continue to improve.  Having coaches that can be objective and push you beyond your limits is what makes a good athlete a great athlete.

How often do you practice your routine?  
Typically I train my routine and skills 2-3 times per week.  One of the biggest challenges of being a fitness competitor is finding the facilities to train in.  I am fortunate enough that I can train out of my former gymnastics club, Gymnastics Energy, as well as my high school, Notre Dame College School.  Without their help, it would make competing in fitness next to impossible.

You kinda flew under the radar coming into the Pittsburgh Pro but finished in third. How was it making your pro debut?  
It was an amazing experience!  I had only earned my pro card 7 days earlier.  I had no expectations going into it.  I just wanted to put on a strong performance and have the opportunity to step on stage with the other amazing pro fitness competitors.  I couldn’t have asked for a better result for my pro debut.  It will definitely be a highlight in my career.

Anything you wish someone would have told you that you learned the hard way when it comes to competing?   
Haha … who knew tanning for a show was so involved!  Exfoliate, moisturize, exfoliate, moisturize … cross your fingers it dries properly … is it dark enough … don’t sweat … and God please don’t let it rain!!!  That was definitely something I wasn’t prepared for the first time.  And countless shows later, it is no easier.  Someone definitely has to come out with a water proof, pH proof tanning product 

What’s the key to recovering from intense training and the demands of a fitness routine?  
One rest day during the week is imperative.  Sundays are always my rest day.  Your biggest gains are made when your body is resting, so you’re only defeating yourself if you don’t give your body that time to recover.  Mentally it is just as important.  It is easier to get through my demanding week of workouts when I know I have a day of R&R waiting for me at the end.

fiona harris kiss

Fiona all smiles at her IFBB Pro Fitness Debut.

One supplement you couldn’t live without?   

I would have to say my pre-workout amino acid supplement.  It definitely helps to get me through the tough days when I’ve already put in an early AM cardio session and a full work day before having to hit the gym for my weights and possibly more cardio.

What’s your breakfast typically look like? 
I typically have a shake for breakfast.  It usually includes whey protein isolate, avocado, banana, ice and water.  Yum!

Favorite body part to train?  
I would have to say it is shoulders at the moment.  There is nothing better than the feeling of not being able to lift your arms over your head after a solid shoulder workout!

What would be an example of your shoulder workout?
Dumbbell overhead press superset with cable front raises – 4 sets of 15
Seated lateral raises – 4 sets of 12-15
Bent over rear delt flyes superset with up and backs – 4 sets of 15
Arnold dumbbell press – 4 sets of 12-15

One contest prep food you could live without?   
Lately I would have to say asparagus.  These days I could definitely take or leave it.  A close runner up to that would be fish.  I’ve come a long way though – a year ago, I would never have eaten fish.  Dare I say now I have come to “almost” enjoy it.

One contest prep food you enjoy eating?
Oatmeal.  I love my oatmeal! I would prefer to eat more than the ½ cup dry oats I get, but I won’t turn my nose up at it.  Add some natural peanut butter and it is a real treat!

Rather watch hockey or UFC?  
Definitely UFC!  I’ve become quite a big fan over the past couple of years.  You have to appreciate the amazing athleticism of these fighters.  Georges St. Pierre is by far my favorite.

Favorite quote:
This quote is plastered across the wall in my trainer’s gym: “Pain is weakness leaving the body”.  That mantra will get you through any tough workout!

Number of Lulu Lemon items you own:  
If you ask my husband, he would say too many.  If you ask me, I would say not enough ;)  I’d estimate around 20 items.

Massages are ____?  
“Essential”!!!!  My massage therapist Serena Miresse (RMT) is so talented at what she does.  She can always identify my trouble areas without me even needing to tell her, help me to relieve my aches and pains from my training and keep my muscles moving through full range of motion to avoid future injuries.

How important is it to have a supportive family while competing?   
I can honestly say I would not be competing today without the support of my family.  My husband Steve is my biggest fan!  He is always there with words of encouragement when I hit a wall in my training/dieting and my voice of reason when I am pushing myself too hard.  Each time I step on stage I look to make him proud.  There are a lot of sacrifices made between a couple when competing, so to have such an amazing support system at home makes the world of difference.  He wants nothing more than to see me live out my dreams.  There is nothing more a girl could ask for in a partner!

Advice you’d give to women who are thinking about competing but unsure of themselves?  
The first time I competed, my goal was simple – overcome my fears, step on stage and display all of my hard work.  Trophies were the last thing on my mind.  You have to enjoy the process of competing.  The months leading up to the competition are where the wins are made.  You challenge your mind and body in ways you never thought you would.  You learn so much about your drive and commitment.  Stepping on stage the day of the competition with the tan, glittering suit and heels is just the icing on the cake.  And who knows what will come of it.  My competitive career started out with the goal of checking another item off my bucket list.  Now I’m living my dream!  I wouldn’t change anything for the world.

Where can people find out more info on you?   
I am in the process of creating my own website, so keep your eye out for that.  But for now, you can always find me on Facebook.  Reach out to me with comments and questions.  I love to help others who are looking to get into the industry and share training/nutrition ideas with fellow competitors!

All the best in Fiona! Thank you for you time.

See competition photos of Fiona on bodybuilding.com and follow her on twitter @fionaharrisfit.

Disclaimer: Reader discretion advised, please consult your physician before beginning any exercise or diet program.