Name: Irina Nesterova
Height: 1,68 m
Weight: 57 Kg
Current city: Centurion, South Africa
Occupation: Personal Trainer, Fitness Model
What made you get started with training and living a more healthy lifestyle?
I was always conscious about my health and nutrition. I did yoga, dancing and swimming in the past but only started going to the gym when I temporarily moved to Brazil in 2013. We had a gym in our building with some basic equipment.
In the beginning I was mostly doing cardio and using the machines and later on started doing some exercises with free weights. From then on my passion for exercise grew over the years.
What made you change careers to personal training? What was that experience like and what advice would you give to someone thinking of doing that but who may be afraid of making such a big change?
After working as a public relations manager in Moscow for seven years, I started doing a personal training course after-hours. I did the course mostly for myself and had no plans to change careers. Only when I moved to London, I started working in fitness. I couldn’t really work in corporate anymore due to my lack of English.
Even though it was hard at times, I had my goals and was motivated to finally do what I love. No matter how scary change is, you have to realize that in the end, change is the only constant.
Who has been your biggest influence and support in your life and how did they affect you?
Since a young age I had to look after myself and unfortunately never had a lot of support. This has at least taught me how to be independent.
Have you had any significant setbacks? How did you deal with them and overcome them?
Regarding my fitness life, no I never had any significant setbacks except for losing motivation sometimes.
When I feel demotivated I take a few steps back and some time off to reset my thoughts. I also spend more time with my family and try to stay away from social media.
In my personal life, yes, there was a lot. I went through a very difficult divorce, after being in an abusive relationship, and I became a single parent without any support.
In all my difficult situations I just kept on going forward one step at a time. I also remind myself that one day everything will be in the past, and whatever doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.
Tell us a bit about life growing up and when did you come to South Africa?
I grew up in a small town in Russia, I finished school when I was 16 and moved to Moscow where I studied and graduated from the Moscow University of Art in Economics and Management. Art was my first love and my dream back then was to one day become an actress.
While in University I had to start work part-time to support myself, and worked as a PR assistant for an agency that specialized in art projects. I continued to work for them for 7 years, and a few other PR agencies, before I moved to Brazil, then to the UK and eventually to SA in 2016.
What are your future plans?
Owning a (weight lifting) fitness studio for women and to be in a position where I can inspire others. Maybe to take part in a few more WBFF competitions overseas.
I’m also very keen to try boxing or maybe some martial arts.
Take us through an average day of yours:
- Each morning I get up at 4:30 am, drink my pre-workout, glutamine, creatine and eat 2 egg whites before going to the gym for an hour.
- After my gym session I have oats with whey, peanut butter and banana for breakfast.
- I work as a personal trainer in my local area and when I’m not busy with clients, I work on my social media posts, eat lunch or read new articles about training.
- I’m also currently busy with a life coaching course. If I don’t have clients in the evening I might go for a run.
- After making dinner and helping my daughter with her homework I might relax in front of Netflix.
- Once per week I also go to a rehabilitation center to give a free training session for a group of girls there.
Tell us a bit about your prep for the wbff and what does it mean to now be a wbffpro for you?
Physically I trained every day, or sometimes twice per day where I did an extra cardio session.
During the weeks I was very strict with keeping to my diet, all macros and calories were calculated and my meal plans stuck onto my fridge. I luckily already know my body, after all my preps, and know how it will react to certain types of food.
I started to seriously practise my posing and visualise my performance on the stage about two weeks before the competition. I try to focus only on myself as much as possible. Keep on reminding myself that it is 100% about my own body’s improvements and what I am able to achieve with my physique.
It is very intimidating when you arrive at a competition venue, because everyone looks great. What helps me is to not compare myself with the other athletes.
Analyzing the other girls can drive you crazy.
As for being a WBFF pro now, I’m very honoured to be part of the federation.
Give us a brief description of your philosophy on your diet:
I believe in a balanced diet and to not cut out any of the nutrition groups from your meal plan. I’m very strict during the week and measure all my meals according to my TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) and on weekends I’m more relaxed.
My meal plan is very simple and rather boring. I eat oats, brown rice and sweet potatoes as carbs sources. Eggs, chicken, fish and sometimes red meat as protein. Peanut butter and avocado as fat. I like cheese, rice cakes,protein bars, nuts and apples for snacks.
If I go out I will order fillet, a burger or a nice big chicken salad for lunch or dinner and an eggs Benedict or omelette for breakfast.
What are your top Nutrition tips for staying healthy and gaining muscle?
- Eat food that contains good sources of protein, fat and carbs. All three are important for general health and for your body to function properly.
- I am not a fan of short term diets, detoxes or crazy low carb diets. All carbs are not equal and I believe it’s important to get in enough good carbs to prevent cravings for bad carbs.
- You have to make your meal plan as comfortable as possible and adjust it accordingly to your lifestyle so that you can maintain it in the long term.
- You must listen to your body and don’t cut out all food types that you love. It can lead to eating disorders.
- As for muscle hypertrophy, you will not gain muscle mass on a caloric deficit. To develop muscle tissue you have to consume more calories than you what you use (the right calories) while you train heavy.
Do you count your calories? Do you think it is necessary?
I count my calories, but only because I’m competing.
The only other time I feel that it might be helpful is in the beginning of your fitness journey.
After a while you will get used to the portion sizes of your meals and understand how your body reacts to certain portion sizes and you can stop counting.
There’s a conception that leading a ‘fit and healthy and lean’ life has to be so strict and boring in terms of diet and training. Do you think people this is true to achieve it?
No, it’s all about moderation. I believe that you can include your favourite foods in your meal plans and still be lean and fit. Just make sure you don’t live on only fast food or only chocolates 😉
Balance your meal plan but don’t cut your treats out completely.
Have you seen any common mistakes that ladies may make when trying to lose fat?
Doing too much steady-state cardio and scared of lifting weights. Also setting unrealistic goals and expecting to see results too quick.
You need to check whether the goals that you set are realistic and if possible in your set time frame. Start with small achievable goals and then move them up gradually.
What process do you follow when it’s time to start getting ready for a competition/photoshoot?
I try to stay in shape all year round, but start to monitor what I eat more seriously about 8 weeks before a show or photo shoot. I still follow more or less the same meal plan, but decrease my carbs a bit and increase my protein intake.
Instead of only doing weight training, I will also start do more high-intensity interval training (HITT).
Give us a brief description of your philosophy on your training/training schedule and on average how long do you workout for?
I believe in intensity and mind muscle connection and not in how long you spend time in the gym. You can exercise for 20 minutes and be exhausted and you can also spend three hours in the gym and get bored before you even get tired.
I spend about an hour in the gym.
What are a few of your weight training tips for the ladies? And tips for the ladies venturing into the gym for the first time?
Focus on compound exercises instead of isolation exercises to develop muscle mass and strength. The shoulder press, bench press, squat, deadlift and bent-over row are examples of compound exercises that require several muscle groups to work in coordination.
These exercises should form the foundation of your training plan.
What are your essentials that are always in your gym bag?
Hairbrush, dry shampoo, anti-perspirant, body and hand cream and wipes to take off your make up. If you don’t want to be in the gym totally make-up free, CC Cream gives you coverage and a nice glow without feeling thick and heavy and clogging your pores.
Do you advise using supplements, and do you use any yourself?
It is much more convenient and easier to adjust your meal plan or get up early morning if you use supplements. I use products from USN.
- Before my early morning workouts I take Pure Glutamine to assist with protein synthesis & Creatine HCL with either B4 Bomb 2 pre-workout or Amino Ener-G to increase my stamina and endurance.
- During my workouts I drink Super ratio BCAA 12:1:1, which is great to maintain lean muscle mass and help to recover faster. After my morning training, I mix a scoop of chocolate USN BlueLab Whey into my breakfast oats.
- While preparing for competitions I also use L-Carnicut to assist with the conversion of fat into energy.
Do you have any fit fashion tips for the ladies or any specific gym fashion trends that you love?
I will always choose comfort above fashion.
I like soft, stretchy and not too thick fabrics for gym clothes that will be comfortable while exercising and not disturb me from my exercise. Luckily these days there is no shortage of beautiful gym clothes. My favourite gym clothing brand is gym shark.
And for the guys?
I personally don’t like it when guys wear tights. But it is just my conservative nature :p
I don’t really pay too much attention to the brands that guys wear in the gym. Most important for me is that their clothes should at least be clean, neat and fit their body types.
What are your 3 favourite exercises?
- For legs: Bulgarian Squats and deadlifts are great compound exercises targeting quads, hamstrings and glutes. They also engage your core and upper body.
- For shoulders: Arnold Press is a great compound exercise targeting all three heads of your deltoids.
- For back: Pull ups are a convenient exercise that you can do almost anywhere. It is a great compound exercise that targets multiple muscle groups in your upper body, your lats, biceps, trapezius, posterior deltoids and teres major.
Which body part is your favourite to train and what are some of your tips and favourite exercises to training it?
My favourite body part to train is back. Divide your back training into two types of movements: chinning and pull-downs for width, and rows for thickness.
With the former, use different variations like underhand-grip chins and pull-ups while combining with drop sets and pyramids. Also work your lats from multiple angles to achieve better overall development.
Do you do a lot of cardio with your training?
I used to love running and jogging, but do it a lot less since I started competing. I’ve noticed that I burn muscle too quickly with steady-state cardio.
Now I prefer to to do a high intensity interval training. It is a great way to get in a quick workout and it’s also one of the more effective ways to burn fat. An interval can last between 10 to 30 seconds, and the entire session about 20 minutes. My personal favourite is sprints.
When I do HITT or sprints, I do it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach (fasted) before I start my weight training.
Favorite male Fitness models:
Ryan Terry and Jeff Cavaliere (not a model or bodybuilder, but a fitness guru).
Favorite female fitness icon(s):
Someone who comes to mind that I’ve been following for a long time and respect is Bella Falconi. She is the first fitness personality that I started to follow and I’ve always liked her approach to life.
“Our ideas about how everything should be, prevents us from enjoying how everything is.”
What is the most common question you get asked?
Most people here ask me where I’m from.
- I don’t answer them immediately, and usually ask them to guess first. They always get it wrong.
Where can people get hold of you?