Trainer Interview:Jennifer DiDonato

I met Jen on twitter and after talking to her I came to realize that she had a different thought process when it comes to training and nutrition then most women do not to mention that she took the overall at the 2009 NPC Michigan Novice in figure.

1) Tell us more about yourself. Who are you? How long have you been training and what are your goals and aspirations in the fitness industry? You recently won a high level figure competition right?

I am a personal trainer who started an in-home personal training business in the Metro Detroit, Michigan area called “Made Fit.”  It is the parent company for my other businesses “Brides Made Fit” and “Moms Made Fit.”

I started my business with my fiancé and partner, Chris Sonjeow, to make health and fitness more accessible, convenient, and attainable for people.  Through personal training and my weekly videos on my website,, my goal is to reach out to people across the country – and world – with helpful information, tips, and advice.

I have 5 years of experience in the health and fitness industry through working in gyms to competing in figure shows.   My client base targets people of all ages and goals, ranging from corrective exercise, to body-building, to weight-loss.

As for achievements, my personal and most recent one would be winning the Overall Title at the 2009 NPC Novice Michigan Bodybuilding, Fitness, Figure & Bikini Championship in March in Detroit.  But I feel a sense of accomplishment and gratitude everyday when I watch my clients work hard, see results, and reach their goals.  They inspire me!


2) How would you describe your training leading up to the contest? In any type of physique competition plan the competitor aims to “bring up” a certain area or two. Did you specialize in any area?

Training for any body-builder, figure, or fitness competitor generally requires 8 to 15 weeks of solid and strict preparation.  Daily nutrition, strength training, and cardiovascular frequency must be accounted for at all times.  The programming of these factors all depend on the competitors’ individual body type, training history, and current fitness-level.

For me, I have been training hard for years, so it was my nutrition plan that lasted 12 weeks.  I had a pattern of high, medium, and low carbohydrate days and measured out every serving based on my specific program.  My strength training consisted of a split routine, where I trained two muscle groups per day twice a week, adding in some total body days depending on that week’s rotation.  It is good to note that some competitors may train differently – this is just what works for me and gets results for my specific body type.

The areas in which I needed to devote special attention to was definitely my legs.  Genetically, my chest, back, and arms round out pretty well during my intense training.  However, I wanted to make sure my legs were exceptional – so I had to work harder on those!  I incorporated many heavy deadlifts, leg presses, and squats in the first half of my training.  The month or so leading up to show time, I lightened up on the weight, increased the reps and sets, and added in a lot of plyometrics.

3) What was your cardio like going into the contest? 2 hours a day or did you do some progressive cardio?

Heart rate training played a huge role in my cardiovascular conditioning for endurance and fat-burn efficiency.  I trained through running, walking on inclines, stairclimbers, and cycling to mix it up (and keep from getting bored!) Cardio training in the first few weeks was about 4 hours a week.  On the final month, I was training anywhere from 5 hours to 7 or 8 hours a week.

Because the cardio is so time-consuming and excessive, I would set my alarm and do 30 minutes in the morning before work and before I ate anything.  After training a few clients, I would hit the gym in the midday to lift and finish out my other 30, 45, or 60 minutes of cardio, depending on the day.  Some days I would return at night, too!

4) How many weeks out did you start when you began your diet? What was it like the beginning then what did it look like in the end?

When to start the competition nutrition plan all depends on the competitor.  Usually, it’s anywhere from 8 to 15 weeks out.  Generally, you should be prepping in the off-season by eliminating, or drastically minimizing, junk food, fast food, and processed food.  This is so you’re not depending on playing catch-up during your show prep time.  Energy and discipline is so precious during this time that you can’t waste your efforts on trying to lose weight or stay away from those foods – your head should only be focused on your carb rotations and workouts and nothing else!

Show diets consist of carbohydrates low on the glycemic index, lean cuts of meats and fish, protein isolats, and absolutely no sugar!  To start, diets are relatively higher in carbohydrate rotations and servings, winding down to very little two to three weeks out from show time.  If you happen to encounter a competitor during this time… steer clear!  Mood swings are inevitable!


5) What are some of the things that you noticed about yourself, your diet and your training as you began to lean out and get that rock hard stomach?

As hard as you train in the months leading up to your show, the final week can make or break you!  Dropping your water at the right time is what gives competitors that lean look because it brings the skin close to the muscle.  There are many ways of prepping the final week out and it all depends on the competitor, who’s coaching them, and how bad they want to win.  I see a huge transformation my final week – even final days – out from my shows.  As taxing as it is mentally and physically, I know that it is so worth it for those few moments on stage!

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Leave A Reply (2 comments so far)

  1. judith
    9 years ago

    I am now training for a competition that is in 20 weeks, I started already 2 weeks ago. I have been following a real good diet and havent cheated but today I had half of a waffle and I fell very bad is it ok or what should I do? I am trying to not be crazy about it because I heard it was ok to cheat once in a while. Please give me your advise on the cheating part of a diet like that.

    Thank you

  2. Jennifer DiDonato
    9 years ago

    Jimmy, this post turned out great! I\’m also a fan of the other competitors your featured in related posts. Keep up the great work! XO

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