NAME: Nicole Gray AGE: 33 OFFSEASON WEIGHT: 155lbs CONTEST WEIGHT: 119.24lbs DIVISION: Women’s Bodybuilding
- CONTEST HISTORY:
- 2008 OCB Charm City Classic: 2nd place figure novice short, 2nd place figure open short
- 2009 OCB Eastern Seaboard States: 4th place figure novice short, 3rd place figure open short
- 2009 OCB Charm City Classic: 3rd place figure novice short, 3rd place figure open short
- 2010 OCB Battle for the Belt: 1st place figure novice short, 1st place figure open short and figure overall champion (IFPA Pro Card earned)
- 2012 IFPA Pro Bowl: 4th place, figure short 2012 NPC Lehigh Valley Championships: 2nd place, women’s physique division
- 2013 NPC Team Universe: 8th place, women’s physique division B
- 2015 NPC Elite Muscle Classic : 1st place, women’s bodybuilding
- 2015 NPC Nationals: 1st place women’s bodybuilding MW (IFBB pro card earned)
I was never athletic growing up and always battled various self-image issues and eating disorders. The only reason I stepped foot in the gym is because I hated what I looked like. I had zero knowledge of training or nutrition so I essentially starved and cardiod myself skinny with all of the fantastic tidbits I picked up on bodybuilding.com (yes, that’s where I got my start). During that time, in the spring of 2008 I set up a photo shoot with Dan Ray (from musculardevelopment.com) and he actually encouraged me to compete. I thought he was insane—why would I put myself on stage to be judged and have my body picked apart?!?! However, after talking to one of my brothers about it, I realized the only reason I wouldn’t do it is because I was scared (of what?—the unknown?—failure?). My brother suggested that I give it a shot. If I hated it then at least I would know to never do it again, but I would never know if I didn’t try. So thanks to Dan Ray and my brother, I stepped on stage in the fall of 2008 and fell in love.
I initially found out about TEAM Warrior Within when I stumbled upon a blog post several years ago by David Johnston where he spoke about the praise of mediocrity, the “everyone is a winner” mentality, and about bringing muscle back to bodybuilding. As I nodded my head, soaking up every word, I thought, “This dude fuckin gets it!”, and began to look further into him and his writing. Somewhere along the way, we became friends on social media and began interacting in the GEAR’D Up group.
When I decided to make the switch to FBB and began looking for a coach, David was on my short list of people I wanted to work with. I knew that he shared my love and passion for bodybuilding and, most importantly, he shared my vision for female bodybuilding. Having already interacted with him via social media, I knew that he was the right person to help me reach my goals.
At the risk of sounding dramatic, working with David is a life altering experience.
From a prep coach standpoint, I couldn’t have asked for a better fit for my goals and expectations from a coach. My plan right out of the gate was well organized and detailed. Throughout my off season as well as contest prep, David was incredibly attentive and made consistent changes/tweaks to my training, nutrition and cardio regimes. He never let my progress stall or become stagnant.
While coaching/training is a business, working with David never felt that way. You truly work together as a team in order to reach your goals. One of the things I love most about working with him is that he welcomes an open dialogue regarding how to approach your program. I love to talk shop and not just have a plan thrown at me. David and I bounced ideas off of one another throughout the process and he has a willingness to educate the how and why behind the methods to his madness.
On a personal level, David became more than a “coach”. He ultimately became a friend and mentor. He helped take me places both physically and mentally that I never could have even imagined. Even if we weren’t working together, David is a person I would reach out to for his advice or perspective at anytime. He is someone for whom I have the ultimate level of respect and admiration.
The hardest part of prepping for my show? Doing fuckin cardio! I kid, I kid lol…
Balancing life. I work full time, while going through the enrollment process for school and still trying to manage my home life. Balance and moderation are not things I do well, especially during prep. There are only so many hours in the day and when your energy is limited, even getting off the couch is a struggle. I have a very obsessive mind and everything else in my life falls by the wayside and all that matters is what and when I’m eating and getting my training/cardio/posing practice in. Both work and school require my brain to be functioning at a high level, which is a struggle when your food is minimal, you’re running on no sleep and you have zero energy. Prep is fuckin’ hard no matter what, but when you’re spreading yourself so thin in order to make sure all other avenues in your life are handled, it makes the process that much more overwhelming.
For additional motivation, I would love to say it’s a song or some motivational quote, but for me, motivation runs deeper than that. My fear of failure is my ultimate motivation. When there were moments of misery, doubt and “fuck this shit”, my fear of letting down those who believed in me is something that always pushed me through. I could never get on stage and think that I didn’t do all I could to be the best. I’m a perfectionist, at times to a fault; however, that’s exactly what pushes me forward when things get difficult. I refuse to quit and I refuse to fail.
One of the biggest things about competing is that you have to have thick skin. You are putting yourself on stage, wearing next to nothing and ASKING to be judged. You cannot get all caught up in your feelings when people have negative shit to say. EVERYONE will have an opinion on what you should and shouldn’t do, and at the end of the day you need to look in the mirror and do what is right for you. Competing is a very long journey and the process is incredibly rewarding, however at the finish line, we are only on stage for a hot second so you need to be true to who you are and what you want out of it. One of the things I always promised myself is that the body I build is the one I love, NOT the one that anyone else tells me I should have. Regardless of what division you compete in, make sure when you get on stage you are presenting a package that you are PROUD of.
The biggest lesson I learned about myself, is that I am good enough. One of my concerns about crossing over to FBB was the doubt that I could do it. For years, my love had always been bodybuilding and everyone who truly knows me knew that it was a natural progression for me, but I doubted that I had what it would take to be competitive in the division. With that said, this was the hardest prep that I have ever done. Ever. There were moments when it was absolutely brutal, both mentally and physically. I fought through moments where I thought that there was no way I would be able to do it. Watching the whole process come together made me realize that I am capable of so much more than I give myself credit for at times.
I have to give a huge thank you to my sponsors, both Clinical Sports Labs and Violate The Dress Code for their support of female bodybuilding. When so many companies aren’t giving opportunities to female bodybuilders, I am fortunate to have had their support and encouragement throughout my journey.
Jodie Bruce/FitWear Designs for creating stunning suits for me this season. My package wouldn’t have been complete without her unique vision.
All of the female bodybuilders who have reached out to me and offered advice, love and support during my off season and throughout my prep. Their willingness to share their knowledge and experience is invaluable. A special shout out to Monique Jones for creating a killer routine for me, helping with my posing/presentation and letting me pick her brain. My friends and family who shared in this experience with me—especially Rosie, who I would not be the person I am today without your love, support and faith in me—thank you for ALL that you do and all that you are. Much love to Holly for sharing this journey with me. Finishing the last weeks of our prep together and wrapping it up with a fun-filled weekend in Miami is exactly what I love about this sport.
The biggest thank you goes out to my boyfriend, Billy. Your love, support and encouragement made this all possible. You were by my side through every up and down, you made every possible sacrifice to make my dream a reality and above all, you loved me (and tolerated me!) when it wasn’t very easy.
Moving forward, my focus is simply living life. I’m starting school to get my degree in Veterinary Technology, so I’ll be using this time as a break from dieting/competing and get back to training for the pure love of it. I don’t have any definitive plans, as far as show dates on the calendar or numbers on the scale are concerned (although, I do have some things bouncing around in my head, shhhhhh…), I have weaknesses in my physique that I need to improve upon and want to gain significant size overall. One thing is for sure, I am thrilled to never have to make a weight class again and I’m looking forward to the next year plus of eating, throwing weights around and packing as much mass on my frame as I can because that is really what I love to do!