I've been following Natalie's career for quite some time. Something tells me she's going to be special when the time's right. Natalie Rae Ariel is a proud crossover, formerly competing in figure and now a bodybuilder aiming to be an IFBB Pro. I'm very fortunate to be able to get an interview with her as prepares for what could be a major year for her in 2010.
Photos were provided by Natalie herself.
FitGems Nation: State your name and profession (fitness/figure/female bodybuilding/bikini/other).
Natalie Rae Ariel: Natalie Rae Ariel, Bodybuilder (& Cook County Correctional Officer)
FitGems: When did you first start competing?
Natalie: December, 2005 was my very first FIGURE show. October, 2009 was my first BB show.
FitGems: You used to compete in figure before bodybuilding. What did you like about figure, and what made you make the change to bodybuilding?
Natalie: What I liked about Figure is the look that was rewarded back then. Valerie Waugaman won the Overall at Jr. National’s in 2005. That was the VERY FIRST show I had EVER attended. I wanted to look like her and compete on that stage. I remember going home after that show making a commitment to myself that I would accomplish that. Davana Medina, Jenny Lynn, Monica Brant…their physiques were why I started working out that year. So I researched everything I could about the NPC and the diet and training and did my first show. I was hooked. After doing 3 shows and then Jr. National’s in 2006, I hired Elena Seiple. She taught me a lot, bring me into (2007) Jr. USA’s & Jr. National’s at MY BEST to that date. I was gaining more and more muscle the harder I trained and the better I ate. The reason I made the switch to bodybuilding was because, in 2008, when I took the year off from competing to focus on my ‘other’ career, Figure took a turn. The judging was worse than I had ever seen, NOT consistent, NO set criteria. They were rewarding ‘less muscle’ and ‘less hardness’. I had worked my butt off to gain the muscle I had in those past 3 years that I was not about to sacrifice any of it just to place well in figure. I did not want to look like the ‘new’ standard. So, with the help and guidance of Nate Wolfe we set out for ultimate condition, knowing I would not be the biggest (being 5’7” is rough) on stage. Prepping for Bodybuilding was harder than I thought it would be, but I know I have found MY place.
FitGems: Although you’re enjoying much success in bodybuilding now, what is one thing you miss about the sport, and is there anything that would make you return to it one day?
Natalie: I do not miss anything about COMPETING in Figure. What I do miss about the Figure Division itself, is the old “standard”, if you can even call it that.lol What I mean is, more muscle used to be rewarded. I cannot say if I will EVER make the switch back. I believe God has a plan for each and every one of us. If that is in His plans for me, then so be it. I will say this…I REFUSE to LOSE all of the HARD earned muscle that took me so LONG to gain, just to place well in Figure!
FitGems: During your figure days, you produced some of the best biceps the sport of figure has ever seen. May you share with us how during your figure days you were able to develop your famous arms?
Natalie: “famous arms”, hardly, BUT THANK YOU for the compliment. Back in 2005, when I first started to work out, I worked out in a bedroom that I made into a home gym. I started out using the Body for Life plan then just made up my own workouts after I read The Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding. Well, when all you have is a bench and some dumbbells, there is not a lot of variety. I did a lot of curls, a lot of different ways. They just responded well and are probably one of strongest body parts today, in terms of how much weight I can use with them.
FitGems: What is your strategy when you head to the gym? Is it mostly weight-training, mostly cardio, a balanced mixture of the two, or something else? How has that changed from your figure days?
Natalie: NOTHING has changed.lol I despised cardio then and I despise it now.lol I have LOVED the IRON from day 1, which is why I know bodybuilding was the right move My strategy is always to TRAIN FROM THE HEART & TRAIN WITH A VISION(my vision of what I want to look like). My weight training is INTENSE and then there is CARDIO. Offseason, my strategy is weight-training and keeping to a stricter diet so that I do NOT have to do cardio!
FitGems: I was told that your nickname was the “A-Train”. May you share with us how you got that name?
Natalie: Joe Bayer from HDPhysiques, actually. He is good at making up some nicknames that stick! lol The A is from ARIEL and honestly…I don’t even know where the “train” came from…Joe???????lol
FitGems: What (if anything) would you change about any of the IFBB divisions?
Natalie: IMO, the addition of another class would produce more competitors. Like the 202 and under for Men. Like a 140 and under would be PERFECT!
FitGems: Which competitors (past and/or present) do you look up to the most for your inspiration?
Natalie: I look up to Elena Seiple because I learned SO much from her when she was my Nutritionist in 2006 and 2007. There are many who inspire me physique wise, but I will say that Angela Salvagno, Britt Miller, Kris Murrell, & Nicole Ball…what they bring to the stage, entire package wise, INSPIRES me! Last but NOT least…my fiancé Nate Wolfe. I look up to him the most because he has taught me more than I could have ever imagined someone could, about DETERMINATION, COURAGE, BELIEF, DISCIPLINE, and LOVE. I have seen him diet for a show and we have also dieted together for a show…he AMAZES me with his SELFLESSNESS!
FitGems: What are your future plans heading into 2010 and beyond?
Natalie: If all goes as planned, I will be competing at USA’s and North American’s in 2010. BEYOND….only God knows the answer to that, but I do know that I will continue to compete as long as I am physically able to, because my heart is in this sport for a very long time!
Once again, FitGems Nation would like to thank Natalie for taking the time to do this interview. For more on Natalie, visit her website at http://www.natalieraeariel.com, and for those that have Facebook, add her under NATALIE RAE ARIEL.