Friday, August 24, 2007

Something to Cheer About 

Posted by James at 6:40 AM ET

She Goes from NBA Pompoms to National Fitness Competitor

By Kimberly Garrison
Anyone who doubts that a woman could have brains, beauty, and brawn has not met the stunning Melissa Hall.

The Minneapolis native has parlayed a NBA cheerleader gig into a career that combines world-class fitness competitor, model, spokesperson and entrepreneur. With each competition she wins, Hall proves to herself and the world that she is a champion.

The 2004 Mrs. Minnesota America and 2005 Ms. Bikini Universe met me recently at a Center City coffeehouse for a candid chat about what it takes to be a world-class competitor, and how she landed the coveted cover-girl spot on September's Oxygen magazine.

Melissa Hall
The down-to-earth, 33-year-old beauty came to Philadelphia on a promotional tour for the Slendertone Flex Ab Toning system, which uses electro-muscle stimulation to tone the abs. With some skepticism, I tried it and was surprised to find my abs were quite sore the next day. Along with a clean diet, this might be the edge to get my abs to the next level.

Q: Melissa, how did you get started in the fitness business?

A: It started about 10 years ago. A friend of mine recommended that I enter a beauty pageant. Never in a million years did I think I would. [She won the 2004 Mrs. Minnesota America beauty pageant.] Then I was watching [a fitness pageant] on ESPN and noticed some women who were 25 or older. I decided I wanted to compete. I started exercising and hired a personal trainer to help me.

Q: Wow, you mean you were not into fitness before you started competing?

A: No, [but] I was a dancer and a cheerleader during the early part of my career.

Q: What was the first show you competed in and won?

A: That would be the Mrs. USA pageant in 2004. The following year, I decided to compete in the fitness pageant, Ms. Bikini Universe.

Q: What's the difference between a beauty pageant and a fitness pageant?

A: Well, in a [beauty] pageant, emphasis is more on poise, speaking and the evening gown. Fitness is different. The training regimen is very different.

Q: In what way? How did you train for the fitness competition?

A: First I had to hire someone to work with me to figure out how to eat properly. I would say that 70 percent of the competition is figuring out how to eat right.

Q: What do you eat?

A: Lots of natural, unprocessed foods. I eat plenty of chicken, whole grains, salads and vegetables. That's pretty much the standard. During the weekends I'll have a treat. I'm not into dieting and deprivation.

Q: Do you count calories?

A: No. I just watch the types of carbohydrates I take in. I stay away from refined carbohydrates and processed stuff.

Q: Take us through a typical day of your eating plan?

A: I typically have five or six little meals a day. For breakfast, I might have a bowl of oatmeal and a protein shake. A snack might be tuna on a rice cake. Lunch would be chicken, brown rice and salad, and another protein shake for a snack. Dinner might be salmon and mixed vegetables. On the weekends, I might have a cheeseburger if I want it, but I don't go crazy.

Q: What do you like most about participating in pageants?

A: The people. I enjoy the traveling and the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people. I can't explain how invaluable that is.

Q: That's terrific. What about your husband, is he a competitor, too?

A: No, but I met my husband in the business. He's a real fitness enthusiast and we own a gym in Minnesota, Young Quest Fitness.

Q: When you were growing up did you ever have a weight problem?

A: I did. A lot of people don't know it but I have a twin sister, Melinda, and when I was going through early adolescence, I was a bit heavier. When we were very young, we were pretty much the same.

Melissa Hall

Q: What about now, is your twin also into fitness?

A: No, she's a size 20, and she's training with me now. She's my biggest fan.

Q: What's next on the horizon for you?

A: A fitness line of clothing and some other projects.

Q: What advice do you have for women aspiring to compete?

A: Make sure you have someone help you prepare for the competition, because it's a lot of work. And also, have fun!

Visit Melissa's Official Website here.

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