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Name: Erin McComb
Year of Birth: 1985
Height: 5'1"
Weight: 97
Birthplace: Mesa, Arizona 
Current Residence: Mesa, Arizona
Sports: Dance, cheer, snowboarding, wakeboarding, weight lifting

 Tell us a little about yourself, what you do for a living, what hobbies / interests / passions you have.
Right  now my biggest passion and drive are my bikini competitions. I have huge goals for myself, and when I am not training or posing I am usually prepping food or studying fitness and nutrition. I serve at a local bar because it allows me the freedom to work my tail off at the gym and feed when I need, I tried traditional jobs and I get too much drama regarding my eating requirements. My health and fitness are the most important things so I have to be in a job that supports it. I like to take roadtrips when I can, my Kindle is my best friend, I keep a blog, and I am studying to recertify as a personal trainer. I competed in 4 shows last year on top of two jobs so I was unable to keep up renew in time.

Why did you become vegan?
This is a random story. My college professor, always playing devil's advocate in any argument, posed an interesting question. My major was philosophy and the subject was utility. We spoke of utility in death penalty, politics, et cetera. Eventually it led to talks of food. He asked the class whether one animal's entire life experience, all the pain or joy, was worth the five minutes it took us to chew that animal's flesh. What a funny way to look at things, right? So I took the question to heart, started realizing all the toxic things that these animals are fed were also going into me, and took a step back. I wanted to be a part-time free-range vegetarian. That question lingered at every meal and within a month I wouldn't touch anything meat, dairy, or egg. It was the most strange way to make the biggest change in my life, but everything since that choice has been positive.

When and why did you become interested in fitness?
My roommate had put on a few pounds and asked me to join a gym with her. After using a 7-day trial I signed up and from then on I was there religiously. I became engrossed in weight training, scoured magazines and the internet. When I became more serious about my goals I wanted a personal trainer. At this point I was too shy to deal with that sort of situation and I was not prepared to fork over money for something I could do myself. So I logged onto a training site and became a trainer myself. More recently I completed my fitness nutrition certification

How would you describe your nutrition program?
My nutrition is always changing. I tend to obsess over foods and then burn out, plus with competing and typically having more than one job, sometimes being repetitive makes things easier. Right now I am on a fairly high calorie intake for my small size as I hope to overcome my ectomorph body type and add some lean muscle mass. My intake is around 2700 calories per day spread across 6-7 meals. Here's a sample of what I might eat in a typical day although whether I am training and what I am training will affect my choice to have more/less calories. Also, given my fitness goals to add muscle mass, I do consume a lot of protein. Most people don't need this much, adjust accordingly.

Meal 1: I start off with two gluten-free vegan flax waffles (Van's frozen) with either maple syrup or a berry compote (warmed berries on the stove with agave, it's juicy and delicious) and I follow up with a protein and water or protein and milk substitute. 

Meal 2: 6 ounces firm tofu crumbled in a sauce pan with spinach, onion and tomato on top of two pieces of gluten-free vegan brown rice bread, toasted. Watermelon. I eat watermelon throughout the day along with bananas.

Meal 3: Granola (I love the Kind brand since I know it's gluten-free) and almonds with another protein shake.

Meal 4: (this is usually my post workout meal) Sweet potato with agave and white rice (simple and complex carbs) then I shower before taking my protein. It sounds crazy, but the post workout carb and protein timing is important.

Meal 5: Another tofu scramble (I went so long without bread that I am obsessed, I MUST have this meal twice a day)

Meal 6: Peanutbutter, almond dream dairy free ice cream (went 5 years with no substitute so I am going a little crazy on this also) and protein. This may seem like a lot for a last meal, but keep in mind I am trying to keep on weight. My metabolism is very quick and if I don't get fats in, I will wake up throughout the night needing to eat.

I also add blackbean hummus, random fruit and small servings of nuts throughout the day between meals when I get hungry. My diet is not an exact science, so my best advice is to listen to your body- not all approaches work for all people.

How would you describe your training program?

I break down my training split based on current goals, training typically for 6 days a week with minimal to no cardio.
Sunday - high calorie to prep for Monday

Monday - high calorie with heavy leg day since my body should be well rested. My main lower body focus right now are my glutes. I have stick legs, but glutes are what the judges want, so that is my focus. I start my lift on the glute, so as to have the freshest and best lifts in that movement. Some of my favorite exercises for glutes are walking lunges, reverse hack squats and weighted hip thrusts. I do love to superset, but my goals are to grow so I rest between sets in order to have my working sets count more. The only thing I will superset right now is perhaps some bodyweight squats to warm up my legs for subsequent movement after the glute moves. I do 3-6 working sets before moving on. I then move on to a quad dominant exercise such as a barbell squat or, my new recent favorite, the sissy squat. Since a lot of exercises that activate the glute also tax the hamstring, putting a quad exercise between allows for better recovery. I finish up with a hamstring exercise like deadlifts or pullthroughs, finish off with some form of lunges and call it a day. 

Tuesday - shoulders are also a focus, so I approach much as I do the legs. My lateral delts need the most work, so that goes first. My favorite shoulder push exercises are smith presses, seated overhead press with a neutral grip and behind-the-neck presses. My favorite shoulder pulls are upright rows, cable lateral raises and rear-delt rows. For the cable raises I love messing with the timing. No swaying, no momentum, slow and controlled then on the last few, us the opposite hand to pull down a little while you're trying to raise the weight- hurts so good!

Wednesday - Back to the lower body with calf work (toes in, toes out, and neutral lifts with hold at the top) and miscellaneous leg work. I use Wednesday to give attention to anything I may have missed Monday and things like hip abduction and stepups. I do not use heavy weights, but I will focus on stabilization exercises such as unilateral RDLs. I will also do some back work. Since bikini is not as focused on the back and mine is fairly developed, I have taken out a deddicated back day. Moves I love are bent-over rows, high rows, pull ups, chin ups and pushdowns.

Thursday - More general upper body day. Start with shoulders than add triceps and lastly, biceps. I do mostly cable work for triceps with heavy weighted bench dips. Biceps, I prefer hammer curls, reverse curls, and lateral curls (think of facing your pinky towards the front, arms supine). I usually end with matwork (handstand pushups then plank position shoulder taps, tricep pushups and so on.

Friday - basically a repeat of Monday.
Saturday  maintenance, anything I feel that I have neglected.
Currently (and typically) I do less than an hour of cardio per week.

What are some common misconceptions about veganism?
People thing we are all wimps. Sure, veganism can help you lose weight if you have fat to spare, but for me it helped me put on  almost 20 pounds, adopt a new love for certain foods and makes me feel great about myself. People think that "God put animals on this planet for us to eat, so eat!" I think animals are meant to be at they are, just as people are! Just because we CAN eat them does not mean we SHOULD. Also, others think we are iron, protein and calcium deprived sicklings. My dad was a doctor and feared my new food attitude when I started, but I am healthier than I have ever been so to that I call shennanigans. There are good and bad ways to go about any approach to food, not just veganism. The best thing to do is ask questions and listen to your body. We are all so unique that there could not possibly be one right answer for everyone.

What advice do you have for people who are just starting out with veganism or training?
The internet is a great resource. When I first became vegan I lived solely on carrots and apples which was such a bad idea. If becoming vegan, check out your local bookstore, they are getting so much better at carrying vegan titles. Googling local vegan restaurants is also a great route because, at least the places I have been, the staff is very health-conscious and passionate. They love giving advice. Even going to Whole Foods would work. I visited one in Hawaii and the guy gave me some awesome tips for tofu and spicing.  

Future fitness and vegan goals?
My goal is always to "one up" myself. There is always room to be better. I love competing, and my ultimate goal is to earn a pro card and help educate the world that a dead animal on your plate is not the only way to get an ideal physique. I think it will be a huge challenge because there are so few vegan (and gluten free) athletes, I would love to prove that it's possible. I want to bring a positive vegan message to an industry that doesn't quite understand us. Positive steps are being made, but I want to be a part of a movement that makes vegan less alien to others.

I have the USAs coming up in July 2013 in Las Vegas. I do plan on competing in the North Americans if I don't obtain my pro card, but I do also hope to dabble in powerlifting thereafter.