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Jo Stewart

by Gene X Hwang

Jo Stewart - ripped and vascularOctober 2004 - The Kiwi nation may be known more for rugby and film of late, but Jo Stewart showed that physique athletes are also a notable export. With a strong team at the 2004 Women's World Championships, New Zealand looked strong with Jo leading the way.

At 43 years of age, the mother of three presents a very feminine physique while coming in very tight and ripped. You can read her account of her experiences in Spain on her site as well.

In 2003, Jo won the overall the the New Zealand Nationals and thus was able to represent the islands at the Worlds. For a report on the show from the team perspective, click here.

Here's a Q&A we had with her to go into more detail:
"I initially began training when I was 19 and was going great but got married at 21 to a non-gym-goer and so gave it up. Two children later, I began again when I was 30, and 13 years later I am still competing," she says an introduction...

On role models... "I have to say that when I began training again at 30 I was inspired by pictures in mags of Juliette Bergmann, Tonya Knight and the sexy Cory Everson of course. I was always told I had athletic legs (sometimes not said as nicely as that) so I thought I had a head start on most of the kiwi girls that were competing. The reason I am training is I love it and it is in my genes. A lot of people strive to do this sport but do not have the genes nor the mental ability. I guess I am lucky that I have them both. And Mark and I live and breath the sport plus it is my career. "

Goals... "I have reached my goal, well my goal of last month, and that was to get to the Women's Worlds. I was intent on retiring but I now find I am relishing the thought to do it all again next year... and improve on this year. My 7th place in my first international event was pretty good, but I can do better."

Bodybuilding in New Zealand... "Well I am not a big girl compared to the international girls I competed with but I am a big girl in New Zealand. The leaner I get the more I cover up as the big muscular look is not very well received here. We do have very large contests, 180 competitors in our Nationals last year, but a lot of them are Figure or BodyFitness competitors, who are a lot smaller than me. One thing we learnt during the Women's World is that Kiwi girls have to get more muscle - and that goes for every class."

Training Philosophy... "I used to train a lot heavier than I have over the last few years. Mainly 'cos I was happy with how I was looking. But now I am going to go heavy... for obvious reason. Compared to the girls in my gym, I am strong but compared to overseas girls, not at all."

Women vs. Men's Responses... "A lot of women admire my shape, even when I feel I am very out of shape. I get a lot of mixed reactions from guys of course, especially when I ask to borrow their dumbbells etc.!"

Future Plans... "I have the NZ Nationals on the 30 & 31st, October and hopefully be selected for the Women's Worlds again next year. That is only three weeks away so I really have to refocus for that competiton and qualify. This has been a bit hard after thinking I would be retiring and taking it easy right now. Mark and I are going to begin training heavy. Yes I am prepared to put on more muscle than I currently have where as I have been happy with my muscle mass until now. But I want to be very competitive next year (in Spain of course)."

Jo Stewart flexing her bicepDay-toDay... "I work as a private Trainer which means working very early mornings, midday and again each evening. I am a real homebody and enjoy nothing more than lazing at home with a good novel. But I have so much contact with clients through out the day which is great. You tend to build up a really great bond with them so there are regular get togethers with them outside of the gym. I have three children and one husband who take up the rest of the social time I have left."

Hobbies... "I love my running. I run almost every day and have done so daily since before I was pregnant with my daughter; she is almost 20. It is my time to myself and I run any weather, dark mornings or whenever, and sometimes twice daily. I have been running for fitness since I was about 13 years old. I have been in running clubs and marathon clinics etc and will never give my running up. I also love (what for it) knitting. I knitted the most beautiful throwover that the household fights over constantly. Today I have been doing mosaics. I fell in love with a cross in Spain, didn’t buy but came home and began to make my own. I love any kind of handywork really.

Family? "My son Brad (he's 18) doesn't like the look of me when I am lean and mean, but is proud of me doing it. His friends at school used to call me MuscleMum. He does my website so he is pretty cool. My daughter eats the same as I do really, but does not train. She has not got a lot of interest in the bodybuilding scene. My son Jordan is six and he will be the bodybuilder in the family. He begs me to go into the garage with him to use the boxing bag and the chin up machine and the dumbbells. He is a little genetic monster."

For Fun... "I'm really not a party girl anymore as such. I love to get together with the girls and have a night out but I am not into parties full of people that I don't know. Our girlie parties are pretty much well prepared in advance as so many of us girls are dieting for competition etc. Our last girl's night we hired a holiday home on an island and had a school girls night. I was the one who ended up curled up on the wooden bench outside sleeping off the wine, while the girls were still partying.
We used to be into the club scene pretty big but I got over that.
I think I am always thinking ahead about my training or my early morning runs, to get really into the boozy party scene.

Being a Bodybuilder in New Zealand...

Jo Stewart flexes her vascular tricep"That is a hard one as there is probably so much that people do not know. I think in New Zealand being seen as one of the top female bodybuilders, people seem to think I do it really easy. They think dieting is easy for me, they think training is easy for me 'cos I have Mark to train me and I work in a gym, and they think working is the industry makes it easy on me. But it is a stressful life trying to compete myself, and look after competitors who can be very needy, and also run a home and husband and organise bodybuilding shows as well. I don't let them see the stressed out side of me or when I am actually feeling down about my own problems.

"Little do these people know that our life is one big hectic race on a day to day basis. Mark runs the New Zealand Federation of Bodybuilding (with the help of a part time secretary) but all the work is virtually done here at home. Every time we open the emails there are replies to tend to and work to do. Never a day goes past that we do not work for the Federation. Along with our training, our family and our full time jobs there is little time for anything else. Last night I spent 1.5 hours on the computer trying to match competitors names to photos to send through to Flex Magazine. Well somebody has to do it..."

Final Thoughts... "Yeah, I just want to say that my event in Spain was mind blowing. I am 43-years-old now and to compete against younger more muscular women was not in the slightest bit intimidating. I felt proud that I could stand on stage and hold my own with those girls (I would of liked to have been a bit bigger beside them) but I was happy in my own mind. I now know how I want to look next year, I have that image firmly planted in my mind and I will achieve that. I am going to give the Women's Worlds one more go before I ever think of retirement again."

You can keep up with the latest on Jo at:

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female muscle, shawna walker, larissa reis, michelle jin, wrestling, tracey toth, kira neuman, female bodybuilding, cindy phillips, britt miller, casey daugherty, lyris capelle, jill brooks, olga guryev, olga guryeva, kristy hawkins, cheryl faust, lindsey cope, lindsay cope, veronica miller