As a track-and-field athlete harboring Summer Olympic dreams four years ago, Erin Stern never gave a thought to figure competitions. But after she narrowly missed qualifying in the high jump, she decided to step onstage and hasn’t looked back since. In two short years, she went from rookie to 2010 Figure Olympia winner, becoming one of the standard-bearers of the sport in the process.
You’ve had some time to reflect on placing second [to Nicole Wilkins] at the 2011 Olympia. What did you take away from it?
Any time you come in second place you’re not going to be happy. I don’t think mine was the look they preferred at the show, so back to the drawing board. I’ll be back this year to hopefully win the Arnold [figure international] and win back my title at the Olympia.
What do you think they were looking for that you didn’t have?
I feel as if I came in the same condition I was in for the 2010 show, and my presentation was the same. Looking back, I think my lats were a bit too wide. That’s my opinion on it, anyway. I’m going back to my old track training, and I’m going to bring a completely different look to the Arnold.
Does a decision that doesn’t go your way make you long for the objective aspect of track and field?
I still compete in track. I’m going to compete in the USA masters outdoor, and I should win my events. I do like the fact that it’s you against the bar, you against time. You either do it or you don’t. I just love track and field, and I love the training that’s involved with it. I’ll probably be one of those 55-year-old ladies in a leotard, still doing the high jump.
You’ve said that your pre-contest diet makes you forget things?
It’s pretty bad. I go low-carb, low-fat, low-sodium, and it’s just enough to get one foot in front of the other. I take pictures because I don’t remember seeing certain things. You lose time here and there.
That’s a pretty steep price to pay for a competition.
Well, it’s really only terrible the last few days. Then you get to carb load right before the show, so by the time you get onstage, it’s great.
Are you used to sitting around for hours on end in a bikini or lingerie?
At first it was really weird, I will admit that. For my first shoot, I paid a photographer, and it was just me and one of my friends. It wasn’t for a magazine. It was just practice for me. By now it’s started to seem normal. I think of it as just presenting the physique. Plus, I want to be happy and portray different things to the camera. Yes, you do get tired, and you might get a little hungry, but I think it’s fun; otherwise I wouldn’t do it.
We’re picturing you on a couch in a bikini—telling an inspiring story, of course.
Exactly! No, when I say Oprah, I mean how she touches people’s lives and her ability to do good. I want to educate people and help them reach their goals. My new program, F.A.S.T. (functionally aesthetic strength training), is the start of that. It draws on my track training background and combines it with bodybuilding principles. You shouldn’t just look the part. You should be able to use that muscle.
Residence Tampa, FL
Weight 132 Height 5'8"
Highlights 2011: IFBB Figure Olympia, 2nd; IFBB New Zealand Pro winner; IFBB Australian Pro Grand Prix winner; IFBB Fitness International, 2nd; 2010: IFBB Figure Olympia winner; IFBB Europa Show of Champions winner; IFBB Fitness International, 2nd; 2009: IFBB Ft. Lauderdale Pro, 2nd; IFBB Houston Pro, 2nd; IFBB Jacksonville Pro, 2nd