In our newest blog, we interview Nina Sugamori. Nina is an amazing physically challenged Los Angeles figure competitor with an inspiring story.
Nina was maimed by a drunk driver at the age of 20 while riding her motorcycle at Venice Beach. Her right arm was shattered into multiple pieces and reconstructed with 3 stainless steel plates and 15 metals screws. Her radial nerve was permanently seered and her biceps femoris permanently detached. She also lost her tricep head and one inch off her humerus bone after 10 grueling surgeries over 4 years while she was still in college.
To say she has overcome difficult odds to become a pro figure competitor at 50 years young is quite the understatement. Since she started competing earlier this year her list of accomplishments in the competitive ranks is AWESOME.
- Feb 8 NPC Gold Coast Classic over 50 figure-1st Place
- April 5 INBA Iron Gladiator over 50 figure-1st Place
- April 12 INBA international Women’s Masters 1st Place Overall Figure
- May 10 Colorado State INBA over 50 figure-1st Place Figure.
- May 23 NPC California State over 50 figure-1st Place Figure.
1. Can you give us a brief background about yourself (where you were born, how it was like growing up, education, where you lived, etc.)?
I was born in Los Angeles California at the original Cedars Sinai before they built the large one now at Beverly and San Vicente by the Beverly Center. My mother is a German Jew from Memphis that met my Japanese Wrestler dad at UCLA as college students. She fell ill to manic depression before I turned 3 years old. One thing she did right was sent me to all private schools and dragged me to every dance, music and activity lesson that she could think of all my growing up years. So I look back and am thankful for ballet, hula, gymnastics, typing, golf, piano, aikido, swimming, horse back riding and on and on. I attended Carlthorp School on San Vicente Boulevard in Santa Monica along with many famous peoples kids although we weren’t industry people. I also attended Paul Revere and Palisades High School, Brentwood High and Ojai Valley School. Oh and Le Lycee Francais de L.A. I met Jody Foster and Tatum O’Neal, Christopher Lee’s daughter, Ann Margaret’s son and saw Robert Conrad at football games and William Shatner. Hollywood normal everyday stuff.
I got my engineering degree at CSU Northridge.
2. As a Fitness Competitor-Model-Speaker and Manager of CrossFit Mean Streets in Downtown Los Angeles you have a busy day to day existence. How did everything get started for you and what prompted your decision to follow these paths?
My girlfriend Pam Brown had managed her husband being impaired by a brain tumor and stroke at a young age. She had gained 100 pounds in her struggles to work full-time, raise a child and care for a household and husband. She lost the weight an won a heavy weight body building contest. It was amazing and wonderful. I finally went to see her on stage in Las Vegas at an INBA International Natural Bodybuilding show. I saw every decade of age on stage from teenager to 60+. To my surprise they had a physically challenged (standing or wheelchair) category. I realized that my missing right bicep didn’t mean that I could not do a show/contest!
Everyone including judges asked me in the audience when would I be on stage and how long had I been competing. I never ever had done it. I just had been in love with that scene at Venice Beach California in the early 1980’s. That was 30 years ago. I met Franco Columbo and Arnold Scwharzennegar and Lou Ferrigno. Franco was my first chiropractor. Arnold asked me about the hair on my forearms of all things to discuss. He made an odd remark about not understanding why American women were hairless in certain locations after he arrived from Germany. He said then he saw a prostitute in the shower and learned we all shave parts here in the U.S.A. Something to remember.
I had been teaching group exercise classes for 30 years and was in decent condition at age 50. So I decided to mimic the bodybuilder’s show prep diet and change my exercise routine to prepare for stage competition.
3. Can you tell us more about your business and how you see it evolving over the next 5-10 years? Talk about your life personally?
I saw one competitor Vickie Francovich at age 58 looking just mint. I wanted to be just like her. I wanted to look ahead to future years of a good life and a nice body to be proud having. So I planned to spend the next ten years learning how to train and compete so that I could do well at age 60 within the INBA show structure. They offer bikini, figure, physique an bodybuilding as well as other divisions.
I wanted to represent longevity and successful lifestyle within the fitness setting that we offer at CrossFit Mean Streets and CrossFit Smiley Streets running Los Angeles Health & Fitness in Downtown L.A. Its really important to me to relay how your body, your food, your lifestyle and daily decisions are all part of fitness. The gyms that we operate are meant to allow people to experience this ideal in today’s busy city and over stimulated lives we have in 2014. Our bodies and brains are the same despite all the modern changes to technology, communication and social networking.
We just have small boutique gyms in LA but our ideals are very big and run deep with those of us that work there. I believe we can do even a better job of sharing these ideas over the next 5-10 years of running our business. My boss Ronald Teasdale is 20 years my junior but feels as strongly about many of the same things I do in this industry. So we make a good team.
4. As an individual who lives a healthy and fit lifestyle, we’re curious, what does your daily diet look like? Do you give yourself “cheat days”?
Wow. I have a total aversion to the term “cheat meal.” I think your diet is what you put in your mouth, chew and swallow. Your in charge of the hand that puts food in your mouth. Every mouthful is your decision. Is it David Weck, the inventor of the BOSU, that says “Gravity takes no days off.” So neither do we really. I decide to eat something sweet or not usually my everyday selections when I choose. I would not ever call deciding to eat anything cheating. I sincerely believe the term itself sets people up to fail or binge in their work to create a desirable physique.
I get labeled a hard nose or a purist, or a zealot. I think I just choose logic over gimmicks.
I see juicing as close to soda as you can get without funding the Coca Cola Company. And I am not over looking the vitamins and enzymes. What I refer to is the mainlining of titrated sugars. It shocks me that people will voluntarily essentially run an intravenous feed to destroy their insulin regulation by driving into gasoline station snack shops and fast food restaurants and guzzling sugar in liquid every day from morning to night. Juice is so close to the same high glycemic indexing but with a pretty bow.
So my diet hovers around 33/33/33 macro nutrient ratios. I stick to items I can buy at the market and prepare at home. I made soups and salads,custards and jellos. I eat a lot of things plain, raw, steamed or broiled. The slow cooker is great for meats also. I just started sprouting. I have been experimenting with straight pea and hemp proteins along with hulled raw hemp seeds for extra vegetable sources of protein along with meat and eggs.
My 115 pound body has 53 pounds of muscle so I can eat 1700-1900 calories a day and stay the same weight. Girls who avoid weight training are missing the secret to weight management and physique maintenance. My deadlift maximum lift is 200 pounds. I have back squatted ass to ankles 185 pounds. Solid dense muscles is the main element of success. I cannot emphasize it enough. Its so sad that this news so often falls on deaf ears. CrossFit has hopefully made a tiny dent in females enormous misconception regarding their body composition.
Well. Back to cheating. There is no such thing. And if you ate it. Its your diet. Own your deal.
5. What does your training routine consist of? (Please include a few details – training split, sets/reps, exercises, types of cardio, etc.)
I like to do back squat on Tuesdays. I dont know why. I Deadlift on Sundays. I bench press somewhere in the middle of that. I have a seriously limited right arm so I cannot do many things that bodybuilders do. I want to be as symmetrical as possible so I adapted CrossFit to Bodybuilding as best that I could. Its oddly similar to how I blended Atkins/Paleo and Bodybuilding diets. What happens when you merge opposites? Hmmmm. You end up in the middle.
So instead of ten minute burst workouts, I would do 60 minute AMRAPs [As Many Rounds as Possible] A favorite was 6 rounds of 30 box jumps, 30 burpees and 20 alternating lunges with a 45 pound barbell held overhead. It was my idea of muscle preservation blended with “um cardio.”
Or I would go to spin class and be annoyed by rapidly pedaling with no resistance. So I would crank the resistance up to where I needed arm pull and push to make the wheel turn at all and just grind that for the entire hour. Again a muscular demanding kind of cardio hour.
I would use the assisted dip and pull up machine like a treadmill. Gee another odd blend of ideas. I would do 6 sets of 20 reps without stopping. So 20 dips and 20 pull ups for 6 rounds. That is 240 repetitions without rest but the pushing and pulling is alternating.
I like 50 hanging windshield wipers for good 6 weeks. Then I switched to GHD suspended crunches in about 7 patterns to failure with Nine Inch Nails on the iPod. Violence can create a better chisel then Zen oneness with the Universe, but I digress.
6. In addition to your diet and training, do you believe in supplements? If so, which kinds do you use and what results have these given you? Feel free to discuss whatever you use. We are very blunt and brutally honest. If you are using Anti Aging Drugs-that’s ok.
I understand my country is a capitalistic entity. I see the entire protein powder [Woah this is like committing blog income stream suicide…] and supplement industry as purely mercenary and psychologically undermining. Of course if you do everything right and take blah blah blah you can appear great and sell it to people who will never do all the things right that you are doing. So its so much easier to buy and swallow stuff that successful people say they use. The hard work and consistency is what is really personally demanding. That’s what weeds out the lesser folk. But their $29.99 -$39.99 a month is just as good as the next guys. So we got just the right thing for YOU buddy.
I stick to food, cooking and working out. And I have been attempting to cut down on sharing my opinions, but that isn’t going so well as is evident here.
7. Talk about your Family. How supportive and accommodating are they to your Fabulously Fit Lifestyle.
My mother and father are both proud of my living what they call a worthwhile life. My mother being crazy also periodically asks if I am getting a fat ass. I attempted to influence my little brother. He was delayed meeting me at the Tokyo airport terminal once because he needed to buy a churro. So I am not sure how successful I was with him.
8. Having multiple interests, how do you make time to juggle everything and also workout? Where does your motivation come from to stay consistent with your fitness and career and strive to assist others with theirs?
I tend to think about very complicated things in over simplified ways. You must eat and shower everyday. So i figure I might as well max out the quality of my food selections and actually need a shower each day. If working out was limited or omitted from a day I use 100 alternating lunges for time as a shower “buy in.” I look at people constantly. I see every person as proof that what they are doing results in what they look like and how they move gesture and speak. I shop everyone everyday. Do you want to look like this or like that? Simple question. Then I mimic the people that are my top choices. And I avoid doing what the people I dont want to look, move or sound like do. People of Walmart is a classic.
The people at my gym look a lot better than the people outside the gym. Something must be working. And when I interview the best of those peope? They all have careful diets. They speak in empowered terms and are not victim mentality individuals waiting for others to fix things or tell them what to do.
I do the best I can to help others. Often people want things to be easier or simpler or faster than they actually are. I cant modify time or gravity or the design of the human body for them. As a teacher I have learned to lay tools in front of people and wait to see which 8 of 10 lift them up and use them.
I often hear many years later thanks again from clients that I have encountered. I have managed to open doors for some people. I still scratch my head over all the others and am developing a bad bald spot from doing so.
9. What advice would you give someone (at any age) who wants to transition their life towards a more healthy and fit lifestyle, but doesn’t know where to start?
Start with where you are today and make a few improvements every week. Look at what you are doing now and what comfortable upgrades you can begin to implement one at a time. Even knowing your typical macro nutrient ratios is a start. I like Calorie Count or Live Strong to do extimations. 5 fresh different colored fruits and vegetables a day is a great base line. Learning the foods below 50 on the glycemic index is another great launch point. Avoid type 2 diabetes. Stop struggling with your weight. Life and food can be a comfortable even existence. Cooking is fun and a creative outlet.
10. What is next for you in this new year? What are your future plans and goals? Do you think you will continue to compete in Women’s Fitness Competitions?
I do intend to compete each year as a way of staying within tolerances of good self care and body composition.
11. Any shout outs? Lastly, where can we find you on the Internet?
I have far too many people to thank. My boss Ronald Teasdale, my friend Pam Brown. My Naturopath Clement Lee ND. My friends and fitness acquaintances inspire me everyday.
I want to list everyone but it would be too long. Hey and YOU Jay!!
Be the BEST YOU at Any Age!