Laura Norton doesn’t shy away from heavy lifting. Actually, she seeks out the opportunity often and in regular intervals. Recently, Norton turned pro with the International Federation of Bodybuilding, the organization which oversees the bodybuilding’s major world championships. Before attaining her Pro status in November of 2017, Norton competed nationally in the Bikini Division, placing top five in the first four shows in which she participated.

In the professional bodybuilding world, the Bikini Division tends to focus more on the leanness of physique as well as posing and overall stage presence rather than muscular density or separation.

However, Norton contends that bodybuilding takes more than a bottle of spray tan and gym membership. If you want to see results you got to do the work. Although, she says, the work might not be as hard as you think.

We sat down with Norton, who shared with Void what life is like in the spotlight and her advice on how to “pump up” your gym routine.

Photo: Josh Wessolowski

What would you say to someone who might feel intimidated to lift weights, or try the “other” side of the gym, if you will?

I think cardio is what most people think will get them to lose fat. I have found out that I burn more calories lifting weights than I do with cardio. Cardio should be for endurance and can help put you in a further deficit when dieting, but should not be used to strictly lose weight. You also will get more of a shape and curves that most women want by lifting.

It’s OK to feel intimidated. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Change is not found in the comfort zone.

How does the Bikini Division differ from other divisions of the competition?

Bikini is still a division in body building, but for bikini the judges are looking for certain criteria. Those being: A foundation of muscle which gives shape to the female body, full, round glutes with a slight separation between the hamstring and glute area, a small amount of roundness in the delts, a conditioned core and an overall look [such as] hair, makeup, suit and tan.

Photo: Josh Wessolowski

What is your training regimen?

I train five or six times a week. I do my own training. I typically pick body parts to pair together. Quads one day, hamstrings another, then back and biceps, shoulders and glutes, and, finally, a full body touch-up day.

What is your diet like?

During competitions, I’ve previously done meal plans since I wanted to take the thinking part out of what to eat. Currently, while prepping for my pro debut, I am tracking my macros [macronutrients]. I fit in foods I like along with healthy volume foods. Afterward gets tricky. You want to reverse out of your current diet, so you do not put on unnecessary weight. This is a struggle since the show is over and all you want to do is eat! You have to be smart and remember how long it took you to get to the spot and your body is very sensitive. Overall, you want to get your calories back up to a high number, so you can go into improvement seasoning and start the building process again.

What advice would you give to a person wanting to take their gym routine to the next level?

Go for it! Stop waiting for motivation. You just gotta go after your goals. You literally can achieve anything you set your heart to. If you told me back [before competing] that I would be a professional athlete, I would have laughed. It is amazing what we are capable of!

Photo: Josh Wessolowski

How is traditional expectations of women’s strength and muscle challenged by participating in these competitions?

I am part of the bikini division, but from what I know of women’s bodybuilding is that these ladies are amazing. They are strong, not only physically, but mentally. The time and effort they put in is unreal. I fully support all competitions in every division male and female.

You have to bring the look the judges want: symmetry, posing, muscle fullness, a level of leanness. They look at everything. It’s not just who is the “strongest.”

What is the most difficult thing about participating in this sport?

Time management. Once you have a system down for meal prep, and gym/cardio you’ll do well. It’s all about balance. Balancing relationships, family, friends, work, and your own personal goals. We are all busy and all have hectic lives at times.

What are some lesser-known, insider tips for competitions?

Posing is everything. Find a posing coach. You could have the best physique out there, but if you can’t pose you will not do well. Also, health first. Your health means more than any show.

Photo: Josh Wessolowski

What are some tips you would recommend to the average person looking to see better results?

Motivation comes within. It’s not “train harder,” it’s “train smarter.” Get in the gym, get your workout done and get out. You don’t have to stay hours in the gym lifting heavy weights to see results.

Also, stay consistent. Consistency is key. And if you need help reach out. It’s OK to struggle and not know it all. Find a trainer or nutritionist to help with food and dieting. Your body is your temple.

This interview originally appeared in Void Magazine, Vol. 9, Issue 5, The Sports Issue.