Summer Lyons, 26

Rule One Proteins Sponsored Athlete, Celestial Bodiez Athlete, and Goddess Glam Athlete. Coach for fitness and nutrition; NPC Bikini, Figure, & Bodybuilding Posing; and Pageant walk.

I used to play basketball and hated it because I was forced to work out. After I started college, I slowly got back into the gym and it eventually it became a part of my daily routine. Little did I know that five years later I would be one of the top NPC bikini competitors.

Eight months into lifting religiously, my 13-year-old niece committed suicide. I was absolutely lost, confused, and heartbroken, so I took all my emotions out in the gym. The gym was one thing I felt I had control over in my life. Two years before, I had competed in the Miss Tennessee pageant. My niece had bragged at school that her aunt was going to be in Miss Tennessee. No one believed her so we took a picture to prove it. From that memory, I thought competing is kind of like pageants with the glitz, glam, and preparation.

I like high intensity with very little breaks. I superset every single workout with an accessory muscle group. I tend to do 3-4 working sets followed by add and drop sets on leg days.

My typical diet varies depending on where I am at (cutting or building). My maintenance is about 1400 calories a day with a clean cheat meal on the weekends.

My guilty pleasures are Broadway Pizza’s cake, Ricki’s cookies, and Sakura’s creamy peanut dressing. I’m a huge foodie!

When I started this lifestyle, I thought I knew everything. Five years later, I’ve learned so much about hormones, eating, health benefits from different foods, and how different body types and auto-immune diseases need to be supplemented differently. No two people should have the same diet.

The leg press is the most underrated exercise. People put so much emphasis on how to properly squat or deadlift, but the leg press is easy and self-explanatory.

My abs get neglected. I only like to train abs when I can see them. There is no gratification when I can’t physically see what I’m working.

My advice to newbies is to not dive in headfirst. Start doing little things such as committing to going to the gym three times a week. Start off small with nutrition. I see many people immediately drop to 600 calories a day, do hours of cardio, and train without rest. They burn out hard and quick. It’s a fitness journey for a reason.

My advice to women competitors: Find a coach that cares about you and your hormones. I have worked with both local and top coaches in the industry, and my local coach trumped the “best” any day. Also, find a great posing coach. Your presentation is just as important.

I almost lost my father and went through a terrible breakup right before one of my national shows last year. It was 100% detrimental to my physique because it messes with your hormones and cortisol levels, which can essentially cause your body to go into survival mode so you don’t lose any weight. For competing or losing weight, you have to be in a great place mentally and surround yourself with individuals who support and encourage you.

The beauty products I can’t live without are Retinol, Obagis complete system, bio-oil, and a self-warming charcoal mask.

I’m looking forward to competing in Miss Tennessee USA in October and NPC Nationals in November.

My spirit animal is a lion. I am an extremely strong fighter. If I want something, I do whatever it takes.

Interview by Amy Goode. Photo by Taylor Tartera.

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