It was only her second fitness competition, but for Stacie Venagro, 27, a win meant the world – literally, as she was crowned World Ms. Fitness America 2012 in November. She vied for the title against 19 women from throughout the world.
“They called the top three and I was like, ‘No way,’” Venagro said of the Ms. Fitness America 2012 competition that took place at the Golden Nugget Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas. “I couldn’t believe I accomplished something in such a short amount of time.”
Venagro, who was born in Pawtucket but has been living in Cranston for the last four years, began training in May, as she also took part in – and won – the competition’s regional division in September.
Because the September competition was only a few months prior to the November event, she was in great shape leading up to the competition.
“I basically had a month and a half to get in even better shape than I was in September,” she said. “In mid-October, I took six weeks and really buckled down.”
To prepare for the competition, which entailed an interview portion, bikini competition and a fitness event, Venagro hit the gym at least six times a week, sometimes twice a day. She trained at Fit World in Cranston, and used the gym at her office at work during lunch breaks.
She combined plyometrics, which she described as “explosive movements,” weight training, cardio and high-intensity interval training.
Of course, a healthy diet was on the menu, as were Isagenix Products, an all-natural meal replacement product she began using in May. She drank the product for two meals, and ate six small meals throughout the day.
“I lost five and a half inches off my waist,” she said.
For Venagro, eating well and working out is something she enjoys. She said it makes her feel good.
“Growing up, I was a tomboy, and was very self-conscious, so this is something where I’ve gained confidence,” Venagro said. “When you eat fried food and junk food, it weighs you down.”
If she sounds like a motivational coach, it’s because she is: she is a part-time personal trainer and fitness instructor at gyms throughout Rhode Island, including FitSpa at 1287 Post Road. She also teaches kickboxing at Vital Spark Fitness and Wellness Studio in Warwick, as well as at Shake It Up Fitness in East Providence.
But what got Venagro interested in fitness in the first place? She began taking dance classes, such as acrobatics, jazz, lyric, point, and ballet when she was 5 at Hope Specht School of Dance in Pawtucket.
“I did everything expect for tap,” she said.
From there, she attended gymnastics school, and eventually became a gymnastics coach when she was a teen at a recreational facility in Pawtucket. She went on to play basketball and cross country for Davies Career-Tech High School.
After high school, she briefly attended Rhode Island College and studied physical education and health education before transferring to the Community College of Rhode Island, where she earned an Associate’s Degree in criminal justice. These days, she works full-time as a dispatcher for Carousel Industries, a technology solutions provider in Exeter.
As an adult, she still possesses many of the skills she learned in her younger years, including acrobatics.
“I was like, ‘Where can I go with this?’” Venagro said. “In the dance world, it kind of ends around 18 or 20, and you become a teacher or a choreographer. But I still want to do this stuff.”
She talked to some friends and was introduced to fitness guru Sheryl Atwood of Dancin’ Spirit Performing Arts in Pawtucket. Atwood, who has taken part in numerous bikini competitions, guided Venagro and introduced her to Cathy Savage of Cathy Savage Fitness, which is located in Norwood, Mass.
“She’s been in the fitness industry for over 25 years, [and] I try to go there once a month when she has Sunday sessions,” Venagro said. “We do a fitness workout for 45 minutes to an hour, and then we go into posing. She teaches you how to walk in your heels in a bikini and how to walk the proper way. When you do the bikini round, you have to walk a certain way and pose a certain way to make sure you don’t get points deducted.”
Speaking of deducting points, Venagro said it’s important not to focus on the number on the scale when trying to lose weight. Often, she said, people get too caught up on a number.
Instead, she said it’s best to envision yourself in that pair of jeans you haven’t been able to fit into for the last few months, or that bathing suit you’ve had your eye on.
“The summer is going to be here before you know it – use it as your motivation,” Venagro said. “You should measure your body in inches from head-to-toe. You need to measure everything so you can see a difference in everything. If you don’t and you just leave yourself limited to what’s on the scale, you’re going to set yourself up for failure. You could be weight training, as well as doing cardio, and the number doesn’t budge. You can’t get your head wrapped around a number.”
Venagro, who has been married for two years, said her husband, Mike, and the rest of their family has been “unbelievably supportive.” She is confident their support will continue through the years, as she earned her pro card during the November competition. It grants her access to any Fitness America professional pageant in 2013.
She’s planning on doing just that, as she is preparing for the New England Fitness America Weekend at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut in April.
“I have a good feeling about 2013,” she said.
To see the routine that helped her win, visit YouTube.com and type Venagro’s name into the search field. For more information about Venagro, visit her fan page, “Fitness Pro Stacie Venagro” on Facebook.