Training with Yanyah Milutinovic

The journey to a physique competition is unquestionably a grueling one. Before one can even think about the rewarding aspect at the end of the tunnel, one has to first overcome the mental and physical hurdle in proving to yourself that you have what it takes to sacrifice so much and ultimately show to the judges that your will, your determination and ultimately your appearance is good enough to walk away with the prize.

Contrary to common belief, just because you have a six pack, it’s not a straightforward indication that a person is healthy. In fact, being a serious competitor in the sport requires a lot of extreme cycling of food which very often leaves a person essentially starving themselves while overfeeding in other instances. With regard to achieving those coveted abs, no matter how much you work out, if you’re not eating right and don’t achieve a calorie deficit so as to lower your body fat, you more than likely won’t see anything in your mid section and your stomach will remain covered with body fat.

The majority of what I personally know about about training and nutrition has derived from watching YouTube videos and reading ferociously all of what Mike Mathews talks about but never have I had the opportunity to catch a glimpse into a typical training routine of a person that’s in preparation for a competition. Everything from the regular workouts (often twice day, generally dividing cardio and strength training), from the supplementation, how expensive competing even is which is why getting sponsored is the ultimately dream, to the carefully planned meals they lug everywhere so as to ensure they’re hitting their macros. Needless to say it’s intense.

I had been communicating with Yanyah for over a month via Instagram prior to us eventually meeting and working together. The closer she got to competition date, the more grueling and intense the process became which meant that the level of focus had to be stronger than ever and at the risk of possibly becoming a distraction by inserting myself in all of this, I certainly didn’t want to be the person responsible for any mishap. Over the long haul, Yanyah got to a point where she entered what’s referred to as maintenance mode - meaning she couldn’t necessarily train as heavy as she normally would because her body fat was at a much lower level and in order to support heavier weights, she would need mass but the majority of it was no longer there. She had leaned out as much as she could. At this point in the game, it was a matter of maintaining what she had worked for until competition.

We met early morning at her usual gym and while this was indeed suppose to have been a shoot where I documented a typical workout session of hers, I couldn't shake the feeling as though I came across more as a therapist or journalist due largely to the amount of questions I had for her about fitness, the currently state of the industry, some misconceptions the public may have about staying fit and what her long-term plan is in this very saturated space. All this just to give you all insight that my interest wasn't base soley on the photos but on all the intricacies surrounding it .

I truly admired Yanyah's big picture thinking. In the space in which she's in, you can't afford to have any other mindset. Being in your prime will only last so long in their career that it's up to the individual to think far beyond, to a point where you can establish something bigger than yourself, inspire and encourage those who have admired what you have accomplished and ultimately for this "next big thing" to support in the future.

Having such an amazing physique, you would think anyone who sees her workout at the gym would inevitably be resentful towards her or presumes that she’s cocky because of the way she saunters around exposing the body she has worked so hard for but in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Everyone seems to know her and even if not personally, they certainly are aware of her presence as they acknowledge her with a simple nod of approval as if to say, “wow, you’re doing everything right.”

I can’t say I walked away knowing everything there is to know about a person that competes at this leve, somone with this incredible amount of discipline but I can certainly say I’ve acquired a new found level and respect for them and quite honestly even a friend in Yanyah. It’s amazing to have been able to photograph her in her prime but I’m also curious to see the changes her body would undergo now that it’s all over and she can go back to eating normally and not just living off of chicken, fish and asparagus.