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Always a fan favorite, IFBB Pro Colette Nelson has been absent from competition for almost two years and, as it happens, her decision to stage a comeback at the Phoenix Pro was pretty ironic. After all, the Phoenix is a mythological bird who seeks to resurrect itself periodically and for Colette her return to the stage was a symbol of a similar resurrection…a resurrection of the fire inside her to compete and perform before an audience once again.

However, that resurrection was no easy process as she recently shared with me the story that led to her welcome return, starting with the aftermath of the 2008 NY Pro…

“2008 was a tough year for me. I had competed in the Arnold classic and came out of it with one of the worst showings in my career. The fact was that I had a lot of things going on in my life at that time and getting ready for a show was the last thing on my mind. I really had to struggle to get into shape and, at the end of the day, I did not hit the stage in the condition that I wanted to. After that I just really wanted to prove to myself that I could get back into shape so I followed it up by doing the NY Pro. However, I was dealing with extreme shoulder pain in my left shoulder when I was getting ready for the NY Pro and it just really killed my spirits, but I pushed on and did the show and, although I was in good condition, my placing didn’t reflect it. In fact I placed twelfth… so I was kind of shocked. It was also disheartening, so I figured because I didn’t do that well at the Arnold and I didn’t do well at the NY Pro I needed to take time off…I needed to get the fire back and I was really concerned about my shoulder so I felt I had to do something about it.”

So what exactly is the story on the whole shoulder issue?
“Well I went through the process of having my shoulder looked at… I had an MRI on my right shoulder and started seeing several different surgeons. The initial thought was that I should get immediate surgery in the form of a biceps tenodesis. That was a difficult concept for me to grasp so I kind of put it on hold until September last year. I continued training and managed to back off a little and it did feel a bit better as a result. However, the simple fact was that I needed to get surgery and really couldn’t avoid it. In the end I chose a very conservative surgeon and he decided to just clean out the shoulder area rather than conduct a full tenodesis. So I had that done on September 10 last year.”

How did it feel after the surgery?
“For the first few weeks it felt really good because I wasn’t using it… but as soon as I started to use it again I developed extreme tendonitis in the biceps tendon. As a result I found myself in a place where I had to adjust my training methodology to work with what I had rather than against it.”

What form of adjustment did that entail?
“I had to really change the way that I trained. I have trained with many professional bodybuilders over the years and I know that you don’t need to annihilate the muscle in order to make it grow. You really don’t need to go into the gym with the mentality that you have to prove something every time. In the past I used to always go into the gym feeling that I had to prove that I was better than I was the week before or else I considered myself a failure. Basically I had to go into the gym and feel like I was going to die! If I didn’t go into the gym and lift the same weights or better than I did the week before then I was in my mind a complete failure! Now that kind of stress is too much, so I really had to address the way I trained in order to accommodate my biceps tendon issue.”

So when did the idea of getting back into competition enter your mind?
“Initially my plan was just to get into the best shape that I could. To really get a hold of my diet and basically get the ‘fire’ back. The key to everything is diet…I mean the training is important but you can never overlook the diet. I began to do cardio and when I didn’t have the pressure of trying to prove something to myself the diet wasn’t hard. So when that pressure was relieved and the workouts weren’t that terrible, the weight just started coming off and I got it in my head that I wanted to do a show.

“I didn’t want to do the Arnold. I had done it and I didn’t want to do it again. I knew I needed to re establish myself as a good competitor before I did that show again so when I heard about the Phoenix show it seemed like the ideal place… and I found myself really getting motivated again. I had my music already done from the year before because I was thinking of competing in 2009 before I decided to take a year off to get my shoulder repaired. All the leg work was done; it was really just a matter of getting into shape, so it all began falling into place…”

I believe your whole contest prep was different this time around…
“Yes, it was totally different from anything I had done in the past. I wasn’t training as heavy and I was training with another bodybuilder (Mike Yablon) who lives in NYC. On top of this I was using his training techniques. I didn’t use any of my training techniques. My workouts were totally different from anything I had ever done before and I never would have thought I could do that, I mean I am usually such a control freak about the way I train… It’s my way or no way!

“So it was great, I could go into the gym and leave my workout in someone else’s hands. I ended up using different movements, different angles, different everything…the polar opposite to the way I trained before so it was good. It was fun, unusual, different and ultimately refreshing… and that’s what I needed.”

On Saturday 20 February Colette marked her return to the stage by placing sixth at the Phoenix Pro show. To conclude this interview I have added a conversation which took place between us immediately following the show……

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Now that the show is over how did it feel returning to the stage after your break?
“To be completely honest, I was having a lot of self doubt prior to the show. I didn’t want to do photos because I am never satisfied with what I see in the mirror. However, there is something to be said about taking time off and just trusting that you can get yourself back into fighting shape. I was determined… and it was so rewarding to see that I could do it again despite all the obstacles I faced prior to stepping on that stage. I was more nervous for this show than any of my previous shows for that reason. But, once I got out there… it felt so natural and it was a great feeling. I love the stage and not being on it for almost two years I felt the void. I was recharged that day.” 

What are your thoughts on the physiques of the girls you were up against?
“The women at that show were amazing. To be standing next to Yaxeni during the prejudging was almost surreal. I couldn’t believe I was being compared to the Ms. Olympia. I was honored. The women at the pro level are the best in the world. You are fighting for every point… and what makes you a little better than someone else… who knows? This is female bodybuilding.”
Are you happy with your placing?
“Honestly, I really felt I had a fighting chance for Top 5… But as long as the judges and the fans thought I deserved it… that is what really matters. It doesn’t matter where I place… I do this for different reasons. I just want to look good and show that anything is possible as long as you want something bad enough.” 

So what is next for Colette Nelson?
“I would like to continue to fine tune my physique. The best I ever looked would have to be at the ‘Worlds’. I say this because everything just flowed and I was totally symmetrical. I was only 138# when I won and I competed at 144# at the Phoenix Pro. I am going to get back to that look for the NY Pro. I think smaller is better for me. I have very tiny joints and my whole family are small people. I struggled to put on every bit of muscle I have on my body. At the end of the day bodybuilding is an illusion. I create a better package when I dial it in even a bit more. I am excited to see if I can do it and ultimately I would like to qualify for the Olympia, that’s always the dream…”

And for Colette Nelson life is all about living the dream and dancing to the beat of infinite possibilities!

You can contact Colette via her website at

Leigh Penman

Lori Braun

Lori Braun

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