Name: Heather Leff
Residence: Malvern, Pennsylvania
Weight: ~ 118
When did you get started with fitness?
I wasn’t an athlete in high school (hello, drama club!), but my boyfriend at the time lived and died by the gym, so I grew curious. I started working out over the next few years, loading up on cardio and repping out with light weights. It wasn’t until my mid- to late-20s that I started becoming hardcore and lifting heavy. Once I saw what upping my routine and moving serious weight did for my body, I never looked back.
What drives you to be so fit?
The stares I get when I grab 80s for shrugs…
Actually, it’s being able to control how I look and feel in a healthy, positive way. Moving weight is what moves me. It’s what drives me out of bed at 4:30 a.m. each morning to hit the gym. It’s my therapy. And after seeing those close to me cope through destructive behavior, I realized that having a positive constant in my life, like the gym, was the best present I could give myself…both physically and mentally.
Could you tell us about your current training program?
Currently I’m on a six-day-a-week split, hitting each body part twice a week. I do cardio and abs every session, and spend between 1½ to 2½ hours in the gym. Right now my split looks like:
As far as intensity, I go heavy and like to circuit train. So I’ll move from one exercise right into the next with little rest. Usually I’ll do four sets per circuit, and shoot for 8-12 reps. (And if I’m not failing by 10, that weight is going up.) For example, if I’m doing shoulders, I might do seated Arnolds right into dumbbell front raises right into close-grip upright rows, and then move into a set of abs, like hanging leg raises or weighted sit-ups on a stability ball.
What has been the hardest obstacle for you to overcome?
Believing in myself enough to go all out, even if it means failing. In my eyes, I never thought I could get to a place where I was in competition shape. But when people ask when my next show is, it makes me stop second-guessing and see what others see in me. Like when I entered this year’s Bodybuilding.com BodySpace Spokesmodel contest. I didn’t think I had a shot. But I got voted into the semifinals, and landed in 2nd place. It made me realize my potential.
What are some staples in your diet?
I eat clean all year. I don’t eat red meat, so my protein staples are fish, ground turkey, tofu, and chicken. I love fresh fruit, veggies, and salad. I try to eat small meals or snacks throughout the day, like a handful of almonds, Greek yogurt, or an apple. Dinner is protein and a complex carb, like a sweet potato. Oh, and no late day carbs.
Do you take any supplements?
I don’t go too crazy. I love Isopure protein for my post-workout shake. As for pre-workout supps, I’ve tried a bunch, and really like Jacked and 1.M.R.
What is your favorite body part?
I’d have to say my delts and bis, since I get the most compliments on my arms. Women ask how they can get arms like mine, and I tell them to start lifting heavier. Don’t be scared. Even if you go up 5 pounds and only get a few reps, it’s a start. That’s what will get you a more defined shape.
If you could start back from the first day you started training would you do anything differently?
I try not to look back on anything and wish I did it differently. Because if I didn’t do it that way then, I wouldn’t know how to do it better now. There are so many opinions out there about what works “best”. But lifting is trial and error. The only way to know what works “best” is to try different things to see how your body responds.
Final advice for readers?
Look at the gym as a metaphor for life. If you really think about it, setting goals, finding the strength to fight through the pain, pushing through those grueling moments…it’s all relative. So if you can get through those heavy moments in life, then you can certainly get through a hard workout in the gym. Look at it as not “working out,” but “working through”. Having that perspective can really be life changing.