Interview: NPC Figure Competitor Crystal Pham

We have been chatting to NPC Figure Competitor Crystal Pham following on from her brilliant placing at the 2014 NPC Gold Coast Muscle Classic. As this is only Crystal’s second year of competing we have been finding out about her journey so far, her motivation, training and nutrition.


So, how did you first get into fitness and bodybuilding?

I took my first weight training class in my sophomore year and even tried to compete in wrestling my junior/senior year. Although I wasn’t a stellar athlete, I kept myself involved & observant as a statistician for both my high school & college wrestling teams. I watched them bulk up, cut, train, & well, mature with the sport. My foundation began with wrestling.

Bodybuilding, however, was at a later time. A little over two years ago, I started lifting with my boyfriend, James, a former state qualifier and CIF divisional champion in wrestling our senior year. I’d say he was my inspiration to become stronger. We had grown up together; almost 10 years now. Anything he would teach me, I knew was impertinent to understand. The minute I told him I wanted to hit personal records, he said to me, “Heart is what gets you to push beyond what your mind limits you to do. Mind over matter.” After endless nights of cranking through sets, I would tell myself that I am that girl. I am who I always wanted to be. Strong-minded.


What made you want to compete?

I always knew about the sport of bodybuilding. As a kid, the neighborhood boys would share their Flex magazines and show me how to do the proper push up/pull ups but I’d find myself marveling over the female fitness competitors like my coach, Jenny Worth. I’d run home, super motivated, do 4 sets of 50 sit ups then get over the silly dream of being fit. At 11, that was silly.


Like most people experience at some point, I had hit rock bottom with what I wanted to do something with my life.

Before I started weight training, I was lost; college drop out, jobless, and heartbroken. I’d gotten on my feet: full time bakery team member at Whole Foods Market, back in school, and now lifting. The minute James and I started training, I felt vindicated. I had made myself something more & I wanted to show the world that no matter what you do, you have to make a purpose in it. I can remember telling James I wanted to look like Andreia Brazier. He said it’d take some time and a lot of discipline with my diet but it’s possible.

From that moment on, I started to clean up my diet more with experimentation. (Working at Whole Foods has its major benefits!) I wanted more. I linked up with Randall Pich, CEO/founder of Live Fit Apparel, for personal training and he was impressed with the volume of weight that I could press.

A month into training with him, we became friends. I met his coach, Jenny Worth one day after our shoulder workout and I can remember the first thing she said to him when she saw me: “Did you bring in a figure girl?”. Me? Figure? NO WAY. JENNY WORTH, IFBB FITNESS PRO LEGEND THINKS I COMPETE. I had to keep my cool. I went home and told myself that I was ready. Re-read my bodybuilding books, restocked my supplement stack, called Jenny to guide me through my first prep and the rest is history.

How long did it take you to prepare for your first show?

I had a 12-week prep for both shows. My first show was Jon Lindsay Production’s Border States in San Diego, CA on October 5th, 2013. Out of 5 girls, I placed 3rd but unhappy with my physique. I held myself accountable for the next show to build as much muscle I could before stepping on stage again, beating the girl I was before.

What advice would you give to someone considering competing?

  • You are down a tunnel when both ends are now pitch black. What direction do you go if you know where the walls are? FORWARD. Always move forward.
  • Have fun! Don’t let anyone but you control your feelings about anything.
  • Set realistic goals in increments of 21 days (3 weeks). Think of it as a marathon, one mile at a time.
  • No matter what, never doubt your self-worth.


What is a typical days diet like for you?

  • 9:30am – egg white omlette with 1/2 cup spinach, 1/2 cup mushrooms, 1/2 cup sweet potatoes, Glutamine, Emergen C, L-Carnitine
  • 11:30am – protein shake
  • 1:30pm  – multivitamin, BCAAs, Glutamine, 5oz chicken breast oven roasted with 3 cups of mixed green salad and miso salad dressing served with 2 slices of Ezekiel flax bread
  • 3:30pm protein shake, BCAAs
  • 6:30pm 1 can of tuna (4oz) & steamed broccoli
  • 9:00pm protein shake

What was your training program leading up to the competition?

I trained 6 days a week, one muscle group a day. To be honest, training with Jenny is always in the air! I know what muscle group it is, I just don’t ever know what exactly we’re going to do.

What keeps you motivated?

Having parents that left their own country to start a new life is plays a huge role in how I fuel myself everyday. I work hard because they gave me this opportunity. I am a reflection of what they came to the states for: a better future. Also, my friends and their unconditional support over the span of our relationships. It has been years of such amazing memories with them, watching each other grow up reminds me that time is never guaranteed so you have to enjoy the most of it. I am not who I was then and I’m grateful that I can look back to see how much I’ve grown as a woman. I am proof that no problem is too large to handle and is only based on what you make of it. Most of all, James has kept me motivated. My best friend and the start of where I am now. From the time we were just friends to dating, he has taught me to give it my all; a complete 100% dedication to whatever I do because I deserve it. It always pays off in the end.

What do you plan on achieving next?

I plan on competing on the national level this July at the NPC USA Bodybuilding Championships in Las Vegas, NV. I’m also finishing school, transferring to the university level double majoring in bioengineering (human performance & design) and nutritional science.

Connect with Crystal


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