4bf5c3dc6ee5bLet me begin by saying that, as a headstrong Leo, it is very rare that you will see me taking a voluntary back seat BUT on this occasion I found a part of bikini competitor Amber Dawn Orton’s blog SO compelling and insightful that I threw in the towel when it came to writing an intro. Why? Well read it for yourself and you will see…

“To start off.. I want everyone to know a little about me. Sometimes we create images of what people’s lives are like based on assumptions and inaccurate interpretations. I know a lot of people probably assume I have an easy life, with help from mommy and daddy, or don’t have a lot of stresses or issues to distract me from being in "such good shape". This is completely not true. The reason I start by addressing this issue is because I don’t want any of you making excuses as to why you might not be able to chase your dreams. The last four months of my life have been anything but easy and training for my first fitness competition on top of all my personal struggles made it that much more of a challenge. I am 24 years old. I own a house that I bought when I was 18. I have been faced with family issues in my past that have made me 100% dependent on myself for any financial support, emotional support, or help. Try telling me that owning a home in this economy, graduating college in this job market, and being completely on your own to face the world and all its problems is easy. I won’t go in to more depth on my personal issues, or complain about my life. I have never been happier about where my life is going than I am now, even if it took climbing a mountain to get here. But if I can juggle moving out of my home and getting it ready to lease on my own, trying to work and make enough income to pay for the move along with basic bills of life, fit in the time to date someone who lives an hour and a half away, and find the time to cook my meals, eat healthy, stay on track, and workout...then believe me, you can too…”

hbpicAfter reading that you will see why I threw in the towel! So, that being said, let’s look at your background in general, I believe you have a pretty athletic one…

“Yes, I do. I was involved in sports my entire life. I played soccer, basketball, softball, volleyball, and rode horses too. I loved sports growing up but due to my busy schedule, I ended up only continuing with soccer throughout high school and into college. I don’t play anymore, except for fun here and there but I definitely miss it! It kept me in great shape all the time!”

Also, bodybuilding is very much in your background. I believe your mother and brother are involved in the sport….

“Yes, my brother has competed four times now. He took first in his class [Novice middle-heavy weight (Aaron Orton)] at the Washington Ironman the week before the show I did. He is also the one who talked me into competing and he has been a huge part of my support team. My mom competed when I was about 5 years old. She worked at Gold’s gym in Alaska. When I was very young, my life was already molded by seeing my mom in the gym. She doesn’t compete any longer but she is still in great shape!”

4830e5283ad4eWhat was it that attracted you to the sport and inspired you to throw yourself into competition?

“My brother had been trying to push me to compete for a few years. I had attempted to train with him for a show a few years back but ended up dropping out due to the intense schedule and the fact that I was overloaded with school and not in the right place in my life. When I graduated, he asked again and I thought…what the hell, I have no excuses not to now!”

I have to ask, with bodybuilding so prominently in your background, do you see yourself kicking it up a notch and heading for the figure (or even physique) class?

“The first show I attempted to train for I was training for figure. I don’t even believe the bikini division existed back then. As soon as the bikini division was added, my brother knew he had a huge selling point with me. I had done pageants in the past (I won the Hawaiian Tropics Northwest regional Pageant back in 2006) and he knew I felt comfortable on stage. He approached it as a “really fit beauty pageant” and made me feel like I would be really good at it. Also, I naturally have more of the “bikini” body than the figure body and thought it would be a better fit for my first show.”

I believe that you got a lot of encouragement from fitness competitor Lori Harder, how did that association come about?

4“I did…she has been great! I absolutely admire her and love her physique! I saw her on the cover of a fitness magazine and thought, “That’s what I want to look like!” I even showed my brother and he said she was a good role model for me because we had similar body structures. That made me even more motivated. I then found her on Facebook and ended up writing to her for advice with training and nutrition.  To my surprise, she was extremely helpful and so nice! We have spoken on Facebook a few times since then and she even took the time to congratulate me on my win. I just adore her!”

So what sort of training schedule do you employ?

“I believe in mixing it up so you always hit different parts of the body with different training techniques. My boyfriend, Brody Nivens, owns a personal training studio in Salem (Nivens Northwest Personal Training) so I trained with him for one hour a week. I also trained with my brother in Eugene at ProFitness. Having two trainers was nice, I felt like I always had different workouts with each one and was sure to hit all body parts. I also felt fortunate to have extra support and tons of resources (I believe it’s very important to have support when training-especially if it’s your first time competing). In addition, I went to kettle bell classes
twice a week; along with doing at least one cycle class a week for some high intensity cardio. On my own I would do free weights and cardio as well. Closer to show time I was doing about 45 minutes of low intensity cardio (incline walking/stair stepper) in the morning and some weights in the evenings.”

4830e512b1235In terms of diet, how strict are you year round and what foods do you crave the most when you are on a contest diet?

“Since this was my first show, I was restricting calories and dieting for about 4 months previous to the show. I am currently taking a few months ‘off’ restricting calories and just eating clean and staying healthy. I will start dieting again January 1st for emerald cup and the NPC nationals. I feel fortunate to have planned out my competition schedule so I don’t have to diet through the holidays! I don’t know if I could have done it! The foods I crave most when dieting are peanut butter and sweets! I LOVE cookies and EVERYTHING pumpkin! Thank god I was done with the show one week into October and got to enjoy a pumpkin spice latte shortly after!”

Any secret vices?

“Against all the wishes of my trainer(s)…I ate peanut butter up to the week of my show! lol… I never really could give the stuff up! One spoonful was heaven and I had to have it!”

And tell us something about yourself that people may find surprising….

“I bought a house at the age of 19. I also graduated with two Bachelor of Science degrees (One in Economics and one in Business with a focus in finance) by age 22. Oh, and I have ugly feet…ha ha!!”

winpicWhen it comes to the bikini section what do you feel the judges are looking for and are there any areas that have been stubborn for you in terms of bringing them up to contest standard?

“This is a great question. I actually struggled with trying to understand what the judges were looking for prior to my show. I watched the bikini division at the Washington Ironman and couldn’t understand why Diana Graham (Who has also been part of RX!) didn’t win the overall title. I studied the show and the placing since it was a week before my show and I wanted to make sure I was on track in terms of what the judges wanted. It baffled me that she took second in her class. I even wrote her and asked her! She responded that the only negative feedback she received was she was “too lean” for bikini. She said some judges loved her look but the ones who voted her down had this criticism. I guess they thought she
looked like a figure competitor. I still thought she looked amazing and didn’t understand how she could win overall in so many other shows but take second at this one. It made me a bit nervous for my show, and I began to think I might receive this criticism as well. I think she naturally has more muscle mass than I do but I had also been warned that the bikini division is a much “softer” look. In the end I decided to go into the show with the best look I could and not worry too much about it. After the show, I was warned by one judge that I was extremely close to being “too lean” and I needed to be careful of this in the future! In
my personal opinion, the bikini division should distinguish itself from figure by having a softer look, yes, but it should also distinguish itself from the typical look of a “girl at the beach” and the judges should be able to tell a girl has worked hard for her spot on stage.”

5Having said that, how would you answer those who compare the bikini section to a beauty pageant?

“Ha-ha, this is how my brother sold it to me. But I can say as someone who has done many pageants in my past, it takes much more work and dedication. I think a pageant takes a month to prepare for and the bikini section takes at least 4-6 months of hard training and dieting.”

Do you feel that there is earning potential in the sport and if so how do you intend to capitalize on your growing status now and in the future?

“Yes, I definitely do believe there is earning potential. I also believe the sport is only growing and the bikini division especially is becoming more popular and attractive. In all honesty, it’s the only division that is 100% fair because of the judging criteria and the fact that no competitor in bikini will be using hormones or steroids. I intend to continue competing in bikini and hopefully someday get my pro card. I want to be like Lori Harder!”

Away from the sport what is your ‘day job’?

“I bartend and do some personal training on the side. It’s great and works out well with my schedule and my own training for shows. I had an 8-5 office job and hated it! I needed more freedom and flexibility in my schedule and what I do now allows it at this point in my life. It’s also great for my personal training schedule because I have lots of time to make sure I stay on track.”

6The guys want to know this so I have to ask, is there anyone special in your life?

“Yes, I have an amazing supportive boyfriend. I actually met him when I had just started training for a show and it ended up working out great. He has been a personal trainer for seven years and now runs/owns NNPT out of Salem, Oregon. I honestly am not sure if I would have done as well at the competition if I had never met him; he has had a huge impact on my ability to stay motivated and focused. Plus, he knows what the sport consists of and he put up with all my moods and bitchiness while dieting. If any of you out there are thinking about competing, it is extremely important to surround yourself with people who
understand and support your goals and decisions. I felt blessed to have someone around me who was okay with staying in and cooking all our own meals and watching a movie instead of going to happy hour or going out.”

And finally how can people contact you?

“I can be found on Facebook (facebook.com/amber.orton)
Or I have a fitness/nutrition blog that I post in regularly (http://amberdawnortonfitnesstips.blogspot.com/)

I would love to be contacted on either one… Thanks!”

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