Bikini standout Courtney King has her sights set on the 2016 Olympia.
Interview by Mike Carlson
PQ: “You just have to do you and the right things will fall into place.”
If there is such a thing as a prodigy in fitness, it’s Courtney King. The Chicago native competed in her first bikini competition when she was a junior in high school and became the youngest Bikini Pro in history when she was awarded her IFBB pro card at 18 years old. At 22, she is a seasoned veteran, with more pro shows on her résumeé than competitors 10 years older. Experience and wisdom plus the energy of youth is a deadly competitive package, and King is determined to bring her best-ever body to the Olympia stage in September.
King, however, is more than the sum of her exquisite bodyparts. With the face of a Disney princess and the mouth of a sailor, she is a charming study in contradictions. Soulful yet hilariously irreverent and self-effacing, King is redefining the image of fitness inspirator.
Mike Carlson: How did you get started in fitness?
Courtney King: My dad is a businessman and he wanted to open a gym for fun. He opened it up when I was in eighth grade. It was just for fun for him, something to do on the side. There was a boxing ring and jiu-jitsu stuff. It’s closed now, but it was open for four to five years. Both my parents were very active and were constantly in the gym. My sports were competitive gymnastics, track, and I was a swimmer. I even did flag football when I was younger. I was a little jock. I wore a sweatband to school sometimes.
MC: What is an average day for you?
KC: I’m a morning person. I get up around 5:45 or six, check my computer and then get to the gym by seven. I’m done by 8:15. I shower, eat breakfast and then I like to leave my house to work. I like to go to Whole Foods or Starbucks or different coffee shops. I’m a huge coffee person and I like people-watching. I’ll work for about four hours, and then I’ll come home and either nap or do school courses online. I might meet with a client in person and do some posing.
MC: What are you studying?
KC: Nutrition. I want to get into holistic medicine. I know it seems totally against the whole bodybuilding thing and I sound like a weirdo, but I want to get into learning how to do things holistically as a competitor. I hear a lot of people preach that this is a healthy lifestyle, but it gives so many women—and guys—eating disorders and metabolic damage and all kinds of problems.
MC: If you were dieting for a contest at 17, you should be a poster girl for self-image problems.
KC: I have been though that shit! I was a skinny twig growing up. Then I developed body dysmorphia and eating disorders, I gained 25 pounds and then lost it and had adrenal problems. All that bullshit. I’ve been through it, but I am way better now.
MC: Do you find that a sense of humor keeps you grounded?
KC: I do. I laugh at this shit. I used to be so more extreme than I am now. I’m the type of person that if I do something, I’m going to give it 100 percent, but I learned to ease back a lot. You can make stuff work and live life without being a psycho.
MC: You placed third at the 2015 Mr. Olympia but then placed fifth at the Arnold and Arnold Australia. Tell me about that.
KC: I was pissed because I went down from the O, but it’s okay. I wasn’t mentally in the zone. I’ll own it. I was going through the motions how to prepare for a show. Mentally, if you are not in it, even if you are doing all the physical work, your body is not going to respond, and mine didn’t. I looked deec, but I didn’t look like I did for the O. I knew I wasn’t where I should be, so I was blessed to get fifth place. There were some girls who placed lower than me who should have been higher. Straight up.
MC: Why was your mental game off?
KC: Mentally, well me and Steve [Cook] just broke up. We were together for a year, so that was kind of hard. I had never dated anyone in the fitness industry, and that was kind of a tough breakup. But shit happens, life goes on, whatever. Mentally right now, I feel good. I’m easing back into things and getting on track.
MC: I know you’re single right now. Will you continue to date within the industry?
KC: One hundred percent, no. I feel like a lot of fitness-industry people are just all about “me, me, me.” Life has to have that balance. Steve was very balanced, but he is a different being. I should say that I won’t date a competitor.
MC: At this point, would it be boring to date like a kindergarten teacher?
KC: No! I feel like it doesn’t matter. If you vibe with the person, it’s all good. I am not opposed to dating outside of the industry at all.
MC: Tell me about your training.
KC: I like HIIT-type circuit training in the morning, maybe a Spin class. I don’t do any steady-state cardio. I’ll usually eat before, like half a meal. I weight train in the afternoon five to six days a week.
MC: How do you split up your workouts?
KC: I go off how I feel. It isn’t like, “Monday is legs day.” If I’m sore on Monday from hiking or biking and I need another day to recover, I’ll wait a day. I listen to my body. Sometimes I’ll do more high volume and sometimes I’ll go heavier with fewer reps. I’m not a girl who has to do a ton of volume to break my legs down. I have always been someone who has to build.
MC: What do you think is your best bodypart?
KC: I have really good shoulders and pretty solid legs. I am very broad. It’s not that my shoulders are very muscular, I just have a very broad frame. My shoulders don’t really drop and I have no traps, so it makes my shoulder look bigger. I get the most compliments on my legs. I have legs up to my shoulder blades.
MC: What kind of nutrition program do you follow?
KC: When I’m getting ready for a show, I’ll carb cycle. Two low days and then one high. I would say on high days I get 200 grams of carbs and low days are about 85 to 100. It’s not bad. On my lower-carb days, I have a lot more fat. On my higher-carb days, I drop my fat.
MC: You have a very different look for the division.
KC: I had someone tell me today that I have a very wholesome look. I guess it’s because I don’t wear a lot of makeup. I’ve never dyed my hair. I don’t have the whole lip-injection shit. I guess I’m more cute than sexy. I think it’s a cool angle. I also feel like I relate to young girls better. I don’t have a big “mom” following. My following comes from young girls, so I keep my image a little cleaner. The fitness industry is based off physical sexual appearance. Sex sells, but I think you can take a different approach.
MC: What are your goals for 2016 and beyond?
KC: I want to do fewer shows. I love competing, but I want to work on my brand. I want to finish some e-books I have been working on. I’d like to grow my website that I launched a few months ago. I want to build my relationship with BPI, my new sponsor. I also want to grow spiritually. I want to have good relationships with my family.
MC: Any physique goals?
KC: I can think of 20 different things I want to change about myself. We are all our own worst critics. I’ll just say I want to be better than I was at the Olympia last year. IM
Name: Courtney King
Lives: From Chicago, lives in Arizona
Profession: Online trainer, lifestyle coach, student, I hate saying “pro bikini competitor”
Favorite clean meal: Anything breakfasty, omelets, pancakes, et cetera—I love carbs
Favorite cheat meal: Burger and sweet potato fries
Listens to: Anything from house to rap to Christian music, motivational speakers like Tony Robbins when doing cardio
Favorite/most Inspirational book: Relentless by Tim Grover
Favorite movie: TK
Sponsors: BPI, Celestial Bodiez