Despite what is seemingly popular opinion, the Iron Game isn’t just for men. I, for one, have always appreciated the fit female form – one that isn’t described as soft or curvy, the latter of which is somewhat ironic since a fit woman has more curves if you think about it. An out of shape person pretty much has one curve, constituting a circle. A fit female, on the other, far more attractive hand, has curves in the biceps, deltoids, quads, and glutes. What am I trying to say here? Fit is beautiful.
There are plenty of people out there who, for whatever reason, aren’t on board with the idea of a strong, physically fit woman – this isn’t for them. No, this spotlight is for women who have cast off the chains of “normal” to live the life they want to live, one of sweat, one of iron, one of hard work. A Fit Female is a strong female, one who crafts the body of their own desire. This game isn’t for men or women, it’s for people who’ve decided to live their own life, shape their own body, and put themselves to the test daily. Iron doesn’t discriminate – it takes the same strength to lift it no matter who you are. Here at Fit and Furious, I don’t discriminate either, in fact, I celebrate it.
It’s always seemed to me that there were two camps in the fitness world and each viewed the other completely differently: male and female. On the Y-Chromosome side, it was always focused on gigantic men, 275lbs on stage, and pictures of women were relegated to ass shots and advertisements. The fairer sex, conversely, was treated to nothing but ladies in yoga poses or curling light weight. I’m here to say, can’t we all just get along?
Male and female are welcomed at Fit and Furious, together and as equals. There isn’t much difference between the sexes when it comes to training – women shouldn’t be balancing on bosu balls and ignoring the deadlift nor should they be relegated to advertisements in men-centric publications. So here we are with Fit Females, an interview and motivational series that focuses on women in the fitness industry and searches for the best tips, advice, and information for both men and women.
In this installment of Fit Female, we have the wonderful and inspirational Ella Anne Kociuba, a young woman who burst onto the endurance race scene and lapped the competition. It’s rare to stumble across a major talent at such an early stage in their development, but after you’ve finished reading the interview below, I think you’ll see the fire burning inside Miss Kociuba. She was kick-ass enough to provide a ton of detail, so do yourself a favor and dig in- there’s some seriously good shit in here. Inspirational stuff that reveals a drive similar to that which propelled Arnold Schwarzenegger to great heights. You think I’m exaggerating? There’s only one way to find out: read on!
Could you tell us a little about yourself and achievements?
Well for starters, my names Ella Anne Kociuba and I’m a wonderful nineteen years young. I grew up in a big, athletic family that I absolutely adore. I have been a tomboy since the day I touched the dirt and some might say I’m a little different but that’s quite alright with me. My first love in life was horses and I began to race them in Endurance Riding (25-100 mile races across national parks, I compete in 25 and 50 mile rides) when I was five years old. Unfortunately, I had a bad fall when I was only twelve which lead to a major back surgery a year later, so I missed out on a lot of sports in middle school and even my freshman year in high school. As soon as I was released, I ran cross country and track my junior and senior year of high school and ended up making it to regionals. I have since then completed many endurance rides and placed top ten, getting best condition in one race. I won the first Spartan Race I ever ran (Dec. 2011), won my heat in my first Tough Mudder (Oct. 2011), came out as first women in the Metro Dash Austin (Feb. 2012), did my first figure show in April 2012, got second place in the Spartan Sprint (May 2012) and I have competed in the grueling 48+ hour adventure race, The Death Race (www.youmaydie.com, to learn more). Needless to say it wasn’t until after high school did I fully grow into the real me and thrive into the athlete I always dreamed about being.
What started your interest in fitness?
As I mentioned earlier, my family is a rather athletic group. My two oldest brothers are my idols, I don’t know if they ever realized how much I wanted to be like them growing up. Even at a young age, I was extremely active. I started racing horses at a young age and I even played soccer, basketball, volleyball, and ran track as well as cross country. Competing was everything to me and as soon as the doctors told me I couldn’t do it anymore after my surgery, I craved it even more.
You had a fairly serious back injury, what was your activity level like before that, how did the injury occur, and what was the recovery process?
I was only twelve years old at the time of my accident, so my athletic career was bare minimal. I had only competed in Endurance riding and community league sports. My struggle is one that I cannot define in a few words and even the pain I received is something I cannot describe appropriately.
I was training for an upcoming endurance race with my horse Socks and I was out in the woods behind my house. I gave her the reins to run home and she gladly accepted the opportunity. Within a matter of seconds, Socks’s stride came to a screeching halt. My body was flown forward onto her neck as she reared back pitching me to the ground. I do not remember what happened next, I can hardly remember how I got home that night, but what I do remember is… the pain I felt. From that day on I was never the same, my body couldn’t handle anything anymore. My mother had to pick me up out of the bath tub, I skipped school because I couldn’t get out of bed, I went days without sleeping, and the pain would get so chronic I found myself puking. The initial fall off my horse broke the L4 and the L5 [vertebrae], which only then led to the discovery of my spine never being attached to my sacrum since birth, along with having spondylolisthesis (a condition in which a vertebra in the lower part of the spine slips out of the proper position onto the bone below it). It took about two years and five different doctors to find out what was wrong with me, when finally one just concluded we go in for experimental surgery. When the doctor opened me up he came to find out that my body had built a block of bone to heal it’s self and hide the breaks along with the birth defect. The doctors told me I would most likely never play sports again and I cannot afford a fall off a horse ever. I now have four metal rods and four screws drilled in my lower back. I’m extremely happy to say that I still ride horses and that I now am an elite obstacle racer. Although, my surgery was back in 2007, still to this day I struggle a bit but I believe it is my struggle that has gotten me here.
After I graduated high school, I simply was just tired of dreaming about being something big. So I went after it, despite it’s distance. I did my own training and entered into several 5k’s before my first half marathon (Rock n’ Roll Marathon San Antonio, Nov. 2011), I ended up running beyond my expectations. So after that race, I stopped putting expectations on myself and sure enough, I found myself becoming successful in everything I entered into. I literally began running 5k’s back to back, when one day I stumbled upon an ad in a magazine with the words: ‘marathon’s are boring, do a Tough Mudder’… I couldn’t have agreed more with the statement, I found myself bored of running miles after miles. I entered into the race and won it. Quickly after the Tough Mudder I did some research that lead me to the Spartan Races. Ran my first Spartan back in December of 2011, I had no idea it was the championship race that day and the winner of that race walked away with $10,000 and sure enough, in a different heat, I beat their time by a whole nine minutes. I was pretty angry/pumped after finding that out, I had no idea of the potential I possessed. And since that race, I have been hooked on Spartan races.
It requires overall strength and endurance, something I lacked for years and here I am now, an elite at it. It proved to me that you can do anything if you give it your everything.
You’ve competed on stage in figure – is this an avenue you’re going to continue down in the future? What’s your ultimate fitness goal?
Oh joy, when I look at those pictures, I can’t help but giggle. I had no idea what I was doing up there, I was extremely out of my climate but I enjoyed it. Doing a figure show sparked my interest way back, however, I never put my mind into it until after high school. I am in complete awe with the athletes who participate in these shows, it takes a lot of dedication, sacrifice, and a lot of tilapia… Haha. But no on a serious note, it was just something I wanted to see if I could do… I think about doing another show here and there but I like to race more. As for my ultimate fitness goal, I want to be the face of obstacle racing, I want to make covers of magazines, I want to be a top athlete and travel everywhere competing, but what I really want is to help inspire others who were once like me achieve things they never thought possible.
Congratulations on becoming a Spokesmodel for Flag Nor Fail – How did your relationship with the company start?
Thank you! I’m actually a Flag Nor Fail athlete as well and I cannot stress to you how happy I am with this opportunity and blessed to be with such amazing people like Rob and Dana Linn Bailey. I remember the first time I spoke to Rob, it was about a year ago and he had stumbled across one of my photos online with me wearing one of their shirts, I literally was so excited to get a message from him that I squealed like a little school girl. I really don’t know how I got to be so lucky, but from then on we sort of just followed each other online and before I knew it, I was offered a sponsorship and to become part of the Flag Nor Fail crew.
Since my major back surgery I have constantly struggled with my back, some days I can hardly get moving but now my good days are out numbering the bad ones and it makes me smile real huge. Along with being and feeling healthier, I also have a lot more confidence, happiness, and energy.
What, if any, negativity have you faced being a woman in fantastic shape? It seems as though many still have this idea that women should be soft and weak.
My journey to where I am now was a bit of a lonesome one but I never once hesitated to pursue it; besides it was what I had been dreaming about since I was a little one. When I first started out, I had some friends who did not understand why I loved to do what it is that I do and that for me that was extremely troubling to deal with. Of course there’s the occasional ‘man’ comment thrown out there or the ‘too muscular’, but that kind of stuff just makes me laugh, I never intend to impress those who do not desire me or understand my goals. It’s just nonsense, I’m happy with my body, my life, and my choices. As should you be.
What is your current training routine for strength? What type of cardio do you do?
I can be very sporadic in the gym, doing intense circuits or you may find me laboring down some heavy weights like a typical bodybuilder. I really change up my strength training to help shock my body and avoid plateaus, cause those really do suck. For my cardio, I have been running a lot of hills lately and doing a lot of burpees periodically throughout my runs. I will throw in speed work about twice a week, anything from 4-5 x 1 mile repeats to 800 meter sprints and so on. For me, it’s quality over quantity, I stopped trying to hit a weekly mileage goal, I found out that I was just running myself into the ground, literally. You see, I have this weird case of getting hurt a lot, it could be that my pain tolerance is rather high or that I never want to quit, but whatever my curse is, I have to be very smart with my training and listen to my body closely.
What type of diet do you currently follow?
Why, I love food and I eat plenty of it. I’m really not on a special diet and as matter of fact my diet is extremely boring, but it’s the only way I stay on point and I really don’t mind it that much. I eat about six to five meals a day and roughly about 200 grams of protein, 135 grams of complex carbs, and 20 grams of good fats. Since I’m a big runner, I don’t do any dramatic carb cycling or carb depletion. I stay steady with my eating and make sure to keep it clean with lean sources of protein, complex carbs, and good fats. About 83.45% of the time, I get my protein from chicken… I absolutely love chicken and yams. I’m also crazy in love with peanut butter too, so I use a lot of PB2 in my oatmeal to cure my cravings.
What do you think about women who are afraid of the weight room and think resistance training leads to a bulked up look?
I think that’s just silly talk. Go educate yourself some about getting toned, ripped, lean, fit or whatever you want to declare yourself as and see what it says about resistance training. I also think ‘getting too bulky’ is an opinion that many will use as an excuse. We all have different goals in life, but if you think walking on a treadmill will get you a six pack and lean arms, you my dearest friend, are terribly mistaken.
What mistakes do most women make in the gym?
Eh, well I see a lot of women doing the same exercises weekly with the same weight. As if they are simply going through the motions. I think the most common mistake is letting your ego get in the way or simply just not using the proper form. Learn your lifts so you can make the right gains and eventually go up in weight.
What advice would you give to a woman just getting started in training?
Treat it like a job because sure enough at some point in time it’s going to feel like one. It’s going to demand you to make time for it, it’s going to take time away from you, it’s going to beat you down and you’re not always going to want to do it. I never miss a training session, no matter what and I think that’s how I got to be so successful so fast. I treated my training as if my life depend on it.
What is your favorite exercise to do? What exercise do you think more woman need to be doing?
Dead-lifts are rather gnarly and they work just about everything. Not to mention, you look pretty beastly pulling weight like that, just saying. I would recommend to do more squats, dead-lifts, bench, and hang cleans. Get your big lifts mastered, leave the little curls for another time.
How do you stay motivated to put in all the work you do?
Honestly, I don’t know what it is that makes me want to work so hard, something deep within me just makes me push day in and day out. It’s an itch in the back of my throat that I will never clear, but to tell the truth, I don’t want to. If I ever find myself hesitating about my training, I sometimes think about what it was like watching my friends play sports while I sat on the bench, or seeing my siblings excel in athletics while I sat in my back brace, or I’ll just remind myself that my competition out there is working harder than I am today and that is not acceptable. Also what motivates me is that my back injury took a major toll on my mind because I was so close to having my dream stripped of me and now here it is, right in front of me, so why would I waste a day when I am given a second chance?
What’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever received?
For the longest time I struggled with my diet, I could never seem to stick to it. I often found myself buried deep into a creamy Jiff’s peanut butter tub with ice cream and cookies. It tasted magical but ruined my hard work instantly. A good friend of mine would always tell me, “Ella you worked too hard in the gym to waste it at the dinner table.” And as silly as that may sound, it stuck with me. Every craving I got, I thought about how hard that last set was, how fast that mile I ran and in matter of seconds all that work would be gone for just a simple five second pleasure to the stomach.
Are there any supplements you’re currently using or recommend?
Very basic stuff but I make sure to take them daily.
- Green Tea Extract
- Women’s Multi-Vitamin
- Whey Protein
Is there anything you’re working on now? A contest, race, or otherwise? Where can our readers stay informed?
I’m extremely focused on my racing currently, it’s all I can think about. The championship race for the Spartan Race series is held in Vermont this year on September 22nd, I’m looking forward to going out to those mountains and giving my absolute best. I have a few more races lined up.
You can follow my facebook, twitter, instagram, and tumblr! I try to update them often.
- instagram: ekociuba
- twitter: EllaKociuba