September 26, 2016


Interview with Figure competitor: Zara-Leoni Ford

Interview with Figure competitor: Zara-Leoni Ford

How did you get started?

To be honest I’ve done sports of some sort most of my life… I trained as a horseriding instructor when I left school and for about 10 years worked as a showjumping groom or riding instructor. I also did a little boxing as a teenager and later on Muay Thai Boxing and for a short while, MMA. When I gave up working with horses I worked in a few gyms in management and sales over a number of years.

In addition to this, my social circle has always included people who train for size and/or to compete so it’s never been alien to me. In 2005 I went to work for my friend Robert Landells MChem (Hons) as manager of , running his supplements/clothing/sports equipment shop and website. I had previously been working at Fitness First and still trained there, but when I went to work for Robert, I decided to switch and start training at Gracemount Bodybuilding Gym in Edinburgh, which he co-owns with Brian Hill.

In 2006, I went to my first ever bodybuilding show to support a lad from our gym who was competing that day…. I sat in the audience utterly fascinated, and equally utterly convinced that I could do that too. In 2007 I competed for the first time, I placed 5th in my first show and one week later I won my class at my second one. From then on it’s just what I do…. Can’t imagine any other way!

What your diet consists of & why?

At the moment I am dieting to compete in 2011 shows under the guidance of professional bodybuilder James Llewellin so I shan’t go into depth about my diet out of respect to James and maintaining confidentiality except to say that I have great trust and faith in what James tells me as to date everything he has told me makes absolute sense and is backed up with sound knowledge and common sense. I will say though that under his advice I am going to try a keto based diet for the first time and am looking forward to trying something new.

In general terms though, off season and on, I make an effort to keep my essential fats and protein high at all times…. I’m not very carb tolerant (unfortunately lol) and also suffer from IBS so have to be careful what I eat.

What supplements do you use?

I am very selective about the brands that I choose. I favour Extreme Nutrition and Reflex primarily. I have to be careful which proteins I use due to having IBS and both these companies use high quality ingredients and minimal thickeners, colourings and sweeteners etc. I’d like to point out I am not sponsored by either of these companies but by so I have access to literally any range or brand but these are the ones I choose and prefer.

I generally use at varying times of the year:

  • Reflex Microwhey
  • Reflex Whey Refresh
  • Extreme Glutamine (which is a mix of free form and peptide bonded glutamine)
  • Extreme Aminos
  • Extreme Kre-Alkyln
  • Extreme Lean-R
  • Extreme Liquid Fury
  • Extreme Pro-6
  • Extreme Carbs

These are the things I use consistently…. The “staples” if you like. Occasionally I’ll try out, or add other things as and when I feel I need them.

Example of diet

I try to maintain some sort of structure year-round and I also TRY not to add too much weight offseason haha! A typical offseason day would be:

200g protein
150g carbs (ish…. I don’t get to obsessed with this tbh)
50g fat

That’s a guideline but in all honesty I don’t worry too much so long as the protein and fats are kept high enough.  So for example I may eat in a day:

  1. Oats mixed with fat free yogurt.
  2. Lean meat or fish with salad and extra virgin olive oil.
  3. Shake.
  4. Lean meat or fish with carb source (rice, quinoa, cous cous etc or sweet potato) and extra virgin olive oil.
  5. PWO shake.
  6. Lean meat or fish with salad and extra virgin olive oil.
  7. Quark with sugar free jelly.

I’m a very keen cook and am constantly inventing/trying out new recipes that can be used during diet or offseason to make food taste better and more interesting. There is NO NEED for bodybuilding food to be bland, boring or tasteless, there are many different spices and seasonings and recipes that can be used to keep it all tasty and moist. I’m seriously considering putting together a book of some sort of recipes for dieting bodybuilders at some point in the future.

What does your current work-out routine look like?

Currently although dieting I’m not under instruction to start cardio YET although that will come at some point, initially AM fasted cardio then presumably some PWO cardio too. I always use a treadmill as feel carrying your bodyweight whilst doing cardio is more effective, and I invested in a decent one which lives smack bang in the centre of my living room in front of the tv haha! The cats and my dog use it as a sun lounger right now though….

My training is roughly as follows:


  • Deadlifts.
  • Chins.
  • Low Pully Rows.
  • Single Arm DB Rows.


  • DB Overhead Extensions
  • Cable Pushdowns (rope or straight bar) standing close
  • Standing Cable Pullovers
  • Leg Extension/DB Pullover Combination
  • Captains Chair Leg Raises OR Decline Sit Ups (weighted)
  • Weighted Leg Raises to rear and to the side.


  • Flat Bench
  • Incline DB Bench
  • Hammer Strength style Flyes
  • Cables or Pec Deck Flyes
  • DB Curls
  • Hammer Curls
  • Preacher Curls
  • EZ Bar Curls


  • DB Press.
  • Side DB Raises.
  • Machine Press.
  • Rear Delt Flyes (machine).
  • Leg Extension/DB Pullover Combination.
  • Captains Chair Leg Raises OR Decline Sit Ups (weighted).
  • Weighted Leg Raises to rear and to the side.

You may notice absence of leg training…. I’ve never trained them to date as somehow they seem to keep up by themselves… However never say never….

What are your max lifts?

Deadlift: 120kg
Bench: 60kg

Its worth pointing out that I never used to do either of these exercises as trained alone and wasn’t confident about doing them. This is approx 5 months from trying them for the first time. I’ve found they make a huge difference though and wish I’d tried them sooner!

What’s your favourite cheat meal?

Pizza! All day long! Rather partial to greek salad, haribo, thorntons caramel shortbread and chocolate éclairs though…. I could go on all day!

Who’s your favourite bodybuilder?

There are a lot of seriously good female bodybuilders around these days….. I have to mention Rachael Grice and Monica Brandt though as they were the ones I looked up to when I was first starting out. I saw Rachael at the 2007 Universe and just thought WOW! Malika Zitouni is far taller and more elegant than I am, so I could never aspire to have her type of shape but she has stage presence to die for! I could be here all day listing people who inspire me now though.

If you could give someone one piece of advice, what would it be?

Just Do It!!

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