Interview with IFBB Bikini Fitness Athlete Linda Illerstam |

Interview with IFBB Bikini Fitness Athlete Linda Illerstam |

Interview with IFBB Bikini Fitness Athlete Linda Illerstam |

0 comments 📅25 October 2016, 11:19
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Today we have a special guest and you most certainly don’t want to miss that out – please meet Swedish IFBB Bikini Fitness Athlete and Fitness Model Linda Illerstam.

Linda started her career at a very young age of 14, when she was playing tennis, participated in floorball and high level dancing. Today, she is a certified gym instructor, nutritional advisor and personal trainer.

She competed both, nationally and internationally. For example, Lina won the fourth place at the Arnold Classics in South Africa and placed second at the Swedish Bikini Fitness event. At the Body Power Fit Factor 2015 she managed to qualify for her first IFBB Fitness Model competition at Olympia Amateur (where she placed third).

Besides competing, Linda is working as an inspiring fitness model for companies like Better Bodies or Sportamore.

Get to know how Linda started out her career, what keeps her motivated and how her current nutrition and training looks like.

Interview: Linda Illerstam talks with

Quick Profile – Linda Illerstam

How did you get started with weightlifting / bodybuilding / fitness?

I’ve always been active and training has always been a part of my life. But weight training and competing is something I started just 3,5 years ago. I wasn’t getting the results I wanted from the training and eating habits I previously had and wasn’t even especially healthy as I was training too much and eating way too little. I could easily train 3-5 hours a day, several sessions of high intensity training with thai boxing and different types of cardio.

Thai boxing burns a LOT of calories and I was not in balance of calories in – calories out. I didn’t want to put weight back on that I had finally (I was chubby as a kid and teenager), gotten rid of and the thought of training less and eating more felt quite scary.

Thankfully I dared to question my ways of living and I went to someone I thought was more knowledgeable in the area: a friend of a friend who had competed in Women’s Figure. I thought: She has gotten in great shape and built a whole lot of muscle – whatever she has done. I’ll give it a try!

And guess what she had me doing: EATING a LOT more and training a LOT less. Gone where the hours of cardio and I got to do my first, heavy set weight session at the gym. I often questioned myself, but if I put my mind to something, I’ll make sure I’ll follow through. And I did.

Today, I have educated myself and gotten a certification as a personal trainer and nutritional advisor. I’m also in University to study psychology and behaviour science – which is closely linked to health and wellbeing with it’s implications on hormonal balances. I want to understand and work WITH my body: not pushing, forcing and struggle against it.

Do you have someone or something that motivates or inspires you? Do you have any idols?

Interview with IFBB Bikini Fitnss Athlete Linda Illerstam |

(Picture Source: Linda Illerstam)

I find inspiration in all kinds of people, places and things. It can be a good quote in a book or a movie, someone in – or outside the industry doing something incredible or even looking back at things I have overcome or exceeded in myself.

I am motivated by all people who go after what they want and aren’t afraid to stand up for themselves in being who they are. I am more inspired by personal achievements than material once and I believe it’s very important to separate who we are from what we do. If not – failure becomes something personal and we question what’s wrong with US, and not what we DO/have DONE.

My mother is a big inspiration for me. I lost her to breast cancer when I was 15, but I see a lot of similarities between the two of us and I am certain she would want me to keep pushing for what I believe in and doing what I love to do. With that said – she is one of the reasons I am so passionate about talking about and spreading knowledge about health. We can’t prevent some diseases, but we can make sure to live a lifestyle making us as strong as humanly possible to fight if we are unfortunate to get them.

Looking back at your exercise career: Which training system or routine brought you the best results?

Heavy weight training, less cardio and more rest & recovery!

How does your current routine look like?

  • Monday: Heavy leg training with focus on glutes and hamstrings (lower back with deadlifts)
  • Tuesday: Heavy back training with focus on upper, side, mid-back + additional sets of bicep curls
  • Wednesday: Shoulders and triceps: heavy with more rest or lighter weights with supersets
  • Thursday: Glutes and calves + HIIT training with sprints, plyometric jumps and/or speed rope
  • Friday: Chest, abs, balance, stretch and movability
  • Saturday: Rest day with outdoor walk and some stretch and foam rolling
  • Sunday: Shoulders and 1-2 light weight exercises of glutes glutes + additional low intensity cardio

I’ll throw in extra days of rest if I feel I need it or change the order of sessions if I need to recover a certain muscle group/groups more before hitting it/them again. It’s more of a rolling schedule than “locked” to specific days.

Do you prefer traditional cardio training or HIIT when dieting?

I do a mix of HIIT and lower intensity cardio both on and off contest prep/diet. Usually HIIT sessions include circuit training –  crossfit or crossfit inspired – thai boxing, intervals on a treadmill, bike or rowing machine. I’m not big in size and don’t have that much muscle mass, so it’s better for me to do fast, high intensity cardio and/or double up on weight training sessions to boost my metabolism and fat burn instead of doing hours of lower intensity cardio like cycling or standing on a cross trainer. I prefer to go out on 40-60 min walks mid-day or at night to help my body recover by getting rid of waste products, increasing blood flow and most importantly: clear my head, unwind and get some fresh air! (It’s often forgotten how the mental aspects of a prep is equally – if not more so – important than physical once.)

If you had to pick only 3 exercises, what would they be and why?

The best way to build and maintain a healthy, strong and functional body is by making sure all muscle groups are covered, that the exercises include some form of flexibility, differentiating range of motions and stimulate the targeted muscles as well as their antagonists and synergists.

Basic exercises like deadlifts and squats include all of the above. By altering stands, grip, sets/reps and time under tension: these exercises train your entire legs, lower and upper back, inner abdominal muscles, arms, grip strength, increase flexibility and movability in hips, chest, shoulders etc. I’ve added Lat pulldowns as a way to build more upper back strength and width to increase that X shape look with a broader upper back, small waits and glutes.

Depending on how the pulldowns are performed, it also build a greater arm and grip strength as well as flexibility in chest and shoulders.

What is your diet like?

My philosophy when it comes to nutrition is that we need to stop thinking in “either or” terms. Very few things are black and white and the same goes for nutrition.

If you start putting things into piles of “never” and “always” you will get sick of the things you ALWAYS eat and crave the things you can NEVER have. Off course there is a big difference in liking sugar and having an addictive behaviour towards it – so for people the “never” option might be the only manageable thing.

I eat the same things all year around, cook my own food and use high quality ingredients. I mix all kinds of sources for protein, carbs and healthy fats (omega 3, 6 and 9) – but go for leaner types of protein and wholegrain/fibre rich types of carbs. I’d rather add fats I know are healthy – like avocado, nuts, fat fish, coconut – or olive oil to go with my chicken breast fillets, white fish or lean beef – than to have chicken drumsticks or rib eye steak. I get great energy and strength from carbs so I’ll have oats, potatoes, sweet potatoes, red – or wholegrain rice every day.

I love veggies, so there is always a mix of different greens to go with every meal. If It’s a mid-day snack or a post workout meal on the go: I’ll have a banana together with an ON Gold standard Whey protein shake.

Do you take supplements? If so, how does your current supplementation look like?

(Picture Source: Linda Illerstam)

Do you take supplements? If so, how does your current supplementation look like?

I switch between different supplements depending on how close I am to competition. I’m not allergic to dairy or lactose but I have been before and I know my body gets a bit irritated and contain a lot of fluid when I eat it. So close to competitions, I’ll skip my regular in-between-meals or post workout shake of Optimum Nutrition’s Hydrolized Whey or Gold Standard Whey and add in more PRO BCAA’s (intra-workout) Amino Energy (pre-workout) and Bcaa Train + Sustain after/in between workouts for quicker recovery.

I usually drink a shake of Amino Energy as a pre-workout shake, I’ll just take away the BCAA:s during the training and add the regular protein shake as a post workout if I’m not on contest prep. 

Mixing ON casein with a little water to make a “pudding” for a night snack or adding some low fat milk and pouring it into my ice cream machine for some protein ice cream is another favourite. But as with whey, I’ll cut it out a couple of weeks before competitions and/or photoshoots.

Some things I never skip are the ON Enteric covered fish oils, ZMA and Opti-woman. That’s my everyday supplementation. Closer to competition, I’ll increase my intake of the fish oil and add some additional glutamine to help boost my immune system.

If you had to pick only 3 supplements, what would they be and why?

Amino Energy – a wide range of amino acids with added, natural energizers, making it a multifunctional product. It’s an any time energy boost and something tasty, non-sugar and low calorie to sip on during the day. If you double the portion (or as I do take the 2 recommended scoops) you have a great pre-workout product for focus and stamina.

Do you have a mantra or do you act on a specific maxim/ lifestyle philosophy?

Lina Illerstam: Do you have a mantra or do you act on a specific maxim/ lifestyle philosophy?

(Picture Source: Linda Illerstam)

Life is too short to be wasted – live to the fullest of your ability and appreciate what you have and what surrounds you. If you are unhappy, make the changes you need to do in creating the life you want. Also – be kind to yourself and to others, it always works out for the best in the end.

Do you have a favourite quote?

I have one my mother used to have on the screen saver of her phone: MAKE a great day.

It’s instead of the usual “Have a great day” and points out our ability to change and that we – ourselves – have the ability to change our mindset and destiny.

Are you currently working on any interesting projects you’d like finish in the near future?

I have started a charity run for the Swedish Breast Cancer Association in collaboration with a good friend of mine and her wellness company. It’s in October every year and this will be the 4th run so far. I hope it will be a success and that we get even more people engaged and companies who want to push for and sponsor.

Other than that, I just did my first big, international photoshoot and filming for ON and am a part of the international athlete team now. So I am very excited to continue on that journey and working towards new goals in both competing and working as an ON profile!

What was the single best decision in or thing that brought you the most in life? What advice would you like give to our readers?

I decided that I would stop caring so much of what other people thought about me and what I was doing. If it made me happy – then I would be able to share my stories and have a positive impact on other people and possibly, in the long run, make them happy too.

Note: there is a big difference in focusing on oneself and not caring about others!  

Thank you for taking some time in answering our questions, Linda!

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Picture Sources: Copyright by Linda Illerstam

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