Growing up in sleepy Albuquerque, NM, Katie Corio never imagined becoming a fitness star with 300,000-plus Instagram followers. “I was totally a nerdy art girl,” she recalls. “If you told me what I’d be doing today, I’d have said you’re crazy.”

But things changed while studying art, partying, and eating poorly at San Diego State. Bikini shopping with a friend, she saw an out-of-shape, unhappy reflection in the mirror and thought, I’m not gonna live like this anymore.

The fitness neophyte switched to kinesiology and started hitting the gym, sculpting her body, and crushing contests. “I just completely fell in love with it,” she says. “I was totally changed in the best way possible.”

Now 24, Corio is flying high, inspiring others with online training programs, workout videos, podcasts, and even some art. We caught up with her to talk transformation, motivation, and hanging with the Hulk.

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M&F: A lot of people want to make changes in their lives but struggle to follow through. How’d you stick to it?

KC: I had no idea what even a biceps curl was. So I started following fit people on Instagram and copying others at the gym. I had to swallow my pride and ask, “Hey, am I doing this right?” I knew if I just kept going, change was inevitable. And now I’m an expert-level personal trainer and licensed sports nutritionist.

You topped your bikini division at the 2015 NPC Ferrigno Legacy….

Fun fact: While prepping, I won a contest to train with Lou Ferrigno at Gold’s Gym in Venice, CA. I got to be on Eric the Trainer’s Celebrity Sweat with him, and it was so cool!

Got any Ferrigno stories?

He turned out to be the nicest, most fun guy. When I got there, he picked me up off the ground and said, “I’m so happy you’re here.” And he let me beat him in an arm-wrestling contest afterward. I have photos to prove it!

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You’ve also competed in powerlifting, right

A couple of years ago I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. That was really challenging but also rewarding because I got to share my story with my Instagram and YouTube followers and help people with the same problem. I controlled my RA through an anti-inflammatory diet and decided to do powerlifting meets, because I’m not gonna let it stop me. Getting on those platforms is one of my best accomplishments.

Are you still doing art on the side?

Yes. My New Year’s resolution was to do art every day. I focus on dry media, drawing with graphite and chalk and pastels.

Do you ever feel unmotivated? If so, what do you do?

Of course. It’s human nature. When I wake up and think, Oh, I don’t want to go to the gym, I make myself go—and sometimes those days I have the best workouts. But if I have a streak of bad workouts, I’ll give myself a week off to reset. Then I’m back with that fire again.

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