Nicole Neargarder has accomplished what most bodybuilders set out to achieve: earning an IFBB pro card. So what sets Neargarder apart from the rest? She was just 16 years old when she earned her pro card in the 2016 NPC Universe Championships this past July. Muscle & Fitness Hers spoke to the young athlete about her history-making achievement, her future goals, training, and of course, her favorite cheat foods.

Muscle & Fitness Hers: Most 13-year-olds don’t usually think, “I want to participate in fitness competitions,” but at that age, that was exactly your mindset. What made you want to begin fitness competitions?

Nicole Neargarder: Well I was at the gym, and I met a IFBB fitness pro. At the time I had just stopped doing gymnastics due to an ankle injury, which prevented me from doing tumbles. I noticed this woman, and she was practicing with these other women on things like posing; I just wanted to know what that was. So I went over to her, and she basically explaining it to me what they were doing, she showed me videos of these competitions and it just interested me. So I started my new lifestyle plan of eating really healthy and going to the gym regularly. About 3 months later I did my first show and that’s when I realized that this was what I wanted to do.

What exactly was it about the competition that made you want to continue?

N.N.: In gymnastics my strongest thing was the floor; I always liked getting out there and performing, so fitness was just all floor and performing and being onstage for 2 minutes. And I could do anything and be anything. I could be creative and put anything I want in my routines, and I love the strength moves too. It’s just different.

When I first started fitness my mom and I met 8-time Fitness Olympia champion Adela Garcia, and we went to her because I wasn’t sure about fitness. Most people say it’s a women’s sport, but I actually wanted to see if I could do it, even at my age. So I went there and she trained with me, and really pushed me. At the end of it she told me “I can’t break you, you belong in this sport.” To hear someone whom you admire and look up to say that is really amazing, and she basically gave me the guide to do these competitions.

So now, three years later, how does it feel to be the youngest IFBB pro? Was this always a goal for you?

N.N.:It’s actually been a goal since I was 14; at 13 I didn’t really know much about the IFBB, but I looked up the youngest fitness pro, and at the time I think it was Ariel Khadr, who was 17 years and 10 days when she earned her pro card. So I decided to set my goal to be 16 when I earned my card, and I started training really hard. And to actually make that goal is just—it’s an amazing feeling, I still can’t believe I actually made it.

What is your fitness regimen like?

N.N.:Now that school is starting up again, my schedule is going to change. I normally go to the gym for about two hours, after school. My schedule is pretty flexible since I’m taking mostly college courses, so I’m done by 12:15. I’ll go to the gym, then come home and do my homework and then have some free time to myself. Mondays I’ll work on arms. Tuesdays and Fridays I’ll do legs; Wednesday is my free day so I’ll usually hang out with my mom and dad. The Thursday is chest and lats day. I dedicate two days a week to legs because that’s where I really need to build muscle. I dedicate the weekends to my free time, but I also manage to squeeze in Parkour (free-running, is a discipline based on military obstacle-course training) and Jiu Jitsu classes.

SEE ALSO: Adela Garcia’s Signature Workout Is Insanely Tough

What are your future goals?

My fitness goal is to go to Olympia, but in terms of a career, I’d love to do something with nutrition or sports medicine.

nicole neargarder

You like to wear different costumes when you perform onstage, how did you get started doing that?

N.N.: My choreographer, Frank, is a huge part of that; he mixes all my music and It’s incredible. My very first routine, they called me Lollipop Kid. I came out and did a candy routine with a giant lollipop and a two-piece pink and blue outfit. I’ve also done a Rocky routine, where I came out in a robe and a jump rope. My third routine I did “Frozen,” and I was dressed as Elsa and Olaf.Then one day Frank and I watched “The Hunger Games,” and he said, “It would be so cool for you to be Katniss cause she’s such a powerful character.” So I went and got the outfit made, and dressed up as Katniss [Everdeen] in the Universe Championships.

What is your favorite cheat food?

N.N.: Well, after my competitions I usually go to Cheesecake Factory and get the Godiva Chocolate Brownie Sundae. It’s like three tiers of brownie and chocolate and ice cream. It’s pretty great!

How have your trainers helped you to get where you are?

N.N.: My fitness trainer, IFBB Pro Maria Bellando, trains me and works the routine with me she pushes me to believe in myself. Maria is an incredible trainer and person; she has helped me with each routine and strength move, she was back stage for hours during the Arnold Classic in Ohio, and with me via FaceTime when I won my Pro card. She’s tough when she has to be and has believed in me from day one! Maria will be the one to take me to the Olympia Stage.

The person who started me in fitness is Amanda Marinelli, and now her husband,IFBB PRO Dave Marinelli, is my weight trainer.I have been so lucky to be surrounded by the most incredible trainers, everyone has molded me and without them I honestly would not be the Youngest IFBB PRO. It’s important to recognize the people in my life who support me, because without each of them, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. It’s truly a team effort.

What is your inspiration/motivation?

N.N.: Adela being an 8-time Fitness Olympia champion is definitely something I’d like to achieve. I’d love to follow in her footsteps, but even winning once would be cool!