Name: Rachel Godwin
Year of birth: 1979
Birthplace: Kansas City, Mo
Current Residence: Kansas City, MO
Sports: Fitness modeling, dance, WBFF fitness competitor
Tell us a little about yourself, what you do for a living, what hobbies / interests / passions you have
Fitness and dance are my hobbies, passion and what I do for a living. I received my BFA in dance from the University of Iowa and danced professionally for 2 years in Philadelphia. I am now a personal trainer at HitchFit gym in Kansas City. Being a personal trainer is an extremely rewarding job. It’s my dream job! I am changing people’s lives for the better every day. I've had clients who no longer need to take medication for high blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety and even depression! The changes that happen on the inside are just as rewarding as the changes that you can physically see on the outside. I love to hear how a person's new eating habits have rubbed off onto their children, husband, wife, mother, and coworkers. It’s a tremendous feeling to know that you are making a real difference in peoples’ lives.
I began competing in fitness shows with the WBFF in 2011 because I missed being on stage as a dancer and a performer. I’ve met so many great people with the same interest and passion in fitness from competing. Each show I do, I learn more about my body and gain self-confidence.
I’m also a dance instructor who teaches children modern and ballet. I love inspiring new minds about the art of dance. It is a creative outlet to express myself through movement and music.
Why did you become vegan?
I’ve always had a huge love and compassion for animals even as a small child. I never was a big “meat eater” but becoming vegan seemed overwhelming at first and therefore was a slow progression. I have been lactose intolerant my entire life so cutting out dairy was not an issue. I first eliminated red meat about 10 years ago. I didn’t like the way it tasted or how it felt like it just sat in my gut. I had an interest in becoming vegetarian at that time and started incorporating more vegetarian meals into my diet. However, I didn’t think I had the will power or support to give up meat entirely.
In 2011, I competed in my first fitness competition. I began eating more meat than I had ever eaten in my life. I felt tired, weighed down and constipated. Even though I loved the way I looked, I no longer could stand to touch, much less eat, chicken ever again. I became pescatarian after that show and for the next year until I watched the documentary, Forks Over Knives. I was horrified by the images, the way we treat animals and the conditions they live in to support the growing trend to eat more “protein.” My parents immediately became vegan after watching that film, but I still had a bodybuilder mindset that if I gave up fish and eggs I would lose all the muscle I had worked so hard for in the gym. Around that same time, I started taking yoga at a studio called Maya yoga in Kansas City. The owners are both vegan and spoke a lot about the benefits of being vegan. I started researching online to see if there were other vegan fitness competitors and what their meals consisted of. To my surprise, I found several interviews, YouTube videos, and of course veganbodybuilding.com with all kinds of information and other vegan athletes. They inspired me and gave me the confidence that it was possible to compete as a vegan. I then bought and read the book, The 80/10/10 Diet which provides raw vegan meal plans. I immediately dived in and followed a raw vegan diet for my next competition in Las Vegas in 2013. No competition prep is easy but I had more energy than I had for any other competition I had done before. I now eat mostly raw, with occasionally eating vegetable soups or veggie stir-fry’s, more so in the winter months when I want to eat something warm. Becoming vegan and eating a plant based diet has been the best decision I’ve ever made.
When and why did you become interested in fitness?
My fitness career began as a dancer. I have been into athletics and dance for as long as I can remember; trying every sport as a kid including golf, basketball, softball and even Tae Kwon Do but dance was always my passion. After getting my degree in Dance from the University of Iowa I moved to the East coast to dance professionally. I started teaching group fitness classes on the side including bootcamps, ballet and Zumba and immediately recognized that fitness was my true passion. Fitness was at the heart of all my athletic endeavors. Being a personal trainer and WBFF fitness competitor is the expression of this realization. It is what I was meant to do.
How would you describe your nutrition program?
I eat 80-90% raw; more so in the warm months and less in the winter months. My meals typically look like this:
Breakfast: 1 melon (summer)
Oats or quinoa with hemp powder, goji berries, and cinnamon (winter)
Snack: 2 Cups of Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or blackberries
Lunch: Mangoes, Pineapple, papaya or apples
Snack: Grapes, oranges or apples
Dinner: Giant spinach and kale salad with mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, avocado (summer)
Veggie stir fry or veggie soup (winter)
How would you describe your training program
I strength train 5-6 days a week, usually 2 lower body days and 3-4 upper body days. My rep range is 12-15 for most exercises. I also incorporate yoga 1-2 times a week to keep my flexibility and recently I started swimming once a week. When I am prepping for a competition or photo shoot I incorporate more cardio such as Spin classes, HIIT training, hill sprints and the stair master.
How do people react when they find out you are vegan?
Most people are surprised and then intrigued. I almost always get asked how I get enough protein, what I eat and why I choose to be a vegan.
What are some common misconceptions about veganism?
There are many misconceptions, but the biggest seems to be that vegans are protein deficient. I have learned most people are getting an excess of protein and that our bodies only really need about 10%, which is relatively easy to get on a plant based diet. When I tell people even oats and strawberries have protein (even though it’s minimal), the majority are shocked. I haven’t lost any strength or muscle since being vegan and the few people that do lose muscle is caused by not consuming enough calories and not from a lack of protein.
Have you had success in promoting veganism / vegetarianism to others? If so, how did you go about it?
I try not to push my beliefs on others but if someone comes to me asking questions I use that as an opportunity to promote all the benefits of being vegan. I do however, promote myself as being a “fit”vegan on social media to show people it’s possible and in hopes of inspiring others. I also like to recommend vegan restaurants. If people try a vegan dish and really like it, I think they are more likely to start incorporating vegan meals into their diet on a regular basis and maybe one day become vegan just like I did.
What do you think the most important aspect of training is?
Exercise increases endorphins that make you feel good. Along with a healthy diet, training can cure depression, anxiety, and even such diseases as diabetes. As we age we lose bone density. Many doctors will tell you to take a calcium pill or worse, drink milk, but the only way to slow that natural process is by lifting weights.
What do you like best about being vegan?
The most significant change I noticed almost immediately was my energy level. My skin is better, I sleep better, my digestion is better, I’m never bloated and I’m saving animals!
What do you like best about being fit?
I like being stronger. Being strong on the outside has made me stronger and more confident on the inside. Lifting heavy weight at the gym; sometimes heavier than men, is very empowering.
What advice do you have for people who are just starting out with training?
Don’t be afraid to hire an expert, especially if you are new to strength training because you want to make sure you have proper form. Even trainers hire trainers to be held accountable and to be pushed. If you can’t afford to hire a trainer try group exercise classes. You will naturally be less likely to give up as quickly and work harder.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking of becoming vegan?
Do you own research and listen to your body. Reach out to other vegan’s and ask lots of questions. Also, read books on nutrition, look up vegan recipes and watch documentaries to keep you focused and reminded why you became vegan in the first place. Having vegan friends who are like minded and supportive is also helpful.
What do you think of veganbodybuilding.com? Has it helped or inspired you?
It was one of the first sites I went to when doing research about becoming a vegan. I love the articles and recipes. The other athlete’s profiles gave me confidence I was making the right decision.
Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to share?
Have the courage to try new things regardless of what industry standards say is the “right” way.