Inside the Mind of CJ Dunning 

BAC: Tell us a little about your upbringing.

CJ: Well, I’m the youngest of 3 girls and we are all 3 years apart. As far as activities, I remember camping in Las Vegas, and camping and fishing out here in Colorado. My dad and I have a love for the outdoors, especially the mountains. I started skiing at 2 years old, which progressed into snowboarding with my middle school team. Altogether, I have always been active.

BAC: What sports kept you active as a kid and when did you start weightlifting and modeling?

CJ: Growing up, I skied, snowboarded, played soccer for eight years, tennis from an early age, did some volleyball, and cheered in high school. Apart from all that, I started lifting weights at 13 and doing modeling shoots at 16.

BAC: That was around high school, can you tell us a bit about that time in your life?

CJ: I was actually bullied in High School, bullied for being a bit of a geek. I took a lot of AP and honors classes; in fact, I earned a whole year’s worth of college credit my senior year which contributed to me completing a six-year program in two years. I read all the time and still do. Knowledge and growth were firmly rooted in my upbringing and it has stayed with me. Being so involved across the gamut academically and with various sports I always had different friends, in different groups. I always thought that people who identify themselves with a singular group, and/or those who gang up on other “cliques” to feel empowered are followers, and are weak. I always made it a point to be a leader and accept everyone.

BAC: Tell us about your college years.

CJ: Sure, I attended Northern Arizona University from 2010-2014. I double majored in Pre-Law and Criminal Justice/Criminology, double minored in Sociology and Political Science with an emphasis on Aerospace Dynamics within the Air Force ROTC my freshman year. Although I was busy during college, I continued to lift because that was the best way to channel negative energy into positive energy. So yes, I am obviously an academic geek, and although it contributed to the bullying in High School, I’m a firm believer that the greatest revenge is having large amounts of success.

BAC: Can you tell us a little bit about competing in bodybuilding?

CJ: I was sponsored early on, before my first competition in early 2014 where I placed 1st! Later that same year, I placed in the top 15 nationally at USA’s. A year later, at my 3rd competition, I moved up to 9th.

CJ’s work-outs BAC Magazine

BAC: What’s something about you, that our readers may not know?

CJ: I’m a curve-ball tomboy, who loves to listen to heavy metal while reading books.

BAC: Rock on. We did a bit of research on you and discovered you have a talent for writing. What genres do you like?

CJ: Documentaries and inspirational stories.

BAC: On that note, are you working on any new projects in that regard?

CJ: I’m right in the middle of working on a book on health that touches on diet, exercise, and valuable tools that promote healthy living. I’m really passionate about what the book stands for, and I’m hoping to impact a lot of people with it.

BAC: Have you ever worked any odd jobs?

CJ: I wouldn’t call this odd, but I worked on a ranch during college: a job I enjoyed and learned a lot from.

BAC: What do you do for downtime?

CJ: I’m a huge movie buff, with a concentration on scary movies based on faith, the paranormal, and unexplained events.

BAC: How do you combat fear?

CJ: To start off with, fear is controlling and toxic but it’s something that is innate to us as the human race. What I do to combat and place reins on fear is, I challenge myself, take risks on opportunities, and I completely erase “what if” from my vocabulary.

BAC: On days that you feel like you’ve hit a brick wall, what process do you practice to stay focused?

CJ: Self-reflection and visualization of what I strive for and the grounding of my beliefs. I write notes in a journal, I place thoughts and goals into it. I always revisit it so it serves as a primary source that lifts me when walls pop up.

BAC:  With those thoughts in mind, what’s your definition of a champion?

CJ: A person who is purposeful, doesn’t settle for mediocrity. Doesn’t merely want to win, but lives to win. A person who is in love with accomplishing what no one else around is willing to do. Putting proven goals into action.

BAC:  CJ, can you give us insight about your diet?

Roy B and CJ Dunning

 CJ: Recently, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease so as far as my diet, I keep it simple and gluten intolerant. During competitions, I use a macronutrients strategy. That’s where all food categories are numerically accounted for using my weight, height, body fat, etc, and keeping all that in line with my goals. Outside of competition, I maintain what my body needs: I never count calories, I eat more lean meat than red meat, dark and colored carbs over light/white based carbs, the greener the better when it comes to veggies, and no dairy, dairy is hard to process, so I stay away from it.

BAC:  CJ, can you give us a little insight into the culture of bodybuilding?

CJ: The sport itself is phenomenal; however, the culture can be somewhat toxic. Some people are competing for the right reasons, but others turn it into a narcissistic breeding ground: a social club. Historically, bodybuilding has been, and continues to be, a prestigious sport, the pinnacle of human physicality, but like most sports, there are those who are involved in it with wrong motivations. I will always love bodybuilding because it’s based on the beauty of the human form and celebrates the rare attainment of ultimate fitness, so when something so noble gets taken too lightly, it bothers me.

Photographer Roy B and CJ Dunning

BAC: Can you tell us where you get your inspiration?

CJ: Yes, I’ll start with my faith in God. Recently, I tattooed “I Am Second” on my foot to commit myself and my recognition to Christ. What that means to me is, regardless of what I want to win or accomplish, despite the trophies I strive to obtain, even considering the “value” of my surroundings and public presence I may ever have, I will always put myself second to God. I am also floored by extraordinary people like Bethany Hamilton, the Soul Surfer. I couldn’t even imagine what to do if I lost a limb and my soul told me to continue my sport.
Another would have to be Ronda Rousey. I like her perspective of “Don’t be a D.N.B” Don’t be a do-nothing bitch! Do something of value with your life and don’t sit around looking pretty, resting your existence on someone else’s gratification, desire or will for you.

BAC:   CJ, thanks again for your time and invaluable perspective on how to Become A Champion!
As we can see, CJ stays true to her principles. With her motivation, willpower, and support system, we only expect to hear greater and bigger things from her.


Written by: Adrian DeBarros 

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