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Cassandra Kilkenny
How I Moved on from Competitive Swimming to Weightlifting and Bodybuilding

Cassandra Kilkennys Stats When We Talked with Her 💪

United States
25 years
165 cm
61 kg
(134 lbs)

Follow Cassandra on Instagram

👋 Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training

Hello! My name is Cassandra Kilkenny and I’m 25 years old. I’ve moved around enough to where home is where I currently live, which is Colorado Springs, Colorado for now.

I currently work a 9-5 as an account manager at a health and wellness club, where I get to share my passion for fitness by connecting people to their areas of passion.

Additionally, I run my own web design studio, The Aurora Creative, and I sell workout programs and serve as an online personal trainer!

When I’m not training at the gym or working on my business, solo travelling (preferably through Italy) is one of my favorite things to do.

I started realizing my passion for fitness ran significantly deeper when my answer to every “What’s your greatest accomplishment” question was a lifting PR.

I qualified for nationals at my first NPC Bikini Show, and have pulled PRs in bench and squat for 155 and 275 respectively. But my greatest accomplishment was deadlifting 300 pounds, which I did very recently in October, 2019. I’m also extremely proud of the fact that I can rep out hip thrusts at 450 pounds.

I grew up a competitive swimmer, where I cross-trained with water polo, cross country and long-distance track.

Unfortunately, by the time I got to college, I was completely burnt out for anything cardio related. I continued to run around 30 miles a week until cold winters drove me inside.

My friend introduced me to weightlifting … and the rest is history! I’ve been weightlifting and bodybuilding for five years, and though my body has changed drastically from my original swimmer’s body, it didn’t even compare to the difference I saw in my mentality.

I was not a confident girl growing up. I had a terrible self-esteem, I wasn’t confident in myself at all. Weightlifting transformed my life. It gave me confidence and body that I had only dreamed of growing up. Self-esteem grew with my strength until one day I realized I am capable of anything I put my mind to.

The shift in confidence I felt was life-changing and after a few years, I realized that I wanted to help other women experience this shift in confidence in themselves, which is why I was inspired to create programs and offer online coaching as a NASM certified personal trainer.

⏱ Describe a typical day of training

I absolutely love doing the core 3; squats, bench and deadlifts.

I am very intentional with my training. I like to have a goal because training to pursue something is very different from training to maintain.

There are seasons where I do train to maintain my physique and strength, usually after I have hit a new one rep max, and other seasons where I am building towards a new PR.

I currently train six days a week; three leg days with a quad, hamstrings and all-around focus, chest and shoulders, back day, and an arm day. This split has given me awesome results over the last nine months that I have implemented it, with the goal of growing my glutes and shoulders!

I currently train at Dunamis ARP, a small boutique gym here in Colorado Springs (they have the best leg day equipment!), in addition to Life Time Fitness.

Typically, I prefer to train alone, just because my workouts do tend to take about 1hr to 1.5hrs on leg days. During my workouts I don’t tend to do too much cardio, but I’ve found a nice balance between heavy lifting, and about 10-12 minutes of the Stairmaster afterwards.

My favorite lifts are the ones that I feel the strongest in – I absolutely love doing the core 3; squats, bench and deadlifts. However, I do also love hip thrusting because of the results that come from it.

Unfortunately, tracking my workouts isn’t one of my strongest points, but it is something that I am working on improving so I can continue to monitor progress, build up my strength, and have better workouts.

👊 How do you keep going and push harder?

When the going gets tough, my favorite mantra is “You are stronger than you think.” On days the weight feels heavy, I remind myself that I’ve done this before, and I have the strength to do it.

Not every day is motivating but it is the discipline to get to the gym, to do one more rep, set, or add five more pounds that gets me through tough training sessions and days.

My greatest hack: Using progressive overload as a source of motivation. I remind myself that I am “stronger than last time” and this pushes me to do one more set or rep, because how else will I grow?

If I do the same exact workout every time, never changing the weight or reps or sets, I know I would become stagnant, and that is one thing I don’t want to be in my life; stagnant.

Because training is such a huge part of my life, I prioritize it over almost everything in my day. My work revolves around time in the gym because it’s an hour of my day where I know for a fact I am improving myself in every way possible.

Not to mention the amazing rush of endorphins and feeling of satisfaction that comes after a workout.

🏆 How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

I’m loving where I am with my training at the moment – I’m completely satisfied with the balance of motivation and discipline I feel, the amount of effort I’m giving my workouts, and perhaps most importantly, the balance between my current physique and level of strength.

In the next five years, I’d love to try a powerlifting competition because my biggest goal is to join my deadlifts in the 300 club with my squats, and bench 185 pounds.

I’m training with intention to hit these goals for now. Once I hit them, I’ll definitely give my body a brief period of rest, and then get back to training with more physique-related goals in mind.

🤕 How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?

Injury prevention is an integral part to my training. For the last two to three years I have consistently gone to reflexology sessions to focus on releasing tension in my back and on pressure points in my feet.

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I am a huge proponent of reflexology because in the last two to three years, I haven’t been injured.

The closest call I’ve had to an injury was a pulled piriformis, but I took the necessary time off, deciding that it was better to err on the side of caution instead of pushing through a situation with synergistic dominance (where one of my muscles overtook the muscle that was supposed to be doing the work).

After that, I made sure to implement proper warm-ups into my workout regimens, and allow time for foam rolling, stretching and not skipping rest days to allow my body to recover.

🍎 How is your diet and what supplements do you use?

My current diet is conventional and completely food-based, meaning I don’t take any meal replacement supplements like protein.

I’ve tried a variety of protein powders and unfortunately, they don’t seem to work with my digestive system. To combat this, I eat 5-6 meals with protein, vegetables and carbohydrates a day.

The only supplement I take is Optimum Nutrition’s Amino Energy throughout my workout.

I prefer not to take pre-workout (though I am a big coffee and tea drinker), but will also use PEScience’s Nitric Oxide for an extra pump during my workouts (it’s also stim-free).

Optimum Nutrition and PEScience are the two brands that I trust and have been using for years, which is why I don’t usually stray to try new brands.

In addition to my meals, I currently take multivitamins, magnesium, a digestive enzyme and a hormone balance called, Balance by Alani Nu to ensure everything internally is working appropriately.

I eat intuitively and avoid measuring out foods for psychological purposes and to ensure I maintain a healthy relationship with food.

Going into my bikini show in 2018, I had a great relationship with food, but afterwards I really struggled because I felt that the food was always going to be taken away from me and I needed to eat “because I could.”

Ironically, I actually craved healthy foods like rice, vegetables and fruit. Because I’m a big proponent of balance, I don’t restrict myself from anything that I crave.

That being said, if I do have a craving for something, say a donut, I’ll drink some water and have a meal. If the craving doesn’t subside for a few days, I’ll allow myself the donut. The reason I do this is because sometimes if I’m craving, I might just be hungry or dehydrated.

👍 What has inspired and motivated you?

You are stronger than you think you are.

I was motivated to stay healthy at first because working out was habit by the time I was finished with the competitive sports that I had grown up with.

Katy Hearn was a huge fitness inspiration for me because up to the time I saw her, I didn’t really know what I wanted out of fitness anymore that was sustainable, and the idea of physique didn’t cross my mind either.

After coming across her profile on Instagram and seeing what you could truly build your body into, I was motivated to be like her. After a while (a year or so), I realized that I cared more about my strength and outlifting men at the gym (petty, I know), but it is why I am where I am today.

The only competition I was facing at that point was within myself and each time I hit a new PR it just added fuel to my fire to be better and stronger.

I mentioned earlier that my mantra is “You are stronger than you think.” I still tell myself this every day, and it was actually my friend who introduced me to weightlifting who told me this when I was struggling during a workout.

I didn’t think I could do what she was telling me, but as soon as she said that, my mindset completely shifted and I saw weightlifting – and life – from a whole new perspective.

Of course, when I’m lifting I love listening to music – rap, hip hop, EDM, really anything that makes me feel like I am a badass.

✏️ Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?

Trust the process.

My advice for others who want to improve themselves is to take it one step at a time. Define a goal and come up with a plan on how to get there.

But remember, balance. It’s important to rest and be patient because the results you want – whether it’s a strength, physique, or mental goal, does not come quickly. It comes with time and discipline.

Motivation fades, discipline stays, and discipline is what gets you to where you want to be. Trust the process. Don’t worry about what people are thinking in the gym because as crass as it might sound, they’re not paying attention to you, and you shouldn’t pay attention to them either.

You’re there to focus on and better yourself so do just that. And don’t be afraid to ask for help either – whether you’re completely new and see someone doing an exercise you’re interested in or you more advanced and just need a spot.

Don’t stay comfortable because you become stagnant in comfort, in the same way you have to remember to push yourself during a workout. If you finish a set and think “I could have done 10 more reps,” chances are, you probably didn’t push yourself hard enough.

Form is first and foremost so before you go about increasing the weight, make sure your form is good to avoid injuries.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, don’t underestimate yourself. You are stronger than you think you are.

🤝 Are you taking on clients right now?

Yes! I am currently accepting online coaching clients – if you’re past the beginning stage of weightlifting but have found that you’ve hit a plateau in seeing strength or physique results, I’d love to work with you.

I have developed programs that can give you results in eight weeks, although a 12-week training cycle is ideal for the best results. I’ve broken the Asian booty stereotype – if I can do it, you can too.

📝 Where can we learn more about you?

Feel free to learn more about me by checking out my programs and coaching information at my website at, or following me on Instagram @iamcassk, where I also post free workouts and do fitness giveaways!

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