When Zivile Ngo first came here from Lithuania eight summers ago to work at the Golden Pear, she was, the competitive bodybuilder said during a recent conversation at The Star, a shy, skinny kid.
No longer shy — she would not have become certified as a personal trainer by Les Mills International if she continued to be so — and no longer skinny — the fact that she’s begun competing in bodybuilding competitions’ figures category against other women with athletic physiques attests to that — the tall, blue-eyed 29-year-old has found her life’s work.
“I first came here [from the Baltic port city of Klaipeda, Lithuania’s third biggest] in 2004 — a couple from Hampton Bays I met on the plane drove me all the way out. I was delivered here! No train, no bus, no nothing. They were very nice.”
“I did like this place,” she said in answer to a question, “but I was lost. . . . Yes, I spoke English — I had gone to an American college in Lithuania [graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business administration], which gave me the opportunity to work and travel in America.”
Her initial stay, however, lasted only a couple of months, during which she “met a guy [Khanh Ngo, the lively Vietnamese-born East Hampton sports store owner] who lived here, but because of the post-9/11 travel restrictions I didn’t know where the relationship would lead . . . I had to go back. . . . It was heartbreaking.”
Two years later, she returned with a student visa in hand to pursue a master’s degree in corporate finance at Dowling College. And Khanh Ngo (pronounced No) continued to pursue her.
They married in 2008; the next year came her master’s degree, whose cost she underwrote by working at a law office and behind the desk at the East Hampton Gym. And that’s where, sports-wise, our story begins.
“When I was a receptionist at the gym I began to work out, every other day for an hour or so. Nothing crazy. I was a dancer for 14 years — my love is modern dance — so I had a good foundation. Then I started taking classes at Sag Harbor, in martial arts, and in body combat and body pump — I’m now certified to teach body pump and body combat all over the world.”
“I wanted something more, though. So, I got more into personal training. I’m certified in that. My youngest client is maybe 27 and my oldest 50 maybe. Men and women. I train them on the beach, in the park, anywhere. I want people to be healthy, I want to help them. This is my passion.”
“I got really involved with the gym. I competed in what they call the bikini category last year, in New York City, but I wasn’t ready, I didn’t know what was going on. I’m not a bikini girl — I’m more athletic looking. It’s easier for me to get lean and muscular than to be soft and light.”
At the suggestion of Chris Cosich, a well-known championship bodybuilder here to whom she accords much credit, she “stepped it up a bit” and began training for figures competitions, one of which was held recently in New York City.
“It’s 90 percent diet,” she said in reply to a question. “No cheeseburgers, no pizza. No fries or soda, but I never did like them anyway. No ice cream — I used to eat ice cream for lunch! — no bagels, no chips, no butter. . . . Fish is good, lean meat, all the vegetables . . . starches a little bit in moderation. Avocados are good. Olive oil. Almond butter, but not too much. No salad dressing. . . . No bananas in the six to eight weeks leading up to a show. . . .”
She ate frequently, she said, “every two or three hours. I always travel with my own food, and I drink a lot of water.”
In the weight room she “lifts really heavy.” She squats 175 pounds, benchpresses 95, and leg-presses 400.
“I’ve been working out harder lately, and my diet has been much stricter. My coach is proud of me, and the certification I have from Les Mills has opened me up to people. I didn’t know I really liked people! I do like them. It was made clear that if I didn’t communicate well, people wouldn’t come to my classes. . . . So, I’ve come far in these three years. I’m a lot stronger, I’m trying to improve every day. I want people to see that everything is possible. I was a skinny, closed, shy person, and I did it.”
She added that “there’s a program a company has created, Beach Body Coach, for people who want to work out at home. You can bring them together in a group on Facebook. A coach can discuss workouts and nutrition with you there. I’ve had 10 people doing this for two months. They’ve been losing pounds, inches. I’m there to monitor them in a private setting.”
“I just want to help people . . . it’s just the beginning for me.”