At 34 years old, Candace Lawson was stuck in a rut. Between being a full-time student, a mom to four kids, and working a night job, she felt tired, overwhelmed, and lost.

"What was preached to me was that once you have kids, you no longer have a life of your own," she says. "I took that literally."

Even after she finished her degree, she didn't feel settled. "I was still unhappy because I hadn't fixed the inner me," she says. "I wanted to feel good about myself and needed a fresh start to be present mentally so I could be a better example for my children and wife to my husband."

It wasn't until her husband was rushed to the ICU with health complications that Candace decided to make a change. His health issues became her wakeup call, too. Fitness gave Candace the time and energy to focus on her family and her job, and helped her find the balance she had been seeking for so long.

Perhaps most amazing of all? Her initial success didn't involve a gym. She just did her reps when she could—even if meant lunging around a lab at 4 in the morning!

This is Candace's story.

Age: 34, Height: 5'6", Weight: 184 lbs., Body Fat: 29%

Age: 34, Height: 5'6", Weight: 155 lbs., Body Fat: 19%

What made you start working out and eating healthier?

My family had a serious scare when my husband was rushed to the hospital and kept in the ICU for three days. I can remember getting so upset with him about his bad habits and preaching to him about needing to work out, lose weight, and eat healthier.

We both made a decision to seriously look at our household eating habits. We also decided to join a gym, and with the membership came an InBody scan. What I learned was shocking: My body-fat percentage was higher than my husband's!

We both took this scare as a sign that our lifestyles needed to change. We both needed to do better for our four children.

How did you get started?

I joined Bodybuilding.com's Still In It 8-week transformation challenge. I didn't really have a set workout plan; I just did 30 minutes of cardio 4-5 times a week and made sure I did the basics: crunches, planks, pull-ups, push-ups, and, every now and then, squats.

I never really counted my reps but would do different workout-related tasks throughout the day to get in as much as I could, since my schedule was so full. I set up a pull-up bar in my bathroom doorway at home and made a rule that I had to do five pull-ups every time I walked through it. During my night shifts, I made sure I did sets of 10 squats, 10 push-ups, and 10-second wall sits as often as I could.

I also drank a half-gallon of water before my shift ended. On the nights I worked, I designated 4 a.m. as my time to do lunges around the lab. In the mornings, after my shift was over, I went to the gym for cardio.

How did you get into lifting?

After gaining a little confidence from my results in the transformation challenge, I wanted more, so I started following programs from Bodybuilding.com.

I've done both Shortcut to Shred, and right now I'm doing Kris Gethin's 4 Weeks 2 Shred.

What workout plan helped you along the way?

For all exercises other than calves and abs, I do dropsets for sets 2 and 3.

Day 1: Back and Biceps
1
Underhand Cable Pulldowns
3 sets, 5,10,15 reps
2
V-Bar Pulldown
3 sets, 5,10,15 reps
3
Seated Cable Rows
3 sets, 5,10,15 reps
4
T-Bar Row
3 sets, 5,10,15 reps
5
Machine Preacher Curls
3 sets, 5,10,15 reps
6
Standing Biceps Cable Curl
3 sets, 5, 10, 15 reps
7
Jogging-Treadmill
1 set, 30 minutes
8
Russian Twist
1 set, 300 reps
Day 1: Calves, Abs, and Cardio
1
Seated Calf Raise
3 sets, 5, 10, 15 reps
2
Hanging Leg Raise
3 sets, to failure
3
Jogging-Treadmill
1 set, 30 minutes
Day 2: Shoulders
1
Machine Shoulder (Military) Press
3 sets, 5, 10, 15 reps
2
Machine Lateral Raise
3 sets, 5, 10, 15 reps
3
Reverse Machine Flyes
3 sets, 5, 10, 15 reps
4
Smith Machine Shrug
3 sets, 5, 10, 15 reps
5
Triceps Pushdown
3 sets, 5, 10, 15 reps
6
Triceps Overhead Extension with Rope
3 sets, 10, 20, 30 reps
7
Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip
3 sets, 10, 20, 30 reps
8
Jogging-Treadmill
1 set, 30 minutes
9
Russian Twist
1 set, 300 reps
10
Jogging-Treadmill
1 set, 30 minutes
Day 3: Active rest
1
Jogging-Treadmill
1 set, 30 minutes
2
Russian Twist
1 set, 300 reps
Day 4: Legs, Abs, and Cardio
1
Leg Extensions
3 sets, 10, 20, 30 reps
2
Hack Squat
3 sets, 10, 20, 30 reps
3
Standing Leg Curl
3 sets, 10, 20, 30 reps
4
Hack Squat
3 sets, 10, 20, 30 reps
5
Jogging-Treadmill
1 set, 30 minutes
6
Russian Twist
1 set, 300 reps
7
Jogging-Treadmill
1 set, 30 minutes
Day 5: Chest, Calves, and Abs
1
Decline Barbell Bench Press
3 sets, 10, 20, 30 reps
2
Barbell Incline Bench Press Medium-Grip
3 sets, 10, 20, 30 reps
3
Low Cable Crossover
3 sets, 10, 20, 30 reps
4
Standing Calf Raises
3 sets, 10, 20, 30 reps
5
Jogging-Treadmill
1 set, 30 minutes
6
Russian Twist
1 set, 300 reps
7
Jogging-Treadmill
1 set, 30 minutes
8
Decline Crunch
5 sets, to failure
Day 6 and 7: Active rest
1
Jogging-Treadmill
1 set, 30 minutes
2
Russian Twist
1 set, 300 reps

How did you design your diet?

I'm pretty basic with my food and stick to what I know. At first, my diet reflected that. It was mainly chicken and eggs for protein and broccoli for greens. Then, a friend on Instagram told me to check out carb cycling. After that, I started writing more detailed meal plans.

The following meal plan worked well for me:

Meal 1
Turkey Bacon (slices)
4
Egg Whites
2
Avocado
1/4 cup
Meal 2
Protein Shake
1
Almonds
100 cal pak
Meal 3
Spinach
3 cups
Salmon
1/2 filet
Cucumber
1/2 cup
Egg Whites
2
Tomato
1
Meal 4
Grapes
1/2 cup
Mozzarella
1 piece
Meal 5
Ground Turkey
1/4 pound
Broccoli
1/2 cup
Egg Whites
2

How did you keep yourself motivated and on track?

Getting my family involved has helped me to stay on track. My daughters love to bake, so I incorporated some easy meals for them to have fun with while learning to eat healthy, and my son has been designated our official taste tester! By keeping things fun, I'm able to spend quality time with them.

There are days when I allow them to join me for my workouts. Since working out doesn't necessarily have to be in a gym, we sometimes go to the track to break a sweat, take it to the softball field, or just stay home and do fun challenges with planks, push-ups, and crunches.

How did Bodybuilding.com help you achieve your goals?

Entering the challenges held by Bodybuilding.com forced me to put myself out there and deal with the shyness factor while at the same time holding me accountable for my health.

I have always worked out here and there, but it was just doing a little cardio and I was done. The support received from my FitFam on BodySpace has been the best motivation. I've learned so much from the articles on the site about different styles of healthy dieting and different workout plans.

Paying for a personal trainer is not in my budget right now, so I'm grateful for the free information and resources Bodybuilding.com made available to me. Reading about other people's success stories and the inspirational articles also helped a lot with motivating me to keep going.

How has your transformation affected you and your family?

So far, this journey has taught me so much about myself, and I can tell my confidence is coming back. Once I saw that fitness was the key to helping me overcome my lifelong personal struggles of anxiety and shyness, I thought, "Why stop now?"

I plan to conquer all of the fears and doubts I had growing up while making sure I show my children that the sky is the limit when it comes to dreaming. Fitness is helping me with my "mommy mission" of making sure my kids are confident and go after their dreams.

What goals do you have for the future?

I've recently committed to signing up for my first fitness competition this July. This is a big step for me because growing up, I've always been shy and kept to myself. Now, I'm ready to step onstage.

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