Why I decided to transform
At one point in my life, I held onto some weight from three pregnancies, I cared for my terminally ill mom, did not sleep well, felt depressed, and was saddled with far too much stress.
Needless to say, this combination made me at my heaviest during this time. Going into the fourth decade of my life in November 2010 sparked something in me; it became the catalyst to make changes!
In February of 2011, I decided joining a gym was the best way to get started. I felt that the only thing I had control over was my own physical appearance and health. The latter was the most important thing I wanted to change! As part of signing up, I was given three free sessions with a personal trainer, which I initially wasn't interested in.
Somehow those three sessions drove out the competitive drive and feral beast in me. I saw the value in personal training, and from that point onward, I knew I made some of the best life-altering decisions of my life.
How I accomplished my goals
During my entire transformation, I faced many adversities in both my training and personal life. My mother passed away in April of 2012. In June of that year, my 11 year old son underwent an extensive chest surgery, and a month later, my husband was diagnosed with his second occurrence of melanoma. It was a very tough time. In training, I couldn't fathom making such huge changes to my life at first, but I did not give up. I turned to books, the internet (Bodybuilding.com), and trainers at the gym for help.
I inched along slowly, training one day a week with a trainer and not knowing what to do the other four days at the gym. I knew they offered classes and boot camps that were also taught by trainers, but I felt intimidated at first. I forced myself to go to my first class, a "Core and More" class. Not long after, I almost got up and walked out because I couldn't do many of the things the trainer was instructing us to do.
For whatever reason—embarrassment, fear of failure, or just plain stubbornness—I managed to stick with it, week after week, and began to be able to do things I couldn't do the week before. It helped that there was a woman named Mary who excelled in every class I took; she was a real inspiration to me: cut, lean and very athletic. Mary could do anything the trainers threw at her. Her encouragement, along with the results I was seeing, really motivated me to keep going.
I have my trainer, Kurt Jones, to attribute greatly to my success. He was a tough, hard-nosed, no-nonsense trainer and gave me exactly what I needed. He did not hand out complements very often, but when he gave me one, I knew I had earned it and worked my ass off to get it! Without a doubt, Kurt Jones was a huge factor in my success, aside from my own willingness to work hard and be consistent and disciplined at the gym and at home.
I continued my workouts and nutrition through all of my stress, as they had now become my lifestyle, addiction, and quite honestly, my saving grace. Keeping a food log was also very critical to my success. Without the workouts with Kurt and encouragement from my friends at the gym, I do not know how I would have survived the stress, worry, and anxiety of this crushing stress. Despite how badly I get emotionally torn up, Kurt would never let me hang my head and instead told me to harness my rocky emotions into strength.
In addition to my personal trainer and Mary, the support of my husband and kids were so indispensable. They understood my selfish need to spend a lot of time at the gym—sometimes twice a day—and to cook a lot of new, "weird" things. Things like spaghetti squash, quinoa, kale, almond butter, coconut oil, and almond milk, to name a few of the "new" things I introduced into our household pantry and refrigerator.
What has changed most is my own self-perception. I am a better wife and mother because of how I feel mentally and physically. My investment in my health has benefitted my family. As a result, my kids know what a serving size is, how to read food labels, and what good carbs and protein sources are. I share my healthy recipes with others as well.
What aspect challenged me the most
The hardest part of the journey for me was getting started with the nutrition changes. I had to educate myself on what "clean eating" was and how to support my efforts at the gym.
Of course, what I ate before and after workouts helped maximize my results. It helped me to adhere to good eating when I wrote in a food diary. The work outs were tough, no doubt, but I actually learned to love those as well as the clean eating lifestyle.
My future fitness plans
Since attaining my goals of losing 50 pounds and body fat percentage of 19 in 2012, I have basically been maintaining. Weight loss is no longer my goal, but I change my work out routines to continue to build strength, muscle, and keep my fitness level. To that end, I still work out five days per week.
For my 43rd birthday in November 2013, I had the "after" pictures taken. As a gift to myself and documentation of my journey, I had a friend who is a photographer, Scott Petranek, come and shoot pictures during one of my workouts with Kurt. At age 43, I am currently in the best shape of my life and I love the way my body looks. I feel great and know I am doing everything I can to optimize my health.
People have suggested I compete, and although I appreciate the compliment, it's just not something I am interested in. I officially consider myself a "gym rat" and plan to continue to train hard simply because I love it.
Suggestions for aspiring transformers
My favorite quote is, "You can't out-exercise a bad diet!"—it's so profound and true. What you put in your mouth supports what you do in the gym. An honest, detailed food log kept me accountable and was critical to my daily food planning.
I learned that surrounding yourself with supportive, educated people who have similar goals is key. Join a gym, hire a trainer, do your own research -- any or all of these are integral to success.
If you are going to go through the trouble of making a nutrition and work out plan, follow them! You don't have to be a competitive body builder to get ripped and lean. When I first started this journey, I had never seen "an average woman" look like my friend Mary did, or be able to perform feats of strength and stability that she did.
Anyone who is determined, willing to work hard, and dedicated can obtain these kinds of results. It's a great feeling knowing you earned the results because they aren't going to happen any other way.
How Bodybuilding.com helped me reach my goals
I especially like tuning into BodyBuilding.com on Facebook for daily news feeds from the site. The articles on exercise ideas for specific lifts are some of my favorite. New ideas, new workouts, and the "why" behind certain principles all help me better understand this health aspect of my life.
Reading other people's personal stories has been truly inspirational and worth reading. I loved that I learned so much throughout my journey, and I hope to continue to learn.
Paula's Top 5 Gym Tracks
- "Lola Montez" by Volbeat
- "Lift Me Up" by Five Finger Death Punch
- "Yeah" by Usher
- "Supermassive Black Hole" by Muse
- "Sweat" by David Guetta (feat. Snoop Dogg)