When I was eight years old, my parents put me in gymnastics. I fell in love and stuck with it through my youth and into high school. I started cheerleading in high school to stay active and implement my gymnastics background. I was a member at the local YMCA, and my best friend and I used the gym in the morning before school on days when we didn't have cheer practice. I familiarized myself with weight machines and free weights during that time.
I started as a history major in college because my dream job at the time was to be Indiana Jones (professor by day, explorer and archaeologist by night). However, with a history major comes a ton of reading. I wasn't able to sit still through the countless hours of reading so, after more than two years as a history major, I changed my major to kinesiology with an emphasis in exercise science. I wanted to do something I loved for a career and stay active and healthy.
I got serious about lifting at age 25 and decided to compete. I had friends who competed, so I contacted their coach of the Military Figure Team. I work for the Department of Defense as a Fitness Specialist for the Marine Corps, so I was qualified to work with the team. I competed in three shows with them, made great friends, and learned about the industry, but needed more.
I contacted Meriza DeGuzman Ciccone at World Gym San Diego and started training with her and the 619 Muscle/Sexy-Strong team. She educated me immensely and my passion for the industry grew. I'm 5-foot-6 and my first show stage weight was 130 pounds. Now, two years later, I gained considerable muscle, hit the stage last at 123 pounds, and looked my best ever. I cannot wait to see what this year will bring.
My parents made sure I was always active in sports. I was naturally strong and athletic, so I tried a variety of sports. I wasn't great at social interaction as a child. I was awkward and didn't make friends easily, so I felt at peace playing sports. I got along better with teammates then classmates, so sports and fitness were an avenue of escape. My passion emerged during P.E. class when we tested fitness levels as a whole. I performed better than all my female classmates and beat the boys too. That made me feel powerful and I developed a reputation as "the girl that no one could beat," which was infinitely better than "the awkward, weird girl."
My other motivation was the obsessive fear of weight gain. I had a skewed outlook about my body and was never satisfied. I needed to do something positive, change my outlook, and fix myself. I suffered from eating disorders throughout high school, college, and beyond. I wanted a healthier outlook on life. I didn't want my self-worth determined by fashion magazines and skinny actresses. I wanted to be powerful, strong, and demanding.
My son is a huge motivation for me. My biggest fear is for him to grow up without sports and recreational fitness. I want to lead by example, and get him involved. When I train outside, he comes with me. I like to incorporate athletic exercises into my workouts like agility ladders, hurdles, cones, and suspension trainers. He is four years old and has a blast running through mock obstacle courses in the park. He loves to play with my Bosu and stability ball.
I want to be healthy and completely functional well into my old age and be strong and powerful. I want to look like the strong and muscular women who grace the pages of Fitness Rx, Oxygen, and Muscle and Fitness Hers. When I feel unmotivated, especially when it comes to cardio, I imagine those women. They put in time, effort, and self-sacrifice to achieve their dreams. When the going got tough, they got tougher! I admire that and they inspire me.
I have so much fun and love how I train. I will definitely keep competing. As a gymnast, you train super hard year-round for a one-minute routine. Competing in figure is similar. I love showcasing my hard work on stage without having to worry about falling off a four-inch balance beam (I do have to worry about tripping in five-inch heels!).
My next show is at the USAs in Las Vegas, Nevada, in July. Competing at a national level with amazing athletes will be the experience of a lifetime. I would love to win my figure pro card, however, my journey and personal transformation are what I want to display. No matter the outcome, it will be an honor to grace the stage with hard-working women.
After USAs, I plan to take an improvement season to enhance my physique and allow my body to recover and stay healthy. This is the fun time because I can push myself to train, lift heavy, and get stronger. I don't do much cardio, if any, which is a huge perk for me. I want to head into the 2014 competition season better than ever.
If you're a competitor, focus on personal progress and don't get hung up on the competition. This is applicable even if your goal is to gain muscle, lose weight, or live a healthier life. We spend so much time comparing ourselves to others that we lose focus and sight of our positive accomplishments.
Competing is a great way to display your hard work. The ideal outcome is to win, but you won't win them all. You can't control the competition, only yourself. If you worked hard, improved your physique, and gave it your best effort during prep, then live with no regrets. Don't let the outcome of a competition get you down.
I really admire Nicole Wilkins. She was the first competitor I kept tabs on. Our physiques are similar, so she gives me a look to achieve. I met her a few times and she's helpful and willing to offer advice and tips. She's also genuine, sweet, and a former gymnast, so we have similar training styles.
I love my BodySpace account. I've had an account since 2011 and found many people with similar goals, interests, and struggles I can relate too. I get lost for hours browsing profiles and watching transformations. It's a great way to track my own statistics and workout programs. I can see what I weighed at my last show or what my measurements were three shows ago. I also track my goals with my BodySpace account.
The quality of articles published is great. Chances are, if I have a question or need a new workout or exercise, I will find it here. When I first started to develop an interest in competitions, I read many prep articles because I had no clue what I was doing. I received amazing tips and advice, which helped me through my competitions. As a fitness writer, I hope to one day contribute to Bodybuilding.com, but until then I continue to enjoy the articles.
- "Can't Hold Us" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (feat. Ray Dalton)
- "Panic Station" by Muse
- "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark" by Fall Out Boy
- "Poppin' Off" by Watch the Duck
- "Never Gonna Stop" by Rob Zombie
Thanks: I have to acknowledge my family and my husband, Dave, who has been with me since the beginning of my journey. It's a busy and dedicated life that takes time from my family, but he's my biggest supporter. I also want to thank my coach, Meriza, and her husband, Pete Ciccone, for believing in me when I didn't. They helped me in more ways than just as coaches. I had great photography experiences with Casey Withers of C Withers Media, Lisa Iannone with Pretty Pictures, and Brett Seeley, who is the official photographer for 619 Muscle and Sexy-Strong.