My fitness passion sparked when I returned from studying abroad with 20 extra pounds. I knew I had to be more deliberate about fitness and started running. For six years, I ran full and half marathons and gradually gained confidence in myself and my ability to accomplish feats I never dreamed possible.
When my personal trainer approached me in September 2011 about competing in fitness, I was ready for the challenge. As I prepared for my first show in April 2012, my weight didn't change, but my physique did. I started around 125 pounds and gradually dropped down to 115 pounds.
I won't back down from a challenge (something I learned growing up as the youngest of three daughters). My dad is very "outdoorsy," and we did everything with him. I'm one of a few women in the gym who are consistent in the weight room and it makes me proud to be a confident, strong woman.
I'm typically shy and quiet, but when it comes to fitness and competing, I become a completely different person. I wanted to overcome my fear of public vulnerability, and competing helped pull me out of my shell.
I work to build mass, so my routine is heavy-based with few reps. My workout can be tweaked for people who want to maintain by reducing the weight and increasing reps. In my building stage, I rarely do cardio, but if I do, it's low-impact incline walking or on the Stairmaster for a half hour. I add an additional 15 minutes of weighted abs to my workout 2-3 days per week.
In the off-season, I typically eat 5-6 meals per day. Right now, my carbs are fairly high to gain mass. If I get hungry between meals, I eat a few more almonds. I drink a gallon of water per day. All of my carbs are gluten-free and meat is hormone-free. I prep my food in advance so I can grab it and go. It eliminates the temptation to grab something unhealthy. Preparation is key.
I love accomplishing goals and fitness provides endless opportunities to set goals. When you find the passion to live healthy you can't go back. Fitness is just as important for the mind as it is for the body. I hope I'm still working out and pushing myself when I'm older.
I love the dedication it takes to succeed and compete in this industry. It may not always be pretty along the way, but the sense of accomplishment when you hit a goal or step on stage is worth it. Being healthy makes me a happier and more fulfilled person, so the investment is worth it.
A year and a half ago, I went to the doctor for allergy tests (since college, I knew my body didn't react well to some foods). The doctor ran a food panel test that shows how my body handled different foods. My tests showed that I was highly intolerant to gluten, wheat, dairy, beef, garlic, and a few others. I had to cut those out of my diet along with other food that I was moderately intolerant to.
In the beginning, it was a difficult change because I grew up in a family which loves food and because I didn't have a good understanding of what foods I could eat. My dieting coach created a plan that fell in line perfectly with the foods I could eat. Since then, I cut out foods my body can't have. Now I don't get sick as often, I have more energy, and I feel healthier overall. Sticking to my diet is tough, but it's worth it because I feel good.
When I need inspiration, I usually go online and look at pictures of competitors or look at my weekly progress pictures. I may not be in competition shape all the time, but that's part of the process and necessary to grow and become better.
I'm currently working to add more size in my upper body to compete in figure in 2014. This year, I plan to compete in three different shows—two shows where pro cards are handed out in the bikini division—and the national Fitness America Show in Miami, Florida. It's my goal to place Top 5 in Miami and obtain a pro card in one of the other two shows.
My ultimate goal is to become a fitness model. As much as I love competing, I love the photo shoot environment more. I would love the opportunity to be on pages inside leading fitness magazines or represent a fitness brand. I get excited about the thought of living my dream. I can be an inspiration for other women to lead a healthy lifestyle beyond what they imagine.
Take it one day at a time. It gets overwhelming to think of the end result while you face the reality of where you are today. Changes to your body come slowly, so don't get discouraged and give up. Focus on what you can do today. Give it your all and eventually you will see results. It will all be worth it.
Although she no longer competes, I've always looked up to Jamie Eason (Middleton). I admire her amazing physique and genuineness. She seems down to earth and sweet.
I use Bodybuilding.com often to build my workouts. I use the muscle group page most frequently and find exercises that fit the muscle group I work that day. I also use the articles as inspiration and to learn more about a specific topic. I refer all my friends to Bodybuilding.com for any questions they have about fitness.
- "Hit the Lights" by Selena Gomez & The Scene
- "Gonna Fly Now" by Bill Conti
- "Carry On" by Fun.
- "I'm Alright" by Jo Dee Messina
- "Happy Day" by Tim Hughes
Thanks/Acknowledgment: I'd like to give a huge thank you to my husband, Jesse, who supports me in every way, and also to my coach, trainer, and gym family.
Photo Credits: Eva Simon, LHGFX, and Gordon Smith