I've been active for my entire life. When I was very young, I started taking dance and gymnastics classes, and I continued to dance competitively until my freshman year of college.
My high school boyfriend was the one who first got me into weightlifting. We would lift after school using a few dumbbells, a barbell, and his dad's universal machine. Although I paid careful attention to what I ate back then, I was entirely misinformed about nutrition and ate mostly carbohydrates, so even though I was small (approximately 100 pounds), I never really developed much muscle.
My freshman year of college, I decided to quit dance after 15 years. It was extremely difficult for me, and I second-guessed myself many times, but I knew I wasn't interested in pursuing a professional dance career and felt like it was time to move on. After working out in my boyfriend's living room with limited equipment for most of high school, the gym in the Student Rec Center was intimidating. However, with the help of a few friends, I learned my way around all of the equipment and was there practically every day to lift, do cardio or play racquetball.
I worked at a few different gyms during and after college. It was during this time that I first learned about figure competitions and started reading Oxygen magazine. I loved the athletic physiques of the girls in Oxygen and desperately wanted that kind of body for myself. I also saw a few of my co-workers go through the competition transformation and was amazed. Although I idolized figure competitors, I didn't think I had the discipline it took to be one - I was more concerned about partying and having a good time back then. I also had a shoulder injury that significantly limited my ability to lift, so I figured that the training required wouldn't be possible for me anyway.
For the next several years, competing in figure was just a crazy dream I kept in the back of my mind. I can't tell you how many times I would start a program with the intention of getting in shape only to fall off of the wagon after a week or two. I would work out for a few months regularly followed by a few months of sporadic workouts. I found it very difficult to train when I didn't have something specific to train for, like I had when I was still dancing competitively.
I turned 26 in August and really thought hard about where I was in my life and where I wanted to be. I had been a passive participant in my own life up until that point - just going with the flow instead of forging my own path. I ran my first half marathon in January 2011 and was floored by the feeling of setting a difficult goal, training for it, and seeing it through to the end. It gave me the confidence to believe that I could compete in figure.
I decided to go for it. I contacted Figure Olympia champion, Nicole Wilkins, and started online training with her 14 weeks out from the NPC Western Regional. At the same time, I also started a Master's program in Sport and Exercise Psychology in addition to my full-time management job at a Fortune 100 company. Suffice it to say that I had a lot going on! It was difficult at first, but it taught me the importance of time management and forced me to stop procrastinating. The concepts I was learning in my classes for graduate school tied in perfectly with my goal, so I found the knowledge I gained from my classes was really helpful in my preparation for the competition.
On November 5, 2011, I stepped on stage and finally achieved a goal I dreamed about for years. I placed 7th out of 11 girls in my height class. I'm still dazed by the whole experience and that I can actually call myself a figure competitor now. As much as the process seems to be physical, I learned that competing is really a mental challenge and a battle with yourself more than anything else. I learned so much about myself and feel that I have transformed both mentally and physically. Having completed my first competition experience, I can't wait to do it again!
Working out and being healthy makes me feel strong and empowered. Clean eating is not easy for me, but I feel so much better when I am taking care of my body and making healthy choices. Seeing progress and improvements in my strength and endurance makes me feel good and keeps me motivated. Competing has really helped me develop mental toughness and push my perceived limits. I love the challenge of competing and knowing what I'm doing is exceedingly difficult and requires so much discipline and hard work - it makes it that much more rewarding in the end.
I feel very blessed to have Nicole Wilkins as my trainer. I think she is incredible. She knows when to be supportive and when to dish out some tough love. I really admire Jamie Eason also. Through competing and through my blog, I've been able to connect with so many people. Knowing that my experiences are helping and inspiring others is really rewarding and renews my passion for being fit and healthy for the rest of my life.
My 26th birthday really made me evaluate where I was in my life and whether I was happy. I had allowed my career to completely consume my time and energy. I realized I need to find a better balance between my job and my other interests/passions. Once I gained some momentum from completing the half marathon, I couldn't wait to set a new goal and prove to myself that I could do anything I set my mind to! My graduate school work in sport psychology has also been crucial to my physical and mental transformation this past year. I learned how to effectively set goals, maintain motivation, push my limits, reduce competition anxiety, and stay focused.
My second competition will be the Nicole Wilkins Classic in Michigan in July. My goal is to place top three. I will also get to meet my trainer and mentor in person for the first time, which is exciting!
I have also become fascinated by CrossFit after watching the 2011 CrossFit Games, so I may switch gears after my next competition and give CrossFit a try!
Seek out support! The fitness community is full of incredible people. People with a passion for health and fitness can't help but share it with others. It can be a challenge to get started and sometimes even more difficult to keep going once you are on the right path - everyone needs cheerleaders, and people are happy to support you if you let them know you need it!
I always order my supplements from Bodybuilding.com. The prices are awesome and shipping is so fast! I use the BodyStat tracking and progress pictures on BodySpace also. The articles on the SuperSite have been incredibly helpful to me in learning the proper way to train and eat, and I especially enjoy the transformation articles too - great motivation!