When I was about 10 years old, I joined the local YMCA gymnastics team and realized I had some talent after working with a fantastic coach. I had the confidence, knowledge, and strength to compete.
I conditioned endlessly. I had a chart taped to my parents' kitchen cabinet with my daily conditioning routine, which I followed to a T. My father constructed a pull-up bar above our washer and dryer in the basement made of plumbing pipe and cable. I relentlessly worked on it every day after school to the point that it broke, which gave me two black eyes.
This was back in the early 70s. There was practically zero technology and no distractions. There was only me and my body, but that was all I needed.
I was terrified to compete, but I went out there time and time again to prove to myself and the people around me that I could do it. I did my best, but I didn't advance the way I thought I should. Still, that determination and drive never left my soul. Throughout my life, I never stopped. I just kept going and proving to myself that I could be the best.
At age 13, my mother convinced me to enter a scholarship essay. In my essay, I wrote that I wanted to be a gym teacher—personal trainers didn't exist yet. I worked on the essay for weeks, explaining the importance of physical activity and health. Of course, I came in second—always a bridesmaid, never a bride—but I was proud of my accomplishment. I was determined to enter the fitness world.
Life had its own plans for me. I fell in love with my wonderful husband of 32 years, Jim, got married, and became a manager for a pharmacy software development team. The money was great and I hated it, but I plugged away day-in and day-out for 13 years. I knew there were better things out there for me, but I had to sit tight and wait for fate!
I never gave up on my childhood dream. I took a part-time job as an assistant gymnastics coach for a local gym teaching young girls how to accomplish their dreams.
When I was about 20 years old, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor (pituitary). After 12 hours of surgery and three weeks in the hospital, the doctors informed me they couldn't remove the entire tumor because it was too close to my optic nerve and the chances of going blind were high. For the next decade, doctor appointments, heavy medication, MRIs, and blood tests were the norm. But it never killed my fitness goals. When you're faced with a lifetime of crisis, it makes you a million times more determined to reach for the stars. It makes you look in the mirror and accept the future.
I started weekly ballet lessons at Ohio Ballet and Cleveland Ballet. These were professional, tough ballet companies. I didn't have a chance, but that didn't stop me. The instructors were brutal and my fellow classmates were not nice. This experience taught me so much. I remember sitting on the stairs in the hallway of Cleveland Ballet crying my eyes out because I knew I would never be a ballerina. I gave it my best shot and that's all I can do.
The doctors told me, due to the tumor, I would never be able to conceive and give birth. Well, miracles happen. When I was age 30, the doctors discovered I was three and a half months pregnant and I was shocked.
I worked out hard during my pregnancy—Jane Fonda tapes were big back then—and gave birth to my miracle boy, Jimmy, who is now a 20-year-old firefighter and paramedic.
My second miracle came when doctors told me the brain tumor disappeared after I gave birth. I couldn't believe it. I'm blessed, healthy, and thank God every day. I was the maid of honor in my younger sister's wedding six weeks after giving birth and fit into my pre-pregnancy size dress.
I still have the determination and drive to wake up every day to keep my body strong and healthy. I will live, breath, and preach it until the day I die.
I love to mix it up. My workouts have so much variety I can't even keep up. Every workout is interesting and challenging. There's never a dull moment and I look forward to each and every workout.
I work out in my home gym that has everything I need, except when I work out with my personal trainer. I can't take all the credit. My trainer, Chuck Mauceri, is awesome. I see him once per week. He works with me for an hour and half or more each week. He teaches me nutrition, proper form, and posing for bodybuilding competitions. He keeps it flowing by always talking, encouraging, and pumping me up.
Dancing is my favorite activity. It's fun and exhausting and I do it practically every day. It's my evening cardio workout. The mornings are dedicated to strength training and various other cardio activities.
I also love to rollerblade and run outside. The outdoors put a whole new spin on fitness. I enjoy hiking and tennis and try to fit them into my fitness schedule from time to time.
My heart rate monitor is my best friend. I like to track my time, average heart rate, max heart rate, and calories burnt so I get the most out of each workout. I feel naked without my heart rate monitor.
I was born with it. There is nothing more I can say. God blessed me to be active, energetic, and fun.
I motivate me. I want to be healthy, fit, and looking good well into my 80s. But I must say, everyone motivates me; the fit, the unfit, the unhealthy, the sedentary, the super athletes, the striving athletes. Just look around and be motivated. I don't want to be fat, unfit, and unhealthy. The healthy, fit individuals give me drive to do better.
There are so many tools out there to provide inspiration. The people who inspire me are those who struggle with imperfections and prove to the world that nothing will stop them.
I came across a website called fitnessstarnetwork.com, which is an online fitness community that allowed me to connect with other athletes and competitors from around the world. I posted pictures and blogs to further develop my fan base.
This led to my introduction to James Erndt, Founder and President of FSI, and Michael Ryan Thibodeau, VP of Business Development. Michael later sponsored me in the Toronto FSI World Championship in October 2012. Being sponsored to compete against competitors from around the world gave me inspiration and accountability in the field. I rocked the FSI World Championship.
I started competing at 51. Call me a late bloomer, but my future plans are to work with Fitness Star Network and bring the Fitness Star Search to Cleveland in 2013. I want to inspire others to make their dreams come true and educate them about the lifestyle I live. I want to help anyone who dreams to be a fitness competitor. I'm going to work with Fitness Star Network and find fitness stars worldwide.
I also plan to compete again in late 2013 to prove to myself that I can be the best.
Never stop. Strive to be better no matter what. Remember, every day is a good day, but some days are great. I've told my son this since the day he was born.
I'm inspired by people who help me become a better person. But if I have to choose, it would be my trainer, Chuck Mauceri.
Bodybuilding.com is the best. The articles, recipes, workouts, and inspirational people are amazing. I've made many contacts and found unlimited support and information on the site. I could be on Bodybuilding.com 24/7.