Over 40 Amateur Of The Week: The Fighting Irish!

Full-time work and motherhood add a dimension to Dawn that makes her superhuman. What doesn't kill her only makes her stronger!

Name: Dawn V. Irish
E-Mail: cookingvoigt@gmail.com
BodySpace: SheLifts123
Location: Des Moines, Iowa
Age: 44  Height: 5'4.5"  Weight: 118 lbs
Years Bodybuilding: 1

How Did Your Fitness Journey Begin?

I have been passionate about fitness most of my life. I grew up in the country with my siblings and we didn't spend summer months inside. Instead, we stayed outside doing chores, gardening, running, and riding bikes. Being active was part of my childhood.

I joined a gym in my early 20s and working out became part of my life. I always enjoyed a physical challenge and learned more sports after becoming an adult. When I wanted to learn to scuba dive, I didn't let the fact that I couldn't swim stop me. I took PADI classes and became certified. I enjoyed many sports and activities, including skiing, hiking, and mountain biking.

How Did Your Passion for Fitness Emerge?

I had never been a runner, but six years ago I discovered and fell in love with long-distance running. As a busy wife and mom of three, running was something I could do just for me and it allowed me to clear my head. I also love being outside on beautiful trails and in nature.

In 2008, I trained for and ran my first half marathon with Team In Training in memory of my grandma who died from lymphoma. I found a new passion and prepared for a full marathon. On the weekend of my 40th birthday, I ran my first marathon in Chicago during the infamous heat wave. I was exhausted and elated. After a short break, I was back to training for my next marathon.

More than two and a half years ago, I was diagnosed with vestibular neuritis, which can cause severe episodes of vertigo and balance problems. I went through a specialized type of rehabilitation therapy to learn to compensate and retrain my brain's balance system. Throughout the diagnosis and rehab therapy, I never gave up the gym or running, but I went from doing marathons to struggling to run a mile while holding the treadmill rails.

Working out, fitness goals, and training for competitions was a passion that I wouldn't give up. I enjoyed the challenge of strength training, lifting weights, and seeing how that changed and improved my body. When I couldn't run marathons anymore, I wanted a new goal and challenge. It sounds cliché, but I wasn't going to let my diagnosis prevent me from something so fundamental to who I was.

At that time, a friend at my gym talked to me about bodybuilding competitions. She had recently started competing and thought I could do well at it and appreciate what it was about. After a few months and some contemplation, I signed on with IFBB bikini professional Kristi Trasey, got a training and diet plan and worked hard. I got my NPC card and competed in my first competition in Kansas City, Missouri.

What/Who Motivated You?

Constant improvement over time motivates me. I'm also motivated by the dedication other bodybuilders have for the sport. Bodybuilding is a 24/7 lifestyle commitment and the amount of dedication and sacrifice it takes is immense.

Because I'm a full-time working mom with many demands on my time, competitors who put the sport in perspective and know how to balance it with family and careers motivate me. I have a deep respect for successful athletes who keep their priorities in check.

Where Did You Go for Inspiration?

Being new at this, I count on fellow teammates for support and inspiration. When I don't feel like getting up at 5:30 a.m. to do cardio, I send a "groupme" text to ask for a "kick in the butt." They always oblige. We make a great support system because we're all in this together.

I can count on my trainer to keep me on track and be a source of support and inspiration. She's also a full-time working mom, so she can relate to the challenges of the sport in the way I do. She received her pro card after becoming a mom. When I struggle with training, she finds something positive and encouraging to say to keep me motivated, which is part of being a great coach.

What Are Your Future Fitness Plans?

The time dedication, physical effort, and financial strain can be overwhelming, but I found a new passion in this sport and plan to give it my all.

I competed in my first show in 2012 and was fortunate to bring home some trophies to share with my kids. My next competition will be in July and I'm working hard to build muscle while staying lean. My goal for the year is to take home a master's overall title and go to nationals.

What Is the Most Important Fitness Tip?

It's a saying I've learned from my trainer in Kansas City: "Consistency over time." My life philosophy, which I think applies to anything, including fitness, is "never give up!"

Who Is Your Favorite Bodybuilder/Fitness Athlete?

I don't have a particular favorite bodybuilder and find inspiration from many different competitors and athletes from all sports.

How Did Bodybuilding.com Help You Reach Your Goals?

Bodybuilding.com has been a great resource for me when I need accurate, reliable information. I used it as a resource for information on proper lifting techniques, supplements and nutrition information, and general articles. It's also great for inspiration and general fitness advice.

Dawn's Top 5 Gym Tracks

  1. "8 Mile" by Eminem
  2. "Back In Black" by AC/DC
  3. "Crashed" by Daughtry
  4. "Don't Fear The Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult
  5. "Bad Company" by Five Finger Death Punch