My journey started on May 14, 2011 when my then husband turned off the car while the windshield wipers were still on, leaving them stuck in the middle. This action filled me with such fury that I literally exploded hours later with the birth of my second child via c-section, two weeks ahead of schedule. As with my daughter, I had gestational diabetes. I had spent the last five months visiting doctors weekly, checking my sugars multiple times a day (did I mention that my entire life I have passed out in the presence of blood), eating on a strict nutritional plan, and giving myself insulin shots- something I had avoided with my first pregnancy. When all was said and done I furiously waddled into the hospital at 160lbs on my 4′ 11″ frame– and unfortunately, I did not give birth to a toddler.
Throughout the course of my life I have had many shapes. In high school I wore children’s clothing, in college I excelled and instead of the freshman 15 I gained the freshman 35–in the first semester, for my wedding I was a confident size 2 soon to be followed up with the news that we were pregnant and no, it is not ok to gain 15lbs upon reading the test results. Similarly, I have tried several different methods of weight-loss. Highlights include the classic “Let’s Just Stop Eating”, the “Cabbage Soup Diet” (those of you that have tried this know how this one ended), the “Lean Cuisine” diet, and my favorite but highly ineffective “McDonald’s Diet” (this meant ordering a water and small fry instead of Supersizing).
Six weeks after the birth of my son I decided it was time to get my body back. This time was going to be different, I was going to do something completely crazy, insane even. I was going to go to the gym.
Nervously I placed both of my children in the childwatch center and I ventured into the gym wilderness. Immediately I mapped out the “safe” areas which left me with the cardio machines and the group fitness classes. I found a class that taught VERY basic weightlifting, and I gradually moved my way up from the 2lb dumbbells (although I’m sure they were mislabeled and I was really lifting 20lbs with how much effort they required). As the weeks passed I began to feel more comfortable and I took the next step, venturing out of my “safe” zone and into the machine area.
My body had never been pushed in such a way. I was attending to the nutritional needs of my newborn, my body was constantly sore, and I was physically exhausted, but mentally I was more alive than I had ever been. I started going to the gym in July and by October I had enervated my knowledge base, but still craved more, so I hired the gym’s personal trainer. She suggested that I set a goal for myself, and I very naively decided to do a bodybuilding competition, aiming to compete in the Bikini division the following March. The more I trained, the more I fell in love with the sport and the harder I pushed. I started taking progress photos and they only added fuel to my fire. Eight weeks before my competition I decided to switch divisions and set my sights on competing in Figure. (Those of you who are familiar with competing are most definitely laughing.) At this point, I made the decision to hire a trainer and started working with Dave Liberman.
Our short timeline meant Dave had to teach me a completely new way of looking at fitness and nutrition, and quickly. (Needless to say, it was a tough 8 weeks.) There were many tears of frustration and moments of hopelessness. These moments paled in comparison though to the self confidence I was finding in my new abilities.
Through the process of leaning down it became apparent that there had been some serious damage to my abdomen from my pregnancies- beyond the normal abdominal separation. The leaner I became, the more pregnant I looked. If I laid on my side my abdominals would sort of slump over in a mushy mass. Many hours were spent sobbing in frustration. I was in the best shape of my life but there I was looking 3 months pregnant and about to step on stage! I consulted with a surgeon and discovered that regardless of how many abdominal exercises I did, the damage could only be repaired surgically. He actually said that he had never seen a patient with this much damage but who could also flex their abdominals into a six pack.
Despite the abdominal difficulties, I had committed to a goal and was going to follow through. My daughter, who was 3 at the time, had grown to recognize my change in lifestyle. I wanted her to see her Mommy as strong and dedicated. I hit the sage for the first time weighing 94lbs on March 31st, 2012 for the NPC Natural Ohio. I had followed Dave’s training and nutrition schedule exactly and came in looking in the best shape of my life! I hit the stage and before the sole of my shoe had even connected with the stage I knew I had found my passion, I couldn’t wait to compete again.
I finished 10th out of 12 girls. I stepped off stage after being in last call-outs, destroyed a chocolate chip cookie (or dozen) and cried. What made it worse was that I still had to go back on stage for the night show. I could have left, but I couldn’t let myself not finish. I took the afternoon to lament in self-pity. I pulled myself together and went back to the evening show with the attitude that it was time to celebrate my accomplishment of stepping on stage in the best shape of my life!
Two days after competing in April 2012, I was rolled into the operating room for an abdominalplasty. As it turns out, my abdomen had not only separated medially, but also horizontally. Originally we also thought that I had a hernia, but it was discovered that the abdominals surrounding my belly button had completely torn apart as well. The surgeon had to stitch my abdominal wall back together twice during surgery. Almost exactly a year later, I was once again wrapped in an abdominal support band just as I had been after my c-section. I committed to stepping on stage again, but only after I had appropriately healed and trained for a significant length of time.
In May 2012 I began to implement my trainer’s off season building plan. I was relentless in my training and completely compliant to my nutrition schedule. I can say with 100% honesty that I never missed a training session. Yes, there were times when it was inconvenient to train and there were situations when it was a hassle to bring my meals. I chose to make the sacrifices necessary so that the next time I stepped on stage I could do so with no regrets, no thoughts of “What if I trained harder, was more compliant…”. The amazing thing about fitness is that it is a never ending progression and evolution. Each day that you make a healthy choice, builds into another day of even more healthy choices.
I stepped back on stage for the Spring 2013 contest season one year later and 5lbs heavier, where it all started at the NPC Natural Ohio. It ended drastically different this year as I went on to win the Open Figure A Class! One year ago I had been sobbing in the back of the car binging on cookies over being in last call outs, this year I was sobbing in happiness over winning!
The following summer in 2013 I began working with IFBB Pro Mike Ely. (Dave Liberman remains an incredible friend and mentor!) His training pushed me to new levels I didn’t know I could achieve. We set our sights on competing nationally and earning my IFBB Pro Card. After another year of intense training and adherence to my nutritional plan I stepped on stage at the 2014 NPC Junior USA’s and won Open Figure A! I missed my IFBB Pro Card in the Overall by one place! Two weeks later we tried again at the NPC Junior National’s where I placed second in Open Figure A! (Class winner’s earned their IFBB Pro cards, I was so close again!!) On August 30th I stepped on stage one more time at the IFBB North American Championships with my best package to date…and earned my IFBB PRO CARD! This has been an incredible journey and I truly would have never thought I would be where I am today.
This is a sport of patience and persistent dedication. It bestows upon those that chose to fully accept it and follow it, bountiful blessings and life lessons that bring positivity into all aspects of your life. I truly enjoy the entire bodybuilding lifestyle from the off-season bulk to the in-season lean down. The journey is what fuels me and keeps me going. Competing is the icing on the cake for me, it is a day of celebrating. It is a day when I get to feel strong,powerful and beautiful. It has not always been an easy road, but it has been more than a worthwhile one! Push yourself, strive to live the life you dream, live a story worth telling.