Hindsight is 20/20: Weight Training Then Versus Now

before lift shoot with LeeThis article details the five most important things I have learned about training since I began weight lifting over 25 years ago. When I think back on how little I truly knew about the methods and motivation behind working out, I realize that I have come a very, very long way. It was no accident that I obtained an undergraduate degree in exercise science and a medical degree, because I have spent my adult life strongly driven to learn as much about the human body and its potential as I possibly could. However, there is so much warrior spirit and heart that goes into weight lifting, and it can never be taught, only experienced.

Lifting Lady Weights versus A Lady Lifting WEIGHTS

I began lifting weights when I was 21 years old, shortly after embarking on a mission to heal from a year-long struggle with anorexia which brought me down to 85 pounds and also sunk my spirits to rock bottom. At that time my main objective was to learn how to lift properly, which fortunately was supported by my undergraduate studies and eventual Bachelor’s degree. I was rail thin and weak, so it took some time before I made real gains in the weight room. I held the same misconception back then that many women have now, in which I had a fear of lifting heavy and getting too muscular as a result. More than 25 years later, I regularly dispel that myth by encouraging women to lift heavy weights and showing them that my physique, which is not overly muscular, is the result of some very heavy lifting over the last several years.

Maintaining a Nice Physique versus Raising The Bar

During the years preceding my journey into competitive bodybuilding, I never pushed myself to the next level because I honestly never saw the point. I was content with the degree of muscle I had built in my 20’s and 30’s and was surrounded by people who weren’t impressed with weight training, so I never set new goals. Since I was blessed with decent genetics which kept me at a low to normal body weight and a moderate amount of muscle mass, I was pretty complacent (though very consistent) about my weight training. Then I went through a dramatic shift in 2009 when I competed in my first NPC bodybuilding contest and had an “aha” moment in which I finally understood the insatiable desire to push on to the next level and continue to set the bar higher and higher. Essentially, I had been bitten by the bodybuilding bug, and it overtook me with a ferocity and intensity that I had never known. I know that if it hadn’t been for that dogged determination which made me hungry for top national placings and an IFBB Pro Card, I might never have become a Pro.

Competitions & Overtraining versus Paying Attention To Pain

Let’s just get one thing straight: ever since I began competing in 2009, I have become accustomed to training like a beast. However, when I began my journey towards obtaining IFBB Professional Status, my purpose was so singular that I was willing to train until I collapsed from complete exhaustion, a tactic which I now realize is pretty stupid since it wreaks major havoc on the body when practiced for many months or years. I now understand that it is NEVER worth overtraining, or training with injuries which won’t heal because the athlete never takes a break from lifting. Overtraining interferes with muscle gains, immune function, sleep cycles, joint health, mood and energy, and can trigger a complete metabolic meltdown if the athlete continues overtraining for an extended period of time. Though my body’s creaks and groans, along with chronic pain issues from rotator cuff tears in my shoulder and severe tendinitis (IT bands, forearms, feet) were what caused me to finally ease up on the intensity of my workouts, I only allowed myself to pull the reins back AFTER I got my Pro Card. Once the beast had been slain, I fully embraced the idea of training smart and listening to my body’s pain cues

Hurry Up Before It’s Too Late versus Improving With Age

Before I began competing, I honestly believed that there was a freshness date stamped on competitors which essentially relegated them to the dinosaur pits by the time they reached 35 or 40. So I became positively giddy when I discovered that there was a masters’ division in bodybuilding and that I could strut my 43-year old booty onstage without risk of embarrassment. I regarded each subsequent contest as a chance to improve with age, thus using my competitions as a means to beat Father Time. Through my competition journey I have also met other bodybuilding and fitness devotees who do an outstanding job of proving that one can never be too old to be in great shape.

Seeing Clients/Patients One-On-One versus Impacting The Masses

If someone had told me back in 2009 (my first year of competing) that I would build a global following in a couple of years, I never would have believed it, especially since I had become so accustomed to working with fitness training clients and medical patients on a one-on-one basis. My passion for fitness became supercharged when I began competing, and I was so enthusiastic about sharing that passion that I turned to websites and social media platforms to demonstrate favorite exercises and contest video footage. Without thinking about it, I had put myself in a position to lead by example, and used my knowledge, educational background and experience to build fan loyalty and inspire and motivate my followers and fans. To this day, I love getting messages from fans who say that it was because of me that they decided to start competing or to pursue another personal passion which gave them joy and also graced them with optimal fitness.

These days, I often refer to embarking on a fitness and wellness regimen as putting the oxygen mask over one’s own face. That was exactly what I did for myself over 25 years ago. By showing others how to do the same thing, I feel completely in line with my life’s purpose, and it’s extremely rewarding.

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