Make Regular Exercise A Priority

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I freely admit that I chuckle to myself whenever I hear people say that they wish they had the discipline to work out on a consistent basis. It’s not that I am insensitive to the rigors of busy schedules, because I spend my days running from place to place, multitasking and barreling through tons of tasks, errands and responsibilities. But I set aside about an hour per day, six days per week, to go to the gym, and I train HARD and HEAVY every time. In recent months, I have also managed to fit in two aerial hoop classes each week. The main reason why I am so consistent about exercising consistently is that it is a priority, as important as brushing my teeth and showering on a daily basis. As a matter of fact, I look forward to my gym sessions as a way to begin each day, which is why Sunday, my rest day, is a bit rough for me and throws me off my usual daily pattern of waking up and heading straight to the gym.

Perhaps you are one of those people who believes that there isn’t time to work out, and you continue to allow your schedule to annihilate any chance of working out. The thing is, if you actually made working out a MUST instead of something to fit into your schedule as it allowed, you would find a way to get your butt to the gym and follow a plan. I have definitely noticed that people who want to reach certain fitness goals are much more successful in reaching them when they follow a specific regimen which provides guidance and structure. Making promises to yourself like, “I will go to the gym on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 6 am to 7:30 am”, or “I will drive straight to the gym after work every day” can be a great start to adding discipline and consistency, but you need to follow through and hold yourself accountable.

I am not kidding when I say that you need to put your workouts into your schedule! Enter your workouts on your iPhone or your Google calendar so that you have the time blocked out in your schedule. Don’t allow other things to interfere with the time you have allotted for exercise either, because when you do that, you reinforce the idea that exercise is not that important and can be pushed off. Those of us who are committed to a fitness way of life don’t allow life’s little hiccups to interfere with our gym time. It’s that simple.

“Do You Still Compete?”

First Place Masters Bikini 35+ B Class, Team Universe, July 2013

First Place Masters Bikini 35+ B Class, Team Universe, July 2013

Whenever I hear that question now, I have mixed feelings, which range from a sense of longing for the stage, to complete relief that I have not stepped onto a bodybuilding stage for close to two years now. My short answer to the question, “Do you still compete?” is “Probably not.”

Though I competed in four Pro Bikini events, I was struggling so much with metabolic damage and perimenopause that I often think it wasn’t the best idea to jump onto the Pro stage only 4 months after I won my IFBB Pro Card. That sort of strategy might work for a twenty-something competitor who is at the top of the heap, but it didn’t work for my 47-year old body which had been beaten down physically, emotionally, and mentally. I honestly needed a break, but I pushed through, and as a result had ho-hum placings.

It has taken over three years for my body to return to a level of leanness which I feel comfortable with. I know you might assume that I was in a massive spiral with my weight and body fat, but it wasn’t THAT bad, at least not compared with many other competitors who spiral. Nevertheless, I spent over two years with excess fluff that I was not accustomed to at all, and I couldn’t stand how I looked or felt.

Here’s the breakdown of my stats throughout the years:

From age 21 through 43: Between 104-109 lbs., 11-13% body fat
2010 – Age 44: 112-113 lbs., 12% body fat
2011 – Age 45: 114 lbs., 12% body fat
2012 – Age 46: 115 lbs., 12% body fat
2013 – Age 47: FIRST HALF OF YEAR: 117 lbs., 11% body fat SECOND HALF OF YEAR: 119-126 lbs., 13-18% body fat
2014 – Age 48: 121-125 lbs., 14-18% body fat
2015 – Age 49: 119-123 lbs., 12-15% body fat
2016 – (soon to be 50): 115-119 lbs., 11-13% body fat

It has been a veritable see-saw for me over the years. I also firmly believe that I would not have gone through menopause as early as I have if it had not been for all the metabolic insults I made to my poor body as a result of competing. Since 2013, I have investigated every possible cause for the water retention issues which rather suddenly hit me. This year I have FINALLY been able to rid myself of the excess fluid around my midsection, but somehow that was at the cost of the fullness in my glutes which I had worked so tirelessly to achieve during the years in which I competed.

If you ask me what my plans are for competing, don’t be surprised if I evade the question. I realize with each passing day that competing is no longer something which I rely on to define who I am. I have paid my dues and proven my worth, and though I completely understand why people have a drive to compete, I am no longer chomping at the bit to throw on a ridiculously expensive, blingy bikini and stripper heels and put myself at the mercy of a panel of judges.

To Compete, Or Not Compete…That Is The Question

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The experience of being onstage at an NPC or IFBB bodybuilding contest is unique and exhilarating, and I miss it. What I don’t miss, though, is the maddening prep which precedes the event, and the constant self-scrutiny which always surfaces during prep. I remember when I couldn’t wait to step onstage again, and would always make sure that I had a contest lined up to prep for, but my priorities have shifted dramatically over the past year. One thing I grew tired of with prepping for contest after contest is that I had to be so disciplined all the time, and was unable to ever let loose and have fun for fear of messing up my prep. A few of my closest friends even remarked that I no longer knew how to have fun, and they were absolutely right. Though I understand that the sacrifice is essential for success onstage, I don’t want to live in a constant state of physical and spiritual deprivation. Life is short, and I certainly don’t want to look at my life and think, look at all that fun stuff I missed!

last Fall, I visited Hungary, Sydney, and Bali, and quickly realized during these trips that despite all my efforts to maintain clean eating and regular exercise, there was no way that I would be able to hold onto a goal of competing once I returned home. I had been struggling with significant metabolic issues, and though I ate relatively clean during my travels, I didn’t follow the seven daily meal regimen I had been accustomed to. Here’s another shocker: I had wine while in Hungary because that country is known for its wine, and I am a wine lover. I wasn’t about to deprive myself because of some orthorexic thought process which in previous years would have had me convinced that the fermented libation was evil. I also had little to no access to weight equipment, and though I made every effort to use exercise equipment whenever it was available to me, I didn’t follow the six-day workout regimen which I follow when at home. Was that a bad thing? I think not. I was able to see parts of the world which I had always wanted to see, and I had an amazing time. Thank goodness I didn’t obsess over what I was supposed to do and complain about the lack of resources in these countries.

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Though I always want to win, I am not going to have a nervous breakdown over the fact that my placings as a Pro have been underwhelming. I don’t feel pressured to step onstage, and I honestly wouldn’t have a problem with retiring completely from competing if that is what I decide to do. Yet I still get that question, “When’s your next show?” One person (NOT a competitor) went so far as to say, “Hey girl, you need to step up your game!”, which I thought was extremely rude and presumptuous. I am tired of trying to balance a very busy schedule with two-a-day cardio sessions and double training. At the peak of my contest prep, I was training FIVE HOURS daily, six to seven days per week. Every part of my body hurt. I did plyometrics with a foot strain, and trained nonstop with hip bursitis, sciatica, a rotator cuff tear, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel, and a wicked skin reaction to the latex corsets which I would wear. I have been through the paces and have paid my dues. I AM good enough, I just choose to focus my efforts on showing off my brain now. So please don’t tell me that I need to keep running in the race when I already won.

In case you are wondering if working towards a personal best and finally winning my Pro Card was worth all the sacrifice, I can say without hesitation that it absolutely was worth it. Would I do it again? Absolutely. But I will no longer sacrifice balance in my life for the sake of getting to the next level. I have come to terms with the fact that I won’t ever qualify for Olympia, and to be honest, I wouldn’t want that pressure anyway. Life is good, and I have settled into a really nice groove.

Some very well-meaning people in the industry have warned me that the competition in the Pro ranks is getting even stiffer, and I have seen proof of that with my own eyes. Let me be very clear: I am NOT going to get myself all worked up and feel self-conscious because other Pros have raised the stakes. I am quite content to avoid the stage if need be. To be honest, the vast majority of IFBB Pros don’t even compete, so I feel no remorse over my casual attitude towards competing in future events.

Life is about balance, and the way I choose to maintain balance now is by working on my careers, passions and talents fully, without being distracted by notions of returning to the stage. Yes, I love the bodybuilding stage. But I also love my life and the freedom which I reclaimed after shifting my priorities.