Loving wife, math teacher, and…after a couple decades wishing, but intimidated by it… a bodybuilder.
Sometime back in the 80’s, before teaching, before marriage, I had a job as a receptionist at a commercial gym. That’s when I first learned about bodybuilding. I remember watching a competitor eating tuna on a baked potato and was fascinated. My idols were Cory Everson, Carla Dunlap, Lori Bowen, Gladys Portugues… all those 80’s bodybuilders. But I was young and not serious about anything. There is no way I could have followed that path then.
When I was 29, my mother passed suddenly from a brain aneurysm. She was only 56, but she was not healthy. She had a lot of stress, didn’t eat very well, and smoked. A hard marriage and then a rough divorce left her a single mom of two teenagers. She did not have a college degree, but always pushed me to get one. I dropped out the first time I went to college. After she died, I became a serious, goal-orientated adult. I went back to college, earned a math degree, and started teaching. “Serious” plus “disciplined” quickly led to “workaholic”. I achieved a bunch of stuff as a teacher, but lost perspective about life, lost myself, and my health.
By 2009, after many attempts to ‘lose a little weight’, I weighed the most I’ve ever weighed, was on high blood pressure meds for a few years, and my doctor was thinking about cholesterol meds next. One Sunday afternoon in March of 2009, I had chest pains that would not subside. My husband took me to the ER. I was admitted, tested, and observed for several hours. My age at the time (47), my gender, and my general health status made me a likely candidate for a cardiac event. They determined that it was an anxiety attack – this time. Those words were emphasized by a few of the medical personnel that day. This. Time.
I was lucky. I got a warning shot from God. This. Time. On that day, it stopped being about appearance or size. I had let myself follow my mother’s path. I remember how for years after her death, I would go to bed at night and wonder if I would wake up the next morning. I just assumed it was part of getting older, going through menopause, being busy, not having money to spend on fitness stuff, etc. But after that ER visit, I realized that I was going to spend time and money on my health one way or the other. I choose to spend it to invest in a positive result. I took a couple months to research things and make a plan. In June 2009, I bought a Bodybugg and started working with a nutrition coach.
A year later, I had lost 30 pounds and plateaued. After a year of diet and cardio, I realized I spent my cardio time at the gym watching the people who were lifting. And then I remembered…bodybuilding. Didn’t I always want to do that? Why did I forget that? I was scared, though. I knew I’d look foolish. And then God provided another push. He helped me find an old friend from high school that I had always thought was a fearless badass- Paula. She inspired me as an example of how to do things that scare you a little bit. Sadly, she developed breast cancer and passed just a few months after we reconnected. But the few conversations I had with her made me brave enough to set up the first appointment with a trainer. I knew if I could find the courage to show up for the first appointment, it was just a matter of following a path someone else would lay out for me. That’s how I met Nico and I told him my scary plan – “I want to compete in two years, in 2012, when I’m 50. Teach me to lift like a guy.” And that’s where this blog begins – in 2010 when I announced to everyone that this was going to happen.
And I made it happen. It was not easy to change – well, everything. This blog documents my path, what I learned, and how I felt. It was a bumpy process with many mistakes. But I figured out what works for me – I don’t quit.
I competed in 2012 and 2013 in the women’s physique division. In the fall of 2013, I competed in an unsanctioned strongman competition. It was fun, but not my passion. I’m definitely a bodybuilder. I haven’t competed since 2013 because I wanted to take time off to improve and needed time to restore some balance in other aspects of my life. I plan to compete again in the summer of 2015. At that time, I will have been lifting for only 5 years and will be 53 years old. I’m working towards competing as a female bodybuilder in natural federations. I will be doing this for as long as I’m able to do it.
Almost everything in my life has changed and I’m grateful I was able to make those changes. So there are many “Thank You’s”… To God for the warning shot and the awareness to recognize it. To my husband for his support, because as I changed, our life together had to change, too. To Paula for the courage to begin. To Kim for teaching me SO much, and being so generous. To Nico, my first trainer who helped me be optimistic and realistic about my big, scary goal. To Dietrich at DTR Fitness, who mentored and coached me through those first two shows. Thank you to Alberto at 3D Muscle Journey for guiding me as I transition from a newb to an intermediate bodybuilder. To Dawn, who besides being a great cheerleader, named this blog. I’d also like to thank my friends, students, and colleagues for all the encouragement, guidance, and wisdom. Over the last couple of years, my blogger buddies have become great friends. The followers on my page have actually lifted my spirits so many more times than I have theirs.
Lifting fixes me. I love how empowered I feel when I move weight. I use this blog to document the process, to clear my head, and to share what I’ve learned with anyone who wants to know how I changed my life at a time when many my age think it’s too late to change. The bodybuilding part is what keeps me interested because I’m goal-orientated, but the important part is that I’m healthier and happier. I’m so very grateful to God for sending a message too loud to ignore before I killed myself with stress and inactivity. I started this adventure because I was afraid of dying too young. Along the way, I found my bliss. Now, I’m motivated to train just because I love it so much. I will continue to follow the path laid out before me.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6