I have had a dream for the last decade or so of competing in a physique competition. I have always been drawn to the lean and strong, yet sexy physiques of female lifters and competitors. I would pick up copies of Muscle & Fitness Hers and think it was an impossible reality for me, but it remained a dream nonetheless. Once or twice I even found a competition, and set out to train on my own. I had a pretty good idea of what to do from my self-education throughout the years, but couldn’t find the motivation to go it alone. I’d quit within a week.
One day this past September when I was in Montreal and had been eating and drinking way too much, I realized how overweight I had gotten and how unhealthy and unhappy I was. As I stood in the line of Schwartz’s, I Googled fitness competitions in the lower mainland. I found one that was 14 weeks into the future, and decided it was time for a big change. I immediately emailed Donny - having done a few group training sessions with him, I knew he was not only a trainer, he had competed before. I asked him if he trained people, and women in particular, for fitness competitions. I told him my then-current weight and proposed competition date, asked if it was a realistic goal in that timeframe, and asked if he’d take me on as a client. He emailed me back within an hour, tentatively saying yes to all, but asking to meet me on the following Monday to discuss. That meeting was a pivotal moment. He told me in no uncertain terms that this was a serious commitment, not for the frail-spirited, and he was notat all interested in committing to training me if I wasn’t going to give it my all. That was it. I was in. That was exactly what I needed to hear. Someone would be there for me, push me, hold me accountable, and would offer me the proper training and knowledge as both an experienced trainer, and as someone who had lived it before and knew what it took. I was about to embark on living my dream.
My training began the next day. It was brutal. I was out of shape and Donny pushed me hard. I struggled to lift my arms sufficiently to even brush my hair for three days after that workout. But my body adjusted. I got stronger. I gained confidence. Overnight I went from sporadic workouts to training twice a day, six days a week. Donny had me lifting heavy weights for up to an hour a day, six times a week. I was also tasked with 30 minutes of cardio each of those days. Happily, the cardio was intentionally moderate as we could not afford to risk overdoing it and sacrificing muscle mass. Fourteen weeks is not a lot of time, so we had to focus on shedding body fat, while maintaining lean muscle mass. There was no time to build much extra muscle mass(which requires a very different diet, and more time) or mess around. Shed, shed, and shed some more.
And the diet, oh the diet. It was not as bad as I anticipated at first, but it was a significant change. I was to eat no more than 1,200 - 1,400 calories a day, even with all that exercise. Protein was a minimum of 120 g a day (this is a lot if you haven’t tracked your protein before; every meal had to include a fair bit for me to hit that in a day, especially at the low caloric intake). Carbs started at about 110 g per day and decreased by 10 g each week. Fats were not limited, but were automatically controlled by the restricted calories. Obviously, no junk or booze was allowed. Clean eating only, of course. (I will say, though, cheese and peanut butter in small amounts were allowed, which was amazing and helped to keep me sane. Healthy fat in moderation doesn’t make you fat, people!).
Doesn’t sound all that bad? Well it was. I was moody. I was tired. And while I constantly lost 2 pounds a week, I was stressed my body wouldn’t be stage-ready in time. My husband, Dave, suffered right along with me (see my “moody” comment). I remember about four weeks out I was feeling bogged down by the regimented schedule and increasingly strict diet. I thought about quitting. I got sick and had to train through it. My mood was getting more volatile, yet I was also low and teary at times. I showed up to one early morning training session with D-Dog, and burst into tears. He was amazing, totally amazing. He immediately took me to a private area and listened. He sympathized and reminded me this was not supposed to be easy, otherwise “everyone would do it” and the rewards would be much less. He reminded me of all I had accomplished and told me to not quit on the home stretch. He also reminded me the worst that could happen: I wasn’t as low body fat at the end of the day as we wanted. So what? I was developing a real-life kick ass body and was strong and healthy. I will tell you, that man was key to my success. He kept me going through my moments of self-doubt. He got me pumped up and excited about what we were accomplishing. He kept me accountable by having me track every bite and every workout, and examining my records of those regularly.
The last two weeks were just as Donny promised: with the tan, the water shedding, and the crazy low-carb diet (I’m talking no more than 25 g a day - that’s less than an apple), the final changes came fast and hard. Even though the diet was more stringent than ever, I was on an absolute high. I had a ton of energy and was crazy pumped. I remember one of my last solo workouts at the YMCA. I swear I was more defined than a large percentage of the men there. I got stares. But it wasn’t about that external validation; it was about me accomplishing my dream. I walked home from that workout and literally shed a few tears at what I had achieved. I got home and broke into an elated sob in front of Dave. I was living my dream.
That is why I did it. That is why i’ve now done a marathon, two full triathlons (having to learn how to front-crawl in my mid-thirties), and a 160 km gran fondo (and I am no endurance athlete and won no medals, trust me). The joy and internal sense of accomplishment that come with physical suffering, discipline, and sacrifice are indescribable. I encourage each of you to do something monumental like that, something that you think you can’t achieve, at least once in your life. Walking on stage the night of the competition, I was on a high like no other, win or lose. I remember to get the blood flowing in my muscles before I was called out I busted out 15 or so full-body push-ups easily (in my suit and heels, ha), which I didn’t even know I could do. I could do maybe two full-body push-ups, with exertion, 14 weeks prior.
Thank you Donny; thank you Groundwork Athletics; thank you husband of mine. Thank you friends who supported me along the way and cheered me on from the audience at the pinnacle moment. It was worth every second. I am so damn proud I carried out my dream.
I just might do it again.
P.S. If you are motivated by numbers: I started at 168.4 pounds and 34% body fat. Stage day 14 weeks later I was 137.8 pounds and 16.5% body fat. Wow, hey?