|Photo by Aaron Mnan.
Training for a figure competition had its challenges and stressful moments but it was overall, rewarding and fun. That’s why I made it my goal to compete again. This time, because I’m naturally a smaller framed person, I decided on a bikini fitness competition.
But this fitness journey was different. So, as soon as I found a home in California, I found a gym that specialized in personal training and competition training. Seriously, everyone there looks like a gorgeous fitness model. When I started having to travel 30 minutes to the gym for a 30 minute workout then back again, I started thinking maybe priority one when relocating would be find a gym I liked, then find a house near it. I started my ritual: up at 0430, booty in the car by 5am, at the gym by 5:30. Home, shower, eat and to work all by 7:30. Then get home just in time to meal prep, or do one activity in order to be in bed no later than 8pm or else I’d struggle to wake up the next day.
|One of my coaches spraying PAM on my rear.
The goals and priorities of a bikini competitor differ from a figure competitor. Instead of focusing on getting stronger, the focus was on sculpting my body to look a certain way. The goal for bikini is to look lean, not too strong. So big biceps are not ideal. Working the bis and tris were not a priority. Instead my focus was on getting rid of my excess fat on my belly, thighs, and booty. I didn’t do squats. My leg day never crippled me for three days like they did during figure competitions. I did leg presses…but not too much to avoid quad striations. I did an Elite Fitness Gym trademark — Donkey Kicks and Monkey Lunges, to isolate my gluts without adding bulk to my legs. And man did they work. I saw booty results and so did everyone else. But I couldn’t do as much physically. I was unable to perform pull ups or run like I used to. Something was off.
|At my figure competition.
In contrast, was at my peak of fitness as a figure competitor. I could do eight perfectly executed pull-ups without any problem. I could run a sub-seven minute mile. Each week I exploded past my personal boundaries and impressed myself by being able to lift more and more. As a bikini competitor, I was just thin with a gravity defying rear end. That’s when I realized I defined fitness for myself as what my body is able to do rather than what it looks like. My fit body can run a mini-marathon without training. It can run a mile, relatively fast, without being winded. It can lift things, push heavy items out of the way, sprint itself out of danger if needed. Being able to do deliver these tasks does not necessarily mean my body is going to show cuts and muscle definition.
I recently started questioning if fitness competitions are worth it. And through some introspection, I got my answer, Yes. And here’s why:
1. It’s worth it because it inspires others. That alone makes it worth it. Lauren, one of my fit and fabulous friends, said I was her role model. Now, I know I look to others to inspire me but I have never considered that I was inspiring others. People get motivated by seeing someone they identify with and relate to do something they always wanted to do. I always thought a marathon was out of my league until I saw my cousin complete the Marine Corps marathon. She became my inspiration. I always thought being a fitness competitor took some out of this world ability until I saw my friends Lea, Terri, and Suzanne, who are all just regular girls like me, make a decision to commit. If I can be a link in a motivation chain that motivates another who will inevitably motivate others to make healthy changes in their life then I’m proud to continue.
3. Starts each workout with the end in mind. Training to compete gives you a time frame to work within and a goal to work up to. Without, I’d just stagnant and become complacent. I’d settle for good enough or fit enough. I’d maintain the standard. I’d become complacent with a light jog a few times a week. some jumping jacks, dance around my room to a Taylor Swift song and call it a workout. With a fitness competition as a goal, I have an end point in mind. But when I have an end in mind, I stay focused. I start setting mile stones to get from point A to point B. The competition is really just a display and culmination of a lifestyle. It isn’t the focus, but a showcase of my focus.
|Photo by Justine Pyle. Bodies by Team Armed Forces Europe|
4. It breaks through perceived limitations. Fitness competitions is what turned this uncoordinated girl with a general rule of “no contact sports” into an athlete (of sorts). And even though I still maintain my no contact sports rule, I shattered a physical barrier I thought I had. Fitness competitions took my fitness to the next level. No more accepting good enough when I know I can be better. I learned that I have amazing will power when I tucked away Girl Scout Cookies for four months until after my show! I learned I can make a commitment to healthy eating and regularly scheduled workouts. I learned what you are capable of from the planning to the execution.
5. You reap the benefits of an active lifestyle. The physical and mental benefits of a regular fitness regiment are numerous. Your physical capabilities expand. Your mind maintains a positive, happy outlook. You find balance. And this gem:
6. Your abs become your resume. It’s your credentials and fitness credibility. You might not have your physical trainer certification yet, but you know a thing or two about how to transform bodies and perhaps people will feel comfortable coming to you for non-professional guidance and help. It also keeps those pesky gym pick-up artist at bay or at least challenges them to come up with some more creative pick up tactics…like, “Don’t try to hit on me with your unsolicited workout advice, look at my abs and bis, clearly I know what I’m doing.”
|Michelle Lewin…My girl crush. Love her abs!|
7. Confidence. Whelp, there goes your shyness. Once you’ve gotten up on a stage and catwalk in a tiny bikini and clear plastic stilettos, there’s really nothing you can’t do. Once you shattered this fitness and confidence barrier, you’ll start to wonder, what other barriers can I shatter? Mental ones? Can I master a challenging topic?
8. Fun, Fit Friends.
When you compete, you are competing with other women not against them. Your only competition is challenging yourself to be stronger than you were yesterday. Sometimes you just need a team of your own personal cheerleaders who understand what you are going through and value your story.
|Photos by: Brian Cann Photography (www.heirloomsandintimacies.com), & Justin Pyle & Jarrod Weymar
Bodies by: Team Armed Forces Europe & Team Elite fitness Training in Riverside California
9. You learn the Art and Science of Wellness. So many fitness and health trends come and go. But having a basic knowledge about the relationship between diet and muscle functions to affect the metabolism will help you discern what is legit or not. I’ve learned massages aren’t just a luxury and needing mental health shouldn’t carry a stigma. I’ve learned different goals like getting leaner, growing muscles, gaining agility, getting faster, stronger, training for different sports will hall have different paths. These paths are often overlooked in magazines like Seventeen and Cosmo’s fitness sections. Getting the right trainer to explain the “whys” and “hows” of the body works makes your workouts more effective and efficient. You end up working exactly what you want to work out in minimal time. Having access to the experts in the field can equip you with the awareness to make healthy choices.
The gains are so much greater than just muscles and a great figure. I’m going to continue my fitness journey but do it more my way. I’ve followed two different styles of competition prep and I think it’s time to combine what I’ve learned for my own style according to my values. Looking fit without actually being able to do something with it is of no value to me. So I’ve committed. As I sit here, typing and eating my donut, I’ve made a Bikini Fitness body by Spring Break my goal. and I’m ready to sacrifice more than I ever have before to get the results I haven’t seen before! Kicking it up a notch in 2015.