I remember when I first decided to compete. It was way back in 1994, a couple years before I met my husband and 5 years before I actually stepped on stage. It was shortly after the first couple weeks of joining the gym. I was young but I loved muscle and wanted more than ever to look like one of those girls in the fitness magazines. I remember walking into Club Fit and seeing this amazing girl in incredible shape. She had these abs and shoulders like DLB. Her upper body was so lean and her legs, OMG I had never seen legs like that before on a girl in real life, only in the magazines. I was never brave enough to approach her to ask her about her training or anything. I was that creeper in the gym, I just watched her train and was in awh of her physique. I finally asked one of the girls at the front desk if they knew who she was and if she was training for something. That was when they explained she was only weeks away from her first bodybuilding show. It made sense, hell she was in shape! I was intrigued and that was when I said one day I will be on stage! I mean her physique was to die for! At the time I didn’t realize what it took to diet down and to compete. I didn’t know any trainers in the city, I just went to the gym and consistently followed my training plan I designed. I knew that I wanted to be strong and build muscle. I was so naive, I had no idea about diet. Back then nutrition was so confusing, much like it is now. I just ate what I wanted in hopes I would see muscle soon. Fast forward a couple years, I took my personal training courses, basic nutrition courses and decided I wanted to be a personal trainer. I was also working with my family business where we were on the manufacturing side of health food supplements. In 1996 my life changed for the better when I met my husband. He pushed me to work hard both in business and life. He wasn’t a gym goer at all when I met him but shortly after he was joining me in the gym. We started at the Bull Pen gym but then settled into Gold’s Gym where I was exposed to bodybuilding. I was in heaven. There were many members that were competitors. This is the time when I made the decision to compete. There were trainers back then that were recommended so I asked around and finally sat down with them to discuss my goals. I never really understood what it meant to compete. Diets? Training? How hard could it be? I never asked the questions, I just listened because I was told they were the best. I had no idea what to expect. I just knew that if I followed the plan, that I would someday be on stage. My trainers never asked me why I wanted to compete but I knew why. I did want the look, there was no doubt in that but I had always loved muscle. Let’s not forget that I was in the gym at the tender age of 20. I was there because I was once the fat kid in the playground so building muscle for me was my goal. I never wanted to be overweight again. When I decided to compete it was to rid my body of all that bodyfat. There had to be some muscle there to show off. Competing at the time was my only avenue to see all that hard work. I knew then that my lifestyle would always include bodybuilding. I dabbled a bit in personal training and I loved to train.
My first show was Northerns, I dieted for 4 months. I placed and decided to compete at the Provincials a month later. I placed again! BAM! My first year competing I placed! Was I the best? No, I was lucky enough to compete in womens lightweight where I only had 2-3 woman to compete against. I was guaranteed a spot. I was lean but not conditioned enough. I was very happy with my placing but I wanted to be better. Yep, I caught the bodybuilding bug. That same year the Nationals were coming home to the West in Edmonton for the first time in years. I was tempted and I thought, why not? I was told I would never place, that I wouldn’t have what it took to be conditioned enough or have enough muscle. I started in the gym 4 years before, I knew I had some muscle and you could see it at the previous shows. I knew all I needed was conditioning. At this point I had already been dieting for 20 weeks. I had at least a month break before I would have to start dieting for the Nationals. Remember when I said I knew nothing about the diet? Well this is where I learned my first hard lesson about pre contest diets. My diets for my shows were so restricted. No sodium, no condiments, high protein, no fat, high fibrous veggies. Regimented, no options, no cheat meals. It was a crazy ass diet but I followed it to a T. I never ever deviated. I was so focused and determined to be my best. This is where I found my discipline but I also knew that I loved the sport for all that it was for all the right reasons.Dieting, restricted or not was fairly easy for me. However, that restricted diet set me up for a whirl wind of crazy bingeing after my first two shows. I had a month in between and I swear I couldn’t stop eating. First, I had no idea what my body was going thru and well back then no one understood metabolism and my trainers and everyone around me said it was normal to binge after a show. However, I was ashamed and felt defeated. I found myself eating even when I was full. I had a food belly 24/7 and I hated the way I felt and I was starting to look pretty fluffy. My trainers said it was ok, that I would be dieting soon so not to worry. OMG, when I think back to how bad I was, it disgusts me. I would have acid build up in the back of my throat and I would still stuff my face full of food. Finally when the date came to diet, bam I was back on track. I was more focused then ever, especially when I was told I would never make it at Nationals. I had to prove to myself I could and to everyone else. Another 4 months of dieting and training. I was doing 2 hours of cardio and basically chicken and veggies for 90% of the diet. Nationals happened and guess what? I placed 4th place in womens lightweight. This time 12 competitors from across Canada and I placed!!! I was in better shape, my condition was amazing! BAM the diet and cardio worked!
One week later, I was 20 or more pounds heavy. How did this happen? I dieted 4 more months with no sodium, no condiments, only chicken and veggies, no options, no cheats and 2 hours of cardio. When I walked off stage at the Nationals I had dieted for a combination of 9 months in total. This is what set me up for my uncontrollable binges. All my body wanted was food. I didn’t train, I quit cardio, I was ashamed. My body hurt everywhere. All I wanted to do was eat. My food belly was HUGE all the time. I felt sick but I ate anyways. After that week, I thought I better get my ass back in the gym. It didn’t take long for an injury to occur, what did I expect when I was 20lbs heavier. It only took one week of craziness for all my hard work to be covered in water and fluff. YES, bodyfat had already accumulated in areas I never thought would. This was a rude awakening for me. My trainers didn’t provide me with all the information I needed to truly understand the diet and training required. They never spoke of post show rebounds or blues. They never talked of the possibility of body image disorders, eating disorders. They didn’t ask me the question as to why I wanted to compete in the first place. Lucky for me, even though I went through all that rebound, I knew I wanted to compete again. I knew this was the lifestyle for me. It was a sport for me. I needed to be better. I just needed better and more informed trainers. I wanted to live my life in and around the gym. Competing for me has never been about trying to get a pro card. Competing for me was and always has been about being better, building a physique that is balanced and conditioned. It is about living the sport, not just competing in it. Even after Nationals and the rebounds I went thru, I still wanted to compete. In fact I was preparing for the Nationals in 2000 in Calgary however, I felt my body was not responding and decided not to step on stage. Shortly after that, I decided that 2001 would be the year but life threw me a curveball and I found out I was pregnant. Talk about a life altering event.
Having my kids and taking time away from competing never changed my love for the sport. I had my first daughter in 2001 my second in 2006. After my second daughter I had always said I would love to compete again. I slowly got back into personal training full-time and began to live that lifestyle I started with way back in 1994. The drive had always been there. The discipline is something I can’t explain but I have always known that I would compete again.
Fast forward to 2011 and I step on stage for the first time in 12 years. I knew the coach I wanted to work with, I knew he was experienced and trusted his protocol. I never starved, I had options, I had sodium, scheduled cheat meals that were never out of control. Cardio was used as a tool and never over done. I had the bite again. Living the lifestyle was so much easier. Why? It’s who I am and what I do. I also understood what it meant to compete, to diet. I had an incredible coach that supported me. Years before I experienced the worse side of competing, the big rebound. This time though I knew better. No rebounds and no bingeing. The reason, better coaching and I had more knowledge about my own body but I competed for all the right reasons. After my show in 2011 I continued on. It was about setting goals with my physique based on judges feedback. It was about bigger shoulders, smaller waist, bigger legs. Sculpting my body, it truly is an art. I never ever stepped on stage because my friend was doing it, to get in shape for summer, because a coach persuaded me to. It has always been about the sport, the dedication and focus it brings out in me. It is the lifestyle. I continued on to compete until this past July 2014 when I stepped on stage for the very last time. I went to Nationals and went into the show knowing I was retiring from the sport. I did what I had set out to do. I wanted to be on the National stage again. No procard, just the time on stage with amazing athletes. A place where competition is at a level I desired to be. Walking away from competing did not mean that I was done in the gym or understanding my nutrition. It simply meant that I would no longer compete. This is why I know I did this for all the right reasons. I have no regrets. I learned so much about myself when I was 24 yrs old on stage and now at the age of 40 retiring from the sport. No matter what, I will always have a place in my heart for the sport.
Why tell this story? I want those who desire to compete to make sure it is for all the right reasons. This is why I coach. Athletes need to understand all aspects of the sport. It isn’t just about that day. It is pre / post show and how it impacts your life. It’s about you and your desire not about what others do or what they say. It is about researching suitable coaches, understanding the shows and the formats, where to start. I don’t think people who desire to compete really understand it. When they do, it’s almost too late and body image disorder (BID) rears it’s ugly head. BID leads to disordered eating which then leads to eating disorders.
Too many come out of the sport hating it. They hate it due to poor coaching, unbelievable strict dieting and cardio protocol. They hate it because they did not do the proper research into the sport. Don’t be that person. Don’t hate it and have others believe it is the worse sport ever. I’m not that hater yet I did experience the bad shit. I was open minded and did my research but I also live this lifestyle. It is not for everyone so please, before you decide and hire a coach, get all the information you can.
Love the sport, not the look. Understand it and respect it.