How Bodybuilding Transformed My Life At Age 42

In 2013, at the age of 42, I found myself at a crossroads. I had been separated from my now ex-husband for two years, I was struggling with feelings of depression and anxiety, and I was sitting at home drinking too much wine—only to wake up the next morning feeling guilty and even more depressed.

I was sick of the cycle. I knew I needed to find who I really was, where I was meant to be, and most of all—I needed to find passion for life again. I was raising two girls (then six and 10), and I was desperate to set an example of confidence, healthiness, and happiness for them.

And then something clicked. I was perusing Facebook one day when I saw that a friend from college (who was also raising her kids alone, as her husband was in the military) had started bodybuilding. As I looked at their pictures I thought, I could do that. I wanted that sort of power and energy. I didn’t want to sit on my couch feeling lost, alone, and purposeless.

Finding Purpose

That fall, I went to the gym for the first time in almost a decade. (If you looked at me in clothes you would think I was in good health, but I wasn’t fit at all.) It was easy enough, because my daughters’ dance studio was renting out an aerobics studio, so I truly had no excuse for not showing up.

Related: Shop protein powder for all your muscle-building needs.

ca1I had a few training sessions with the owner, and tried to eat right, but I was quickly getting discouraged because I still looked the same. Naively, I had expected immediate results.

Despite my disappointment, one thing that kept me going back was the feeling of power I had each time I held a weight in my hand, and each time I pushed myself harder.

Becoming a Bodybuilder

Before long, I hired  a personal trainer. I was hesitant at first because I thought money would be an issue (and who hires a personal trainer right before the holidays anyway? I wanted to eat cookies and continue to drink wine). But I trusted my gut; I knew he was the right one.

I wanted that sort of power and energy. I didn’t want to sit on my couch feeling lost, alone, and purposeless.

Beyond training, I knew I wanted to become a bodybuilder—and my trainer was a Nationally Qualified Physique Committee bodybuilder, as well as a contest prep coach. By February, he became my coach.

Putting in the Work

Going into it, I had no actual idea what bodybuilding would do for me mentally, physically, or spiritually.

Related: How 3 Pro Bodybuilders Stay Motivated In And Out Of The Gym

First, my trainer set me up on a meal plan. I stopped drinking, and I followed a strict diet that was low in carbs and high in protein and fats. I started lifting with just five-pound dumbbells, utilizing high-reps and sets for endurance.

Once my endurance grew, my lifts increased at five-pound increments every eight to 10 weeks. It was a struggle for me to understand that I needed endurance first before my strength could increase, and it has taken me four years to realize patience is key in order to succeed at this. I began to lose fat and I started to build real muscle.

Most importantly, I didn’t quit.

I love my muscles. They inspire a confidence in me that allows me to voice my opinions without feeling fear.

I entered my first competition in May of 2015, after two years of dieting and hard work. I was ready, and it was one of the greatest feelings in the world. I placed first in Women’s Master Figure and third in Open—and I knew I wanted more.

The Lifestyle

Since those early days, I’ve competed four times. Right now, I’m prepping for my 5th show. And, I’ve placed first in the top five of each category I entered in Women’s Figure, making me a Nationally Qualified NPC figure competitor.

ca4.jpg

I don’t compete month after month or week after week. Instead, I choose shows that will help the judges see my improvements show over show. This approach also allows me to not be too hard on my body or my mind.

Will I make it to the National Stage? Maybe one day, if and when my coach says I’m mentally and physically ready. I only want to present my best self. But if not, competing is still fun and exhilarating. I feel beautiful. I feel like I can take on the world after I compete.

It has taken me four years to realize patience is key in order to succeed at this. I began to lose fat and I started to build real muscle.

My favorite snack? One scoop of chocolate whey isolate with a banana (blended), always post-workout (unless I’m prepping for a show and my carbs are lowered).

Related: 8 Breakfasts That Pack Between 20 And 30 Grams Of Protein

I usually wake up at 4:30am for fasted cardio three days a week, I eat every two to three hours, and I train for 75-90 minutes with 30-40 minutes of cardio, seven days a week. I also have to fit in a full time job, meal prep, and my two very active kids!

How Bodybuilding Transformed Me

My kids will be the first ones to tell you their mom is a bodybuilder. I’m teaching my girls that women can look any way they want and that there is no societal “norm” for the female body.  I’m teaching them through example the importance of healthy eating and exercise.

I set the bar high for myself to show my kids that you can do anything you put your mind to.

Although they’re right there with me, some people don’t fully understand why I do what I do or why I love it so much. Those few loyal friends that stuck by me are still there, though, and I’ve made some great new friends along the way.

ca2.pngAll of this has taught me a lot. We live in a world we are judged. And women, in particular, are judged by our looks and our bodies. Bodybuilding has taught me that I am strong and sexy and that I can look how I want to look.

I love my muscles. They inspire a confidence in me that allows me to voice my opinions without feeling fear. They make me feel like I can say “no” without feeling guilty.

And, they make me feel like I can rock a bikini and not care about what others think.

I set the bar high for myself to show my kids that you can do anything you put your mind to. I want to teach them that it shouldn’t matter what the world outside sees; it matters how you feel about yourself.

Related: I Traded Jillian Michaels For The Gym—And I’ve Never Been More Motivated