I Want to be a Figure Competitor
June 2009, Florida
It was 6 am and I felt the sand squishing between my toes as my feet made their way across the beach towards the ocean. It was the first morning of my vacation and I was determined to stick to my newly formed fitness routine. Clad in nothing more than a bikini (my very 1st bikini at that!) I laced up my black Nikes and hit the ground running.
I have always done my best thinking by the ocean and there was a lot on my mind. Down 80lbs (at this point), I had been lifting weights for close to six weeks and was already starting to see some definition in my upper body. The trainer I was working with at that time had just suggested I enter an upcoming provincial figure competition to celebrate my transformation. If I was going to do it, the decision had to be made on this trip as there was work ahead…muscle to build, more weight and body fat to drop, not to mention learning how to pose in 5-inch heels.
I had no idea what this sport was about, only pictures I had seen in fitness magazines and I was pretty damn sure I could never look like that. With each stride on the beach a new thought would emerge – “Did I have enough time? Could I do it? What kind of commitment would I have to make? What would my family think? How would I explain it?”
Raised in a fairly conservative family, I knew they would think I had really lost my mind. At 37, the closest I had ever come to athletic was a year on the swim team when I was 11 or working in the Ontario Hockey League in my mid-20s.
The battle going on in my head was like a hockey game on the verge of overtime. I was on the fence but I had grown tired of making decisions to meet the expectations of everyone else and there was something enticing about the ultimate challenge I couldn’t seem to resist. My inner voice whispering ‘just take the shot’ grew louder.
That night, at dinner with my mother, I casually threw it out there…”my trainer thinks I should enter a fitness competition.” Mom, after a brief moment of shock, enthusiastically asked, “oh, like the competitions on TV where you do challenges and wear a cute little outfit?” “Umm…sort of…except the outfit is a glitzy small suit and the routine is actually a series of turns on stage,” I responded. She told me to go for it and I knew she has no idea what I was talking about. And frankly, I really had no idea what I had signed up to do.
Two weeks later I returned ready to work. The training was fun and muscle development came quickly. But the other side of contest preparation was an experience unlike any imaginable.
The suits needed for stage aren’t an off-the-rack solution. They are custom made, adorned with Swarovski crystals applied by hand (probably the most expensive bikini you can ever imagine!) and require A LOT of bravery to try it on for the first time.
And for a girl who is more comfortable in a pair of Uggs, learning to walk in clear 5-inch platform shoes was a long and painful process. When I wasn’t in the gym, I was practicing walking and posing in the shoes in my sister-in-law’s dance studio at 5am.
Then there was the diet. Leaning out sufficiently to see muscle definition requires a series of diet adjustments over several months. No alcohol, fruit or dairy and low carb cycles are all part of it and for those watching you for the first time, a restrictive diet can often be mistaken for something else. (I was constantly offering up my grocery bills as proof I was not anorexic).
The big day finally arrived. The irony wasn’t lost on me – standing on a stage in front of 800 people to be judged on your physique when you’ve struggled with weight your entire life was the ultimate last laugh.
I didn’t go home with a medal that night but in my mind I had won – living proof that you can fight through bad times to earn the best days in your life. I felt like a princess in that sparkly suit and I fell in love with the sport.
The word “IF” is powerful. I am often asked if I wish I had made my life changes sooner. Of course, but I don’t believe in dwelling on “if only.” Instead I choose to focus on what lies ahead. The most powerful way to dominate your own potential is to look to the future and say “What if.”
Note: I am now 20 days away from my first National competition. Over the next 3 weeks I will be blogging about the road to nationals.