I haven’t written a blog in a very long time. I’m not sure why exactly other than perhaps I lost my inspiration. More on that in a bit. But it has been an exciting year. First, my son Mitch graduated from college. Wow! That’s both kids now that are college graduates with honors, no less. Also, just a few weeks ago, my daughter Samantha got married to an amazing man. I spent the past year planning that wedding and it was an absolutely perfect day. Now I know why people hire wedding planners because it’s a LOT of work coordinating all of those moving parts. However, I have a bit of a problem relinquishing control of things I have a big stake in, so I wouldn’t have done it any other way. Good stuff and I couldn’t be more proud of both of my kids.
During this past year I also prepped for and competed in my final 2 bodybuilding shows. For those that compete, you know how much prep controls your day from your sleep to your food to your time spent with family and your time spent in the gym. Even on vacations you don’t want to stray too far off course so you make choices with that in mind. The tentacles of bodybuilding reach into every part of your life. Dramatic? Yes, but unfortunately true and anyone that claims otherwise AND does well in the sport isn’t being honest with themselves or you. So let’s consider that I have, essentially, been either on-season, pre-season, or post-season since 2004. (There’s no such thing as OFF season when you compete, is there?) Now I know a lot of people that have competed for much longer than that but for someone with a relatively short attention span like I have, that’s a LONG TIME!
I always wondered if I would know when it was time to retire from competing. Would it just come to me one day or would I have to force myself off the stage? I even asked several happily retired people how they knew it was time to be done. Two of them wanted to have kids (my kids were 10 and 15 when I STARTED competing so that didn’t apply to me), one said he was very happy but that he wouldn’t rule out getting back on stage in a few years (um, that’s not retired, that’s taking a mental health break) and one said he wanted to be able to eat whatever he felt like eating. All of these were altogether completely unhelpful. So I continued to compete, hoping to get to the point where I felt okay with letting it go. The problem with competing after you’ve BEGUN to think about stopping competing is that your motivation is a little on the thin side. On a scale from 1-10, 1 being no motivation whatsoever and 10 being so motivated that you put everything else on the back burner so you can focus solely on winning your next show, I was at about a 5. Now, let’s be honest here, a 5 on the motivation scale isn’t stellar. Don’t misunderstand me though, my diet was spot on and I RARELY, if ever, missed a workout and if I did miss one it was for a good reason and I always made it up the next day. But even though your physical self is at a 9 or 10, if your mind is only at a 5, that’s a problem. Attitude plays an ENORMOUS part in the success of anything that you set out to do. And like it or not, my heart just wasn’t in it anymore. There are multiple reasons that led me to that place which I will not delve into because this already wordy blog would become a novel, but suffice it to say my desire to be on that stage was losing steam.
I’m a bodybuilding judge and MC and I remain that to this day. It’s great fun for me and I’m honored to do both. I seriously appreciate all of the hard work that goes into getting on that stage for a show and I want to be the best judge possible to honor that commitment that’s been made by every competitor up there. But when you find yourself behind that microphone saying “quarter turn to the right” and one of your thoughts is, “wow, I’m really glad that I’m at this table and not on that stage right now” well, you know the writing is on the wall. Fact is, I competed 7 more times over the next 4 years AFTER having those thoughts. Crazy, right? But this sport gets a hold of you because we all have a desire to be better than we are right now. And bodybuilding is a visual manifestation of that goal achieved. But here’s the problem. ‘Better’ doesn’t have to mean more muscular, leaner, or more symmetrical. Most of the time better has absolutely nothing to do with being on stage. And that’s what I finally realized standing backstage at my last show. I wanted to be better at a lot more than just the way I looked. Now, if you’re still competing, don’t take offense because everyone could argue that there’s so much more they are gaining from the sport than just aesthetics and I will agree, to a point. But this blog isn’t about where you are in your life at this moment, it’s about where I found myself and what I needed to do for me. Let’s be clear, lifting weights and exercise has been in my life for 33 years. I was lifting weights for 20 years BEFORE I ever started competing. That will never change. I LOVE being in the gym and I love challenging and pushing myself when I workout. As a trainer my goal is to help others to find that same feeling when they step in the gym. Lifting weights will always be a part of what makes me strive to be a better person. But I’m no longer walking into the gym with the guiding force to make myself look better to a panel of judges. I’m ever so slowly returning to my gym roots of simply loving to lift just to be healthier and stronger. It’s a challenge to be sure because competing has definitely changed the way I look at myself. But I’m working on it and in the meantime learning to be less critical of my imperfections. It’s a slow process because I have and always will have a desire to be fit. But fit doesn’t have to mean 5% body fat with striated glutes. I was fit before I ever had that and that’s where I want to be again.
So there I was, backstage at that last show on the east coast, all tanned up, wearing a very expensive velvet bikini covered in crystals and rocking 5-inch heels. I had a grip on my bands and was getting pumped up to go out on stage. I looked around at all the other ladies doing the same thing and to be honest, one person who had been staring at herself in the mirror and taking selfies of her booty for about an hour and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I absolutely don’t want to be here doing this anymore! BOOM! Hallelujah, I just KNEW! What a relief that I wasn’t going to have to force myself to quit and always wonder if I made the right decision. Whew! I finished up that show with a few more signs from God that this was absolutely the right decision and walked out of that place with a smile on my face and called it a career.
Ever since I made that decision, slowly but surely my creative side, which had been neglected for so many years in lieu of competing, started reawakening. It sounds dramatic because there are a lot of people who compete and stay creative at the same time, but everyone’s journey is unique. And for me apparently, it was one or the other.
So, there you have it. I’ve found my creative inspiration again. Without the all-consuming presence of competing in my life, I’ve discovered that I love to make bracelets. I’m pretty darn good at wedding planning, and I’ve always loved to write, on my own terms, of course. I’ve missed training clients. I love teaching people how to lift and be stronger and just feel better about themselves. And most of all, I’m inspired to work on being the best version of me. Not just the outside, but all of me.
I have some pretty strong opinions about the place fitness needs to have in your life. But I’ve found that I also feel pretty strongly about the importance of balance. Unfortunately, I think I painted myself into a corner for 14 years. So, I’m going to work on regaining some perspective that’s been lost along the way and I’ll try to keep you updated on how that’s going so that maybe, just maybe, I can help one other person find that balance that is so necessary to being the best version of you.
Not everything you touch needs to turn to gold, but the minute you stop reaching out towards new things, even the gold around you will tarnish….