I never liked the sport and didn’t know anyone who ran for fun, but I picked a race, set a goal, and eventually I became a fully addicted runner. I started with one mile at a time and worked my way up to my first 5K, then a 10K, and eventually half-marathons. I really enjoyed running—especially having “me” time and making new friends through the sport. I even placed in my age group a few times!
Once I had my second daughter, though, my body changed. I had issues with my hip and lower back, but nothing crazy or worth seeing a doctor for, I thought. But after two half-marathons, I started experiencing strange pains in my glutes. Then, while showing off on skates for my daughter at her roller-rink birthday party (I was just trying to teach her some cool tricks!), my hip popped in a way that I knew wasn’t normal.
Running was never the same after that. I had pain and limited range of motion in my knee when I ran, and eventually the hip pain got so bad it would hurt when I was just walking up and down the stairs or trying to buckle my seatbelt in the car. I saw a few doctors, one of whom eventually diagnosed me with a labral tear. After anti-inflammatories didn’t do the trick, he recommended surgery.
I was on crutches for six weeks after the procedure. It was miserable. I couldn’t go to the gym, walk, run, or even clean my house. I ate what I wanted and enjoyed a glass of wine any night of the week.
When I got the green light to do very light exercise, I was so ready. I went to physical therapy twice a week and the gym three days a week. I had been cleared to run, so I started a couch to 5K program. My first run out though, I felt pain after a mile. After three more painful tries, I was terrified. I didn’t want to injure myself further after all I had been through to get to that point, and I realized it wasn’t worth it to me to keep trying to run.
But my jeans were starting to feel way too tight, and I knew I couldn’t bare to be inactive. I needed to figure something else out.
Since I couldn’t run and was afraid of re-injury, I decided to sign up with an amazing trainer and nutritionist nearby at Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios. Jim set me on a training and nutrition plan to get back on track. After just six weeks of eating clean and working out consistently, Jim was amazed by my progress. Knowing I wasn’t running, he asked if I had ever considered training for something else: a bikini fitness competition. I laughed out loud at this. But he was serious.
Never in a million years would I have thought that I could have what it takes to get on stage. Those girls looked amazing! So fit, lean, and muscular. But, I figured I had nothing to lose and I wasn’t getting any younger. Why not? I needed something else to strive for since I couldn’t run anymore.
It took me all of two hours to make the decision. Then, Jim set me up with a training plan of workouts and meal plans.
Logging miles for a race is one thing, but being really particular about eating healthy foods was a whole new way of training. There are a few ways you can go about nutrition during competition prep. Some competitors follow the “If It Fits Your Macros” (IIFYM) plan, but I didn’t have time to count or think that hard about my food so I used the “Bro Plan”—a.k.a. eating the same thing every day.
A typical day during prep looked like this:
Wake up: egg-white omelette with veggies and a side of sweet potatoes
10:00 am Snack: protein (chicken), veggies, and sweet potatoes
12:00 pm Lunch: protein, veggies, and sweet potatoes
3:00/3:30 Snack: protein, veggies, and sweet potatoes
6:30 Dinner: protein, veggies, and sweet potatoes
9:00 Snack: egg whites with Walden Farms syrup and almond butter on the side
My husband and I would grocery shop every other day and buy eight chicken breasts at a time, two bags of broccoli, and eight sweet potatoes. We’d grill four one night and four the next and cook all eight sweet potatoes in one go, then measure and weigh everything into separate storage containers. (Hit the reset button—and burn fat like crazy with The Body Clock Diet!)
Now, when I’m not in prep for a competition, I definitely give into my indulgences more—namely Cheerios and wine. But during prep, I’m all in.
My typical week involved lifting weights four days a week—heavy legs and abs day; back, shoulders, and abs day; light legs day and abs day; and arms, chest, and abs day—an hour of cardio once a week (usually walking on an inclined treadmill), and resting the other two. It was all so different from running, but I loved the challenge.
The biggest change for me was working my legs. I had never really worked them specifically, and at first, I wasn’t a fan of leg day. Now I do legs twice a week and my legs have never looked so good. I could not be more proud of my hard work.
I prepped like this for months—and I was invigorated by jumping into something entirely new. I never put that much effort into running or other sports—nothing has ever ignited so much passion in me like prepping for my first show. I wanted so badly to do my absolute best. I didn’t really know anyone else in the sport, so I felt somewhat empowered simply because I was going against the grain and doing something different. It lit a fire in me. I was going to do this, all the way, the best I could, with no cheating, no skipping workouts.
And it worked: I won 1st place in my first bikini show!
At 36 years old, I am now healthier, leaner, more muscular, and more confident than I have ever been in my life. The best part is my little girls think that I am the coolest mom ever because I won a sword and have muscles. One day, my oldest said I was the strongest mom at the bus stop. I love that they noticed and were able to see the transition from injured, to surgery, to recovery, to reshaping my health and mindset. I want them to know you can always try something new that might make you happy and help you feel empowered.
You are never too old or too far gone to start working out, to start eating better, to become a healthier version of you. I’ve had to start over so many times now. After the first baby, after the second baby, after surgery—the hardest part is starting. But eventually your start becomes your warmup.
And now I know I can do anything—because I did. Crushing a goal that was outside my comfort zone gave me a newfound confidence.