Category Archives: Motivation

I’m 7 Today! It’s My “Other Birthday”!

Seven years ago today, I made a leap of faith.  Three months’ prior, the event that sent me to the ER was an anxiety attack, but I didn’t know that on that afternoon in March 2009.  I thought it was a heart attack.  It could have been.  I wasn’t healthy.  I was being treated for high-blood pressure.  I was not taking care of myself.  I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror.  The old woman I saw wasn’t the image I had of myself when I had dreams at night.  I didn’t know how to be happy.   I was stressed because I felt like I needed to do everything and handle everything alone.  Many years before that, my mother died from a brain aneurysm when she was 56 – I was 29 at the time.  I guess I was just waiting for a similar fate and didn’t feel I could control it.  I loved my mom, but I didn’t want to die early, too.  That ER visit scared me and something changed.  I saw things differently. I decided that I was given a warning.  Maybe my mom was given one too, but didn’t recognize it?  Instead of thinking about myself from inside my fears and stress, I stepped aside and looked objectively at who I had become.   I saw a 47-year-old woman who volunteered to carry a lot of responsibilities, was going through the motions of daily life. but was also waiting for that thing to happen that was going to end me.

No.  NO!  I’m not going to go that way.  No.

I used the rest of that school year to research and plan.  On June 19, 2009, I bought a Bodybugg, signed up for the nutritional coaching that came with it, and resolved to do whatever I was told to do. Seven years later, I’m working with a coach now who works with competitors.  The details of what I did are not nearly as important as the fact that I decided to act and not look back.  I promised – no I vowed – that this would be the last time I started over.  I would not quit.  I would not stop.  I would adjust things, I would power through things, but I would not stop.

It’s been a twisty path.  I’ve had some great successes and some disappointments that almost derailed me.    I’ve learned the mental game is more important then everything else.  For me, it is the most slippery thing to keep on track.   I know that negativity takes me off my trajectory.  I cannot indulge it, but I can’t ignore it either.  I lean into it.  I dig under it to figure out what I’m afraid of.

Based on my placings at the three competitions I’ve done, I’ve accomplished very little as a bodybuilder.  Last place three times.  There are days when that weighs on me.  But I am getting better at re framing that faster.  I still have a lot left to do in this sport.  It’s a bit of a mind-trip to be 54 years old, a 20-year veteran in my career, but starting at the bottom in this new thing.  But that’s OK.  I know it doesn’t really matter.  Let’s pretend I actually won at one of those shows I’ve done.  How would my life be different?

It would not be different.  Not one bit.  Nothing would change.

I’d still be married to the same awesome guy.  The dogs would still need to be walked.  Laundry and food prep would still need to be done.  Bills would still need to be paid.  I’d still train how I’m training.  I’d still be teaching and don’t think my students would learn geometry better if I win an overall.  In fact, I am beginning to figure out that being placed last three times has compelled me to learn more about growth vs fixed mindsets, positive psychology, and overcoming fears – all of which are impacting my teaching practice profoundly.  I’ve never failed like this before.  Learning how to cope with this is something I would never, ever have had to learn had I not decided to be a competitive bodybuilder at age 50.

There is a big BIG picture here, too.  No trophy is going to be as important as fixing my health.  A placing on stage won’t be celebrated more than what I’ve  accomplished already.  No matter what I’m doing in 2016, it’s what I did before that I’m asked about most often.  I did a transformation post-menopause, which is something I was told I wouldn’t be able to do.   Others look and think “I can do that, too.”   Having me standing over here, doing this thing, flies in the face of what people believe s possible – and that’s a big deal.  (And for my friends who know that I’m not always this enlightened,  I sincerely thank you for listening and not slapping me around too much.)

This is a photo of who I used to be back in June 2009 next to who I am now.  Please, please don’t be distracted by appearances.  It’s not about how I looked, but how I felt and how disconnected I was from everything.   My current situation – seven years of self-care, six years of lifting, three competitions done, and a year out from my next competition season during the summer of 2017.  (A not-so-fancy-first-thing-in-the-morning-over-exposed-lighting progress picture for coach.  I didn’t take a special picture for this blog, which I think now was a mistake.  LOL!) Same dog in both pictures.   You can’t see Peanut in the first picture, but he’s on the end of that leash.  And Peanut finds a way to photo bomb most of my progress pictures.  🙂

 

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I can’t make it easier for anyone.  There is nothing complicated about what I did, but it isn’t easy.  It will probably take longer than you think.  It will be easier some days and harder on others.  Stars and planets will NOT realign to help you out.  No special workouts.  No special foods.   Just consistent work and doing what I knew I should be doing all along.  I’m just standing here saying it can be done, so adjust if necessary, but don’t quit.

HAPPY OTHER BIRTHDAY!!!!

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Filed under Competing, Life, Motivation, Weight Loss

The “Shit Sandwich” & Other Lessons From Elizabeth Gilbert

This week, some big ideas from unrelated parts in my brain crashed together in a perfect storm of temporary enlightenment.  An email conversation over a few days with my coach about goal setting happened while I was listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic.  This isn’t a book review – I’m just sharing a couple of things I’ve discovered listening to this book that helped me.

For a couple months now, I’ve explored the shame I felt when I competed last July.  If I don’t deal with it, I won’t be able to compete again because I know there will be an anxiety attack of epic proportions.  For those of you who are familiar with her work, one of Brené Brown’s books has already been listened to – twice.  (I’m sure I’ll listen to it a couple more times). There have been a couple of Wayne Dyer’s books, too, and a couple from authors not so well-known.  Each of these books have given me something I can use to evolve my mental game, just like lifting transformed my physique.

She Called it “The Shit Sandwich”

Ms. Gilbert referred to the sacrifices required to make time to be creative while still being a responsible person as eating “the shit sandwich” for your particular endeavor.  It means that that there will be parts of the process that aren’t fun or convenient, but need to happen.  She gave examples of now famous authors who made the time to write, working other jobs, before they were able to make a living as a writer.  She mentioned Toni Morrison and JK Rowling specifically.   She said we need to be willing to do the inconvenient stuff.

Someday, I’d like to be an author, but right now, that’s not where my creativity is focused.  I don’t expect people to understand it, but bodybuilding is where I feel creative.  I work on it daily.  Lifting, food, rest are my tools.   It’s my sculpture.  I’m working on this one project.   I add to it, sometimes work on details, and I walk around wearing it.  I’m happy to do the hard stuff for my craft – “the shit sandwich” of early morning workouts, getting by on less sleep, saving money to pay for it, and the periods of strict nutrition.  But there are other parts of bodybuilding that feel like it’s not worth it.  I do think about these things.  I work on balance.  And I repeatedly ask myself “why do I need to do this?”  It’s a simple answer.  It brings me joy.

Rejection?

When I step on stage, my “art” is being judged.  Last July, my sculpture was the best it’s been, but I lost sight of that fact.  The table of folks below the stage judged my work as inferior.  (Have I told you what happened?  I don’t remember.  When I was moved after the first symmetry round, I wasn’t just moved to what would be a last place position in my own class.  Women’s open and novice classes were brought out together.  I was in the open.  When I was moved, I was moved away from the open class to the other side of the novice class.   I was far stage right, not being compared to anyone during the mandatory poses.  I did not see a single judge look at me during front-facing poses.  I knew I just earned my third last place finish in three shows.  I fought hard to keep my inner demons quiet the whole time I was on stage.  My photographer husband was next to the stage, so I posed for the pictures.  Those are the only pictures where I’m smiling.)  The reflective work I’ve been doing – listening to books, absorbing ideas, applying some, rejecting others – has helped begin to build the mental foundation that I thought was strong enough to withstand what happened on stage that day.  I wasn’t ready.  I need to be sturdier to do what I’m attempting to do – a competitive female bodybuilder in open classes even though I’m in my 50’s – because I don’t want to be caught off guard on stage like that again.  I can’t control where they move me, but I can control how I react to being moved.  I can control who’s opinion matters more to me on that day.  Mine.  Period.

As I mentioned, there were several emails with Coach last week about goal-setting.  He knows what I’m working on.  We’ve also agreed that I need to complete this work before I can compete again.  He gently steered me towards setting goals about personal progression.  Thought about it.   Turns out, that doesn’t work for me.  I see progression as a logical outcome of smart programming and consistency.  So if I’m going to make sacrifices, expect my husband to sacrifice, spend money on this, I need another big scary goal.  I made a list of the big scary goals I’ve set and achieved, even though they seemed hard or impossible when set.  After a few days of sitting with it, mulling it over, and acknowledging that my experience last summer had landed me in a depressing place called “reality”, Coach helped me find the words to set the next big  scary goal…

Last. Woman. Standing.

(Which means I want to win an overall, earn a pro-card, and compete at a national show.  I’ve always wanted this, but three last place finishes has made it seem too naive to hang on to.  It’s still naive and unrealistic.  So what?  I’ve been disappointed already and know what that feels like.  I didn’t set a time limit.  Just owning the dream.)

This one needs a new name.  It will now be called the Big-Scary-Hairy-Improbable-But-I’m-Going-For-It-Anyway Goal.  I honestly believe I will continue to improve and will present a better sculpture each time I compete no matter what.  I have a good work-ethic and a supportive and smart coach.  But it’s no longer about how hard I work anymore, is it?  This goal will fuel my work regardless.  This is “Fire-in-the-belly” sort of stuff.

I listened to Ms. Gilbert addressed rejection and it occured to me that I can learn a lot from writers about judging and rejection.  This passage resonated with me…

“No doesn’t always mean no.  Never surrender.  Miraculous turns of fate can happen to those who persist in showing up.”

~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

So that’s the plan.  I’ll keep showing up.

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Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Competing, Motivation

YOU Magazine Article

article photo

Click below to read a PDF version of the article that was published in YOU Magazine in South Africa last week.  I was contacted by this magazine after someone saw one of my transformation pictures.   I was surprised and honored to be asked.  It’s a wonderful article.  I liked how much they included about hubby.  I’d love to hear from anyone in South Africa who picked up a copy and read it.  My copy is being sent and I can’t wait to see it in print.  Mind blowing!

YOU article

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Filed under Life, Motivation