I grew up dancing, but I never thought of myself as athletic. When I was in junior high I tried a season of soccer and it was laughable. I only attempted because it was the cool thing to do. My dad signed my younger sister and I up for the community league; she was a natural and I would rather get back to my tutu.
In high school, I took dance class as electives in school on top of being in a dance school after school. It was my outlet to express myself and it kept me shape. When I got to college, I joined the cheerleading squad, but it wasn’t as strict as dancing had been so I opted for no cardio.
After some life changes I had put on just over 110 pounds in just under 3 years. That’s a large amount of weight and a very short time. After college and some other life events that made me examine and rethink my path I started to get healthy. I looked at my daily diet and eliminated things that had no nutritional value like soda, I made small changes like this and then started adding cardio in like walking. I started going to a gym class here and there and after moving to a new state for my first career job I got more serious and joined a gym, where I went almost 5 days a week. I used the equipment and took the classes. That was in 2012.
It’s 2016 and I have lost 93.8 pounds. Yes, I know to the ounce. I went from an XL/2XL top to a XS/S blouse. I went from a 22/24 at my largest in pants to a size 4. I started lifting in the summer of 2014 because I had made the decision to compete in a bikini competition. I had made progress in my journey, but I needed a good kick in the butt to kick it into high gear. It was what I needed. When I started I was a size 8 and a 174 pounds. Lifting has changed me for always and in so many ways, more than physical.
Bodybuilding is more than getting lean and toned. It’s more than watching what you eat and counting out your food. You push yourself in so many ways from the dedication to your goal to drag ass at 430 to get to the gym for a 5 o’clock opening all the way to drinking more than your body weight in water because you know it allows you consume all the sodium and helps flush out your muscles. The schedule is crazy and the planning that goes into building the best body is intense.
I recently was told that these bikini competitors, these physique athletes, weren’t athletes at all. They were only getting on stage to look good, there was no need to be strong or have endurance. Well, my friends – fuck that nonsense. I am athlete. I run an 8:22 mile. I squat 140, which may not be a lot, but is almost my body weight for a max of 9 reps at the moment. I have gained strength since I started lifting, even while eating in a slight deficit. I’m eating enough and I eat all the time, for my body to become something better than average. I am not average and I never will want to be. I’m working towards a goal that many are too scared to do.
As I’ve worked on myself and changed my way of thinking about my body and myself, I have learned that there are people out there who are jealous, who are just mean because they can be. It doesn’t make them happier or better than me, it actually is a poor reflection of how they feel about themselves. I guess I was in shock, I seriously couldn’t believe the conversation. It came out of nowhere. Just bad mouthing the look of a competitor and the skill of one. I think the best part was being told that I’m “way too sensitive about this shit. It’s a hobby.” For some it’s a hobby and for others it’s a career and a way of life.
So I asked myself, what does an athlete look like?
Is there a cookie cutter than makes the perfect one? I reached out to a few of my friends, some I have met through the amazing fit family that is on social media and asked them do they consider themselves athletes and why do they do their sport?
Here’s what they said:
Laurie – @tiny_gym_rat
“As my fitness journey has progressed over the years from competitive dancer, to distance runner, to lifting weights, to dabbling in powerlifting and now even giving oly lifting a shot, one thing has remained consistent. I challenge myself both physically and mentally every time I take active steps towards my current goals. It’s rarely comfortable, but always worthwhile.”
Monica – @monica_yng
I was not athletic growing up. I was super overweight and awkward, and I never really played sports. My hand/eye coordination is ridiculous. But in running and lifting, it doesn’t matter. With runners there is always an instant camaraderie and everyone understands that the person you’re trying to beat is yourself. I’m not looking to compete in anything, and that’s okay.”
Tresa – @not_a_runner
“I like lifting because it is all about you; beating your own records. It makes you grow physically and mentally. It pushes you, but if you push back you get stronger. I love pushing my limits and being sore the next day. Or next several days – I still can’t walk right from the other night.”
Carrie – @ccohen814
Carrie had her first child last January after 24 hours of labor. She had gained weight during the pregnancy and had been concerned about it coming off. We’ve been friends since college and 7 months after she had Michael here and I got together for breakfast and we talked about my journey. I told her about the balance of eating what you want sometimes and eating things you need to because they’re good for you. The balance of being active and also watching TV. She has lost all the pregnancy weight plus some. The above photo is August 2015 to now. And she sent me this with it:
“Just wanted to say thank for motivating me! The picture on the left is in Aug and on the right is now! I still wanna lose more and be more muscular, but I had come so far. Thank you!!! You’re such an inspiration! I knew you before, so seeing you on this journey and knowing you do it right – you eat and exercise – you do it right is a real inspiration. It makes it possible! So many people do it wrong, they starve themselves and then after their “diet”is over, they gain it back. I have learned from you it’s a life style change not a diet.”
Melissa/Mellfire – @mellfire
I always felt indestructible, powerful and beautiful when I skated. Whether I was in the best shape of my life or just “fighting shape”I was powerful and felt like I could take on the world. My was a temple even if I didn’t treat it like one.
I was never encouraged to be something great. I have suffered great loss just like many others, but the difference is I am investing in myself. A few years ago I would’ve laughed if you said I would be competing, I would laugh if you said that I would lose almost 100 pounds because Cristina a few years ago didn’t have that much faith in herself. I am unstoppable now. I am an athlete, eve if I don’t look like one.