Proving Ground

I’ve been thinking back on the years I spent bodybuilding and my upcoming powerlifting meet. For one passion, I spent the majority of my time trying to prove people wrong. And for the other, proving people right. The difference in mindset is staggering and so have been my results.

As many fans of the fitness world know – there are drug-tested bodybuilding federations and non-tested. Unfortunately, the non-tested federations are the real money-making machines and the shows that garner all of the attention and respect. I have been and always will be an all-natural athlete. My health has always been the biggest factor. I can’t fathom risking my long-term health for anything, let alone something that doesn’t pay my bills. And while it may sound self-serving, I also don’t want anyone to credit PEDs with my results instead of my work and perseverance. The first few shows that I competed in were tested shows in the National Gym Association. They were small but I had the most amazing experience at them. I decided to move into the non-tested shows but remain all natural because I wanted to compete against larger classes and ‘prove myself’ as a true competitor. I placed 2nd in my first non-tested show and then moved from Figure to Women’s Physique. At the time, Women’s Physique was a brand new division, and allowed more freedom in posing, and didn’t require heels. I fit the judging criteria and loved the challenge of this new division.

I was fortunate to capture the attention of a local supplement sponsor after winning the Physique division at a show in Boise. I worked with this sponsor for roughly 1.5 years, taking second at the next large regional show I competed in and planned on heading to Nationals. The sponsor later decided not to pay for my hotel at Nationals after I already driven 10.5 hours and was scheduled to step on stage a day later. Although he had previously promised to pay for it, he went completely radio silent and ignored my attempts to contact him until after the show. I found out that this same sponsor had also told several of my teammates and other athletes that I was friends with, that I would never be an IFBB pro as a natural athlete. It created a monster in me. I HAD to prove him wrong, and prove that he had chosen to disrespect someone who would ultimately be successful without his help. Throughout the years, more and more people would ask me why I stayed natural or would say I should switch divisions. I continued to work, pushed harder, and dieted to even lower levels of body fat. The day before I traveled to my second National show, a trainer/gym owner was chatting with me about how I felt heading into the show. It was the best I had ever looked. His parting statement to me was, “Well hey, at least you’ll get good stage pictures”. It felt like the air had been punched out of my chest. I added his name to this list of people I was going to prove wrong.

I did not win that show. And I spent the rest of the evening and part of the next day in bed just mentally destroyed. Even though I had brought a physique to top all of my other efforts, I felt that I had failed. All of the energy and time I spent building my physique to prove I could succeed had gotten me nowhere. I began to doubt myself – did I really train hard enough? Or long enough? What else could I have done? Or done better? The better my body ‘looked’ the worse my mental state became.

Immediately following that show, I decided to try to train in more of a powerlifting style with my then boyfriend, now husband. He had been powerlifting for a few years and kept trying to convince me to switch over. He disliked that bodybuilding was focused on a few people’s opinions, while powerlifting was black and white – did you lift it or not? As I trained in the gym, I had several friends and gym members tell me I should step on the platform. “I was built for it”, “I’d be great at it”. I was hitting numbers that would rival state records for my weight class. I let my pride get in the way of switching. I still had motherf’ers to prove wrong.

Then, we found out that we were expecting. My training shifted to trying to maintain as much muscle as possible while pregnant and making a smooth and speedy recovery postpartum. I immediately started looking at show dates as goals to hit after I had my daughter. I wanted nothing more than to step on stage again. This time, I decided on competing in a drug-tested show. I wasn’t sure how my body was going to respond to prep this time and I was mainly using this as a way to motivate myself.

Just 3 weeks shy of 1 year after I had my daughter, I stepped on stage again. The prep had been brutal. Trying to time training and food with an infant was beyond difficult. On top of that, I had a lingering cold that seemed to go away and return every few weeks. The day I stepped on stage, I had no voice. My conditioning was better than expected for this prep. I had definition I hadn’t seen before in my legs. I won my WNBF (World Natural Bodybuilding Federation) Pro Card in two divisions that day – absolutely blowing my expectations out of the water. I had achieved pro status after the most grueling prep in my history. I set sights on competing in my first Pro show within 10 months.

And then COVID hit.

I was 5 weeks out from my next show and on track to bring an even better physique. However, I was struggling HARD. I was constantly doubting myself. My relationship was strained – we couldn’t go out to eat, and trying to plan anything was difficult between a toddler and trying to make sure I had my food covered. COVID canceling my show seemed like the worst-case scenario, but in reality, I think it saved me.

Because my show was canceled, and we were fortunate enough to have a garage gym setup, I decided to train for a virtual powerlifting competition. I had 5 weeks to train for it and asked my husband to write a program for me. I hit personal bests in all 3 lifts and became absolutely hooked. To be able to focus on just the lifts, and not what I looked like provided freedom I cannot begin to explain.

The best part about switching to powerlifting isn’t even the body confidence – it’s training with positive reinforcement instead of a negative one. Instead of going into every session thinking that people are doubting me, I go in with the mentality that so many people believe wholeheartedly that I can do it. On many occasions, I looked at what I had programmed and thought “there’s no way in hell I can lift that” and to my surprise, I can. When I express my doubts, friends/family/strangers hype me up and tell me they can see me hitting even higher numbers. When I competed in my first sanctioned meet in June 2020, I won the Best Female lifter against very seasoned competitors. I cannot thank them enough for their support throughout the experience. I had always been terrified to fail a lift in front of people, and I failed my 3rd attempt squat without ever feeling bad about it. I was having the freaking time of my life lifting with everyone. I later won Best Female lifter in my second meet in October 2020 and set 3 state records for my weight class, further fueling my fire to compete.

It’s true when they say that your environment affects everything – and sometimes we have to realize that our environment includes what we tell ourselves in our heads. Of course, I had people who believed in me while I was bodybuilding, but I focused instead on those that didn’t. I had become so jaded with my bad experiences that I created an absolute monster in my mind that I had to battle with day in and day out. The only person I needed to prove anything to, is myself. I have big goals for powerlifting, and I’m going to prove I can do it to myself this time.

One thought on “Proving Ground

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  1. Wow! When I read this, I could visualize the dark, stormy clouds overhead. Then came the the wonderfully bright, warm sunshine! Love your grit, your writing and especially YOU! 💖

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