The Juggling Act of Single Parenting and Bodybuilding
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Transforming my body made me happier, more confident, and a better parent
In the old days (i.e., before becoming a parent), I went to the gym all the time and loved working out. I cared so much about fitness and always had an interest in bodybuilding. I would look at pictures of the stunning women competitors (especially in the bikini class) and admire their strength and beauty. They were glamorous with such strong bodies yet still remained feminine. The whole idea of training, competing, and getting onstage blew my mind.
But then, of course, life happened. I changed jobs, had a baby, and devoted whatever time was left after work to school. That was my life for two-and-a-half years; needless to say, I was too tired and didn’t have the time or discipline to throw in competition prep on top of everything else. I tossed the idea of competing on the back burner until after I graduated college.
A major rut
By the time I finished school, I was out of shape and tired. I had gained 15 pounds after slipping into bad habits: eating late at night (chocolate is my downfall) and drinking more often. I had horrible sleep patterns and could never stay asleep for more than two hours. I was in a major rut and super depressed. I was at my heaviest weight and beyond uncomfortable.
I was also dealing with a lot of stress that came from a bad breakup and from taking care of my mom (who had just gone through major surgery to manage her cancer) and my four-year-old with very little help.
No more excuses
The idea of getting back to the gym to lose some weight and feel better overall slowly kept crossing my mind until I finally joined a local gym. What excuses could I have, since it was within walking distance from home?
I had to really force myself because at that point, I didn’t love going to the gym. I was struggling and realized how far I let myself get offtrack. It was not fun, and to top it off, the only time I had during the day to work out was at 5:00 a.m. So waking up at 4:30 a.m. to immediately feel the weight of the world on my shoulders was mentally and physically paralyzing.
Nevertheless, I would get up and get my ass to the gym. I’d question what the hell I was doing there so early; with everything I had going on at home, I thought I should be resting as much as possible. I would take days off here and there to sleep but noticed that I felt worse on those days. I hadn’t taken the time to focus on my needs and health, get that pump of endorphins, or sweat out my frustrations.
It felt like forever, but in a few weeks’ time, I started viewing the gym as my therapy and looked forward to getting up early every morning for my time to be at peace. I noticed that I had a little more energy for my daughter and my mom, more patience, and a more positive outlook on life. When it came to working out, I didn’t see any negatives—not one.
As I kept going, I would see the same people every morning, too. I eventually made some friends who shared the same common interest as I did: taking care of themselves in a healthy way. I became friendly with the trainers who took the time to help and teach me. I learned many different exercises and about proper diet. After months of working out five to six times a week, the competition idea popped up again. I shared my interest with one of my friends, and it turned out that he had competed in previous years. What’s that saying . . . “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”? That’s exactly what happened.
He explained what kind of coaching I would need and all the details. My friend/trainer supported me 100% and helped me research and find the right contacts. Working with the right people and fully understanding that the training and diet requires 100% dedication are mandatory for this endeavor. Why put yourself through physical and emotional (and, to some degree, financial) exhaustion if you aren’t going to commit to it and give it your all?
Once I saw the big picture of what competing really entailed, I was sold. Yes, I knew I had a long road ahead of me and that some days were going to be really hard; but, hey, I went through nine months of pregnancy and 18 hours of labor, so how hard could this be? At the very least I wanted to give it a try and see how far I could get.
I suddenly felt this happiness that I hadn’t felt in a while, as the excitement of a new personal journey and doing something fulfilling for myself completely washed over me.
I would learn new personal weaknesses and strengths on so many levels. I would learn about a whole other side of me that I knew existed deep down but just hadn’t had the time to get acquainted with.
I knew this journey would change me for the better mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. The unknown of the end product, the struggles, and having the nerve to face my fear and get up onstage all caused a massive awakening inside me. For months, I felt so blah and depressed, and embarking on this trek completely exhilarated me.
I felt like a different person. My life had a new direction, new meaning, and new goals. It felt amazing to work toward something so personal. I was so used to focusing on others all the time and getting hurt when that focus and care were not reciprocated. This ambitious goal gave me the reason to focus on bettering myself.
Where there’s a will . . .
The biggest challenge was balancing the competition prep with single parenting and working. I wasn’t sure how far I could go because I didn’t want this to drain me so much that I couldn’t give my daughter my full attention. I paid close attention to how I was feeling, and where there’s a will, there’s a way, right?
I made it work. I planned ahead and juggled everything as best as I could. I made a conscious effort to focus on the gym and meal prep in the mornings and solely on my daughter when I got home from work. Always having a mental schedule of what needed to get done at home, the gym, and work kept me super organized and mindful so I wouldn’t give less to anyone or anything that deserved my attention.
The key to being able to manage everything and compete was waking up super early, which allowed me the time I needed to work out, prepare meals for the day, plan for next steps, etc. The best time to get moving is 4:00 a.m. because everyone who needs you is still in a deep sleep! How many hours can you have to yourself every day if you just shift some time around in your schedule? I get about two-and-a-half hours every day to take care of the things that I care about, and it makes a world of difference mentally (and physically, of course).
With that said, I won’t lie: some days training was grueling, and I wanted to give up; other days, it felt as if I had been doing this for years, like I was meant to do it—those were the days that kept me going.
As time passed and my show date inched closer, I felt more tired, more wiped out. I couldn’t wait to have that glass of wine or piece of cake but managed those feelings by reminding myself this was temporary and the wine and cake could wait. I wanted to look my best onstage and show my dedication and how hard I had worked in my training and dieting. And really, after not having sweets or wine for weeks on end, I knew it was going to taste like rainbows and unicorns once I’d finally get to have all that again. Mind over matter is an amazing concept.
Finally, my show day arrived. I was so excited and nervous and just looking to complete the experience of competing. I checked in the show and headed backstage. It was like a glittery, tanned, oiled-up, muscly campground. The competitors had towels, pillows, folding chairs, radios, headphones, coach-approved snacks, mirrors, makeup, tanning spray, hair products, etc.—well equipped for the long day.
I had a long wait before my class lined up for the prejudge part of the show. (Note: this is the first show of the day during which the judges choose the winners but the competitors don’t know the outcome until the final show later that evening.) Having my coach there and getting my hair and makeup done helped distract me from freaking out too much.
Once I saw how I looked as a competitor, I got really excited and was so happy with all my hard work. My transformation packaged into a glorious competition suit made me feel like I belonged with the other competitors who looked amazing and worked so hard. I knew that no matter what happened, I did all this for me and for the experience. I was not going to feel bad if I didn’t place.
After hours of waiting, my class was called, and we were asked to line up backstage. My nerves were through the roof! I was worried I hadn’t practiced posing enough or picked a show too soon and should have waited another six months. All those concerns ran through my head until the class before mine came back from presenting. When I saw the girls all smiling, happy, confident, and wishing us luck, I realized it was time to get out there and just have fun. I worked hard and looked my absolute best; I needed to lighten up, display my hard work, and be proud of my transformation.
We all went onstage and lined up as a group. We posed, and as the judges looked at us, they called out certain girls and asked them to switch places in line and pose again. They called my number in the first group—I could not believe it! (This usually means you most likely will place among the top five winners of your class, but there is no guarantee.)
After we finished posing, we walked offstage. I wasn’t sure what happened or how well I had done, but I felt amazing. After the prejudging, there was a long break before the final show.
The wait time in between the prejudging and the final show flew. For the finals, each competitor walks out onstage by herself and does her solo presentation. I was beyond nervous, but I knew I’d be onstage for only a few seconds. My class finished, and the judges announced the winners. To my surprise, they called out my number for fourth place!
The top five winners lined up and had their pictures taken onstage. I was so happy to have even competed, so getting a trophy was the cherry on top of the competition cake.
Never give up
I was proud of all my hard work and pushing myself on those grueling training days. Once backstage, I immediately called my little girl. (I didn’t have her come to the show because it was far away from home and such a long day.)
She got on the phone and said, “Hi, Mommy! Did you win?” and I said “Yes! I took fourth place!” She was so excited and screaming to my mother that I won. That was the moment that meant everything to me. My daughter watched me train and adhere to a strict diet; she saw me through the tough days and supported me the entire time. To hear how excited and happy she was for me . . . there are no words for this emotion. Having my daughter so proud of me is everything. She is my entire world, and showing her values through my actions and example is my number-one priority in life.
I try to set the best example that I can for my daughter and to show her that although life is not always easy, we are strong and always have to look for the silver lining in all situations. I want her to see that we can create our own happiness and that mental, spiritual, and physical strength is key to living a happy life. When you venture into the unknown, commit to a plan, and give 100%, it pays off. This is such an important fact of life that children need to see and practice so they never give up on their own dreams.
We’re always going to have a tough day or bad stretch here or there, but perseverance, discipline, commitment, and faith will always carry you through the tough times and bring you to the good side of life.
So, moms, please don’t forget: if you have an interest or a hobby, make the time for it. You deserve a break, time for yourself, and self-love. Don’t give up on your personal interests.
We all need to continually evolve and grow, and mothers forget that all too often. We are always putting the needs of our children, families, jobs, friends, etc., first. After a while, you don’t consider your needs or wants as being as important and, in turn, forget who “you” are.
You can have a family and a career and not lose yourself or have to put your interests on the back burner. It is possible. When you take care of yourself, you will take better care of everyone and everything else that comes your way. Everything starts with you. It’s a beautiful thing that comes full circle.
I loved competing so much that I’m already training for another show. For those of you who are interested in my story, follow it on Instagram: @singlemom_ceo / @teenybikinibosslady.