“Badass or Bad Idea”

These days it seems everyone wants to be “hardcore.” But in reality, there is a very fine line between dedication and just plain dumb.

Let me preface this by saying that pretty much every mistake I’m about to list- I’ve made. The thing about pros is that we can be very good at only showing what we want people to see. After all, we are pros, we are supposed to be the best of the best and we have an image to uphold. But in turn, we are doing a complete disservice to those people who look to us for inspiration and advice.

What you get to see are the beautiful stage shots and photoshoot shots and contest shape gym selfies that we like to share, but what you don’t get to see through those photos are the actual consequences of what it might have taken to get there. You don’t get to see the permanent injuries, the thyroid damage, the 25lb post contest rebounds, the reproductive issues, the broken relationships and all the other not so nice things that can go along with taking “badass” a little too far.

Since returning to the fitness world last year, I’ve made it a point to maintain perspective and balance in my life, to keep my health and my relationships at the top of my priority list, even while contest prepping. It’s definitely still a work in progress for me, but let me share with you a quick reference list that may help…

>Getting your fasted cardio in at 5am before a long day of work and returning to the gym later to get your weight training in is pretty badass.
>>Spending 4 hours on the stepmill everyday is a bad idea.

>Training when you’re sore, or improving a different lift/body part/area while recovering from/working around an injury is pretty badass.
>>Continuing to train on a known injury to the point where it becomes a lifetime problem is a bad idea (yes, this one I am very guilty of).

>Getting through your very low carb days two weeks out from your show with no deviations to the plan is pretty badass.
>>Spending 12+ weeks eating nothing but tilapia, chicken, eggwhites, broccoli and asparagus is a bad idea.

>Going to a party and opting to avoid the desserts and alcohol while still spending time with friends is pretty badass.
>>Skipping all special/social occasions for an extended period of time because there will be “bad food there” is a bad idea.

>Doing some extra work on the side to make some extra money to put towards competing is pretty badass.
>>Spending your life savings and putting yourself into debt for the sake of competing is a bad idea.

>Completing a 12-16 week contest prep to the absolute best of your ability is pretty badass.
>>Spending 6+ months on a contest diet without giving your body any time to recover, only to rebound 30lbs when you’re finally “off” your diet is a bad idea.

>Going to the gym instead of to the bar on Friday nights is pretty badass.
>>Being a complete bitch because of your workout schedule/diet to the point where none of your friends/family even call you to hang out anymore is a bad idea.

I’m sure the list could go on and on. The point is, there needs to be a distinction between giving your all and being stupid. You can still be hardcore/badass/completely dedicated or whatever you want to call it, while still being SMART. You still need to dedicate yourself to your goals and do what it takes to accomplish them. If you want something, you need to work your ass off and sacrifice and do things that may not be a lot of fun to get there.

I’m NOT saying to slack. I’m NOT saying to take the easy way. I’m NOT saying to give less that 110% every damn day. But what I AM saying is that part of being “badass” and dedicating 100% is also being knowledgeable enough to realize when something you’re doing is just flat out not good for you. If I’ve learned anything over the years it’s the importance of keeping perspective. You always have to keep in mind the things that are most important in this life- spending time with the people you love, maintaining good health, enjoying this short time we have here on the earth—because winning that plastic trophy at your show will not mean anything if you lose all of those other things along the way.
Just something to keep in mind.

Fitness is not a competition, it’s a Lifestyle

For as long as I can remember I’ve been training for something. In high school I was training to be an elite gymnast, in college I was training to make the lineup on uneven bars, after college I was training for fitness competition. I’ve always had a tangible goal, something concrete to work for, and I’ve always been very good at doing whatever it took to achieve that goal.

I graduated from the University of Missouri in 2006 and that marked the end of my gymnastics career. Looking for something else to do, I decided to give fitness competition a try. Shortly after, I earned my IFBB Pro card in fitness in 2007 and from there it was full steam ahead- in 2008 I placed as high as 2nd in a Pro show and I qualified to the 2008 Fitness Olympia where I placed 10th. At that point I determined that my next goal would be a top 5 finish at the Olympia. It was also around that time that I began having pain in my shoulder. My Olympia performance had earned me a sponsorship with Gaspari Nutrition and my fitness career was on the rise, so there was no way I was going to let some shoulder pain stand in my way of achieving my goal. So despite the increasing pain, I continued to train through and I was determined to compete and re-qualify for the Olympia. I competed at the Arnold in 2009 and probably had my worst showing as a Pro. Instead of letting my body rest and heal, I continued to train even harder to get that Olympia spot. I went on to compete in two more shows that spring, where I placed 6th and 4th- neither of which was high enough to qualify for the Olympia. At that point I started making plans for my prep for the summer shows, but by that time I could barely lift my arm without severe pain so I knew something was wrong. I finally went to the doctor, and I was diagnosed with a torn labrum for which I needed surgery.

Even with the disappointing diagnosis and shoulder surgery (which was much more extensive than originally planned), I was planning my next competition. Doc said recovery would be at least 4 months, I was sure I could work even harder to speed up the recovery. And I did, or at least I tried. But things just weren’t right. My shoulder was “healed” but I still had a lot of pain. I could not raise my arm to full extension, I had limited internal and external range of motion and no matter what I did, I just could not seem to make any further improvement.

At that point, I decided, oh well, I’m going to go back to full training and competing anyway. I continued to compete for another 2 years but was never able to get back to the level of skill I had before surgery because my training was limited and inconsistent due to the shoulder problems. During those two years I still had horrible pain in my shoulder, and I eventually developed the same injury/pain in the opposite shoulder. I tried every treatment you could imagine- PT, ART, manual therapy, massage, acupuncture, cortisone shots, prolotherapy- you name it, I did it. Nothing really helped. I had an invite to the 2011 Arnold, and for the last 6 weeks going into that competition I was not able to train upper body or practice my routine because it was too painful. And it was finally at that time that I decided I had just had enough. I was so frustrated that I walked away from sports and fitness all together.
Last year, an important person came back into my life, and it was because of his inspiration that I was able to find my love and passion for fitness again. He said he could tell I still had some fire in me (despite my vehemently denying it) and he could tell just from speaking with me that I was still very passionate about fitness. It was his belief in me that brought me back to a life I love. Last summer I began training again, free from the pressure I had previously put on myself and I loved it. It felt so great to be back in the gym again, I felt like it was where I belonged. Things fell into place pretty quickly and so I decided to compete in an IFBB fitness show. Not for a placing, but for the love of training and competing. This was after I had sworn I would never, ever step on stage again. I had an amazing time getting ready for the show, and when all was said and done, I was able to achieve my best look ever- first callout with Bethany Wagner and Oksana Grishina—two of the best fitness pros on the circuit.
Unfortunately, getting ready for the show still took the same toll on my shoulders. You see, I have severe osteoarthritis in both shoulder joints, and while its not necessarily a “wow” diagnosis, at this point there is not much that can be done about it. Overtraining will continue to worsen the condition, and the only advice I’ve received (from several different top orthopedic doctors) is to avoid weight bearing on my arms.
The high of competing again, followed by the let down of yet again dealing with this chronic injury has left me in a bit of a slump lately. All of my life I’ve dieted and trained for a specific goal, an end purpose- a competition, a photo shoot, etc, but competing is not really in the cards for me right now. And without that driving force right in front of me, I admittedly feel a bit lost. Although many people find contest prep diets incredibly challenging, what I’m finding more challenging is sticking with that fit lifestyle approach long after the competition is gone. But what I’m learning is that fitness is a lifestyle. Even if I can’t compete, fitness is still my passion. Looking back on all my years, it was never the actual competition that I loved. It was always the training. I loved being in the gym, I loved training every day. The competition was just always there. But just because its not there anymore doesn’t mean I can’t continue to love training. I just need to learn to train in a different way. For so long I’ve focused on what I’m not able to do. I’ve let these injuries get me down because they ultimately prevent me from doing some of the things I want to do. It’s very frustrating to be an athlete and not be able to train and compete to your full potential due to injuries beyond your control. But I’m learning to view things differently. There is still so much that I am capable of doing and I am very blessed to still have the ability to train, even in a modified way.
That is why I’ve decided to enter the 1stphorm athlete search. For me, it’s not about winning. It’s about the motivation to get back to the life I’m passionate about; to help a company promote quality products; and most importantly, to help promote a healthy lifestyle to others. We all have our own challenges, our own obstacles, and our own limitations. Some challenges we can push through. Some we need to work around. But there is no challenge so great that you can’t still find a way to succeed and live a fit and healthy lifestyle. Competitions are great. And maybe one day I’ll be able to compete again. But in the meantime, fitness is not a competition. It’s my lifestyle. And I’m committed to living that lifestyle.