Who am I? What is a Figure Athlete? Why am I competing?

Hi

So whats this all about? Well let me start off by introducing myself before I get into the what am I doing and why (still figuring that bit out for myself!) and also why it may or may not encourage women of all ages to look at their health and well being and start to make some positive changes for themselves for their future.

so firstly, my name is Sarah. I’ve just turned 42 and on September 11th, I will be stepping on stage in front of hundreds of people covered head to toe in dark chocolate coloured fake tan, wearing a sparkly bikini, stripper heels and a smile as wide as the Grand Canyon (that bit won’t be fake!). I will be going through a series of poses (which trust me is hard work! we’ll get to that in a bit!) so people can judge me by some completely subjective criteria of what constitutes physical yet feminine.

And yes, I am so far out of my comfort zone right now it terrifies me!

here’s me at the photoshoot I had on the day before my 42nd Birthday – this was a reward to myself for all my hard work and staying on track despite life throwing plenty of curveballs at me. This is also what eventually caused me to decide to go all the way and compete in a figure competition:

I reckon I look pretty good for 42! :-)

And before you think ‘oh its easy for you, you’re so skinny’… let me assure you, it hasn’t always been that way…heres me about 18 months ago…

not such a good look!

and I still can’t believe I got to that state – I’ve always been a sporty person and at this point I was playing tennis 3 hours a week, playing badminton, I don’t have a car so I was walking or cycling everywhere so I thought I was pretty fit, ok I knew I was a little more cuddly than usual, but nothing too serious…right?

WRONG!

So what sparked the change? well after splitting up with my partner of 10 years, I was a bit lost and directionless, so I decided to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, because I love high altitude trekking and hadn’t done any whilst in a relationship. Having trekked at altitude several times before, I knew I’d need to be very fit, so I did the sensible thing and joined a gym, had a fitness assessment and…

to my absolute horror, standing at just 161cm, I was 76KG!! had a body mass index of 34 and my body fat was 33%…

I was OBESE!!!!

What The…..!!!      HOW DID THAT HAPPEN!!!???

so here I was, newly single, 40, fat and frumpy.

I cried. A lot. Life wasn’t supposed to be this way!

I let myself have my ‘poor me’ moment, but I knew that wasn’t going to get me up a mountain, so then I set about getting busy – No more excuses, I was going to climb Mt Kilimanjaro and to do that I needed to change things.

The first thing I did was to change my diet – one thing I’ve learnt in the last 18 months on this journey is that diet is the key – it is critical. You can train 6 days a week, 3hours a day if you like, but if your diet sucks you won’t get the results you expect or hope for. You just won’t.

Diet is about 80% of the equation!

So I cut out bread, rice and pasta, and increased the amount of vegetables – I am a coeliac so I think I have an unfair advantage here because I have to eat clean, home cooked, non ready made food and I just can’t eat junk food – so I can’t crave what I’ve never eaten anyway.

Let me just say here, that I didn’t cut out alcohol! Hey, I like a decent glass of wine as much as the next person, and it didn’t really help that my former partner was in the wine industry so there was always something yummy kicking around the house to have with dinner…and it would be a crime to waste it…

I did cut down alcohol – big dif to cutting out – and even though I kept my diet clean during the week, during the weekend I would allow myself to have toast with one brekky and rice or pasta with one meal, just so I didn’t go completely crazy! (toast! luxury, compared to what I’m allowed to eat now..we’ll get to that bit..)

I kicked straight into mountain training – the essential aim here was to increase my cardio capacity and strength. A typical session would be 20mins interval on spin bike, 20mins with 10kg in the backpack on a step machine and 20 mins rowing, 5 days a week.

Then 3 months before the climb I added a 2nd session every day where I would walk up and down the 38 floors of my office building 4 times wearing a 10kg weighted jacket – that was tough! 6800 stairs a day!

At first I didn’t notice much change, I think between Sept and Dec 09 I lost about 2 kg, then all of a sudden in the 3 weeks before Christmas 09, 6kg vanished seemingly overnight – it was amazing!

From then on the weight kept coming off steadily at about 0.25 – 0.5 kg a week. By the time I did the mountain  in Sept 2010, I’d lost about 18kg and was down to 15.7% body fat! I was absolutely thrilled.

and here’s me – mountain climber!

The trouble is, I’m the sort of person who needs a goal to motivate me to get to the gym, so after the climb, I knew I had to keep going because I’d worked so hard to get down to 58kg and I just couldn’t face returning to where I’d started from. So I kept up the training 5 days a week, and by Christmas 2010 I’d lost another 2kg and was down to 13.6% body fat – I looked and felt amazing!

but then it all fell apart.

2 days before Christmas 2010 and for the next 8 weeks or so due a series of unexpected, intensely

stressful and hurtful events and a health scare, I lost all motivation and by March 2011 was diagnosed with depression – you can guess what came along with that! yep, diet and training almost went out of the window – I put on 4kg in the space of about 3 weeks – I felt awful, like what had been the point of all that hard work and it was undone in just 3 weeks!

At this point I knew I couldn’t keep going on my own, and one of the hardest things for any person to do is admit they need help, but I was determined not to go back to the old me, I just couldn’t. Not now, I’d simply worked too hard for too long to let it go backwards.

so the smartest thing I have ever done was to hire a personal trainer – Wow! What a revelation! I’ve never worked with a trainer before and this guy was awesome – he listened to what I needed, worked out what I could and couldn’t do with my injured shoulders and made training so easy and such fun that I couldn’t wait to get to the gym every day!

Even better, I was training for less time every day, with heavier weights, my trainer was getting at least 50% more effort out of me than I could get by myself and the results, to me, have been nothing short of amazing – you can see from the photos above that its clearly a style of training that totally works for my body – every week I’d spot something new! Even if I was sore for 2 days after a training session I was enjoying it so much that the gym soon became my sanctuary away from the mess of my life.

And as I began to see results I started to set some goals – I thought it would be a fun thing to do a photoshoot for my birthday as a reward myself for transforming myself – I’m a firm believer in reward for effort! :-)

In April 2011 I met Jamie Eason at the Sydney Fitness expo, and she commented on how I was almost one of them (covergirl!), wow! what a huge compliment! And of course it got me thinking…Oxygen Magazine has a covergirl competition which opened in June…coincidentally June 18th was when my photoshoot was booked so maybe I should enter the Oxygen Magazine covergirl competition!

Which I will do….and this leads on to one of the reasons why I’m going to compete in September – my photographer Mariya Mova, also a figure competitor and oxy mag girl asked me if I was competing in the All Female Classic on July 2nd 2011 – she thought I was competition ready! She also told me that if I really wanted to get on the cover, I would have to compete….

So what is a Figure Competition?

according to wikipedia:

Fitness and figure competition is a class of physique-exhibition events for women; while bearing a close resemblance to female bodybuilding, it emphasizes muscletone over muscle size. These competitions are frequently held as part of the same events as bodybuilding contests.

Fitness and Figure are two distinct forms of competition. However, the physique guidelines are similar, and many women cross over from one to the other

Figure competition is a newer sub-category of Fitness contests. The competitors are judged solely on muscular symmetry and tone; as in Fitness shows, muscle size is downplayed. Figure competitions appeal most to women who want to compete in a body competition, but wish to avoid Fitness shows’ additional athletic and creative demands (for the routines round), or bodybuilding‘s demands for heavy muscle mass.

A typical figure competition includes two rounds. In the symmetry round, the competitors execute a series of quarter-turns to the right, allowing the judges to view and compare them from all sides for symmetry, presentation, and other aesthetic qualities such as skin tone, hair, make-up, and stylishness of clothing. In the next round they are judged more critically against the others for conditioning, leanness, and how “feminine” and “athletic” (as opposed to brawny) their muscularity is. 

The two most prestigious professional figure contests are the Figure Olympia and the Figure International in the IFBB arena

As with some sports, boxing is a good example, there are a number of federations and competitions all of which have their own rules and guidelines as to what is expected of a competitor in each category.

I am aiming to compete in the International Natural Bodybuilding Association (INBA) which is supposed to be one of the cleanest competitions, because random drug testing of entrants before, during and after competitions is carried out.

So Why am I competing?

Thats a very good question, because at the end of the day unless you win the big international competitions such as the Arnold Classic or Miss Olympia, or get a pro card, there really isn’t much reward – its a lot of hard work and completely amateur. You might get a sponsorship or get your photo in a magazine, you might win a nice trip somewhere, but from a money point of view it doesn’t pay very highly at all!

But most of the people I’ve talked to don’t do it for money or recognition or financial reward, they do it because they love it – they love the training, the fitness, the health aspect, the clean living, the community, the camaraderie, the competition all of it – I certainly love the training – the feeling of satisfaction I get after being smashed by my trainer is a real buzz.

I guess I’m having a go because I’ve come so far already that I’m curious to see just how far I can go. I have an amazing new body which I’m very proud of, and I’m proud of the effort and determination I’ve put in to get to this stage – it certainly has not been easy or plain sailing.

I’m still discovering new boundaries that I can push, I really don’t think I’ve reached my full potential yet, so who knows what this could lead to – its a very exciting possibility.  Winning the Oxygen Mag Covergirl comp would be the cherry on the top!

So far I’ve done the training – and by all accounts thats the easy bit…I’m just discovering what a lot of other stuff is involved – having only made the decision to compete 2 weeks ago, and its only 10 weeks to the INBA Vic Titles, I’ve left myself with a bit of an uphill climb – there’s so much to do…time to get started!

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