Mandy Embury, IFPA Figure Pro
Coached by: Brian Ahlstrom (nutrition), Ahlstrom Fitness Consulting: Jacob Trout (training), Ahlstrom Fitness Consulting
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“You’re never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream”. ~C.S. Lewis
I am 40 years old, a mother, and a wife to my amazing husband Andrew. I have a dog named Bruce (and he is awesome!). I am a fitness addict. They say the first part of the ‘problem’ is admitting it.
I wasn’t always a fitness addict. I was never involved in sports in high school or college and did not have an interest in the gym. I was the typical very skinny woman that had an unhealthy diet and habits to match. It wasn’t until I started getting older and things started to catch up with me that I cared much about changing things. I developed ulcers in my 20s and just overall started to gain a bit of weight and feel sluggish. It wasn’t until my mid 30s that I chose to make a lifestyle change and take charge of my health.
Like most women these days that first discover fitness I started with running. 5ks quickly turned into half marathons and eventually Olympic distance triathlons. I kept looking for that bigger and more exciting challenge. With each finish of a race I wondered how much farther I could push myself. I signed up for my first triathlon not even knowing how to swim! I quickly learned within 3 months. I was never satisfied with the challenges that running, biking and swimming presented and I kept getting softer and gaining weight.
I was about to embark on training to complete a half ironman when I met a friend at the gym that was training for her first figure competition. I admired her physique. I never thought that my skinny, muscle-lacking body could be capable of participating in a figure competition but that is what really drew me to the sport. It was exactly the challenge I was looking for. I’ve always been drawn to a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt “You gain strength, courage and confidence in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do”. I set out to accomplish what felt at the time to be an over reaching goal – compete in my first pro figure competition by age 40. I was 36 years old when I set that goal. I started this journey as a bikini competitor in 2011 and I will be competing in my first IFPA pro figure show in just a few weeks on September 19th in Kansas City.
Although I have accomplished the goal and set new ones along the way it hasn’t come easy. This is a very tough sport not only physically but mentally as well. I see many girls struggle in this sport, myself included. If you are thinking about getting involved in the sport or have recently begun your training, the following are some things to think about and remember along the way:
- Not everyone will understand your goal and that is ok. Don’t try to exhaust yourself trying to get them to buy into your new lifestyle. It isn’t for everyone. They will eventually realize it is a lifestyle for you and they will accept it for what it is.
- You may lose some friends but you will also gain new ones. Find a few good friends in this sport that you can share the ups and downs (because there will be both!) you are experiencing. It’s a bond among friends you will appreciate having and you will save your spouse or significant other from hearing non-stop talk about your training, protein powder and posing practice. Trust me on this one J
- Jealousy runs rampant in this sport. It may even creep in on you when you least expect it. Trying to blow out someone else’s candle will not make you shine any brighter. Don’t get lost in petty envy over comparing yourself to someone else’s physique. Your physique is unique to you and you only.
- Don’t get wrapped up in competing year after year. The unspoken reality of this sport is that it isn’t entirely healthy. Your body needs time to adjust and get back to normal hormone levels. You need time off – several months if not years – to grow and improve.
- Reverse diet! If your coach doesn’t know what this is RUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Find a new coach! I could go on forever about this topic. Do your research on the subject. (See Reverse Dieting- Who Needs To and How To)
- Don’t let your stage physique and trophies define you as a person. You are more than your physical appearance. Be realistic and remember it is about improving yourself each time you step on that stage. One of my coaches said it best recently “In a subjective sport it is all that we can really objectively do”.
- Most importantly – maintain a balanced lifestyle and don’t lose sight of your true self. Enjoy time with friends and family with foods (in moderation) that you wouldn’t necessarily always have during your off season. We are only human. Whether or not you remain semi-lean or put on a bit of fat in your off season means NOTHING about you as a person.
Competing in physique sports is tough. It isn’t an immediate gratification sport and it takes time, consistency and dedication. It really is a lifestyle for the long haul but one I have really found to be ‘home’ for me.