After returning home from nationals, I felt like I could finally relax. I didn’t have to maintain such a rigorous training schedule and diet. This was also time to reflect on everything. From my training prep, my competitions and life in general.
It was back to normal life. Steve and I still had our regular after school training sessions together. I looked forward to training with him so much. It was the best part of my day.
Besides the fact that he was my boyfriend, I couldn’t wait to see my smiley sassy-faced man and to hear what smart aleck remark was going to come out of his mouth.
He always had something witty to say, which only made me more drawn to him. You see, I’m a sassy girl at heart, and our relationship always had this healthy banter. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It wasn’t the type of back and forth rip on each other interaction where you were left feeling irritated. It was flirtatious in nature, not only in our speech, but also in the looks we’d exchange. Steve would make a comment and the moment I heard it, it was as if some switch was turned on inside of me that caused me to raise my eye-brows and respond with an, oh really, attitude.
It was the same way when we’d work out. Steve knew how to push me to the fringe of my breaking point, but we both knew I’d rise to any challenge he’d send my way. There would be no way that I’d give him the satisfaction of me giving up. That wasn’t going to happen. Each session I felt like I was proving what I was made of to Steve, but in all actuality, I was growing stronger and stronger physically, mentally and spiritually.
He pushed me like no one could and helped me to truly believe I can/could do anything. He reinforced what God says about me, that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13
Steve may not have known or recognized the depth of impact his training had on me. In my moments of weakness, I was reminded and humbled that when I am weak, Jesus is strong and that I truly need to depend on HIS STRENGTH.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
So there I was, in a relationship with a man who built me up, who reinforced what God said about me, who cheered me on, comforted me in the hardest moments of my training. He spoke life into me, or as I called him, “my biggest cheerleader.” Not only because he was the person in my life that encouraged me the most, but because he was the biggest–my meathead. He even had some cheerleader capabilities physically.
We had just finished our own boxing workout in the MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) room. I was stretching and of course Steve was not. I was making fun of his lack of flexibility. He said “oh yeah?”
It was then that my meathead some how jumped into the air, legs in the straddle position, launching his 225 frame off the ground and touched his toes. He landed and I was speechless. He had me beat. How on earth could he do a Russian jump better than me!
Because he was Steve, that’s how.
I’ll never forget during the final weeks of show prep, I was at Steve’s house and we were just lying on his bed. I was completely exhausted. I was in the most grueling part of my training. I had to make drastic changes in my training and diet that were draining me on all levels.
I was lying in his arms, and out of nowhere, I started to cry.
“Babe, what’s wrong?” he asked.
Sniffling I replied with a nasally, “I don’t know.”
Tears streamed down my face and Steve looked at me, pulled me in close and chuckled, “oh honey.”
“I don’t even know why I’m crying, I can’t even control it right now,” I said with a whimper.
In that moment being in his arms was just the comfort that I needed. I knew that I was secure there and that everything would be okay. I’d make it through this rough patch. I was an emotional wreck who needed the strength and comfort of something bigger than myself and in actuality, something bigger than Steve.
Me, alone…I’m not enough.
When it comes down to it, I’ve learned that my own strength will never be enough no matter what I’m facing. I can’t muscle my way through a physical obstacle without God’s strength. I can’t grin and bear a tough situation without God’s strength. I can’t bite my tongue in an argument when all I really want to do is throw a jab, without God’s strength.
I know I’m a tough cookie, but my strength is no match for the strength I have in Christ. He gives me power for strength and power for poise.
As I said before, I like training for figure because it challenges me spiritually. I rely on Jesus on my good days and even more so when I feel depleted, tired, worn out, exhausted, discouraged, and every other emotion that comes with being human. My human strength will never be enough and Jesus will be there to bridge that gap if we let HIM. Besides, any strength I have comes from Him to begin with…He’s my source.
God has done great things in my life. He’s freed me of the bondage of my sin and made me whole from the inside out. He’s given me a solid foundation, filled me with love, joy, hope and continued peace.
I have and continue to experience what HIS LOVE and HIS GRACE has done in my life. I know that I’ve only life I’m only experienced a sliver of the beautiful things He has planned for me.
Regardless of where you’re at in life, what you’re doing, your position, status, past, present, or future, God is always trying to do something through you. Or as the saying goes, God can take your mess and turn it into a message.
We have the choice of choosing where we want to dwell, for when we dwell somewhere, we’re choosing a place to be, a mindset or an area of focus.
Instead of trying to find fleeting comfort in who we are alone, I challenge you to dwell in the confidence and strength that only He can provide, for HIS STRENGTH is made perfect in YOUR WEAKNESS.
I was 12 days out from stepping on to a national stage in Atlanta. This would be my quickest turnaround from one show to the next, and my biggest event to date.
I had an evening to celebrate the win and then it was back to the drawing board; maintaining my diet and tightening my physique up even more.
Before nationals Steve and I had several conversations about getting a sponsorship for figure. He looked at me with a smile on his face, “what are you talking about, I am your sponsor!”
We both laughed. He had trained me for free, bought our supplements; we cooked together…that pretty much covers all major bases. I ended up not pursuing that route.
This was the first time I’d be competing out of state. Most people check luggage that has shoes, clothes and everything else you need. I had a checked bag that contained all my food portioned out for the final three days, plus ice packs to keep it all cold.
I was excited for this trip. I wasn’t going alone. I had my partners in crime, Steve and Mel there for support.
We arrived in Hot-lanta, and checked in to the hotel. It was time for NPC Nationals!
I was in awe! This place was a central hub full of people with orange skin, carrying gallons of water and coolers. I had never seen so many fascinating physiques in one location at a time. I was thrilled to not only experience this culture, but to be one of the athletes competing that weekend.
I had an athlete meeting Thursday night in which we received our athlete gift bags, competitor numbers and heights and weights (for bodybuilders) were checked.I wouldn’t be stepping on stage until Saturday morning. I had a whole day of waiting.The three of us attended part of the competitions on Friday night, but we went to bed early because tomorrow would be a big day.
I woke up at 5:00 to start getting ready for the show. My manager, (Mel) always helps me with my hair and make up.
Before I left for nationals, I decided I wanted my hair longer, therefore, I needed extensions in my hair. Well, if I’m going to have extensions, so is my sister! We have this thing where if we’re out and about shopping and we find something we think the other sister will like, we buy it. For example, I bought two of the same bracelets one time and when we noticed we both have them on, we say “sister bracelets” in unison. Weird I know. We’ve bought several other “sister” things, for example we both bought the same pair of sandals, those are our “sister sandals.”
My mom is a hair stylist, so we make regular trips with her to get supplies for her salon. I was on the hunt for extensions and I found exactly what I wanted. My sister was spontaneously in the market for extensions that day as well.
Introducing, “Jessica.” A clip in extension helmet-type hairpiece that gives you instant length and body, so you can enjoy long healthy locks, made by Jessica Simpson.
I found the perfect blonde one, and Mel found one that was black and we made the sister purchase. These two salt and pepper hair pieces became know as “Jessica.” We both tested out these hairpieces before we went to Atlanta, making sure we had our hairstyles down. They worked best when you wore your hair down so you wouldn’t have to worry about the clips showing.We’d be getting ready to go somewhere and I’d ask her, are you wearing “Jessica?” It became our little joke, and no one knew what we were talking about.
Mel proceeded to help me do my hair, clipping in my Jessica, and then I helped her put in her Jessica. I put my suit on, did my makeup and I was ready to rock the stage.
I hugged them both, and then disappeared through the “athlete only” zone. I thought I was prepared for nationals, but you wouldn’t believe what some of the other competitors bring with them.Suitcases stocked full of food, beauty supplies, pins, makeup, full- length mirrors, extra heels, you name it, they had it all. I saw different athletes with their sweatsuits on repping their team apparel. I wasn’t part of a team, I was my team.
This was my first time competing at this level. In the Minnesota competitions I’ve been in, there are usually 8-10 competitors in any given height class. At nationals, there were 40 women in my class D category alone.
The goal when you step on stage is to be moved closer to the center of the stage. The closer to the center you are, the better your chance is for making callbacks. They take the best competitors within a specific height class and then have those competitors step out together and go through the poses again to narrow down the number of competitors and to determine the overall winner of that height class.
I was not one of the competitors called back. I really had no idea what to expect. I don’t know how they even begin to narrow things down with that many physiques to evaluate. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was bummed about it. I had put in SO MANY HOURS of training and dedicated my time to this particular day. In the end, I know that I brought the best physique I ever had to nationals that day and I”m very thankful for that.
I was pleased with how my body peaked for nationals and I’m thankful for the experience I gained through my first taste of the big stage.
Mel, Steve and I celebrated and went out for dinner at a place similar to Fogo De Chao. I sampled almost every type of meat they offered and they use the same green means go, red means stop cards at our table. We were stuffed, but happy to celebrate after long weekend.
After my parents met Steve for the first time, we continued to spend more time together both as a couple and with my family. The day in which we’d tell them about baby JT was a long ways off. We’re talking months.
Steve had the idea to take my dad to a Twins game, and then tell him about baby JT. That idea didn’t go as planned, because they ended up talking about other things, one of them being me competing in figure. If you don’t know what that is, you can read more about it here.
My dad never liked the idea of me competing because he didn’t agree with me being in a swimsuit, on a stage in front of hundreds of people, being judged like I was at a cattle auction. I know his perspective is out of his love for me and wanting to protect me as his daughter, so I will never fault him for that.
There are several views on the sport of figure and the world of bodybuilding. Every one competes their own reasons, and if you’re part of the culture, there more depth to your understanding and your norm is different than those outside of that culture because you’ve experienced it.
Some people compete because they love the challenge of contest prep—the rigorous hours of training, a disciplined diet and the gratification victory. This victory doesn’t always come in the form of a title or taking home hardware, because for some, the growth that occurs in the journey is the greatest form of victory.
Some people have the goal of stepping on that stage after major weight loss and celebrating the achievement of their goal. Some people do enjoy the attention and the glamour of being on stage and having the body that many people spend their life wishing for. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I enjoy that part too.
I love competing because every thing about the sport stretches me mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Training pushes me to dig deep in each of these areas and the growth that I experience is priceless. I like pushing myself beyond what I originally thought was possible, because it is then I truly discover what I’m capable of.
What I’m capable of goes well beyond myself. My strength is not my own, but it comes from Christ. My family’s verse is Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
I am who I am and I have achieved what I have achieved because of Christ.
No matter how mentally tough I think I am, how strong I think I am physically, how dialed in my physique is, or how “in-check” my emotions are, the most important aspect is the spiritual side of my training—my faith.
As I sit here and write this post, I was prompted to write this:
The Holy Spirit prompts me when I write and at other random times. I get a burst of inspiration and then I run to find a pen or my phone so I can record the words I’m given. This is what came to me today.
Nothing we achieve matters if we don’t recognize where that success comes from. I don’t win because of anything I’ve done. I win because God has given me the body, ability, discipline, faith, heart, confidence, and endless means to succeed. All that I have and all that I am is because He is my source. My eternal victory is secure because of what He has done for me. Victory in Christ is the only victory that truly matters.
Growing in my faith is the best part of figure. I get pushed to the limit when I train and no matter how tough I think I am, there’s always a point where my strength is not enough, and in all actuality, it never will be.
I draw closer to Jesus because I’m literally depending on Him to deliver. He will always provide, and He promises that. What He provides may not always look the way I thought it would, but ultimately He knows what’s best.
My next figure competition would be the North Star on Saturday October 2, 2010. This would be my first competition in which Steve trained me from beginning to end. For my other competitions he started helping me in the final weeks of contest prep.
My goal in competing in the North Start was to win the show, but really what I wanted was to qualify for the national competition that would be held on October 16, 2010 in Atlanta. In order to qualify to compete on the national stage I had to place in the top three of my height class.
This was the moment I was waiting for…
I actually found the date that I joined Life Time, which was March 11, 2010. So somewhere around that time was when I first met Steve.
Through the course of preparing for figure competitions I met several people. Each person I met who had some experience in the world of bodybuilding or figure competitions always had an opinion about training for a show. I found that talking to different people only seemed to add more confusion to what I knew and was starting to make me second guess my training.
Figure, like other sports, involves rigorous training. I have the body type that is stubborn and likes to hang on to anything and everything I eat, whereas, some people have been blessed with the natural ability to be lean. This meant that my training involved lifting four days a week and eventually cardio twice a day.
What people don’t realize about figure is that each and every training session matters. You can’t skip a workout because you don’t feel like it or because you have something else going on. The planning involves calculating things down to the day so that your body “peaks” at the right time. By peak, I mean that you’re lean but not overly vascular and your muscles are full and aesthetically pleasing.
Every single piece of food you put into your body matters and is accounted for. I knew the exactly amount of fats, carbohydrates, protein and water I was consuming. Tracking all of these elements is important to what your “end product” will look like.
I was an athlete in college. There’s no doubt that all of your practices are important and your ability to perform is a summation of those efforts. Figure is different because each tiny detail in the whole process is important. If you mess up your diet, it affects your product. If you mess up your training, muscles aren’t developed enough or in time. If you don’t know how to pose, then you’re not showcasing your product at it’s best. If you don’t have confidence on stage, it’s obvious.
My show schedule at the time was going to be to compete in the Gopher State Classic on April 10, 2010 and then the Great North competition on May 15, 2010. This was the first time I had ever done two shows so close together. So not only was I preparing for one, but I had to figure out how to get my body to peak for a second time a month later.
In this panic I called Steve. We ran through what I was currently doing and what I had done for my first show, the Northern States Natural Classic October 17, 2009. I was well aware of his expertise in training and thought it was fascinating. Through the course of his training career Steve had the opportunity to train Kelly Clarkson, the LA Lakers, Kareem Abdul Jabar Jr., actor Peter Gallagher, the US ski team and LA Dodgers alumnus Jim Riggleman. He also trained Hillary Hopkins, a car accident victim whom he helped regain full mobility after doctors told her she’d never walk again. He never used his experience as a way to boast about what he did, but I enjoyed hearing about his training past because I knew he knew what he was doing and that I was working with the best.
Through our conversation Steve told me “stick to what you know” and that I was the one that knew my body the best. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for the next and not only that, what works the first time around when competing doesn’t mean replicating the plan will produce the same result.
Bodybuilders are separated into weight classes and figure competitors are separated by height classes. Each height class is associated with the letters A-F. They also have a novice and three different masters divisions (35+ 40+ and 50+).
I ended up taking second in my class at the Gopher State Classic and I took first in my class at the Great North and won the overall. I was very excited for what Steve and I accomplished and looked forward to training together in the future.
After the Great North I went out to celebrate with my sister and some friends and Steve met us for dinner. I was excited about our shared love for fitness and grew even more curious about where this possible relationship might go.
Steve and I May 15, 2010