Never Lose Sight of Your Goals
In March of 2012, I walked through the doors of “The East Coast Mecca, Bev Francis Powerhouse Gym,” in Syosset NY and my journey commenced.
Growing up in Queens NY, I was that kid that was always out on the block and could never sit still. My parents enrolled me into dance classes by the age of 5 and by age 7 I was taking on gymnastics too. I fell in love with the sport; practiced 3 times a week and at home I would practice some more (although my parents weren’t so happy to have me flipping off of the couch and other furniture in the house). Most of all, I love conditioning! Weird, I know but I welcomed the challenge. I would come home from school, have a snack, do homework, but as I watched TV at night I would do sets of sit-ups, V-ups, supersets of push-ups, all during commercial breaks. Then I saw “Ms. Fitness America” on ESPN that I thought, “I’m gonna do that too!”
Throughout my high school and college career I continued doing gymnastics, took on cheerleading, and was a regular in the gym. By living this active lifestyle I never felt the need to diet, in fact I’m a foodie at heart and have a severe sweet tooth! While in college I began to train at a personal training center with hopes of competing someday. I made great gains, but managing my studies, working full time as a middle school science teacher, and getting married by the age of 24, I subconsciously suppressed my goal to compete.
“Stepping onto a brand-new path is difficult, but not more difficult than remaining in a situation” Maya Angelou
Things don’t always work out the way you plan. In fact, I feel the more you plan, the more likely you are to stray off that path. By 26 I divorced from a very unhealthy relationship, I was mentally torn down, defeated. I was angry that I had “stopped living” and lost sight of my own dreams and goals for somebody else. I realized change must come from within. I thought, “I need to figure out who I am, complete the things I’ve wanted to do, it’s not too late, there is no right time, there is only now.”
I began my research and came across “Bev Francis Powerhouse Gym.” I picked a day of the week (I believe it was a Wednesday) and decided to walk in. I remember feeling anxious, nervous, and intimidated walking to the front doors of a well-known establishment. However, I was greeted by Lou Tangredi (one of my favorite people at Bev’s!) whom referred me to Angelica Nebbia. I will never forget the day that Angelica called me. I was ecstatic to hear that someone was going to help me begin my journey!
Angelica scheduled a night to meet me, where I learned that she was an IFBB Figure Pro and we discussed what training for a competition would actually entail. We talked about hours of training, meals, food prep, costs, different divisions (bikini, figure, physique), posing, and expectations. To me, I didn’t care how much time or how much money was going to be spent, all I knew was I wanted to get started, I wanted to achieve my goal! I wanted to become an IFBB Figure Pro.
“And that is how change happens. One gesture. One person. One moment at a time.” Libba Bray, The Sweet Far Thing
I began training every day at Bev’s and twice a week with Angelica. She created my contest prep diet, my training schedule, and set a goal. I was 3 months out. We were headed for the “NPC Atlantic States” to compete in Figure, June 2012.
Over the next 3 months, Angelica became more than just a trainer and coach, but also my best friend. I’m so thankful for having met her (and her husband Roy). She has supported me from day 1, motivated me, and helped re-invent myself into becoming a stronger, more confident person. Soon it was time to step out on stage. I was proud of how far I had come and regardless of my placement; I knew she would be too. When I stepped into the stage lights, I tried to keep my cool, but my quads were trembling as I tried to hit the mandatory figure poses. My nerves had kicked in! The judges began calling numbers, the end result; I received first callouts. I placed 3rd! I was elated I had done so well. Finally, I felt alive, I felt I had changed, I knew this was only the beginning of my journey.
I continued to train after the “Atlantic States” with another goal in mind. “NPC Team Universe,” in Teaneck, NJ. I was 4 weeks out from my first national competition. I was determined to bring my best and knew Angelica was by my side to help me get there. Training was intense, lifting for at least an hour a day, cardio had increased to 2-3 hours/day, following the strict meal plans was mentally draining, but I wanted to do well. I placed 12th in a class of 28 competitors and couldn’t wait to compete again.
“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” Greg Anderson
I refuse to give up on myself! Having been “on-season” since March, maybe I should have taken a break. However, I went on to compete at two other national level competitions, “NPC USA’s” in Las Vegas, NV and “NPC Atlanta Nationals” in Atlanta, GA, where I placed 13th in a class of 38. I will be competing once more in a regional contest, November 18th at the NPC Easterns in NYC.
Pursuing this goal meant a lifestyle change, not only for me, but for my family as well. I was constantly prepping meals, packing gym bags, and if I wasn’t at work, I was training. No more Sunday dinners (coming from an Italian family this was a huge disappointment) and I was bringing my own food to celebrations (including Easter) at relative’s houses. I was so engrossed in my training that I failed to notice that my family was not quite on board with this way of life, but I loved it. It was new, it was demanding, both physically, and mentally, but I didn’t care. Slowly my family has adapted to the new and improved me. This is my goal and I’m sticking to it, you’re either in or you’re out, you can support me or not, but I’m doing it! I made a promise to myself to never let anyone step in the way of achieving my own personal goals in becoming an IFBB Figure Pro.
“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” Paul Coelho
One of the most rewarding aspects of this journey has been the friendships and relationships that I have built along the way. Although my family does not understand my reasoning for wanting to train and compete, I am blessed to have such phenomenal friends and support at Bev Francis Powerhouse Gym. I am proud to belong to the “East Coast Mecca” and look forward to it every day. Being surrounded by others that have goals, determination, and drive creates a positive atmosphere to help me push through tough days. Whether in training or in traveling, we stick together!
The “NPC Easterns,” will be my last competition of the season. However, that doesn’t mean that my training will cease. My plans for the off season are to grow physically as a figure competitor, put on more muscle mass, and make big hanges to bring to the stage in 2013. The offseason is bitter sweet because although I love competing, it can be mentally exhausting. I have definitely grown as an individual as I have become more focused, regimented, organized, and optimistic. I find solace in reading inspirational books and listening to motivational speeches. I have carried these new traits into my career as a middle school science teacher and hope to influence my students and encourage them to reach, and achieve their goals and dreams.
“The closer one gets to realizing his Personal Legend, the more that Personal Legend becomes his true reason for being.” Paul Coelho, The Alchemist
I hope this finds you well. As you embark on your own fitness journey, remember why you started in the first place. What motivates you? What drives you? The beginnings are the hardest part; but once progress appears use it as your stepping stone to continue on. Surround yourself with positivity; people, books, daily affirmations. Strength is more than just the physical. It is the internal and mental toughness that makes a champion.
Thank you to SociallyFit for inviting me to share my story, to the NPC, to IFBB Figure Pro Angelica “Tiny Phenom” Nebbia, Steve and Bev at Bev Francis Powerhouse Gym, IFBB Physique Pros Sadik Hadzovic and Vince Fiore, and NPC competitor Dickens Fenelon for their continuous support on my journey to becoming an IFBB Figure Pro.
Gina Marie Policastro
I would love to receive feedback, questions, or comments. I may be reached at the following: