Archive for the ‘Nothing Can Stop Me’ Category

Fitness not only changed my life, it gave me direction and purpose.

Juan Carlos Flores – Fitness has not only changed my life, it gave me direction and purpose.

Who I am today

I have as of last week completed a two-year Health, Wellness and Fitness program at Mohawk College and I anticipate graduating in June with honors. My current interests consist of running and weightlifting, I have re-kindled my love for soccer and I continue to play regularly. My goals include taking up MMA as a hobby, and to eventually participate in a marathon.

I am currently employed as a Conditioning Coach with Core Fusion Athlete Development and Conditioning. My job as a Conditioning Coach is to assess my clients on an individual basis and then create and implement a periodized program according to their unique needs. Baselines are established in order to systematically monitor progress. As I mentioned earlier my availability has recently opened up, I am currently accepting new clients, teams and groups to train.

My Childhood and Sport

I grew up in Hamilton Ontario; I was quite active as a child always running around participating in whatever sport or activity I could. I remember taking swimming and diving lessons as a young child and I was actually a pretty good swimmer until one day while vacationing in Mexico I got caught in an undertow. That was it, I was scared of the water for a time and to be quite honest with you, I still don’t enjoy swimming as much as I did back then.

My parents didn’t really have the money growing up to enroll me in other sports but I played just about every sport in which my elementary school had a team. In high school I tried out for Jr. football and made the team but never actually played. The following year I decided to stick to soccer as I enjoyed it much more than football. I was not great, but good enough that I got to play. That year a wrestling team was introduced and thought, why not? To my surprise, I was a pretty good wrestler and won gold in just about every tournament I participated in. I remember winning City Championships and then placing second in the Golden Horseshoe Area Conference (GHAC). That was the end of sport for a very long time in my life.

A New Beginning

I cannot truthfully say I have always been passionate about fitness or active living. There was a dark time in my life in my early twenty’s where all I did was work and come home. I was the epitome of a sedentary individual, I did nothing but relax and enjoy “Good” food. I knew I wasn’t in the best of shape and people that I hadn’t seen for sometime would say to me “you look healthy” but they would stutter in the process. That was their way of saying you got fat in a polite manner. I stand 5’5, and at my worst I was approximately 190 pounds, I was borderline obese. I knew I had to change and that was the point that made me reconsider what I was doing and slowly I managed to change my life around. I became more active, and at times I was hitting the gym twice a day. I was addicted to the new me!

Fitness not only changed my life, it gave me direction and purpose. I like to believe it starts with our desire to look better, but fitness has contributed to so much more for me. In July of 2011 I found myself unemployed with no job in sight. I had received a nice severance pay and was uncertain of what to do with my life. I flirted with the idea of returning to school and I researched various courses of which I was interested in. I was accepted to a few programs but something inside me pushed me toward health and wellness. I accepted and started in September of that year, the last two years of my life have been nothing shy of extraordinary.

No End in Sight

I am by no means a big guy but I know that I have made strides in my physique and I have never felt better. I am stronger today then I was in previous years. I can run faster and greater distances than I could ever imagine. There is, and always will be room for improvement but I am by no means in any rush to get to the finish line, I believe this to be a life long process. What I do know for sure is that as I age, I will continue to be the very best that I can be.

In terms of mental and spiritual awareness, I have grown exponentially. Now more than ever I understand and value the importance of mental and spiritual wellness and it’s effect on health and longevity. I have come to realize that your mental state makes up a great part of everything you do because there will always be struggles. I have seen my fair share of setbacks, but those that know me well will tell you that I always have a big smile on my face. I believe that if you maintain a positive attitude and carry a positive outlook, the world is a better place. I realize it is not a perfect world, but the truth is that the power to make it better starts with you, and that is exactly how you need to approach everyday.

I strongly believe that I do what I do because I am never truly satisfied with where I am. I am happy with what I have accomplished and where it has taken me, however I will always strive to be better. It is my opinion that if we become satisfied with where we are, something inside of us has already died. I want to live the rest of my life knowing I couldn’t have done any better, the only thing that drives me, is me.

My Strength

I have been blessed with a really amazing family and must admit that I would not be in the position that I am now without them. I grew up with my aunt, uncle, grandfather and sister. To me they are the fantastic four, they have never lost faith in my abilities, even when I was uncertain of myself. I am eternally grateful to them because they seen in me what I have become, long before I could even fathom it. I couldn’t have done it without them, and I love them to pieces.

My professors at Mohawk College have done a tremendous job of mentoring and molding me into the professional I aspire to be. As a Conditioning Coach with Core Fusion I have been very fortunate to work with some amazing people who have guided me throughout my tenure as a student and coach. Thank you Nick, Chantal, Mark, Kim, Chris, Danielle, Sarah and Bryan.

I have been privileged enough since the summer of 2012 to be writing for Lifestyle & Strength. Matt is the website administrator and has been very supportive of me since I met him last year. I believe he has definitely influenced my growth as person. Furthermore he has fortified my passion for fitness and helped me find a way to reach people through his website, thank you Matt.

Do I Take The Red or Blue Pill?

I think when I first started on my journey the lack of knowledge and overwhelming misinformation was confusing and frustrating. I have to say this was the hardest thing for me to overcome. Everyone is an expert but no one has a solution. My solution – you have to find what works for you and become your own expert. It is trial and error and you must fall flat on your face before you find it.

Past Accomplishments

When it comes to fitness I know that losing an excess of 30 pounds was a feeling of great relief and satisfaction. I can now run 10k in under 45 minutes, to me that was a tremendous accomplishment. In January I enrolled a few of my friends as well as myself in “My Hamilton Amazing Race”. We ended up placing first; it was an awesome experience I will not soon forget. My current workouts range from week to week. I write my own programs and I enjoy mixing things up, I have recently completed a power phase. The next phase I complete will be more of an endurance phase with high repetitions and low rest periods.

My Philosophies of Training

I am not a big believer in supplementation and therefore I do not consume them regularly. I have supplemented in the past but I don’t anymore, I am a believer in eating wholesome foods. My meal plan is currently under reconstruction as my routine has changed, and I am no longer in school. My philosophy however is still the same; eat when you’re hungry, just make sure it’s wholesome. What we eat directly affects how we function, so I eat as healthy as possible to ensure I am fueling effectively. That’s not to say I don’t have vices, but I know the difference between a lapse and a relapse and as such I enjoy those meals where I can let loose.

My current fitness goal is to increase my flexibility to improve my range of motion. I have incorporated some corrective exercises into my routines in an effort to improve posture and functionality. Stretching is another component that was non-existent for a time but now I practice with regularity. I have in the past few months started to do some power lifting and I am in the process of improving upon that as well.

Parting Words

There was a time when I lacked the motivation or desire to do anything for my health. I know that many people feel exactly how I did back then, some of which may be reading this right now. To them I say; we are all scared in the beginning, the unknown quickly becomes familiar and that which you thought you knew becomes a distant memory. So fight to become the person that you want to be, it will be a struggle but it may very well be the greatest investment of your life, live with no regrets.

You must learn to be resilient and thick skinned because you will experience the doubters and negativity that comes with progress and success. Focus your efforts solely on what you can control, and even then do not dwell on your tribulations. May your memory be short term but that you can remember how you started your journey. Everyday is a new day, a blank sheet for you to write your story; we all have 24 hours in a day, sleep when absolutely necessary but not on your dreams.

Every means of communication with regards to social media is a tool; use it to find like-minded people. Surround yourself with people that are better than you, be a sponge and show humility. I have devoted all my social media outlets as a means to network myself. I am always happy to help wherever possible, please feel free to follow, or add me; I will never shut you out.

I want to leave you with a quote which I believe absolutely defines me. At times I feel like I have lived two lives with everything that I’ve been through. Without further adieu … “A man who is a master of patience is a master of everything else”

I want to leave you with a quote which I believe absolutely defines me. At times I feel like I have lived two lives with everything that I’ve been through. Without further adieu …
“A man who is a master of patience is a master of everything else”
 
Contact Info:
Juan-Carlos-Flores@mohawkcollege.ca
Twitter @_flofitness or Carlos Flores Facebook Carlos Flores or floresc4@yahoo.ca
Body Mechanics writer at Lifestyle&Strength.com

Give change a chance, you might just like it.

Matthew Serd - At the beginning of hismy bodybuilding phase 10/2011.

Matthew Serd (Left) At the beginning of his bodybuilding phase October 2011 (Right) from his show this past weekend 4/13/13

I am the father of a wonderful 17 year old daughter, National Council of Strength & Fitness Certified Personal Trainer, NGA Men’s Masters Pro Bodybuilder, NPC Amateur Bodybuilder, Fitness Club & Personal Trainer Studio owner, and Nutrition Coach. I reside in Brownsburg, Indiana and my educational background includes a BS degree in Finance & Business Administration from Illinois State University. I am an Independent Distributor of Advocare and I love their products. My main areas of interest include bodybuilding, sprint triathlons and witnessing the transformation of the many clients I train.

As a child I was always very active in sports and my two favorite were football and baseball. As I grew older I was not able to keep up with the other kids with regards to size and strength. This led me to the sport of running and as I welcomed high school I became a top runner on our cross country team. Running became an obsession of mine and as high school ended found myself at a scrawny weight of 110 pounds. As I entered college my fitness goals changed and I started strength training which is where my desire for physical fitness started to change my life. I began to get stronger and stronger and my body composition changed drastically. At the end of my college career I had increased my weight to 190 pounds. The majority of this gain was muscle, but of course the fun time of college added some additional fat.

I have continued my love and passion for fitness since my college years and most recently have been a gym owner and personal trainer for over 12 years. My goals of increasing my level of fitness are what continue to drive me from a physical and mental stand point each day. My dedication to fitness has also carried over into my faith and spiritual life. It has brought me closer to God and has renewed my religious beliefs which lead me to becoming newly baptized at a community church in Brownsburg.

My recent birthday put me at the age of 48 and I consider myself to be in the best physical shape of my life. Getting to the point today has been a very exciting journey, but it has not come without setbacks. Injuries to my L5 & L4 disks, and shoulder surgery in 2009 were major setbacks that I had to cope with. These obstacles were very trying, but they have made me a more determined and goal oriented individual.

Of course the support system of my family and friends were a critical part of keeping focused and on task towards my goals when the healing process was completed. Their support has also been very important for the accomplishments that I have blessed with over the past 12 years of my life, one of which includes me becoming a successful fitness club and personal training business owner.

My experience and dedication to personal training has led me to becoming one of the top personal trainers in the Brownsburg and surrounding areas. My most recent accomplishment of stepping on stage as a bodybuilder (NGA Men’s Masters Pro and NPC Amateur) has been the most difficult but one of the most rewarding accomplishments in my life.

For the past two years I have been training on a 4 or 5 day split (prepping for bodybuilding shows) which consists of the incorporation of undulating periodization training (with extended set and mechanical drop sets) as well as high frequency training (HFT). Along with my strength training I am following a carb cycle nutrition program that incorporates high, moderate and low carb days based on my strength and cardio training program. I drink 1-2 gallons of water each day, take vitamins, minerals, pre, during and post workout carb-protein-bcaa supplements. (My supplements of choice are Biotest, ON & Advocare products.) My supplement ingestion is based on a very carb focused peri-nutrition workout program for optimal results.

As I mentioned earlier I am currently training for four bodybuilding shows that will take me through the first week of July. My current goals include winning my weight class and master’s class in one of the upcoming shows and to place in the top 10 in the Team Universe show July 5th and 6th in New Jersey. Growing our current bodybuilding, physique and figure team (Team TRAINBots) will be a goal that I will work on in my off season.

Matthew Serd - At his first show 3/2012 in Cincinnati Ohio

Matthew Serd – At his first show 3/2012 in Cincinnati Ohio

A final note:

For all of you individuals who are struggling to start your fitness journey the advice that I would leave with you is to take one step at a time and focus on making little changes as you move forward. “Little changes lead to big changes.” Trying to correct or change all of your bad habits at once will lead to a lot of frustration which may lead to a short lived fitness journey. Remember your journey will be a life changing experience, so treat it as a marathon race not sprint! Good luck!!!!

Thank you for this opportunity to share my story with you.

I can be reached at: Twitter: @progressfitms, Facebook: Matthew Serd, Email: progressivefit.ms@gmail.com

On the Road to Greatness

Chantelle Emch

Chantelle Emch

I am 23 years old  and I’m from Brevard, North Carolina. I have two boy’s and I married a USAF man. We are stationed in Cheyenne WY. We have been here almost four years. I’m a down to earth, fun, bouncy individual. I’m always very busy  trying to juggle everything I enjoy. I love fitness. I did my first NPC bikini show August 2012 and I plan to do a couple more show’s this year. My dream is to make pro one day. Right now I’m working on gaining muscle for my next competition and networking. I want to motivate and help people all over the world to get started on reaching their fitness goals and dreams.

Growing up southern I ate a lot of fried foods so my diet wasn’t very good at all. After my second son I looked into the mirror and didn’t like what I saw, so I decided to do something about it. I started  slow with cardio and worked up the nerve one day to try weights and after a couple of weeks I saw such a huge change. I was toned and tight and I loved it. I realize now that a lot of women including myself have it in their minds that when you have kids and get married that you can never be sexy or wear a bikini again; that women shouldn’t lift weights; that it’s for men only! I have had my share of people who judged me for starting my fitness journey but it drives me to push harder. I’m very competitive and that drives me to be the best at everything. I have since decided to pursue a career as a personal trainer. I’d like to show all the Moms out there that they can look great in a bikini again .

My husband and kids are my biggest supporters. I couldn’t do it without them. My husband love’s to tell people what I do and he helps keep me on track; he pushes me daily and my boys both want to be a bodybuilder like their Mom. They melt my heart. My Mom, Dad and sister are still very new to the idea but they are so proud of how far I have come. They are always supportive. A fit lifestyle is something a lot of people don’t understand.  My baby brother on the other hand keeps me going! He’s just as competitive as I am,  so we are always trying to up each other on weight and compare abs lol! Family support is such an important thing to me. I am so glad to have them all behind me on this.

Scheduling time to go to the gym is my biggest obstacle. My husband is in the military and sometimes he’s gone weeks at a time. I remember going to the gym at 1am (after he came home) in order to prep for my competition. I was focused and determined.  Nothing great comes without hard work.

My accomplishments to date: 
– I went from 169lbs 22% body fat to 130lbs and 12% body fat in 8 months

– I also placed 6th in open bikini at the Armburst Warrior Classic 2012 NPC show in Loveland, Colorado

I am currently bulking for a couple shows so I can add some muscle size. I’m doing heavy lifting 6 days a week . For muscle gain and growth I use pro protein from complete nutrition. I love it! They have some of the best quality products I have ever taken. I would highly recommend their products. I eat a clean high protein diet every 1 to 2 hrs so around 8 meals a day . I’m hoping to see more growth in my legs and shoulders before my next show. My goal is to win! I want to go on to a National qualifying show and keep working toward one day going PRO!

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Set a goal for yourself and don’t stop till you reach it .

Feel free to follow me on Facebook at Bikini competitor-Chantelle Emch. I post tip’s as well as my workout and diet plan. I am always there to help with any questions that you may have.

Winning!

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My name is Rekia Smiley and I’ve lost 115 pounds!!

This is my first blog interview and what I want most is to inspire others to become physically fit. My story may be short but it’s filled with determination and knowing. I know how hard it is to start; how hard it is to stay committed; and how wonderful it feels to look back and see results.  I was not always passionate about fitness, though I ran a little at the local community centers in my youth. The real catalyst for me came when my mother was diagnosed with diabetes. It made me want to change my life for the better. Every day that I wake up and put out an effort is a success. Now I hike, bike ride and rock climb for fun. I believe in myself and my family support is amazing! Especially after I lost 100 pounds; then everyone jumped on the band wagon.Truth be told the hardest obstacle for me was simply “trying” because for the longest time I thought that there was nothing wrong with being a “Phat Girl”. It took an honest look at myself to realize that I didn’t want to get any bigger.  It took me a year and a half to lose 115 pounds. It’s an amazing feeling. I’ve since entered and completed a walk-a-thon contest, something I never would have thought of doing. My current work out routines are weight management focused. It’s an eating plan that I can manage combined with core strength exercises. Tomorrow I may eat oatmeal with fruit and toast for breakfast and a peanut butter sandwich and bananas for lunch. I snack on fresh fruits, peanuts, dry fruit, carrots and celery and drink lots of water. For dinner I may have chicken with brown rice, broccoli and milk. I’m currently doing a 12 week challenge to tone and build strength in my upper and lower body. If you’re thinking of starting, then start today. Don’t waste another minute. No matter how big or small you are working out and eating healthy is something that you should do. Be healthy for life.

Facebook-Rekia Smiley @twitter Rekia_thebest  @instagram Rekia_thebest

Welcome To My Story

Kelly Maidment – Welcome To My Story

Ten years ago it never would have occurred to me that I would be asked to write a health and fitness blog…and yet here I am!  Welcome to my story.  I guess I should start at the beginning. Once upon a time there was a little blond girl that was always taller and a bit bigger than the other kids.  She stood  centre back for class pictures.  The other children teased her mercilessly about her weight and her name, made for amazing rhymes. I believe “Kelly the smelly, jelly, belly” was a favourite. It’s ok to giggle. I know it sounds pretty funny. Those are my earliest memories from school.  Looking back I wasn’t a fatty. A big kid yes, but not obese.  That would come later.

Flash forward to high school.  My first high school dance, dates with boys and my first real diet.  I was still bigger than the other kids for the most part and no one ever knew how old I was. Saved me from ‘minor niner’ hazing.  I was very self conscious about weight at this point and began to count calories and visiting a diet clinic.  My younger sister was obese at this point and as she lost weight I was definitely jealous.  She lost 60 lbs and I lost 25 lbs if I remember correctly.

As a youngster I played softball, took swimming lessons and synchronized swimming.  Into high school I was on the school’s swim team and very involved in music and theatre related pursuits.  I was a student mentor and a member of the Impairment awareness program.  I loved taking aerobics.  I guess overall I was pretty fit.  Still kinda felt like the kid in the elementary yard that got teased though.  My weight was always a concern to me.

Jumping over a few more years I was in college studying Nursing.  It was a lot of work and time and I was terrified about the “Freshman 15” I read about in a magazine (pretty well doomed freshman to gaining weight).  I met a friend that year who was great-funny-beautiful and bulimic.  She became my binge and purge buddy.  Sick, but totally true.

Into my 20s my weight was increasing as were my bad habits.  I smoked, I drank, my exercise dwindled to nothing and I had become bulimic as a means to try and manage my weight.  Epic fail to say the least.  In my mid 20’s I sought treatment for bulimia and never, ever went back to it.

It takes a lot of hard work and commitment, but if I can do it, so can you.

By the time I was 29, I was a registered nurse, a wife and a mom to be.  I also tipped the scales at about 250 lbs.  With a multitude of complications including severe gestational diabetes, I had a super awesome baby boy via emergency C-section under general anesthesia.  By the time my angel-faced baby was 15 months my weight had reached a staggering 380 lbs.  Obesity was killing me slowly and I knew it.  Ever seen the movie “what’s Eating Gilbert Grape?”–I didn’t want to end up like “Mamma”.  I actually wrote and sealed a note for my son to open on his 18th birthday because I figured I would be dead by then.

I had been a yo-yo dieter for the better part of my life and I chose to do something drastic about it.  I had lost as much as 150 lbs dieting in one session and gained it all back and then some.  This time I meant business.  I had a roux-en-Y gastric bypass in the US just shy of my 31 st birthday at just under 400 lbs.  Now, if you think that gastric bypass is an easy way out or somehow diminished my weight loss, you are totally wrong.  It was the hardest way I have ever lost weight.  The food that was a crutch for so long is gone.  It’s like your best friend has died.  The surgery was a transient tool that jump started my weight loss and thank goodness for that.  In case you weren’t aware, it only helps you for 12-18 months and then you are on your own.  It is possible to gain your weight back and then some.  Its not a magic bullet.  Its just a tool.  8 years later and I still battle the bulge and always will!

So here I am, I just turned 39, ya I said it, and how has life changed for me?  I’m the fun mom.  I can roll around with my kiddo.  I don’t embarrass him because I wear a 5 XL.  I like myself.  I’m healthy and happy and refuse to sit back and let life pass me by.  I was on that path and frankly, it sucked.  I’m 5’9 1/2 and lost 220 lbs from my heaviest weight and still  pushing to make progress everyday.

Since my weight loss I have written and had a short story published, gotten my personal trainer certification, played and coached roller derby, started singing with a guitar player, and have found a new love… The Gym!!!

Obesity was killing me and I knew it. Never again. This is the new me.

I have recently started working with coach Eric Broser, he’s a natural bodybuilder and made of awesome.  My goal is to compete in figure or physique.  I’m training 5 out of 7 days. 3 of those 5 days have cardio after weights.  My “rest” days are actually 40 min of cardio.  I’m eating very clean.  Drinking lots of water and taking good supplements.  My meal schedule is; first 3 meals a day protein and carbs; next 2 protein and fat; meal 6 is protein.  I find working with a coach is a great motivator.  I love being accountable to someone and Eric’s knowledge is outstanding.

So basically people, I figure if I can do it, anyone can.  Choose the method that will work for you and commit to it.  Just be sure it’s a healthy way!  I work full time nights, have been a single mom for a few years and have been raising one incredible little boy who suffered with moderate autism for years.  It’s been tough, I wont lie.  I still struggle sometimes with good food choices and getting my tired butt to the gym.  I get frustrated that sometimes I look in the mirror and see the 400 lb me looking back. The difference is now I know what I need to do, to reach my goals.  Nothing worth having is ever easy and I like myself enough to fight for me!  It’s nice to have support and it helps but ultimately everything falls on you.  The only limits in life, are the ones that you imagine.

I’m on twitter if you would like to follow my health related, gym related and sometimes random tweets @gymbunee

Much love and fitness to you all xxoo!!

Kelly

Never Lose Sight of Your Goals

Gina Marie Policastro

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.

Comparison – Atlantic States, Team U, USA’s

“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.

Gina with her supporters, Angelica and Roy

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.

In strength,

Gina Marie Policastro

I would love to receive feedback, questions, or comments. I may be reached at the following:

gmpolicastro@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/gina.m.policastro

Twitter@GMPolicastro

Youtube@GinaMPolicastro

Instagram@GMPolicastro

Set standards, not limits.

At 42 I’m competing with individuals half my age and I’m winning. Set standards, not limits.

I evolve every day. I embrace change and welcome new challenges. I try to live each day to my fullest potential, while keeping life simple. The only thing that never really changes for me, is the love that I have for my family and friends. I am currently working on expanding  as a personal trainer and online coach. I am developing  a corporate wellness program and I am very committed to my clients. I have two clients scheduled to compete as Fitness Models next Spring, and that will be a wonderful addition to my portfolio.

My mother was health conscious and she encouraged my brother and I to stay active and eat well.  At an early age, I had good, healthy habits instilled in me. I was a track athlete in High school, and I excelled at sprinting and long jump. I started working out in a gym when I was eighteen years old. A year later, I decided to make health and fitness a career.  I have now been in the Fitness industry for over 20 yrs and I love what I do. As a Personal Trainer, Pro UFE Figure Athlete and Fitness model, my main goal is to inspire, motivate and educate. I love that I help others become healthy and feel better about themselves. Fitness is all I have ever known, and I believe that it keeps me young,  mentally and physically. If you feel good; if you are healthy; you feel timeless. This may sound a little over the top but it’s true. I am 42 and I honestly forget how old I am until someone actually asks my age. Fitness brings energy, strength, better moods and greater self-esteem, this alone makes you feel younger and vibrant.

Carmen on stage, doing what she loves. Follow your passion.

For the longest time staying fit was important not only to feel better but to look better. As a woman it’s empowering to be healthy, fit and strong. Since the recent passing of my father, this is now where I channel my energy. I just did a fitness competition after taking a four-year break and I came back to win 1st place in the figure category and 4th place as Fitness Model. I am now a Pro UFE figure Athlete and owe this to putting all my energy into something positive and giving it my all. I choose to focus on something good for myself which has helped me through the hard times. My dad passed away before he had grandchildren, before he could walk his daughter down the aisle. He didn’t take care of himself. I want to have children and grandchildren. I want to enjoy them. I never want to miss out on what motivates me.

My family and friends are an amazing support system. During competition prep,  they have my back. At family events, they make me something that I can eat. They encourage me and never question why I go through it all. They tell me all the time how proud they are of me, even though they may not understand fully why I go so hard.  It warms my heart. Even though I appear to have things under control, I still struggle with eating. I enjoy eating food. Also when I first started out I had a fear of stepping on stage to compete. I practiced endlessly. I learned as much as I could from others. I am now so comfortable on stage, that I could stay on there forever.  Fitness is growth, it’s never easy. Taking 1st place in open and masters figure has taken me 5 competitions to accomplish.  Another great accomplishment for me is placing 4th in open Fitness model. At 42 I’m competing with people half my age, and winning. That’s not too shabby!

My workout routine varies, but I lift (weight train) 3- 4 days a week depending on the phase of training I am in. I do Energy systems training (tabatas) right after each weight training workout. On my days off, I will do HIIT for 20 – 30 mins. That could be sprints, stepmill, rower etc. My supplements are L-carnitine, magnesium, fish oil, coconut oil, green tea extract and when I’m competing I take a post workout supplement. What I consume daily also varies with my program, be it maintaining or competing. When I am maintaining, I have a carb meal in morning, usually do quinoa flakes or steel-cut oats with eggs. Lunch will be lean protein or fish, asparagus or green beans and berries. Dinner is mostly fish with mixed greens. Snacks are protein and veggies with cashews or almonds or coconut milk and some berries or grapefruit.

Now that I have attained the Pro Figure and Elite Fitness Model titles, I aspire to participate in  the Pro and Elite North American Championships being held on November 10th. Wish me luck!! I would love to take home the Pro Fitness Model title. I would also like to compete in the Tri-fit challenge that’s held in Tampa, Florida. This is more of an athletic challenge (obstacle course and fitness skills) plus physique and beauty! Definitely a challenge that I will enjoy training for!

Are you still procrastinating? You have to start somewhere. I remember the very first fitness class that I joined, I thought I was going to pass out. I couldn`t even get through 15 mins. It was awful. A year later I was teaching classes as the company’s top instructor and in great shape! Why not start today? We all start at the bottom. Just remember that every workout you do, every healthy meal you eat and every positive thought you have, can get you to where I am! Once you get going and you see results you will become self-motivated. You will wonder why you ever doubted yourself. Find inspiration in others, take advice and aim for consistency and results will be inevitable! Never try to look or be like someone else, just aim to be a better you. We are all different and require different things to get us to our ultimate fitness goals. Stay positive, be consistent and most of all never give up!

Live to inspire, and be inspired to live.

Website: http://www.carmenshawnfitness.com Blog: http://www.fitness-for-u.com

Twitter: @carmenfitness & @wordsonfitness

Instagram: @carmenfitness

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/carmenshawn