The secret to my success is no secret at all, it’s part hard work, part persistence, and a lot of patience. As a child, I wasn’t an athlete. In fact, I wasn’t allowed to play sports at all. My mother thought playing sports would give me big muscles, so I spent my afternoons taking tap, ballet and jazz dance lessons. Like many women of her generation, my mother thought all the stretching in dance class would make me tall and give me long, lean muscles. Ah, those were the good old days; it’s amazing that fitness and weight training for women has survived this long with all the myths, misconceptions and LIES we were fed!
My win in 2005 began in July, 2001, when I signed up for my first World Women’s Tri-Fitness competition. NOBODY is an overnight success; it’s another myth. Even the competitors who win in their first year of competition have been preparing for years. Some of them had a more direct approach through specificity training, while others combine their childhood athletic, cheerleading, and/or dance experience with their adult weight room training to achieve their “overnight” success.
I’m always ready for an adventure, so I signed-up and started training for the event ten days before the competition. My training consisted of digging through a trunk of old costumes, cassettes of routine music, and posing suits. When I got to Las Vegas and saw the obstacle course, my strategy changed to prayer-and it sounded a lot like this: “Oh God, please don’t let me die. Oh God, please don’t let me die.” As I “ran” the course, I learned that my training and conditioning program was sufficient to enable me to do each obstacle, just not very quickly!
When I got to the fitness skills, I was so fatigued from the obstacle course, that I didn’t think I could do it. The shuttle run looked the easiest, so I started there. I did everything wrong: I ran in circles, I didn’t stay low, and I dropped the beanbag. Next, I went to the box jump. I tried one practice jump and my knees buckled when I landed. I told myself that there would be no shame in doing what I could, and then just walk away. So, I challenged myself to do ten jumps. Well, ten jumps turned to twenty, twenty jumps turned to thirty and the next thing I knew, I had completed all fifty jumps! The last event was the bench press, because I knew it would be my greatest challenge. As expected, I was right; I was only able to pump out twenty-five repetitions.
The Fitness Routine and the Physique rounds were the only times that weekend that I felt comfortable. I knew my childhood experience of dance recitals would give me a leg up over the real athletes, so I turned on the charm and gave it my all. When all was said and done, I came in sixth place overall-it turned out, I was a real athlete, too!
After my experience in 2001, I committed to improving my score in one event each year. Since bench press was my worst score, I started there. For the 2002 Women’s Tri-Fitness World competition, I changed my form in the Bench Press event from textbook strength training to Olympic weight lifting and weighed in four pounds lighter. (In the Bench Press event, the competitors have to press 60% of their body weight.) By dropping my weight, hence, dropping the amount of weight I had to press, I was able to pump out fifty repetitions, and it improved my score in the Physique round from 10th place in 2001 to second place overall in 2002.
In 2003, I didn’t compete, but I returned to Las Vegas analyzed each event. I learned some fine-tuning techniques to improve my box jump and shuttle run times, but what I really took away from that event was how to win the Fitness Routine round. There seemed to be a common theme with each routine: trick, trick, trick, trick. The costumes changed, the themes changed, but the tricks were the same. Then, Gina Oakes came out and it was like a breath of fresh air. Her skills weren’t the most difficult, but they had incredible style and flair. She exuded such confidence in every trick she performed that I didn’t find myself biting my nails for fear she might hurt herself. I had been breaking my back, almost literally, to learn the hardest tricks my body could tolerate when all I had to do was use the skill I’ve had since childhood: dance! I dance would help me stand out because it would make me different; plus, I could project the same kind if confidence Gina radiated! When I returned to competition in 2004, I placed first overall in the Fitness Routine round.
So, that brings me to 2005; time to work on the obstacle course. Since I didn’t have an official Women’s Tri-Fitness course, I made do with a six-foot wall, a pvc running grid, and hurdles. Al Rosen, the promoter of Women’s Tri-Fitness, gave me some ideas on how to simulate the course and I got help with sprinting drills to improve my speed. In 2005, my obstacle course time dropped over twenty seconds in five years and I finally won the overall title of Women’s Tri-Fitness World Champion (combination of scores from the Obstacle Course, Fitness Skills, Fitness Routine and Physique rounds) and Dual Optional Champion (combination of scores from the Obstacle Course, Fitness Skills, and Physique rounds)
My advice to you is, take your time and don’t rush your body; recovery is your greatest tool. Secondly, set your own personal goals and take each year as it comes. Don’t let anyone tell you what you need to change or accomplish. After all, nobody will be there to hold your hand on stage or across that finish line, but I’ll be there cheering you on for doing your best.