Monday, November 10, 2008

photo by Dallas Olsen

My Story.
I have decided to post my story again as I have recently had quite a few new readers to my blog. So grab a cup of green tea.......
I remember swimming laps in my family’s seven metre above-ground pool when the Olympics were on, thinking that I could be an Olympic champion. My relatives used to say I was a chubby kid; I used to hear them but I never really listened.

I grew up in a small town and I always wanted more than it had to offer . . . I wanted to achieve great heights. Somehow I always new I would. My mum was a major influence; she used to always tell me I was beautiful and intelligent and I could do anything I wanted . . .I am not sure who first called me "Wonder Woman", but it was quite a few years ago now as someone looked at all the things I did and wondered how I not only got them all done, but how I also maintained a successful career. The answer to "how" is massive amounts of energy, an unstoppable desire to make the most of my time in the world, precision timing and sacrifice. However, it wasn’t always like this.

In the late 1990s, I remember watching Demi Moore in GI Jane and “those abs”. I wanted that fabulous six pack and to be strong, tough, yet still feminine like Demi. However, at the end of each day after working in my stressful IT sales job and picking the kids up I was so tired that I sat on the couch had a few drinks and nibbles and “relaxed”. The next morning I would look at myself naked in the mirror and say today was the day I would gain control of how I looked. I did regular exercise, I even did a few corporate triathlons at one stage, but on the weekends or at night I still had those few drinks and other treats. I deserved it right? After all, I worked really hard, I looked after the kids, I was only a few kilos too heavy, and well, I’m sure there were plenty of other justifications and excuses.

Then one day I woke up and realised that at 32yrs old, 63kgs and 30% body fat, Demi’s abs were never going to magically appear for me. I was going to have to make some drastic changes. I am not sure if there was an incident that inspired the change, but I do remember that day like it was yesterday. Something had lit a fire inside me and I knew that I deserved better than what I was giving myself. I finally understood that all the responsibility to change was with me.

Over the next 4 months I trained weekly with a PT, I read books and magazines; I talked to people about fitness and health, and did a 12 week challenge and successfully dropped my body fat to 22%. The journey had begun. My self esteem increased, I became more successful in my job and life was getting better. At that time I was training in a bodybuilding gym, and around comp time when the girls were leaning down I came face to face with Demi’s abs. That was it for me, I decided that to gain my long term desire of the six pack I would become a figure body builder!

So two years after getting into pretty good shape for a 30 something mother of two, I decided it was time to “get serious”. We had made a move from Melbourne to Brisbane, so I did some research and found myself a trainer who could take me from what I was to figure competitor. Nunzio was a former Mr World, and he created amazing changes in the first month of training with him. As I had been weight training for two years I had some muscle to work with, and being the focused type I embraced the nutrition changes with open arms. Within the first month I dropped 3kgs, and I had a visible 4 pack – a little soft but it was there. GI Jane was on her way.

In December 2002, one month after starting with Nunzio, I was struck down with a mystery illness and was hospitalised. I had extremely high fevers, was covered in a rash, and my whole body was so stiff that I was unable to roll over in bed without excruciating pain. I had test after test and no one could work out what was happening to me. The possibilities ranged from Ross River Fever to Meningococcal – which resulted in the Health Dept getting involved and all of my family taking a horrid anti biotic that turned their pee bright orange. I eventually started to recover with the aid of some heavy duty medication and left hospital after a few weeks. The final prognosis was a rare form of rheumatoid arthritis which I still need to manage today. In January 2003 my dream of getting on stage that October with GI Jane abs seemed crushed.

In late February 2003 I went back to training with Nunzio, almost 3 months after I fell ill. I was still on medication but I was determined that I wasn’t going to let the illness stop me from my goal. I had lost weight and muscle, so we had to go forward with what we had if I was to make in on stage in 8 months. I trained weights 4 days a week and many hours of cardio over the next months, getting gradually leaner at each weigh in. I had a single minded obsession and not once did I stray from the diet or not complete my training. My social life disappeared as I was always training or tired from training, and in October 2003 I stepped on stage for the first time at 48kgs and about 8% body fat.

I was still on medication from my illness and in hind sight it would have been better for my long term health to wait for 12 months before attempting to compete, but I wanted those abs more than anything in the whole world. I was lean, really lean and I finally had control over how I looked. Or so I thought.

After the euphoria of my first competition I started to eat “normally” again. In the first 3 days I put on 3 kgs and can I clearly recall looking at myself in the mirror and felt disgusted at how fat I had become. Within 6 weeks I was back to 55kgs and a new struggle with food and body image emerged. The feedback from the judges was that I was in great condition but I was too small and needed more muscle, so Nunzio and I worked on a plan that would see me sit out a year and then go back with more muscle. However I changed this plan and got back on stage 9 months later and then 15 months after that again. In this period of bodybuilding my weight ranged about 10 kgs each off season and the only way I could control the way I looked was to be in “competition preparation mode”. I convinced myself that I was carb intolerant and had a slow metabolism and felt I put on weight when I reintroduced carbs and other regular food to my diet. The reality is that my body was simply doing what normal a body does after a heavily restricted diet over a long period of time. This caused other eating disorder type behaviours; I was unhappy and in food jail.

In my third year of bodybuilding I realised that I was competing to keep those abs, and not because I was interested in sculpting a muscular physique. I needed to stop for my health, and my sanity. I didn’t get into great condition in that final year, and as I sat despondent back stage after my final competition a Powerlifting coach sat next to me and asked me what was wrong. We then had a conversation that would change my life and finally lead me to achieve the happiness and balance we all search for.

Nic was, amongst many other things, an International level Powerlifter that I knew from the gym I worked out at. He asked me why I was looking upset after my final figure comp, and I said I was “over” bodybuilding. I loved going to the gym and push myself and get strong and fit, but I found competition day a huge anti climax; there was no physical competition, no sweating or pain. I had worked for 12 months towards competition day, but on the big day I had to hang around for hours between sessions, just waiting for my turn; I was hungry and thirsty and I didn’t feel like the judges were taking any notice of me or acknowledging my hard work. I felt unfulfilled. I wanted ‘my turn to shine’ on stage and I wanted recognition for all my hard work. I also wanted to be able to measure my own improvement from one competition to the next. It is difficult to do that in bodybuilding.

Nic suggested I try Powerlifting, and explained that Powerlifting would offer that adrenal rush I was after. “I can do that,” I said. There are so many times those 4 little words have gotten me in to so much trouble, and this was to be no different.

I had always known that there was an athlete inside of me; however, I never dreamed I would end up being a strength athlete in my late 30s. My success is a great testament to the mantra that “it is never too late”. I started training with Nic in December 2005, I had to learn how to squat, bench and deadlift with correct technique and I progressed very quickly in the first few months. However coming in to my first competition the following April I was given a very rude, and painful, awakening when Nic introduced the “equipment.” Impossibly tight suits, belts wraps and bench shirts. Today I have fine white scars on my arms and legs left over from a couple of years of wearing this gear. This was a far cry from sequenced bikinis and high heels of figure bodybuilding. This was pain, adrenalin, fear and exhilaration all rolled into one. That feeling of walking out to my first competition squat in suit, knee wraps, power belt, weightlifting shoes and chalk is one I will carry with me forever; this was competition, this was what I was meant to do! Within the first 12 months of being a competitive Powerlifter I qualified to compete at the Nationals Titles. I had that sense of fulfilment at last.

The period following May 2007 was a very significant learning & development phase for me. Despite 18 months of lifting I was still eating like a figure competitor, and was severely struggling with the demands of training, work and life in general. I was fatigued all the time and my recovery was appalling. Enter an exercise physiologist called Liz who ‘broke me out of food jail’ and bought a refreshing scientific and factual perspective to nutrition. Within one week I had more energy and vitality. I remember walking down the street feeling like I was walking on air. I couldn’t believe how incorrectly an intelligent and experienced woman and athlete like me had been eating; I was a new person.

Before Liz, I was surviving on a diet cycle of protein shakes, egg whites, chicken, vegetables and the occasional oats. Put simply, I thought carbohydrates and fats were all bad. Of course, if someone continues to eat in a restricted way and, in particular, in a calorie-restricted way, the body stores fat and the metabolism slows down.

I have embarked on educational journey around nutrition, and I now eat like an athlete and can eat out with ease... My life doesn’t revolve around food. My social choices are not driven by what I can eat and when. I know what mobilises my metabolism . . . and it is very mobilised. I now eat whole eggs, the entire range of vegetables, nuts, avocados and even dark chocolate. In fact, 30 per cent of my diet is fat.

The first competition Liz mentored me through was a crucial one for my lifting career as I won the 56 kg division, and was selected in the Australian Team for the Commonwealth Powerlifting Titles in December 2007. I recall sitting at dinner after the National Titles and hearing my name called out as a team member, and the incredible excitement but also disbelief that I could achieve this in 2 short years of lifting.

I won a Silver medal in the 56kg Master 1 division at the Commonwealth Titles in Christchurch last December, and had an amazing experience being surrounded by other athletes that were as dedicated to their sport as I am. I met a Canadian female strength coach and elite lifter, Krista Schaus, who I have been working with since January and she has taken my nutrition and physique to a new level again. Krista has shown me how much more I can achieve both as a Powerlifter and through body composition changes that my previous expectations have been raised once more.

I have had good success and a wonderful time with powerlifting and my proudest moment was winning Bronze at the IPF Masters World Powerlifting Titles in Palm Springs last month.

Early this year I decided to follow my dream in health and wellness to provide motivation and hopefully inspiration to other women, and the occasional man too!

Over the past 8 years I have pushed myself to extraordinary lengths to achieve my ideal body and GI Jane abs. I have felt lost, out of control and frustrated for months and months on end at times. I gained and lost those abs more times than I can possibly count, but in the process I found my passion in life in the most unexpected way. As I sit here and write this I can truly say that I now have balance, wisdom, and an acceptance of myself.



Anonymous said...

Excellent Story Lisa. Very inspirational. Id love to work with you in near future regarding nutrition and supps. Just need to get some $$.

Jac :)

Lisa said...


I will be releasing some e-books and other basic products in the near future that follow my philosophy. They will be priced well so that may help you out.


little rene said...

What an amzing and inspirational story Lisa! Thank you so much for sharing it :)

Anonymous said...

Great!! Cant wait to read them! I will keep my eyes peeled :)


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