Photo: Janine Delaney
I've never been a typical or predictable person. If you ask my teenage daughters for my advice number one, it would not fit .
I was very shy, it was hard for me to express myself physically and emotionally, but I could do this through the dance. Especially the ballet became an important part of my life as a young girl – and I was pretty good at that too.
But when it was time to go to college, I had to make a choice: When I was 18, women did not really have the opportunity to dance professionally and training, so the ballet was abandoned to pursue a career in psychology.
Falling in love with fitness
It was not easy for me to give up the ballet. Apart from being an emotional offspring, I remained physically active. I knew I had to find something else to fill the void. In the early 80's I started teaching aerobics ̵
I've learned a lot about fitness from my college and graduation work. Given my background as a ballerina, I knew it was not just about being fit. It's about being mobile, increasing your heart rate, building strength, and working on your athletic abilities.
I kept these values close to me for years when I became a psychologist, wife and mother of two beautiful girls. But when I was 40 years old, I realized that I was no longer in my career and saw how my little girls became young women. While my friends around me seemed to be maturing and seemingly relaxing during this time of their lives, I could not help but challenge myself in a way that I did not have before.
Getting into character competitions
For years I had been attracted to physics-based competitions. My husband always loved lifting weights – and I was fascinated by the discipline involved in building muscle with such a methodical intention. When I turned 42, I decided to do my first character contest. Similar to bodybuilding, figure competitions are more focused on the fat-to-muscle percentage and the definition compared to the overall size. It was something that I had thought about for a while, but never got around to it. And instead of saying that I missed the boat, I thought, better than ever.
I participated for three years and placed for the first time at my last competition in 2013. I won first place in the NPC Women's Figure Competition in the Masters category (especially for women over 40) and also second place in all which was really a sign of my hard work was paid off. (Inspired – Here's How to Become a Female Bodybuilder)
In these three years of competition, I learned a lot, especially about the relationship between food and muscle building. When I grew up, I always thought of carbohydrates as bad, but the competition taught me that they did not have to be the enemy. To build more muscle, I had to introduce good carbohydrates into my diet and started eating lots of sweet potatoes, whole grains and nuts. (See: The Healthy Women's Guide to Eating Carbs That Does Not Need to Cut It.)
Over the course of three years, I've gained more than 10 pounds of muscle, and although that was great for the competition It was still troubling to see the scales rise (especially raised as a ballerina). There were times when I could not help wondering what would happen if I could not lose weight in the future. (See also: This fitness influencer reveals how the Libra can really work with your head.)
This mentality made me realize how easy it is to have a bad relationship with the Libra – and so is the Reason I decided to leave behind bodybuilding. Today we have no scales in our house and my daughters are not allowed to weigh each other. I tell them that it does not make sense to be obsessed with numbers. (Did you know that more women are trying to gain weight through diet and exercise?)
As a Social Media Phenomenon
When life returned to normal after my last competition, I realized that it was not hard for me fell, losing any weight I had won. Instead, I was just excited to go back to the gym and continue the workouts I loved the most.
I returned to teach aerobics, and some gym students and colleagues encouraged me to join social media. (I did not even have a Facebook page at the time.) I was immediately interested in inspiring others – if I could prove to other women that they did not have to be held back by their age, that they could do anything they could get involved, then maybe this social media thing was not all that bad.
So I shot a video of myself with a dinky tripod when I did some jump rope tricks and posted it on Instagram before I went to bed and did not know what to expect. I woke up with messages from completely strangers and told myself that I am good. So far, so good – so I went on.
Before I knew it, women from all over the world spoke to me, saying that they were both inspired by the workouts I was able to do at my age, and motivated them to challenge themselves more.
In just two years, I've gained 2 million followers on Instagram and celebrated the #jumpropequeen. It all happened very quickly, but I'm fortunate to have a new and exciting adventure at this point in my life – one that keeps growing every day.
It's no secret that Instagram does not always empower. I tried to represent normal women and hope to make them feel comfortable in their skin. (See also: 5 body-positive illustrators to follow for a dose of artistic self-love)
And at the end of the day, I hope that my story will help women realize that you do not have to be a pro at the gym or in the gym the twenties, to look good and feel good. You just have to be motivated, have a positive attitude and a desire to look after your body and mind. You can accomplish whatever you want – be it a new fitness goal or a lifelong dream – at every stage of your life.
Age is just a number and you're really only as old as you feel.