Amanda Webster went from nearly committing suicide to transforming her body, mind and spirit. Here is her story.
It took being on the ledge of a foreign hotel room, ready to end my life, to catapult me into taking action against something that mental health professionals told me I would never overcome.
“I hope this doesn’t hurt because I don’t want to hurt anymore.”
Tears were streaming down my face as I stared at the roof below. I had battled depression for two decades, so hopelessness and despair weren’t new to me. However, they were usually accompanied by a fear of death that prevented me from taking suicide too seriously. I wasn’t afraid anymore.
“It’s better for everyone this way. The pain will stop and you will no longer be a burden on your husband, friends or son.”
I closed my eyes and thought of my 7-year-old’s face one last time. I wanted him to be the last thing on my mind. I leaned forward. My grip loosening from the window frame.
A sound penetrated the quiet air — a familiar voice. At first I thought it was in my head, that this was the well-known experience of your life flashing before you in those last seconds. I felt an intense need to follow the sound just to see whether it was real.
Violently shaking, I stepped down, walked to the door of my room and cracked it open to find two men with a cleaning cart. They abruptly stopped their French conversation to look at me, probably expecting me to complain or ask for extra towels.
I smiled, gestured toward the boombox on their cart and told them in French that this was my favorite song. They replied with their equivalent of “oh cool,” and I returned to my isolation.
The chill from the open window hit me, the song seemed to enter my ears through a tunnel and my whole body pounded to the rhythm of my heart. I fell to my hands and knees, my thoughts racing.
Linkin Park had been my comfort blanket through my darkest times. Even though I didn’t have a particular faith to speak of and had struggled to listen to their music after the lead singer, Chester Bennington, took his life, I couldn’t believe that the song coming on at exactly that moment was coincidence — especially since I had barely heard a hint of another person the whole three days I was there.
Seconds earlier, I had been so sure of my decision. In that moment, I wasn’t sure of anything.
All I could do was sob. I stayed curled up in a ball for hours, my brain fading in and out. There were only three things that became clear to me. I didn’t actually want to die, I didn’t want to live with such intense pain anymore and I had to do something drastic.
The question was, what?
I had tried practically every antidepressant that hit the market for years and only found that they worsened my symptoms regardless of dose or brand. I’d tried eating better, taking sporadic yoga classes, reading self-help books and dousing myself in essential oils. I had talked to therapists, life coaches and friends.
I had also gone the opposite direction. I was only four months clean from cocaine and self-harm — ironically after being inspired by a meet-and-greet with the surviving singer of Linkin Park, Mike Shinoda.
I didn’t leave my hotel room for the remainder of the day. I sat in quiet contemplation on the flight home and kept mostly to myself in the days following. In that time, I made a pact with myself that I was going to give it my all for one year. If at the end of the year I still felt the same suffocating pain and hopelessness, I gave myself permission to jump.
Eventually, I reasoned that it was time to get back to basics. I started making a list of the changes I could make in my life that would have the biggest impact on my well-being: what I was eating, who I was passing my time with, and what I could do to boost endorphins and serotonin.
Even though I tried many of these things in the past, I realized that I had always attempted them one or two at a time, and I never stayed consistent with them all.
My first stop was my mental health professional, the one who had confirmed my diagnosis as having a serious mental illness (SMI). What this meant is that I had a mental disorder that caused significant distress and severely impaired my ability to lead a functional life.
I shared what had happened but also told her of my plan to commit to do whatever it took to heal myself of my disorder and live a happy and fulfilling life. Imagine my devastation when she replied, “That’s not really possible. People don’t truly heal from depression, so you might be content, but that’s about it.”
My jaw clenched, my lips pursed, and my breath slowed to a deep and steady pace to keep me from losing my cool. Two things came to mind. The first was a scene from Legally Blonde, in which Warner tells Elle that she wasn’t smart enough to get the grades to qualify for an internship at the law firm. The other was wisdom from my dad that I had prided myself in living by as long as I could remember: Prove ’em wrong.
Over the following months, I began implementing the changes I had outlined, altering things as I saw fit, with a burning determination to find the one thing that had always been most elusive to me: happiness.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that in nearly two decades in and out of mental health treatment, happiness had never been a clinical goal. The goal was to keep me safe from myself. Of course that’s important, but there was never anything beyond that, even in the periods when I didn’t partake in self-destructive activity.
I had no desire to live complacently ever again.
It took a couple of months before I considered my life “functional,” meaning I could partake in activities and live day to day without symptoms of depression. At around the six-month mark, I noticed that not only were the telltale depression symptoms rare, but I also was full of energy (I’m positive this was a first) and found myself smiling more, doing more and enjoying more.
What I’ve learned from this journey is that there are no quick fixes for mental health disorders, no real happy pills and no one-stop shops for happiness. There were so many components that pulled me out of the darkness and moved me past the subsequent complacency that I launched an entire online course to help others navigate it, as well.
There were, however, four things that I found to have the most notable changes in the shortest amount of time.
Fuel Your Brain With Nutrition and Fitness
People seem to forget that the brain is part of the body and thus reacts to the choices we make when it comes to nutrition and fitness. Do you need to live on organic salads and run 5 miles a day? Well, that is one option. Another is eating a plant-based diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, seeds, beans and whole grains to make sure you’re getting the nutrients that positively impact your mental health and staying active — whether that means jogging, biking, practicing yoga or strength training.
Even if you feel like there’s nothing to be grateful for, research shows that simply looking for things to be grateful for is enough. I keep an ongoing gratitude list, and even though I have my fair share of intense struggles, it is now more than eight pages. I also use an app called 365 Gratitude, in which I do a gratitude prompt first thing in the morning and list things that I was grateful for in my day right before I go to bed.
No, mindfulness doesn’t have to mean sitting and meditating. It can simply be engaging each of your senses and enjoying the sensations without distraction. (Hello music and vegan dark chocolate!) Studies consistently show that a regular mindfulness practice reduces stress, anxiety and other symptoms of depression. Put down your phone, shut your laptop and spend a few moments reading a book, coloring a picture or simply breathing.
Learn to Let Go
Let go of toxic people, clutter in your environment, and habits that don’t serve your growth and happiness. This can be very hard for some people, but taking inventory of your life and clearing things out accordingly is crucial for anyone who is looking to level up their happiness.
At the core of every human action is a desire for happiness or, at least, a desire to avoid suffering. Yet we aren’t taught in school how to manage grief, anxiety, stress or depression. We don’t learn how to take care of our bodies and minds. We aren’t encouraged to just sit with ourselves in contemplation. We are conditioned to see high stress and unhealthy lifestyles as normal.
Fortunately, we live in a time where education is at our fingertips and it has never been easier to learn how to make positive choices that will bring us as high as possible on our own happiness spectrums, as different as each may look.
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Skye Halliday Wilson found physical and emotional strength through fitness. Now she’s determined to pay it forward.
Most before-and-after stories focus on the outward changes in a person, but for Skye Halliday Wilson, the transformation was as emotional as it was physical. “I was in an abusive relationship that put me in a black hole of depression,” she says. “I’d completely lost who I was, had no confidence and felt hopeless.”
Fortunately, she broke free of that relationship but not without some collateral emotional damage — she felt shattered and uncertain until a friend invited her to try a boot-camp class. “I started going every week and built my strength both physically and mentally,” she says. “I was in control of the woman I was building and remembered that I was so much stronger than the hurt that brought me down.”
Wilson had played sports growing up but admits that getting started with exercise again was tough. “There were times I was so out of breath, but I was too competitive and stubborn to stop,” she says of her boot-camp experience. “When I got back to school in the fall, I looked for a gym to train at as well as places to do yoga — and anything else. I was hooked!”
Around the same time, Wilson became interested in nutrition. “The media tells women to eat less and be smaller, when in reality if you’re training hard and eating the right food, you need more fuel!” she says. “I realized I was working out way too hard and not eating enough, so I focused on making sustainable diet changes to help transform my body.”
Soon, her changes were getting noticed, and Wilson’s college friends were reaching out for fitness and nutrition advice. “They sent me pictures from social media as their inspiration — images of edited bodies and physiques that weren’t sustainable,” she says. “Change happens when you grow small habits into a larger lifestyle — adding a walk to your evening, cutting out soda one day a week, eating a healthier breakfast. Not everything has to be extreme, and I wanted to share what I learned about balance.”
Today, Wilson is a certified nutrition coach who makes healthy living relatable and realistic to her clients and is now on track to earn an ISSA group exercise certification. “My philosophy focuses on a ‘little bit of everything’ — exercise, diet, rest and fun,” she says. “Fitness and nutrition are nothing if you aren’t enjoying your day to day.”
Whether working with clients one-on-one or in a group setting, the one constant will be her empathic approach and her understanding of how daunting it can be to begin again, especially when surfacing from a dark and scary place. Her advice for women in similar situations is simple: “Listen to your gut and do not dismiss abusive behavior,” she says. “Watch for those red flags, and remember that no relationship is worth your physical and mental health.”
Name: Skye Halliday Wilson
Location: Mesa, Arizona
Occupation: Health and nutrition coach
- One thing most people don’t know about me is that I have narcolepsy! I rarely have pure motivation to exercise due to exhaustion, so I rely on my weekly routine to stay on track.
- My favorite treat is my grandmother’s homemade cinnamon rolls. They are a great reminder that food isn’t just about fuel.
- My favorite exercise is barbell deadlifts.
- My least favorite exercise is anything to do with the Assault bike!
The International Sports Sciences Association offers evidence-based and innovative education and certification to fitness pros, nutritionists and medical professionals. As the winner of an ISSA certification in partnership with Oxygen, Skye Halliday Wilson will soon be able to inspire more people to take their first steps toward healthy living. Look for updates on her progress toward realizing her dreams in future issues!
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A horrible accident left Ashley Nelson partially paralyzed and with a brain injury — but even that couldn’t quell her competitive spirit.
On April 19, 2009, competitive cyclist and nutrition and kinesiology student Ashley Nelson began her day in the San Francisco Bay Area like any other — going on a bike ride with her now-husband Dave. But typical quickly turned to tragic when Nelson was struck by a vehicle in a hit-and-run accident. The side mirror struck her tailbone, then ripped through the left side of her body, breaking bones and ribs and tearing up other vital tissues up and down her left side. Her head hit the pavement, destroying her helmet and causing a brain bleed and a series of strokes over the next several days in the hospital.
“I remember waking up and I couldn’t move the left side of my body at all — could not even open my left eyelid or smile,” Nelson says. “I have absolutely no memory of that day, that week or most of that year. I don’t even remember the neurologist saying that I might never walk again.”
It’s Like Riding a Bike
Left with partial paralysis, double vision from a dead optical nerve and a cognitive brain injury, Nelson endured countless hours of therapy for speech, movement and function and spent several hours each day working to reverse her left-side paralysis and improve her strength. But what she believes really made a huge difference in her recovery was Dave: After Nelson was discharged, Dave bought a tandem bicycle and hoisted her on the back. He attached her feet to the pedals and together they began tooling around town. “I really think this helped my body move again,” she explains. “The blood flow helped my brain, and the movement helped the muscle memory.”
Racing Toward the Future
Though cycling with Dave was therapeutic, the accident left Nelson with post-traumatic stress disorder and made competitive cycling more stressful than enjoyable. So she took up running. Of course, she didn’t go right from a wheelchair to racing 5Ks overnight. “I had to learn to walk again and, trust me, that process is emotionally painful and full of heartbreak,” she says. But she persevered and in three years’ time had worked up to running 20 to 30 miles per week. Five years after that, she was logging 50 to 70 miles per week. “Now I compete in trail and ultramarathons. I recently qualified for the Boston Marathon at the Napa Valley Marathon with time to spare,” she says.
These days, Nelson’s coach sends her a personalized training routine each month with daily running miles, cross-training and strength routines — and when she can’t do an exercise because of her disability, he creates a safe and effective alternative.
Though it’s been a long road, Nelson is positive about her future outlook. “Many [doctors] have told me that I am only here today because I was extremely fit and healthy before the accident,” she says. “I will never be the person I was before the accident, but that doesn’t mean I should give up. I’ve created new dreams with new goals and am proof that you can do almost anything if you set your mind to it.”
Ashley’s Power Day Workout
Nelson’s current workout programming is tailored around running, strength and speed. “The goal with this power day is to use a heavier load to promote greater muscle recruitment,” she says.
Choose a light weight and do this couplet once through.
Choose a heavy weight and go through this routine four times. Rest 60 seconds between moves and two minutes between rounds. If desired, perform a core exercise like dead bugs, mountain climbers, bird dogs or planks instead of taking the rest.
Ashley’s Must-Have Supplements from NOW Foods
BCAA Big 6. “The taurine gives me the endurance I need for lifting and aids in my post workout recovery.”
Egg-White Protein Powder. “I love to sneak this into my kids’ pancakes. And for myself, I mix it with almond butter and Greek yogurt for a yummy dip for apples or to mix with blueberries.”
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NASM-certified trainer, functional-training specialist and Dymatize athlete Taylor Gallagher opens up to Oxygen in this Q&A.
Oxygen: How has strength impacted you?
Taylor Gallagher: Being an athlete has definitely helped shape the woman I am today. It has given me the ability to set goals and accomplish them, taught me the importance of teamwork and how to deal with disappointment, and gave me the strength to never give up.
Oxygen:Can you share something interesting about your athletic career?
TG: For a while, I wrestled with WWE’s Booker T Reality of Wrestling. I was drawn to the sport because of the mixture of strength, beauty, philanthropy and athleticism. And whether you believe it or not, wrestling truly is athletic! Those throws and bumps are real, and it’s tough on the body. Plus, there is the mental aspect, which is a combination of psychology and storytelling in a live forum. It was the most amazing and fulfilling experience I’ve ever had, and I loved every second of it.
Oxygen: What does being strong mean to you?
TG: Being strong means loving your imperfections as much as your strengths, being vulnerable, and being able to face disappointment with resilience and grace. And when you’re confident with yourself, it only shines in a positive light.
Oxygen: How has the perception of strength changed through society?
One thing I love about society these days is that every body type is finally being accepted, including being strong and athletic and having muscle.
Oxygen: What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?
TG: The best compliment I have ever received is that I am “one of a kind.” I don’t think you can really top that!
Oxygen: What’s something people don’t know about you?
TG: One thing most people don’t know about me is that I love classical music. I love to go to the symphony and am currently learning how to play the cello.
Oxygen: Do you have any advice for your younger sel
TG: If I could give my younger self some advice, it would be to dream as big as you can. Believe passionately in that dream without doubt or fear, and work hard every day toward that dream and it will become your reality.
Oxygen: What’s an important part of your daily routine?
TG: Being grateful is very important. If you are having trouble finding things to be grateful for, all you need to do is volunteer for a cancer center, at a hospital or for any organization for the underprivileged. Your services will be appreciated and will bring positive energy and happiness to everyone involved.
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Meet five women who’ve got the fit factor.
Burlington, Ontario, Canada
Stats: 48 • 115 lb • 5’6”
Gig: Manager of customer service and billing
Revenge Is Sweet.
It wouldn’t be fair to call her impressive results a “revenge body” — but a difficult end to an eight-year relationship helped prod Christina Koren into the gym on a regular basis. “Working out was an amazing outlet,” says the 48-year-old former competitive swimmer and aerobics instructor. “Before I realized it, I had lost 27 pounds and achieved a body-fat percentage of less than 10 percent.”
Although she gets plenty of moral support from her three teenagers — Olivia, Hunter and Greighson — when it comes time to lift, Koren goes it alone. “I believe in forging a strong mind-muscle connection, and training alone helps me concentrate,” she explains. “Afterward, the feeling of accomplishment and being one step closer to achieving my goals keeps me motivated. I’m always striving to be the best version of myself that I can.”
Putting in the Work.
Koren squeezes in workouts six days a week, knocking out 30 minutes of cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach before heading to work. She then lifts weights for 45 to 60 minutes at lunch or after work with her eyes on a bigger prize: getting ready for her first figure show and launching fitness-themed Instagram and Facebook accounts.
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Stats: 37 • 137 lb • 5’4”
Gig: Registered nurse Cool Runnings.
For Jennifer Bayntun, there was exercise before weight training. “I fell in love with long-distance running in my early 20s,” she says. “I ran multiple half marathons, and finally, after having my two daughters (now 5 and 7), I committed to running a full marathon.” Bayntun ran the 2014 BMO Vancouver Marathon, finishing with a time of 4 hours, 18 minutes, and she was hoping to qualify for the Boston Marathon when a hip injury derailed her dream.
Before then, Bayntun had never stepped foot in the weight room. However, with her hip sidelining her from track and trail, she decided to give the iron a try. “I’ve always had a naturally muscular physique, but I never worked out for fear of getting ‘too big,’” she explains. “One day, I was at the club filling my water bottle, staring at a poster of a girl who went from slightly overweight in her ‘before’ picture to posing in a sparkling bikini with abs of steel in her ‘after’ picture. I decided that was my new goal.”
Bayntun trained seriously for her first bikini competition, the 2016 INBF Vancouver Naturals, and won first place in the masters division and second in the overall. Now she’s aiming to earn her pro card before she turns 40. “I’ve been a runner-up twice in the open class, so I’m determined to persevere,” she says. “No goal is unattainable. If you put in the work, you will be successful. If I can do it, so can you.”
Deptford, New Jersey
Stats: 51 • 98 lb • 4’11”
Gig: Personal trainer
Father (and) Figure.
Kim Pfeiffer’s father passed away from heart disease at 46 when she was a teen, and it motivated her to focus on her health. Already active in softball and cheerleading, Pfeiffer pursued lifting, but she only started competing in natural shows seven years ago when she turned 44. During those seven years, she won two pro cards in two different figure organizations.
Pfeiffer arrives at her personal training studio early in the morning to train herself before seeing clients. “That’s when I have the most energy, and when I’m done, I feel like I can conquer the day,” Pfeiffer explains. Her workouts start with a five-minute warm-up on the stair stepper and end with a five-minute cool-down on the treadmill, with a 45-minute weight workout in between. “I also work my core at least three times every week,” she adds.
She recently lost her mother to brain cancer in 2016, but Pfeiffer is still inspired by her from beyond. “I still hear her voice in my head when I’m in need of motivation, saying, ‘Kim, you can do anything if you set your mind to it,’” Pfeiffer says. Her husband Chris is also a huge help, prepping all the food during the week and helping make sure her diet stays on track. “He reminds me of my strengths and helps me to be a better person,” Pfeiffer says.
Stats: 43 • 130 lb • 5’6”
Gig: Emergency medicine physician
Regina Bailey has plenty of built-in excuses to skip workouts: This single mother is also an emergency room doctor who often pulls 24-hour shifts. However, Bailey does not allow a difficult schedule to derail her fitness-forward efforts. “My mother passed away from complications related to diabetes, hypertension and kidney failure, and I decided I needed to change my lifestyle if I wanted to be around to raise my daughter,” Bailey says.
Bailey — a former NFL cheerleader — started working out six to seven days a week in 2016 and has dropped 30 pounds so far. “I hired a nutritionist and a personal trainer and got into ‘beast mode,” she says. “I took a no-excuses approach to losing weight and becoming healthier.”
From Beauty to Bikini.
Already comfortable onstage thanks to a decade of experience in beauty pageants, Bailey began entering bikini competitions, and since 2016, she has won three shows and a pro card. “Other women saw my pictures and would message me about how I inspired them,” she says. “I decided to start my own fitness company, Fit and Fine in No Time, and my own line of supplements.”
The Wisdom of Youth.
Though busy, Bailey carves out time to hang out with her 5-year-old daughter at the beach. “It may sound strange, but my daughter is my role model,” she says. “She has taught me to slow down and enjoy life.”
Stats: 35 • 130 lb • 5’5”
Gig: Nutrition coach
Tiffany Stosich always struggled with her diet, and by age 18, she was 50 pounds overweight. Still, she was active, competing in varsity soccer and softball, and training in the gym while also serving as battalion commander in the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. After high school, Stosich stepped things up a notch, and by age 23, she had whittled down to 170 pounds and decided to prepare for a figure competition. “In 16 weeks, I lost 40 pounds, and in 2007, I won the overall title of Miss Figure Utah,” she says.
Stosich entered 16 more figure events after that, then stopped competing in 2010. After having two children, she decided to give it another try in the natural division and quickly earned pro status. Most recently, she won the overall in the Pro Natural Bodybuilding League and qualified for the 2018 Natural Olympia.
Loud and Proud.
Stosich hits the gym by 7 a.m. six days a week, working each bodypart twice weekly and incorporating 20 minutes of high-intensity interval training cardio daily. When training, she tends to go it alone — “because I like to listen to loud hip-hop music and I’m intense,” as she puts it. Stosich also loves burpees, which probably scares away the weak-willed. “I recommend lifting weights to failure, focusing on the eccentric movement and your mind-muscle connection on every rep,” she says.
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This judo athlete and Olympic hopeful talks about kicking ass and taking names.
Why do you love Judo?
I love Judo because being able to dominate and throw another person around is such an empowering feeling. Winning always makes me feel like the queen of the world.
When did your Olympic journey begin?
I have always wanted to be in the Olympics, and when I was younger, I wanted to compete in rhythmic gymnastics. I quit that sport as a teenager and took up Judo, and I am now trying to qualify for the 2020 Games in Tokyo. It’s an incredibly difficult process because there is no one competition that serves as the Olympic trials, and I have to travel all over the world to amass enough points to be ranked.
Would you consider yourself a girly girl or tomboy?
I am definitely a girly girl. My room is covered in pastel pink and cute little cats!
What gives you an advantage in Judo?
Because of my gymnastics and ballet background, I am very well-versed in choreography, making it easy for me to learn judo techniques. My flexibility and balance also come in handy and are a great advantage over any opponent.
What’s something people don’t know about you?
I cry almost every practice. Most people wouldn’t know that because I am such a happy-go-lucky person, but I am also incredibly competitive and emotionally invested in every competition and practice. So I cry a ton out of frustration.
What do you want women to know about Judo?
I want to show women that martial arts are just as feminine and beautiful as ballet. There is a grace to the precision of the techniques and the culture surrounding the sport, and I hope that by following my journey, women will think of martial arts of being as much a woman’s sport as it is a man’s.
How do you stay focused on your goals?
Many girls my age are distracted and unfocused, but I don’t find it difficult to concentrate on my goals. I think the saying from Proverbs has some merit — Idle hands are the devil’s playthings — meaning that nothing good comes out of boredom. My advice: Join a sport, get a hobby, keep yourself busy. That will make it easier to work toward your goals.
What challenges have you ran into in this male-dominated sport?
The majority of my training partners are men, and once I actually fought a man in collegiate competition when they didn’t have any women for me to go up against. Even though he outweighed me by roughly 20 pounds, the referee kept asking him if he was really OK fighting me instead of the other way around. The guy also talked to himself through the whole match, and it was really difficult to retain my composure when he was continually whispering, Oh no. Oh. This was a mistake.
Because of her rigorous schedule, Stout relies on SR CarnoSyn beta-alanine. “It delays the feeling of lactic acid in your muscles and boosts recovery,” she says.
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The 30-year-old actress and singer shares how fitness fuels her success.
After nearly two decades of living in the spotlight — with a love-hate (well, mostly hate) relationship with working out — 30-year-old actress and singer Vanessa Hudgens has spent the past few years falling in love with health and fitness. Her passion developed from the remarkable feeling of self-acceptance she gained once she found her exercise calling. Hudgens attributes her confidence, courage and overall feeling of empowerment to the time she spends in heart-pumping workout classes, on a bike or on her yoga mat.
“I can’t imagine life without fitness,” Hudgens said. “It makes me a stronger person, physically and mentally.”
Here’s what she had to say after a recent workout with Propel Vitamin Boost:
What’s your fitness routine?
It’s composed of three parts: SoulCycle, Reformer Pilates and yoga. I’ve been doing SoulCycle for the past seven years, and I’m still obsessed with it. I love Pilates because it doesn’t feel high-intensity in the moment, but I’m always sore the next day. And yoga is great for my mental health, injury prevention and grounding.
How does fitness empower you?
To me, there’s nothing better than tapping into “beast mode” — that moment where you want to give up because your body feels like it’s about to fall off but something switches inside of you where your mind says, “It’s go time. Let’s get this.” Whenever I have that moment in my workout, I leave feeling like a stronger and more empowered version of myself because I pushed through something uncomfortable.
I think it’s important to bring that feeling into my everyday life and be uncomfortable — it’s important for me as an artist, especially. When you’re uncomfortable, you’re growing and you’re evolving. Feeling empowered is all about getting through those growing pains.
What would you say to someone struggling with confidence when it comes to fitness?
With fitness, you have to do it for you. The fact that you showed up for yourself is amazing — so pat yourself on the back! Remind yourself that you’re doing this for you, even if you might feel like there is comparison or judgment, at least you know that you’ve got your own back by showing up to begin with.
What inspired you to create an activewear line with Avia?
There’s nothing better than showing up at a workout class, looking in the mirror and feeling good about what you’re in! When you go out with your girlfriends, you put on a nice dress and heals. So when it comes to working out, why not not put on a nice pair of leggings, a sports bra and a jacket that you actually feel cute in? My goal was to give women that but also to have items that are practical and functional.
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This two-time Ms. Bikini Olympia and two-time Bikini International champion opens up to Oxygen.
I wish women in the fitness industry didn’t think they have to look perfect. It seems like they are never really satisfied with the way they look, which is a shame. It is important to enjoy the process of getting fit and making sure you do it in a healthy way.
What’s your favorite bodypart to train?
What is your dream vacation?
“Though I have traveled many places as a pro, my dream vacation would be Italy. The people seem to be very warm and friendly — and of course, the food is amazing!”
Is there anything in life you wish to re-do?
“If there was one mistake I could go back and correct in my life, it would be to learn English before moving to the U.S. from Brazil. It would have made things a lot easier.”
To what do you owe your success?
“In order to be successful, you have to employ mental strategies along with the physical work. I visualize achieving my goals every day as if they were really happening. I even feel the chills of the moment of winning when I see it in my mind.”
Who is your fitness inspiration?
“My inspiration when I started in fitness wasn’t a woman — it was Arnold Schwarzenegger. He came from another country and used bodybuilding to become a legend. He is an example that it doesn’t matter where you come from — that everything is possible when you’re willing to work hard for your goals.”
How would you describe your family?
“We are a fit family. My husband Marco works out, as well, and is a black-belt jiu-jitsu instructor. He definitely lifts more than I do! But I do love to lift heavy, and I always use a Schiek lifting belt to protect my back.”
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These fit females have transformed their lives and are now leading the way for others to do the same.
“It’s crazy to think I’ve been working in fitness for 20 years. Since then, I’ve helped hundreds of women sculpt their dream body and develop a positive mindset to love themselves. Many of my clients are super busy, but I show them that you can turn a crazy pace into a healthier lifestyle that is sustainable. My passion is helping women achieve their fitness goals! I was a fitness expert for Oxygen Australia for 10 years. The research side of fitness excites me because I have a Master of Business degree, majoring in market research. Before I had children, I worked as a marketing director for large organizations.
Now I’m a mom of two children, run my online coaching business, compete in bikini contests, and love my close friends and family. Fitness is something I see as part of my life forever, and I love meeting others and sharing my passion.”
“I’m a 42-year-old fitness enthusiast from Philadelphia with plenty of unseen battle wounds and scars from my fight with binge-eating disorder, which has been a part of my life since childhood. Though I had physically accomplished a number of activities throughout my life — including running two marathons, completing a Tough Mudder and a triathlon, and even stepping on the NPC bikini stage — I still had not conquered my innermost demons.
My goal was to recover from my disorderly eating habit once and for all! Once that was accomplished, my goal changed: to inspire and motivate others to realize that eating disorders can be put to rest and that a balanced life of fitness and well-being can be achieved.”
“As a professional in the wine and fitness industries, my mission is to help people live, celebrate and get fit! My personal experiences with weight loss, bodybuilding and teaching group fitness classes have taught me many of the healthy habits that are a must for living a fit lifestyle. After going from being an athlete in high school to gaining 35 pounds in college, I saw my health, confidence and energy levels decline. I knew I had to make a change.
Through educating myself on nutrition and exercise, I was able to lose the weight and gain my confidence back. It is my mission to share what I have learned so that others don’t have to spend the years it took me to get healthy, fit and confident!”
“I have been a 911 dispatcher for 19 years, and I fell into fitness as a way to escape the emotional pressures that my job entails. This led me to do a few competitions and become a fitness trainer, specifically for first responders. Over the past few years, I have noticed that the amount of suicides within the first-responder family has increased. We have a stigma within our walls that have been passed down from generations before us that we are weak if we ask for help, if we unload the emotional backpack that has weighed us down from years and years of hearing and seeing the worst that society can be. These stressors, along with the stress of 12-hour shifts ranging from all day to all night, take a physical and mental toll.
My mission and purpose are to help first responders improve their physical fitness not only for safety reasons but also to enjoy life after retirement. I also want to build their mental fitness. They will only be as strong as they allow their mind to be!”
Bobbi Parker Hall
“After getting in the best shape of my life at 56 years old, I began my mission to prevent older women from giving up on their bodies as they age. There is a fitness movement that is revolutionizing the way we see aging women, and many stereotypes are being demolished — women no longer have to associate being called “Grandma” with being out of shape and flabby. More and more, I see women who are fit, strong and healthy well into their 70s, and this really excites me!
I love being involved in a movement that changes perspectives like this. Becoming physically stronger helped me to be mentally and emotionally stronger. Feeling more connected to myself gave me the power to care again about my hopes and dreams. It empowered me to take more control of my life and to finally make a few hard decisions I had been putting off for years. Become the mother of your own reinvention!”
Nicole Matthews and Heather Vines-Bright “Imprint”
“We believe that a true transformation begins on the inside and reflects on the outside and that it is the journey of getting there that truly impacts you. We know what it feels like to be lost in our purpose and confused about who we are and what we stand for. We are humbled by our own transformations and inspired by the gift a fit and healthy lifestyle has given us. Our affinity for all things beauty, including makeup and fashion, has paved the way for our styling services.
We want to give back to other women and impress the importance of finding your “why” and acknowledging that burning desire to be something more, something that truly leaves a lasting IMPRINT. We are both motivated and committed to make a difference and share our love and wisdom with others through fitness, fashion and beauty.”
“I am a 47-year-old mom of three, and my love for fitness came as a very young girl. I remember watching bodybuilding shows on TV with my dad. I told him I would be up onstage one day. Long story short, I became a mom in high school — still graduated but put most of my goals and dreams aside to be in that role. Fast-forward 20-plus years, a huge loss in my life brought me to where I am today.
I started competing about eight or nine years ago. It was what I thought was going to be a “bucket list” thing, and then it became a great distraction and addiction all at the same time. Once I saw how my body could transform from one extreme to another, I wanted to keep going. I did my very first competition as a WBFF bikini model, got a few shows under my belt, and then tried a few more in the NPC federation. I continue to compete to this day!”
“I am a weight-loss and fat-loss success story and have been featured on the cover of Oxygen magazine and in FitnessRX for Women. Today, I am a working and traveling professional, bikini model and life coach, but in my early 30s, I was overweight, unhealthy and unhappy. Armed with the decision to change my health for the better, I lost 40 pounds and entered my first fitness competition. The empowering experience launched me into the health and fitness industry, and I have been lucky enough to gain the respect of countless fans and professionals!
My goal is to continue to empower women, spreading the message of loving your body no matter what. I think it’s important that we stop focusing on unimportant things like a number on the scale — that little number used to rule my world! We should be thinking about important things like our real worth and what we have accomplished. Your appearance is just one part of you, and it doesn’t determine who you are or what you are capable of.”
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Division I track athlete and two-time Figure Olympia champion opens up about her enduring love of track, the practice of gratitude and her weekly self-care indulgence.
If I could go back and give my younger self advice, I would tell myself to be kinder, to enjoy life more and to practice being grateful. I think we miss out on a lot by being self-conscious or picking ourselves apart. Gratitude puts things into perspective and delivers happiness.
Once a week, I’ll put on a facial mask and just lie on the couch for an hour — that is my guilty pleasure. It’s kind of fun donning a robe and looking like a sea monster for a little while!
My best memory from my Bikini competition days was in 2012: I won the Figure Olympia, hopped on a plane to New Delhi and won the Sheru Classic. From there, I traveled to Spain and won the Arnold Classic in Madrid. I was able to shake Arnold’s hand for the first time onstage. The entire experience was surreal and a dream come true!
True sport is you versus something tangible, and I loved the challenge of track and field. I could also quickly learn from my failures. For example, if I missed three bars in a row in the high jump, I could review my form, approach and other aspects of the jump and correct them. My sister and I are actually planning to do a few meets in 2019, and my father said he may run the 100 meters, so we can all relive our glory days!
I take MuscleTech Clear Muscle with BetaTOR and Swanson Peak ATP about 30 minutes before I train. BetaTOR can increase muscle synthesis, decrease muscle breakdown and increase strength, while Peak ATP helps improve performance and body composition. Both help me train longer and with more intensity and enable me to recover quicker from hard training sessions.
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