I was always athletic as a kid and loved swimming, cheerleading, and running track. When I was 11, I was diagnosed with diabetes and developed neuropathy, blindness, heart disease, and failing kidneys, which all made working out a lot harder.

I was in and out of the hospital. There were a lot of close calls where I didn't know if I would make it through the night. I did everything I could to take care of myself but nothing worked. My body didn't respond and it was so demoralising.

When my kidneys officially failed at 34, doctors gave me a choice: I could start dialysis but likely not live past 40, or I could undergo an experimental double organ transplant to get a new kidney and new pancreas to potentially cure the diabetes. Surgery was risky, but I wanted to have my entire life ahead of me and didn't want to live with diabetes anymore.

Fortunately, the surgery was successful. However, in my 40s my heart disease progressed, and I had a dysfunctional thyroid. I underwent cardiac triple bypass surgery and had my thyroid removed.

By the time I was 62, I was so grateful to be alive. To celebrate my body and resilience, I decided to get as fit as I possibly could.

After a lifetime of battling chronic illness, I started strength training at 62 and began to realise my potential.

I was living in Mexico at the time and came across a three-month online strength challenge for people over 40. The focus was to lift weights and maximise nutrition while going easy on the joints. I signed up for the program and committed to working hard. I didn’t realise there would be a winner, but after three months, I made the most progress and won the challenge.

I had never lifted weights before, but I was hooked. My body was finally responding to being well-cared for after everything it endured, and I felt great. I was empowered I could push myself to new limits and I didn’t want to stop.

A year later, I moved back to the states and hired a personal trainer. My goal was to achieve optimal wellness. I didn’t care about losing weight or the number on the scale at all. I wanted to lift heavier weights with proper form, learn more about my body, and maximise my potential.

Now, I work out five days a week with a personal trainer.

I still work with the same personal trainer, and we do 45-minute sessions with an upper and lower body split. I typically do 4 sets of 10 to 15 reps of eight different exercises. Technically, they’re supersets because I only rest for 30 seconds in between. I get a lot done in a short amount of time.

Upper body is my favorite and I love all things shoulders and arms. Hamstrings are my weakest link, but I work especially hard at training my quads and glutes. Recently, I conquered eight leg presses at 450 pounds (a new PR!).

I never deprive myself, but I focus on balanced nutrition and track macros to maximise my training.

I’ve always known the importance of a balanced diet, especially with my health issues, but I started tracking macros to maximise nutrition and support my training. I use the My Macros+ app to stay organised and eat five small meals a day. I focus on adding colour to my plate and prioritise lean protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats. I always have cut veggies in my fridge. Salmon, chicken, tuna, Greek yogurt, egg whites, and purple sweet potato are some of my favourites to fill my plate.

All that said, I never deprive or restrict myself. If I want dessert, I have it. It’s all about balance and I’ve found what works for me.

When I discovered bodybuilding, I took my strength to the next level to be an example for women of all ages.

My coach saw how hard I worked in the gym, and how much I loved it, and suggested I compete in a masters bikini bodybuilding competition. I thought there’s no way anyone wants to see me in a bikini, but I decided to go for it and celebrate my body. At 64 and the same month of the 30-year anniversary of my organ transplant, I competed in my first championship. I won, and I was hooked.

Getting strong and feeling confident in my body is tough to beat. To prep for the competition I focused on building muscle with heavy weight training and a calorie surplus. Right before the show I started my "cut" and reduced overall calorie intake to shed body fat and reveal lean muscle. Training for competitions became my new lifestyle, and I thrived on the system of discipline and motivation I built. Working out and fuelling my body with healthy nutrients became second nature.

The cherry on top? I get to set an example for other women, younger and older, and inspire them to do the same.

These three things were key to my strength transformation success.

1. I built a community of like-minded women to support and inspire my journey.

Menopause is confusing and your body undergoes a lot of change, but finding a community of women who can relate made a huge difference for me and what I was able to do physically. Giving and receiving support from others in my age group is so inspiring. I truly believe in the power of connection. I’ve found so much gold in my community, both online and in-person, and growing with other strong women is a recipe for success.

2. I realised that my body is resilient, and I’m capable of doing hard things.

I’ve had my fair share of health scares, and I’m so proud of my body for overcoming the challenges. Through all the hospitalisations and complications, here I am at 66, not only lifting heavy weights but winning competitions. Going to the gym and hitting new PRs is proof that my body is resilient. I’m just so grateful to be alive.

3. I understand that confidence is key to my success.

My goal is to constantly take care of my health and treat my body with compassion. I’ve cut out all negative self-talk and replaced it with total confidence. I’m strong, proud, and capable, and I show up every day as my authentic self.

After decades of being sick, I finally feel good and I’m going to do everything in my power to continue this path.

2024-05-20T15:03:38Z dg43tfdfdgfd