How I Got Into Fitness - The Long Version

Baby SweetCapri with dad
I was recently asked on my FB Q & A about how I got into fitness. Since the story required some lengthy explanations and details, I opted to blog about it.
I have been in the industry for a while now and I've learned that most of us don't just fall into it, but have some sort of deep rooted motivation or reason why we strive to be so dedicated at achieving this specific aesthetic muscular or lean look. I am no different.
I was a very small baby, and to this day I am not quite sure if I was born prematurely. All I know is my mother tells me stories that I was so small they had to use a pillow in order to hold me. Growing up I was also very fragile and not the best eater out. I am not talking about your regular child/vegetable aversion but pretty much a total refusal to eat. I often had to be force fed.
At one point in my young years I developed kidney problems and had to be put on a plethora of painful antibiotic injections regularly. On my butt. Yeah. No fun for a 10 year old. My mother always suspected that I have had undiagnosed thyroid issues also.
Now to think of it, maybe this is why my parents kept me away from playing outside and kept me consumed in academics. I was considered a child prodigy and was reading by the age of 2, and learning how to read and write in Russian (where my mom had spent a few years of medical school) by 4, and at that same age I had begun school, except I wasn't in Kindergarten but immediately skipped to the 2nd grade.
Needless to say I was always the youngest and smallest throughout my entire school years.
SweetCapri with her first little shrimp in 1996
Once I begun high school I was determined to defy my parents' ideals of keeping me indoors and into my books and I wanted to try different sports. My biggest motivation and inspiration happens to be one of my uncles, who at the time, and still to this date, was heavily into weight lifting. He had a room filled with weights and a soloflex machine. I was attracted to the weights like magnets.
I was running track and after every practice we had the choice to hit the weight room. I was familiar with this and often found myself to be the only girl in there really interested in the weights.
Being in the track team with my upbringing and my parents' ideals of being a lawyer or a doctor did not sit well. They tried everything possible to block me from participating in the track team and attend practice. It wasn't until the intervention from my high school principal happened that they backed off. Just a little though.
Even though I was still the youngest and smallest (and still the most fragile) petite person in the track team, I felt strong inside. I felt empowered and that's a feeling that can't be replaced.
And here come the college years! Woohooo! Imagine a 16 year old left to wander a college campus all on her own? Freedom!
The first thing I did was find where my gym was. I was often the ONLY girl in the sweaty-college-dude ridden gym. I didn't care. I was religious about my weight training routine, even though looking back, half the time I had no idea what I was doing. I stayed pretty active with my love for training. Dieting or eating healthy was not a concern of mine at the time. Hello, I was in college! I actually had a pretty large appetite but never put on much weight. I was still tiny. But, I did have a big booty. (Thanks ma!).
Stephanie & Jamal :)
My college career came to a slight stall when I found myself pregnant with my first child. A couple of years later, I had my second child. I am sure you guys can imagine what having children does to a woman's body and even though I did not gain huge amounts of weight my body was still never the same. My main focus was obviously my children and my household and I was also determined to finish my undergraduate college career. Doing so with 2 children was a challenge, as it was going to a gym. I was still young and there was a lack of resources.
Like most women who have children and who gain a little weight there was a point where I wasn't happy with my body. I decided to take charge. I found a local gym that, in addition, had an indoor playground and activities for children. This made working out easier and a family event. As my children grew older and attended school, I eventually found another gym where I could go on my own and do my thing. It was such an amazing experience. To me it was my "me" time. I felt strong, empowered, and by the time I went home I had more energy to deal with the daily challenges of being a mom.
My daughter and the night before
my first show in 2003
Then there is the magazine story. I cannot tell you how many times I've heard women who find themselves staring at the cover of Muscle n Fitness or Oxygen and want to have a body just like the ones you see in those pages. I remember running to the owner of my gym back in 2003 and telling him that I wanted to look like that. He laughed as if it would be an impossible feat for me. Anyone that knows me knows that I am fueled by thoughts of the impossible. If you think I can't do it, chances are THAT alone is what will give me the drive and energy to do it!
My first competition in 2003!
At the time there was one single supplement store in my area owned by Garrett Shepherd called In Shape Nutrition. I had read a couple of articles on those magazines outlining protein powders and fat burners and I went into his store to purchase them. Garrett to the time to guide me into making some good choices and after I spoke to him about my goals, he volunteered to help me. He had all these amazing bodybuilding photos of himself posted on his walls and I knew I could trust him to meet my fitness goals. He gave me the idea and inspiration to get on stage. He saw how determined I was and knew I had a spark in me that would allow me to meet my goals. So we embarked on a journey to get me lean and on stage!
My daughter and I during my
2009 contest prep
As I prepared for my first show, not only did I get my body back in 2003, but I got it back with a vengeance! Although the process of dieting and training for a competition could be rather challenging while maintaining a household, a full time job, and attending graduate school, I found the ability to have control of my body exhilarating! I enjoyed watching my body change weekly and the fact that I could do something that no one around me was able to do. It set me aside from other members of my academic community and I loved it!
My last competition in 2011 in the Master's division
I also found myself more focused and determined in all other aspects and areas of my life. I was able to complete more tasks and be more diligent and organized. I feel stronger, more empowered and not nearly as fragile (despite my petite frame) as I did growing up.
So there you have it, the full story of how I got into fitness. I've been competing since 2003 and I have loved every single minute of it (carb depletion included).

My son and I after my 2011 competition with TWO trophies!

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