From Yoga Teacher to Bodybuilding Champion -- Twice!
Bodybuilding is a tough and intimidating world. Not many understand what it takes to fit in and compete like Sara. How does this 42-year-old beauty go from certified yoga teacher to champion bodybuilder? It ain’t easy, we’ll tell you that!
Let it be known that this woman got the tiara on her first attempt! She was crowned at the Amateur NPC Bodybuilding Competition in Las Vegas last July, 2017. After the win, she thought “okay, won and done”. But she couldn’t leave it at “one.” So she went back to the gym. And guess what? Sara went for the second round stronger than ever! She won her second tiara, a sword and several trophies at the Olympia Qualifier. Yes, a sword was the prize!
Sara is a single woman, (Yeah, we don’t get that either.) originally from Seattle, and works from her La Jolla home as a branch manager in the mortgage industry. Her daily workouts, teaching yoga, and her trusted companion mini schnauzer help her maintain a healthy work-life balance. She also loves a good bubble bath! Back in college she was an athlete who loved musical theater. She toyed with the idea of becoming an actress or a singer, but a professional career in finance and real estate is what happened. No regrets. Sara tells us that, "In the end, we find hobbies that replace hidden passions to feel like we made the effort...that we tested ourselves."
Her journey started out of curiosity and the desire to try something new, but soon Sara became a regular member of the bodybuilding world. She was driven, and set her own goals. This is not an easy path. And opinions came from every direction: "Do this. Do that." "Why are you doing this?" "You're getting too muscular." "Are you taking steroids?" Blah, blah, blah! Experts and naysayers be damned. This was Sara's path. It was chosen. And while she had zero expectations for the first competition, the same can not be said for the second. She had “win” on the mind from the start. And in the end, the crown and sword made it that much more sweet.
For Sara, bodybuilding was a mind-body connection. It allowed her to blend her passion for sports and theater. The process brought out sides of Sara that she had rarely explored. Just look at the images! This is theater for sure. From posing, to walking and flexing on clear high heels, it was a stage that she owned. Why the clear shoes though? They are one of the essentials of bodybuilding, and actually “pretty” comfortable according to Sara. The main purpose of the heels is to elongate the legs and make them look more muscular. There was a whole science behind posing, and Sara embraced it with her best attitude.
Getting to lean.
Despite spending approximately two hours in the gym each day, yoga remains Sara's first passion to relieve work and personal stress. Sara says, “Working in the financial industry tends to be very stressful. But, yoga heals my body, elongates my muscles, and helps me to truly relax.” Two weeks before her first bodybuilding competition she admits she stopped teaching yoga because was not able to remember her flow anymore. Maybe there needs to be a new term #boydbuildingbrain!
For her nutrition program, Sara adhered to flexible dieting, sometimes called IIFYM -- If It Fits Your Macros. "Macros" is the abbreviaiton for macronutrients. Sara managed her macros within a 2,000 calories a day meal plan. Limiting her calories and food selections was a challenge and required strict portion control of foods like tilapia, steak, and lots of greens (especially asparagus!). Sara completely cut dairy and sugar from her meal plan. What amazed our team is that Sara was able to be "competition ready" in TWO months. Wow! But this was hardcore and serious training. Her yoga body welcomed this amazing transformation, and Sara skillfully used nutrition to create a lean (and mean) look.
While her body was listening and changing the way she wanted, the two-week "peak week" was rough on Sara. The monotony of the daily routine two weeks prior to her compeition combined with fantasies of it all being over created mood swings. Everything seemed like too much...the strict dieting, rigorous workouts, practice in the heels, planning each move, and more. Then there was limiting liquid intake as a means to dry out her muscles for the competition. Sara felt isolated during this time. “It becomes a very lonely world", especially as she watched her friends do "normal" things like go out to dinner and enjoy a glass of wine.
Where's the fun?
"Fun" may not be the best word to describe two months of steadfast commitment and regimented discipline. In fact, there's very little "fun" during the prep. Rather, it's more about the "after" that makes it "fun." Accomplishment is a HUGE driver and so is winning. Winning is always fun. Even getting the "ridiculous must-have tan" was a pain. She revealed that she actually banked three tans before her first competition! "The chemicals are gross and it takes weeks to get the tan OFF!" she told us. However, Sara did enjoy the process of designing her customized bikini. And of course there is a certain amount of fun (or torture) fantasizing and planning the food treats post competition. For Sara, donuts and pancakes were her carb splurge. (We get that! Athletic-Minded Traveler's favorite "go to" donut shop in San Diego is Rose Donuts. The apple fritter is a standout.)
For those who may follow in Sara's path, don't forget to glue your butt to your bathing suit! Yes, you want to ensure that while strutting around on stage that the little tiny bikini doesn’t go anywhere it shouldn’t. Every small detail was accounted for for this final special moment.
Going against stereotype.
Sara is very familiar with stereotypes that prevail in the bodybuilding world. Two words thrown around all the time: supplements and steroids. At the outset of her journey, Sara assumed steroids was a “thing” that everyone had to "do" to really "show" in the bodybuilding world. She was relieved and thankful when her coach said she did NOT need them, and that not everyone takes them. Just look at the images above. These photos were taken within weeks of one another. Clearly, NO steroids here. In fact, The Athletic-Minded Traveler Team would not be profiling Sara if steroids were used. Instead, Sara relied on "natural" supplements such as glutamine, BCAAS (before or while working out), multivitamins, and fish oil (before she eats).
Sara confronted other people’s reactions to her bodybuilder goals: “looks fake", "superficial pursuit", and "you'll become masculine.” Sara may have had a serious "fake" tan. But there's NOTHING fake about those muscles. Those babies were hard earned. Masculine? No way. And our team has observed that particular telltale sign of steroid use. The face does change. But not Sara's, because she kept it clean. For Sara, it was a valuable lesson that you can’t caught up on labels. It strengthened her resolve. Her skin, figuratively, got thicker!
It's not all superficial.
However, Sara readily admits that a goal of “looking good” sounds superficial, and it is in a way. She balances her workout dedication by giving back to the community when she teaches yoga. And don't forget that she has a full-time job. Sara is hardly lollygagging in front of the mirror. (We'll leave that to the Kardashians.) Sara makes time to teach others at CorePower. Three times a week she meets with her class to offer physical, mental, and spiritual guidance.
For Sara, bodybuilding has been an amazing journey, made even more special by her wins. Despite the ups and downs, she feels grateful for the support of her family and friends. She wants to show others how one can work hard to achieve physical and mental goals. Sharing her improvements and milestone moments on social media and with our Team are ways to motivate others that may not be on a similar path...but should!
Editor's Note: Maria Salazar contributed to this piece. She’s an avid blogger, content creator, and bilingual communication specialist (English and Spanish). Maria is also a coffee aficionado and enjoys yoga.