Prepared to be inspired! The moral of this story is, it’s never too late to get back to fitness and do whatever feeds your soul. I’m not suggesting you wait 20 years. Whatever your age, re-connecting to something you used to enjoy can relight your fire. When life throws you curve balls, illnesses or even death, your body can do incredible things, even after 40…. heck, even after 50!
Bodybuilding and Competing After 50
That’s what happened to Sabrina St. Rose. She has been an IT professional for 30 years with a thriving consulting business. She is the mother of two, having had her first baby in hear mid-20’s. Now, at 52 years young, she has finally circled back to her true love, bodybuilding. Her story compelled me to reach out for an interview. I was pretty sure she might have some good advice for other busy women, working moms and overcoming the adversity of injuries. Check!
Sabrina wasn’t your stereotypical tech-nerd. Even with her right brain, analytical mind that lead her into the technology field, she was stocky girl who enjoyed playing high school sports. But the light bulb didn’t go off until her in her early 20’s when she saw the movie “Pumping Iron 2.” She was instantly enamored with the legendary pioneers of female bodybuilding, Rachel McLish and Corey Everson. She put up pictures of them and made them her role models. They were beautiful, they were strong and they looked like real life super heroes. With the new goal of becoming a bodybuilder, the weight room became her haven and her happy place.
But then life happened fast. Her career and her baby took center stage. And, like most women who are creatures of duty and delayed gratification, Sabrina put her personal goals on hold. For two decades she thought focusing on everything else except what she really wanted was the right thing to do. During our chat, one of the first things Sabrina stressed was how this was a colossal mistake. Looking back she realizes putting herself on the back burner was definitively, not the right thing to do. If there’s one message she wants women to take away from this piece, it’s that, “you have to keep yourself in the limelight and do what you love,” throughout your life. Putting your needs last is only going to hurt your “PMA,” (what she calls her personal mental attitude).
As she watched the weight creep on, she felt her PMA gradually degrading. She thought she was doing what was right – focusing solely on her business and kids. But inside she felt bad for not attending to her own needs. Any other women here who can relate to that?
Re-inspired at 45
At 45, she finally she got the knock to the head she needed. The “moment” happened when she was working at AARP and had the opportunity to attend an event. The guest speaker was Ernestine Shepard, the 80+ year old body builder phenom, who was a sedentary secretary until her mid 50’s. After seeing herself in a fitting room, trying on bathing suits with her sister, she realized it was time for a lifestyle change. She and her sister started on a training program and fell in love with it. Then, her sister died suddenly which almost derailed Ernestine. But she found the strength to get back on the fitness path and take it as far as she could go. As the Guinness book’s oldest performing body builder, she’s still going!
Ernestine’s story resonated with Sabrina who lost her mom in 2008 and her fitness 20 years before that. That seminar in 2009 was the tipping point for Sabrina and what spurred her to finally resurrect her fitness goals.
Here is an excerpt from our conversation:
Me: What kind of shape were you in when you re-started?
Sabrina: My BMI was not good. I had lots of body fat, a lot of sagging skin, I lacked muscle and was a size 12. I’m 5’5″.
Me: And now?
Sabrina: Now I’m 135 lbs. at 15% body fat and in better shape than before I had my kids.
Me: How did you get re-started?
SSR: I started doing the P90X and Insanity workout DVDs so I could workout at home because they were time effective. Then I started going to the gym with my husband. I also ran a marathon after my mom died. I wanted to start checking things off my bucket list.
Me: Do you have any injuries?
SSR: After the marathon, I couldn’t run anymore. It turned out that I had 5 herniated discs in my back. The physical therapist I went to, told me to focus on strength training
Me: What is your training program like now?
SSR: I train 6 days a week and rest for one. 4 days are my strength training routine and 2 days are non-strength focused, and more about keeping things interesting. That might be Pilates, yoga, boxing, basically non-lifting workouts.
Me: What supplements do you take?
SSR: I drink whey protein shakes twice a day. My goal is to keep gaining muscle. I’m thrilled because I gained 2 pounds of muscle in the last 90 days! I get my body composition checked every 90 days in a BodPod. I take a multivitamin, calcium and glucosamine. For athletic performance, I’m trying out Con-cret Women’s Elite. I love the microdosing it offers. And PUMP, their nitric oxide boosting formula before sprints and leg days. I also drink beet root juice and take tumeric.
Me: What kind of diet are you on?
SSR: I’m all about high protein. I’m not vegan and I’m not on steroids – people actually ask me that! I eat fish, fowl, egg whites and high fiber. I don’t eat red meat often. I’m basically on a high protein Mediterranean style diet.
Me: Do you count calories or macros?
SSR: I don’t count fat or carbs when I’m off contest season.
Me: How often do you compete?
SSR: Three times a year. I only need to do a cutting diet 6 week out because I stay in shape all year round.
Me: Do you ever lose motivation?
I always wanted to look like a super hero. I want to show people I’m as strong on the outside as I feel on the inside.
Sabrina: Never. Now my routine is so interwoven into my daily life that I’ll never put it in the back seat again. Everyday I need to play for 2 hours (except for the one rest day). I always wanted to look like a super hero. I want to show people I’m as strong on the outside as I feel on the inside.
Me: What is your next goal?
SSR: I want to get on the US Track and Field Masters team and complete in sprints!
Me: Wait a minute. I thought you had 5 herniated discs in your back after the marathon?
SSR: I can run short sprints.
Me: What advice do you have for women over 40, or even over 50?
SSR: I think women should focus on building muscle and not the scale. After 30, we can lose more than 3% of our muscle mass every decade. Our skin gets looser too. Building muscle as you age is how you can fill in that skin. Staying smaller is not how you beat aging. But, sometimes when you’re humming along perfectly, life decides to throw you a right hook. For example, last year I found out I have a macular hole in my right eye. Some people might look at that as a reason to back off. But I was still able to train. Of course you have to make modifications. And then you need to get your harness on and get back on track. You’re not always going to be 100% all of the time, whether it’s a back problem, an eye or an illness. You accept it as your new normal, love yourself and be disciplined to keep moving forward, whatever state you’re in. You need to surf around your challenges. It’s humbling, but I believe God imparts miracles.
In addition to running her successful IT consulting business, Sabrina now has a side hustle. A few years ago she got a Personal Training certification.