Challenge Yourself to Shape Up

August 8, 2012 at 2:30 pm , by

The past two weeks we’ve watched in awe as thousands of athletes competed in everything from track & field to judo in London. But why just sit back and watch? The Olympics can be a great motivator to help you get in shape, too.

You don’t have to be an elite athlete to push yourself to new heights of better health. You may be surprised at what you can accomplish. That’s what happened to Terri Gerrard, pictured above (yes, both of those are her). We met her while we were working on our August issue story on sensible weight-loss secrets from LHJ readers.

My jaw dropped when Terri sent us her before and after pictures. But what really impressed me was why she chose to compete (in a bikini, on stage) in a figure competition. It’s a lot like bodybuilding, she says, except the judges focus on muscle tone rather than muscle size. Read on for how she made changes and how you can get started.

My “Eureka!” Moment
I had been active in dance and cheerleading when I was young. When I turned 40 I got complacent and my weight crept up slowly until I was 51 and close to 200 pounds. In 2008 I was at work when I started to have chest pains. It was like no other pain I’ve ever felt, and it scared me. I had a treadmill stress test and got a full physical, but my doctor found nothing wrong except for my high blood pressure, which usually doesn’t have symptoms. I still don’t know exactly what caused the pain that day, but I took it as a sign I had to make changes.

How I Did It
Baby steps! It took a lot to plan my meals and log my food, but it was so worth it. I started eating five or six times a day, mainly lean protein with vegetables and healthy snacks, like peanut butter and an apple or berries and a few almonds. I counted calories and carbohydrates to see exactly how much I was eating and paid really close attention to serving sizes. I still have treats, but those treats are much smaller than they used to be. And I don’t beat myself up if I have a bad eating day. I feel better, so that motivates me to continue to eat better.

After the medicine my doctor prescribed helped get my blood pressure under control, I started exercising. I hired a personal trainer to help me. At first I was petrified because I was so uncomfortable with my body and working out in front of others. On his urging, I did strength training with weights four days a week for an hour and would do cardio 30 minutes afterward. It was hard work, don’t get me wrong, but every time I could run a little further and not be short of breath, it was all worth it. Now, I’ve lost 60 pounds and I’m in the best shape of my life.

Why I Chose To Compete
I really wanted to make a statement. I’ve always been self-conscious of my body, even before I was overweight, and I wanted to do something to celebrate my hard work. Yes, I have wrinkles. I still have loose skin from being overweight, and I am still very much a novice compared with the other women who competed. But I needed to do it for myself because I covered up for so many years. Now I like to challenge myself in other ways—I’m learning to swim so I can do a triathlon soon, and last year I ran a half-marathon. (I had to walk the last bit, but hey, I finished!)

Ready To Get Started?
Get more real-life diet tips in our story “Fad Diets Don’t Work” from our August issue. You can train like an Olympian with the American Council on Exercise’s Gold Medal Workout series, complete with step-by-step demonstrations for programs based on Olympic faves gymnastics, track & field and more.

2 Responses to “Challenge Yourself to Shape Up”

  1. What an amazing transformation! I used to train fitness competitors so I know how tough this kind of challenge can be. GREAT job!

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