‘How I Became A Bikini Competitor At The Age Of 52’

The air reeks of sweat, the stage is dangerously slick with oil and the aroma of coconut is ubiquitous. The lights of the stage are blinding and my eyes attempt to adjust again. First, as we marched through the fluorescent-lit foyer, then into the dusty dark of the back of the theatre, next as we waited in the blindingly white backstage hall and finally, now, as we line up behind the stage curtain. Manufactured fog rolls over our stilettos, flashes of multicoloured lights shine in and around us through the black sheer curtain, creating a dizzying, hypnotic disco effect. We wait.

It seems a lifetime before we are summoned onto the stage, one by one, taking our positions at the back. My eyes adjust again, this time to the blinding stage lights which would have washed us out and obscured all our hard work if the spray tan wasn’t doing its job, accentuating our muscles and definition.

They call my name. My right hand shoots up over my head in acknowledgement. I drop my arm, push my shoulders back and raise my chin. I strut towards the precipice of the stage, trying to move gracefully, but even after hours of posing practice, my 5 inch heels make even the smallest movement awkward. I feel like a 52 year Bambi, with all the awkwardness of youth but none of the grace.

My brazen blue bikini sparkles under the lights and I feel the sweat bead at my hairline, running slowly down the sides of my face. I pray no one could see it, under the harsh and unfathomable conditions of the stage.

I can just make out the endless table of judges just below the stage. I can’t see the audience but I can hear them, feel the weight of them, crowded into the dark space, yelling – no, roaring – as each name is called.

This, my final round, there were only three of us on stage. Over 60 years old, #SuperFitSally towers over me from the centre of the stage. On the far end is another competitor from Canberrra, the same age as me. Talons of coloured nails flash as they strike their poses, their augmented cleavage the colour of honey, their blond and brunette ringlets (respectively) cascade down their bronzed shoulders. They move with a grace that comes from hours, weeks and years of practice. They smile and strut and pose. I am shaking and can barely move.

“Quarter turn to the right, please ladies” I move into position, my legs are shaking from the nerves and the constant tension of holding each pose: stomach in, butt out, elbow rotated, front leg bent, left wrist dipping towards the judges, chin up and smile ON! I wobble but then lower my front leg just in time to regain my balance.

And again “Quarter turn to the right, please.” The back pose. “Everyone will be looking at my butt!” I think, “Oh my God!” My backside is incredibly bare, even under the ‘modest’ bikini bottom I had chosen. My legs are shaking uncontrollably now. I pop my bottom out to the crowd, raise my arms over my head and unnaturally scoop my hands to the base of my skull and flex my back. I try to breathe but I am shaking too much; my rump quivering with the effort. I’m not smiling anymore but in a moment of amusement, I realise no one is looking at my face.

And again. “Quarter turn to the right.”

My mind is racing. How does it go again? Oh sh*t! Step out with my right foot, pivot on my left, pop my butt to the right, right hand face down on my thigh and glance over my right shoulder as if this were the most natural thing in the world, flirting with an audience I can’t even see.

“Thank you ladies and the results are in! In third place, we have Jennifer HIll.”

I look around, startled. A young woman in black saunters towards me carrying a medal bigger than my head. She raises it over my head and rests the soft ribbon around my neck. I feel off balance from the weight and have to lower my foot again to regain control. I am smiling now and this time it was for real. I f**king did it! All those stupid posing lessons, the 70+ weights session, the endless hours of walking, counting every calorie and every macro. Right now, none of that mattered anymore! I was on a stage wearing nothing but my “Blue Beauty” and I had won a medal! I couldn’t believe it.

A bit of background about me, I have never entered any type of beauty pageant before, I had never done pole dancing or acting and I had never taken to any stage, much less one in which most of my “bits” were on display!

I work full time as a project manager for an Australian technology company and in addition to my day job, I run a company with my husband and offer business consultancy services.

I love learning new things but I don’t like it when things don’t work. I am a mad-keen starter of new projects, diets and life hacks but I am a poor finisher. I don’t want to brag, but historically my IQ level has been pretty high. And by IQ, I mean my “I Quit “ level.

Getting hard? Quit.

Uncomfortable? Quit.

Not experiencing immediate happiness or gratification? Quit

Relationships getting messy or uncomfortable? Just leave and/or quit.

Not getting immediate results? Quit.

Not getting the (unrealistic) results I thought I would get? Quit.

Someone doing something better, faster and more elegant than me? No problem, just quit; there is no competition if you don’t play.

You get the idea.

Before Covid, I had had a personal trainer whose sister entered a bikini competition. She was decades younger than me but I knew that sometimes women my age competed in these competitions. I had enjoyed lifting weights at various times in my life and I had recently lost around 14 kilos / 30 pounds. I was thinner and stronger, more fit and motivated than at almost any other time in my life but I didn’t know if I was fit enough to do a fitness competition. I also knew that I had no idea how much those women had to work to get those bodies or what kind of dietary changes were required.

A few weeks later I chatted with Kat, a personal trainer who did this for a living, and arranged to visit her in person, so she could see what she might be working with.

After getting all my measurements done, discussing the logistics, budgetary considerations and high level timelines, she asked me why I wanted to do a bikini competition in the first place.

I was quiet for a minute, while I thought about it. “Frankly,” I said, “I just want to amaze the f**k out of myself!”

Her eyes lit up.

I went home and did the budget. I talked it over with my husband to gauge how crazy I was. I looked over the calendar, reviewed work and school commitments and family events to see if it could line up. There were plenty of inexpensive gyms nearby and I was already carving out lots of time for fitness so I just needed to repurpose the time, I reasoned. It turns out that everything I needed to do this was at my fingertips: the money to fund it, the desire to do it, a coach who had done this before, a supportive family, the time and the baseline fitness.

So, how would it all work?

It was a 14 week program to transform myself into a woman who will confidently don a tiny, sparkling bikini, strut onto a stage and pose for an audience.

My coach helped me install the app which recorded my workouts and walking. I gave her access to MyFitnessPal so she could track my food and nutrition. Every week we had a video call for half an hour. Every sunday I had to enter my measurements and photos of my nearly-naked self into the app so she could see my progress.

Something which started as a personal challenge ended up making my world bigger and brighter and more joyful than I ever expected. I was introduced to a new industry, different people, a new approach to nutrition and exercise and most of all, it opened my eyes to the fact that we can absolutely achieve amazing things if we set our minds to it.

The entire process took about 15 weeks, around 70 weights sessions, over 80 cardio sessions, a tremendous coach and miotic attention to macro-nutrients, dedication and focus.

We all do better with accountability, a goal and something to look forward to. And if I could do it (I’m the I Quit Queen, after all!), then so could you!

Source @womenshealth.com.au: Read more at : womenalive.org

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