Helen is an IFBB Masters Pro and has a podcast “Age is Irrelevant”
Helen, thank you for taking the time to tell us about yourself.
I am 63 years old. Flight Attendant For 35 years. Lifelong competitive athlete lettering in 4 sports in high school and ran track at the University of Kentucky. I Continued to work out and train after college. When I turned 55, I decided I wanted to test my limits and get into the best shape of my life knowing that 60 was just around the corner. Someone suggested bodybuilding and when I looked into it and saw how strict the diet was and that I had to give up wine (I am a certified wine specialist and at the time I was working in a wine and chocolate shop!) I decided this was not for me and I quickly put it on the back burner. The Universe had different plans for me though…. six months later I was training with a girlfriend who was a competitive bodybuilder.
She was also a fitness coach. She was helping a client get ready for a bodybuilding show and between the two of them they talked me into doing a show in 30 days. Most people cannot get ready for a show in 30 days but I was very naïve. I entered a 35+ bikini competition and competed against girls 20 years younger than me and I came in third!
I loved the process, I loved the body transformation and decided to continue down this path. I competed in several more shows over the next four years normally placing in the top five and on my 60th birthday, I entered a big national show and I won my pro card! Today, I continue to compete at the pro level in the IFBB masters pro bikini division
Congratulations! What do you find to be the biggest challenge in prepping to compete?
The biggest challenge for me with my diet is my job. I travel domestically as well as internationally. I bring all my food with me to work. It’s tough being overseas with the crew out sightseeing and staying on track while everyone else is eating and drinking freely while I’m pulling turkey burgers, green beans and potatoes out of my purse! I was nicknamed Houdini because no one ever knew what I was going to be pulling out of my bag next! Lol!
Are the any foods you love that you have to avoid?
I’m a dark chocoholic! And I love my wine… specifically a nice big bold red Cabernet from Napa Valley!
How many hours to you train most days?
When I’m in competition prep I normally train 1.5-2 hours a day, six days a week.
Does your training include cardio or do you forego it for muscle gains?
Cardio is a big part of training, but it depends where you are in your training. In my off-season I am doing a lot less cardio because I’m trying to put on muscle. During a competition prep cardio increases as you get closer to a show to lean out and burn fat!
And you work with a coach?
Right now I have two coaches. My nutrition coach is Cornelius Parkin in Charlotte, North Carolina and my strength coach is Jesse Holland in Scottsdale, Arizona
You’re a trailblazer! It’s exciting to see bodybuilding embrace older categories.
I am super stoked to see bodybuilding show promoters finally realizing that more and more older women are competing now. I am the oldest Masters bikini pro competitor at the moment. I talked to several other gals over 50 and we all wrote letters and sent in petitions asking for more age divisions at the 50/55/60+ level. Luckily, we asked, and they listened! There are several 50/55 and two 60+ Shows in 2021. Can’t wait to compete in all of them!
What tips or advice can you give women 40 and over?
Tips and advice that I can give women that will help with changes the body goes through after menopause are: First and foremost, get a hormone panel done! During Peri menopause/menopause/post menopause our hormones are totally out of whack! Having your hormones regulated will definitely help in transitioning through these phases! Make sure that you participate in some type of exercise programming! Movement is imperative to keep our body/joints/muscles working properly. It also helps alleviate stress and anxiety and regulates our cortisol levels. Eat a clean diet! Processed foods, junk food, sugar, sodas cause inflammation, High cholesterol and is associated with heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Not only that, it affects our skin and our overall well-being.
How much sleep do you get?
I average 6-7.5 hrs of sleep a night. I’m a huge proponent of sleep. It’s one of my top priorities! The body needs this time to rest and repair and your mind needs this time to rest and relax!
Besides bodybuilding, how has your diet changed as you’ve gotten older?
So many older women, including myself, have developed food sensitivities. I could eat anything I wanted to eat and at age 55 I started experiencing a lot of bloating and stomach issues/distention. I finally had some food sensitivity testing done and I was shocked to learn that my body no longer responded well to gluten, dairy, soy, whey protein. Today I no longer include these items in my diet and my stomach is 100% better. If you have stomach issues, then the first things I would eliminate would be gluten and dairy because they usually are the culprits. I would also suggest taking digestive enzymes with your meals. It helps break down food in your stomach!
You discuss mindset often in your podcast, tell us more about yours.
As women turn 40, 50, 60 and beyond it’s really important to have a positive mindset in life! Not only are we physically transforming… (going through menopause) but we are also transitioning into becoming empty-nesters, possible job changes, possible relationship changes etc. So many of can get stuck and lost and before we know it we’re miserable! Age should have no bearing on your wants and desires! It’s never too late to start something new! With a positive mindset, you can look to the future with joy and anticipation instead of anguish and dread. This second chapter should be your best chapter! Surround yourself with like-minded people who share the same desires, goals, hobbies and dreams as you do. Step out of this box, take risks, try new things! For me, every time I jumped into the unknown, the net always appeared!
If it can happen for me it can happen for everyone!
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