This article was first seen on the Huffington Post. For this installment, we are joined by Stacy Simons McDowell.
Let’s start off with a general introduction. How would you describe yourself, what are you all about and how did you get involved in health and fitness?
I’d describe myself as a total gym rat, that likes to help others, and have the tendency to laugh at everything (*it helps me live a less stressful life!)!
I have always enjoyed helping others and my full time job as an Activity Director, enables me to impact the lives of those with special needs and the geriatric population. I also do personal training part time so the two combined really makes me feel like I make a positive impact on others. I began my fitness journey at age 6 when I used to work out with my dad, and…..have never stopped since!
You were a gymnast for eight years, then transitioned to springboard diving and after graduating you still wanted to be competitive in something – how did it end up becoming fitness?
I recall one of my college roommates saying that it was her “dream to be Miss Fitness USA.” I had no idea what it was until I saw a competition on TV. From there, the gym in which I worked had a poster hanging for the NPC Blue Thunder (1996). I figured “hey, I have a gymnastics background, so why not?!”
For your first competition you just jumped into the deep and had a lot of fun with it – in fact, that’s what got you hooked. Can you take us back to that first fitness competition?
Dear God in heaven!!!! I had NO CLUE what to expect! I was the only competitor: with an off the rack swimsuit; rocked a “farmer’s tan”; had no oil or Protan,; “quarter turns….what are they?”; and had a 60 second fitness routine!!! Needless to say, I came in dead last, but I had SO MUCH FUN!!!
The year after you sought help from John Kemper and Dennis Kirby – how important has their mentorship been in your journey?
I absolutely will always be grateful for all of their help! John sadly passed away a few years ago, but he truly took me under his wing and guided me in the right direction. To this day, I still use the same training methods (but tweaked a little) that Dennis taught me. Without the two of them, I may not have even turned pro!
You turned pro back in 1997 and have quite the track record as a fitness competitor – in 2012 you made the switch to Physique – can you explain the difference and the decision?
I’ll always be a “fitness chick” at heart. I still love the sport, but it was time to switch because my body is meant to put on muscle. As a fitness competitor I had a tough time coming in smaller (*less muscular) so it was a no brainer for me to switch to physique.
You’ve prepared for over 53 pro shows – that’s incredible. What has been the most remarkable lesson you’ve learned through it all?
The biggest thing I learned after my last show (which was #54) is that you always have to listen to your body. If you need to rest, increase calories, etc, you must do so because it will add to longevity in this industry.
How big of a role did your friends and family play in the success throughout your competitive career as an athlete?
I’ve been fortunate that my family and friends have always been supportive. On a personal level, it can be difficult to be in a relationship with someone who isn’t on the same wavelength.
The person must be secure with themselves, strong, and supportive. I have truly learned that you cannot make someone secure, that comes from within. If this attribute isn’t present, the relationship will suffer.
And in turn, I know it’s your goal to help other people learn how to live a positive and healthy lifestyle, no matter what their goals may be. What advice would you give someone who is just starting out and is unhappy with her/his health and appearance?
I’ve always taken the same approach with all of my clients (whether they compete or not) as I do with myself. What’s inside counts more! You need to keep your insides healthy from a medical standpoint as well as a mental & spiritual standpoint.
I know you also work with people who have disabilities, what drives you to do that and what have you learned in the process?
I truly love working with people with disabilities because they need an advocate in so many ways.
After 53+ competitions, how big of a role do supplements play in your ability to consistently perform over the years?
I have learned to rely more on whole foods and the proper vitamins first before jumping the gun with using supplements. I feel that more competitors would benefit if they relied on a more sound and nutritious program.
However, over the last 2yrs I have incorporated powerlifting (deadlift only) into my training regimen (*this made a HUGE positive impact on my physique). Last May I won my first meet and deadlifted 375 (*which was a PR). Currently, my coach is preparing me for another one in February 🙂
Where can people go to learn more about you online?