Karen Lawlor is working her way to compete next year in the WBFF Federation competition. FOCUS finds out what it takes to compete at this level …
Karen, tell us a little about yourself …
I am from Armidale, where I attended St Mary’s Primary School and completed my high schooling at Armidale High. I work at an NGO, where I am the Executive Assistant to the CEO, and before that I spent five years in law. I hold a Diploma of Business and am a registered Justice of the Peace.
Tell us about why you decided to train to compete in the WBFF Federation 2018 and your experience with ICN 2017?
I chose to compete in the WBFF Federation 2018, as they pride themselves on competitors maintaining an air of being one big family, which is how I have thoroughly felt throughout my preparation. Everyone is really supportive, offering each other encouragement and support to maintain motivation and reach success.
The WBFF is the most glamorous fitness federation. It has been playfully dubbed the “Victoria’s Secret of Fitness” and draws comparison to the annual VS show. I plan on making my WBFF Debut in October of 2018, where I will be competing in the “Bikini Diva Category”.
In the lead up to this, I also plan to compete for a second time with ICN at the Coffs Classic being hosted in September 2018. I will be entering the Fitness and Sports Model Category at this event.
ICN is where I started my journey last year. Most recently I attended the Coffs Classic 2017 to show support to friends I have made that were competing. Competitors taking part in ICN competitions are very friendly and welcoming to all; the atmosphere is incredible! ICN always put on a great show; if you can get to a competition, they are very inspirational to watch.
You’ve had some struggles along the path last year. What happened?
Halfway through my first competition preparation last year in 2016, I required one unplanned surgeries to remove pre-cancerous cells. I pushed on and was able to compete twice, in September and October of 2016.
Three months after the surgery, I was informed that my case hadn’t been considered a surgical success, meaning I spent the following 10 months in and out of specialist appointments. Finally in June this year I received a call from my specialist to say I was now in the clear. Receiving this news motivated me to put in my application to work with WBFF Fitness Diva and World Champ Hattie Boydle and her team “the Sports Model Project” (“SMP”).
I can remember the overwhelming feeling I had of “is this real” and “did that just happen” after I was immediately offered a position on the team following an hour long phone interview, which of course I accepted immediately. At the same time, I engaged Armidale local Reuben Marks IFBB Novice Men’s Mr Australia from New England Barbell to commence three personal training sessions per week, knowing I’d need his push to help overcome the inconsistency I’d seen in my training due to my health over the past 14 months.
How has this made you more determined?
I feel like the struggles with my health have meant so much lost time. Rather than let this cause resentment or bitterness, I’ve adopted to singing the tune of “the worst set-backs make for the best comebacks”.
What does your training and nutrition schedule look like?
Currently I am weight training five times a week, with two mandatory rest days. My workout breakdown currently has a rotation of: Day 1 quads, back and biceps. Day 2: hamstrings, shoulders and triceps. Day 3: glutes and abdominals. Day 4: Rest. Each day I train, I am required to train legs, which as many in the fitness world would empathise is a lot.
My personal training sessions with Reuben are currently Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday; he is an incredible trainer. Currently my schedule does not require cardio training, which I am very happy about.
Diet wise I have been given a “macros” (macro nutrition being protein, carbs and fat) allowance. I can eat whatever I like to meet these allowance targets, as long as I stick to 80% consumption of clean wholesome foods; the other 20% I’m allowed to have a little fun with. I have to hit a daily fibre target and make sure a certain percentage of consumed fats comes from good fats only (i.e avocado rather than butter). This means I have to be diligent with weighing and measuring all of my food; I keep food scales both at home and at work, as well as having a small set I travel with.
People often under emphasise what a difference a few grams can make to their diet; for example, saying: “Nuts are good for you; just eat them”. However, if you consider; 15 g of walnuts vs 25 g of walnuts, 100 calories vs 176 calories, 10 g fat vs 17 g fat … You can see just 10 g more of walnuts a day can mean by the end of the week consuming over 530 EXTRA calories than plan and close to over
50 g of additional fat a week. So you can see how something so small can really add up over time and hinder progress, highlighting the importance of accurate portion sizing/weights.
Tell us about your trainers.
I have been working closely with Hattie for the past five months. We have not only been working on training programs and nutrition, but also on mindset, overcoming and changing bad habits and patterns we create for ourselves and also working on how we can be the best “us” in our daily lives! Hattie also knows from experience and tries to teach us that it is not our bodies that make or break us, but our mindset, which is completely true!
Reuben is amazing! Reuben has a great competition background, and I knew that he would be someone I needed for my journey and to help get me to my goal! I knew Reuben would know exactly what it is I am wanting to achieve and just how much effort I would need to put in and just how hard I would need to push myself to be able to achieve my goals and bring my best to stage!
What’s the hardest thing about what you do?
Mindset! The fear! The doubt! Training is hard, sticking to nutrition difficult, saying no to going out with friends or attending planned events because you’re tired and have training in the morning. Measuring, planning and calculating every little thing you eat is hard, but I think the hardest thing is self-belief!
You need to trust your coach, the process, the people around you and most importantly, you need trust yourself. Trusting that the meticulous actions and motions you’re tending to will ultimately pay off in achievement, when it often takes months of work to see even small results.
Every competitor I have met or spoken with is just looking to bring the best version of themselves to stage; though it is a competition, you find people are competing against themselves to be their best, rather against each other, as it appears outwardly. There’s no point comparing oneself to what you see of others, as this is just their “highlight reel” and each of our “behind the scenes” is a personal experience filled with tests and triumphs.
You learn a lot about yourself, how dedicated you can be and what you can overcome. The self-confidence you gain along the way is priceless. That 20 seconds on stage, where everything you have done has led up to that one moment; it makes everything worth it!
If our readers wanted to get involved in training for such events, what advice would you give?
Start with your local gym or personal trainers. People in the fitness industry are a fountain of knowledge, and it’s really a community that looks to support its members to thrive.
Don’t forget that it is never too late to change your life, go for your goals or chase your dreams. Life isn’t always easy, but no matter what it throws at you, you have the choice to rise. If you have setbacks, channel any negative feelings you hold towards such into energy to fuel your motivation’s fire. Each and every person is capable of so much more than we let ourselves think, and sometimes, all it takes is 20 seconds of insane courage to change a life.