Oneyear after winning her Pro Card, Fitness Competitor Eileen Wells could no longer ignore the pain that her body was going through. She finally went to the doctor and found out she had herniated discs in several places of her back.
“To go from working out every day… to not being able to go up and down stairs, it damages you mentally.”
She had to step out of fitness to allow her body time to heal. Her advice to women is to listen to your body. At her most hopeless hour, a friend had recommended stem cell treatment. The treatment worked and got her back to grace the fitness stage again. View her amazing story here:
“You’re mind will deteriorate and soon as your body slows down... Mind body soul, perpetual growth, I very much want to do whatever I can to stay active.”
Eileen’s story is a true example of how life can interfere with our plans, but with determination and perseverance it does not have to derail our goals. I caught up with Eileen a few weeks before her Pro Show in Phoenix and asked her to reflect.
Were you always into fitness? Why was fitness so important and what did that accomplish for you?
I've been an athlete my entire life. I was a Jr. Elite gymnast growing up, but loved to play recreation sports like hockey and football; mostly contact sports because I was a complete Tom boy. In middle and high school I did track and field too.
What is it about fitness that you love?
The fitness division allows for the most creativity so you can really showcase your personality. I see the fitness round as a bonus round where you get to show off your hard work. The way I see it is, if you're going to diet and train that hard you've earned that bonus round and extra time on stage. For me personally fitness is the heart and soul of my peace of mind as it is the ONLY thing that silences my brain. My brain NEVER stops. I've been a Network Engineer for 17 years and I'm wired to think like an engineer, identify problems and seek solutions. My brain just never turns off and the only time it's at peace is when I'm in the zone. If I work out hard enough I sleep well. Otherwise, my brain is fully throttled and I wake up at 3AM with dozens of (what I consider) brilliant ideas. Fitness is my outlet, my relief mechanism, my serenity. It's also how I found my husband and I couldn't imagine my life without him.
When and why did you start competing?
I actually started to train for fitness due to a rare illness called Bile Reflux Disease (not acid reflux), in which bile went the wrong direction and ate through the stomach lining causing internal bleeding. Due to the illness I couldn't eat any fats (more than 2 grams in one sitting would cause extreme pain). The lack of fat (good or bad) caused me to lose a lot of weight. So in August of 2008 I picked up my first weight in the gym with the intention of adding some curves to my skinny fat physique. I was the girl with the mentality of not lifting too heavy because I didn't want to get huge. It's ironic because now I'm wishing I could gain more muscle.
What lessons did you learn after getting injured?
Listen to your body. I knew in April of 2014 that I was hurt. I even told Dan, my husband, that I knew something was wrong but I didn't want to go to a Dr. because I knew they would tell me to stop doing what I love. I pushed through that year with 2 Pro shows and 2 guest performances before my legs went numb. I did more damage and exacerbated the injury because I wasn't honest with myself. Had I gone to a Dr. sooner I truly believe I wouldn't have needed 2 full years off and wouldn't be plagued with the fear of re-injury like I currently am.
What are some techniques you used to get through the pain?
Consistent physical therapy was key. Proactive maintenance (massage therapy, heat, stretching, rolling out, etc) is also key. Again consistency is crucial.
If you could start over, what would you do differently?
I would have focused on the physique round more. For me the fitness journey started as a bucket list item. The first show I saw was the NPC Rocky Colorado in 2008. That's when I thought, yeah I could do fitness...I'll try that. I believe you should always do something twice; once to get the nerves out and then a second time to see if you like it or not. After my second show at the NPC Northern in 2010 I was done. Fitness was not for me because of the physique round, but that's the show I met Dan. Up until the Northern of 2010 I had never truly dieted for a show. I was doing IIFYM before it was cool and that's what I did to come in for shows. I only cared about the fitness round and HATED the physique round. Being half naked on stage was not something I enjoyed. However, once I saw what Dan was able to do with his clients I trusted him to do my diet and full contest prep. So I trained with him for my specific goals, which was to have the best fitness routine on stage. That's the year I finally won a show at the 2010 Rocky. I still didn't care about the physique round, but I knew we had to bring in a better physique for my first national show at Jr. USAs in 2011, so I had higher physique goals with my focus still being on the fitness round. In 2012 I finally brought in a leaner physique and "accidentally" won my pro card at North Americans. It was not my intention to win my pro card that year. Now at the pro level I need the physique to place. There is no way around it and for that reason I wish I had put more detail and attention into my physique when I first started. Physique round is now the focus especially post injury since the powerhouse approach I've always taken for the fitness round is too risky.
Now that you are on the road to recovery, what are you most excited about or looking forward to?
Rebuilding and starting over. When you lose everything you built it's devastating, but the silver lining is you get to start over. You get to take everything you learned from the first time and use that knowledge to build something stronger and be smarter about it.
Besides fitness, what are your other passions?
I'm a g33k at heart! I love technology and it's a huge passion of mine, but my biggest passion is my family. Dan is my everything and my family means the world to me. I love to travel and go on adventures with Dan. I work hard and play hard.
If someone did not have a gymnastics background is it still possible for them to compete in the fitness category?
Of course. You do not need a gymnastics, dance or cheer background. Adela Garcia didn't have a background in any of those and she's 8X Fitness Olympia Champion. Does a background in gymnastics or dance or cheer help? Of course, but you can train your body to do anything if your heart wants it badly enough and the team at Forever Fitness CO is more than willing to help anyone who wants to try fitness.
What type of competitor is the npc looking for in the fitness category?
That's the beauty of fitness. There is no mold. It's also what competitors find difficult to take in because it's a subjective sport. I would say the fitness division requires passion to be your best and to want to constantly improve on yourself. Set obtainable and measurable goals. Crush them. Create new goals. Rinse and repeat. Keeping the focus on your growth.
What ’s the one thing you find people do wrong when they compete?
They're in it for the wrong reason. They are looking for acceptance from others, publicity, likes on Facebook, followers on Instagram, fame, fortune, whatever. If you're not intrinsically motivated for your personal development there's not enough extrinsic motivation to keep you passionate enough to survive this industry, especially at the pro level.
Are you where you thought you’d be at this point in your life? Explain.
I'm so much further than I thought I would be and I'm more than fortunate for the opportunities I've been given. Whether we are talking about my IT career, my fitness career or my personal life I'm more than satisfied and extremely grateful.
What’s the one thing you can’t do no matter how hard you try?
I can't stop caring. I trust by default because I only see the good in people, which sounds like a positive way to live life, but you end up getting hurt and taken advantage of a lot. I never learn from it either.....and I'd still help those that have taken advantage of me in the past. I act tough, but I'm really not.
You’ve achieved a tremendous goal of recovery and getting back into competing, What’s your next goal? What would you like to see happen next year?
My next goal is always the same, which is to bring an improved physique and more energetic routine. Every show there should be minor improvements which will build up to drastic changes over time. As for 2017 goals I want to place top 5 in Hawaii in March and get invited to one of the Arnold’s.
Yes. Forever Fitness CO is a community of NPC and IFBB Fitness Athletes promoting the fitness division. If you've ever had interest in the fitness division, but don't know where to start please reach out Rene Brosch, Heather Berry or me via Facebook. We will help any way we can to continue to grow fitness.
Thanks to Eileen Wells and Forever Fitness Co
Facebook: Eileen Wells IFBB Pro Fitness