Kara Dawdy is a seasoned Figure competitor turned Women’s Physique superstar. Her dedication to the sport of bodybuilding demonstrates just how powerful commitment, friendship, and determination are in conquering the challenges of body transformation. Whether juggling a busy training schedule with kids, overcoming the challenges of asthma, or refusing to accept a ‘lagging’ body part, Kara has pushed herself to victory and ensures that she has fun and enjoys the process. After years of success in local shows, Kara has her eyes set on her first National level show in July 2015 at the NPC Master's Nationals where, she will compete in the Women’s Physique category. In the following installment, Kara shares her story with you.
Years in the Making
I was never an athlete, I never played sports, I was never competitive. My friend talked me into joining Bally's with her in 1996 so that we could go to step classes together, which I did for about 3 months but I eventually got bored. I started venturing out to the weight floor and began using the machines, I immediately noticed I was gaining muscle and I loved how my body was changing. I was addicted and a regular on the weight floor. It was here in 1997 where I first met my good friend and training partner, April Bateman, who would soon enough become my bodybuilding partner in crime. It wasn’t until years later, however, that I started training to compete, because in 2001 my husband and I finally became pregnant. I dropped my membership and did not step foot back into a gym until a few years after our last son was born in 2005. I never forgot about training, but at that point in my life I wanted something more and that was to be a good mother to my three boys.
I joined a new gym in 2008 and remembered how much I enjoyed training and watching my body change. I decided to hire a trainer because I wasn't as young as I once was and I was having a harder time after having children with "problem areas." He worked with me on my form and my diet and I started to see muscle growth like I had never seen before. It was at this point that I began to think about competing, but I still could not take the next step. In 2010 my husband and I joined Lifetime Fitness and it was there that I met Krista Dunn. I was totally amazed by her physique and started asking her all about competing. She talked in great detail about it with me, including the positives and negatives, and I decided I wanted to go for it. I have since competed in 7 local competitions in Colorado.
I was always a figure girl. In my mind as soon as the thought of competing became a reality and I started to educate myself on the different classes, I knew I was a figure girl. I didn’t even hear about Women's Physique until 2011, after my first competition when I saw Tracy Bodner on stage showing the crowd her physique routine. I remember thinking how beautiful and graceful her routine was, but that I would never be able to gain that size of muscle. I continued to compete in figure, constantly pushing myself to be better in each competition.
Then came 2014, what a great year for me! I had been training with my lifting partner, April Bateman, hitting my stubborn legs as hard as we could twice a week. Shoulders, back, chest, every muscle group was pushed to its max. The moment I stepped into the gym, it was like a spark was lit. We were constantly moving, usually super-setting and sharing machines, and keeping the blood in the muscle, pushing heavy weight and heavy volume. While my training partner was planning to do both figure and WP at the 2014 Warrior and I was going to stay in figure; though I joked that maybe I should try WP too. We planned to do a warm up show, The Cutler Classic in Cheyenne Wyoming, which was a small show two weeks before the Warrior. It was here that I first met my coach, Shane Heugly, after only e-mail and phone correspondence and the first time he actually looked at my muscle in person. I was doing the mandatory figure poses for him and when I turned around to do my back pose he stopped me and said, "I'm getting shivers looking at your back, have you ever thought of moving to physique?" Though I believed my legs to be too small, he told me that I should consider it. An hour later pre-judging was finished and an NPC Judge walked up to me; I was very intimidated because I had never had a judge come talk to me before. He walked straight up to me, pointed a finger, and said, "two words, Women's Physique." I thought maybe he was talking to someone else, so I responded with, "me"? He told me that I was too big and hard for figure. At that moment I realized that in all those training sessions of pushing ourselves, increasing the weight, the volume, super-setting, I had crossed the physical line between figure and WP; so, it was then that I decided to compete in figure on Friday at the Warrior and Women's Physique on Saturday and I would let the judges help me determine where I should be.
I had to quickly learn all the poses that others had been practicing for months and I had to make up my own routine and find music! I would get up and run every morning and visualize my routine in my head and then come home and practice it. Two weeks later I competed in figure in Master's and open class A. I did not place in master's and I took 5th place in open which was heart breaking for me. I knew the judges were sending me a message. The next day I competed in WP in masters over 42 and Open class A. I took a second place in Master's and 3rd place in the Open. I didn't feel pushed into WP at all, in fact once I learned the posing I felt very at home. Getting up on stage and flexing every muscle is a very powerful sensation. It’s a great feeling to realize that all these years of training so hard would actually be useful and I would get to show it off. The best part of WP, the routine, allows me to show the grace and beauty that women in the fitness industry can still maintain and let me throw out those shoes!
My legs have always been my weakest body part and I have struggled for years to get them to grow. My leg training partner and fellow Lady Lifter is truly my role model. She pushes me every day and encourages me to dig deeper. Without her, I know I would have never dreamed of moving up to women's physique. I wish everyone had their own April "Buttercup" Bateman: that one person that truly motivates you. I am also motivated by watching other competitors and seeing their transformations, seeing my own progress, and though I feel funny saying it, guilt. I hate the feeling I have if I miss a day of training and guilt has become my own internal motivation. I don't want to lose muscle, and training has become such a huge part of my life that I feel bad if I miss even one day.
The Lady Lifters
When Ky approached me with her idea almost two years ago I was thrilled; I just loved the idea of a support group! I had a few friends from our local gym that felt unwelcome at times by other gym members because we aren’t the typical dance jam mommies, instead we are the freaks of nature! From the beginning I was so excited and told Ky that I was willing to help in any way possible. I have really enjoyed the meetings and all that Lady Lifters has accomplished, I believe we have a bright future and I can't wait to see where we will go as a group.
Kara’s Inspirational Advice
"In the end, it's you against you, so get out of your own way and continually push yourself."