Sharon Braso Lewis
Sharon began her quest to the stage at a petite 100 lbs with very little muscle mass. In just a few short years, Sharon has proven what determination and hard work can do, as she will have stepped on stage in the Bikini, Figure, and soon Women’s Physique divisions of NPC competitions. Sharon is a beautiful example of the power of positivity and embracing body changes in every stage of competition prep. Successfully balancing training and family, Sharon’s dedication shows that anything is possible if you make a choice and a commitment. Sharon is now preparing for North American’s in September 2015 where she will be competing in both Figure and Physique in hopes of earning her IFBB Pro Status. In the following installment, Sharon shares her story with you.
Choose to Challenge Yourself
A lot of the good in my life has come from leaving my comfort zone. I don’t have a fitness background and had never set foot in a gym until four years ago. The last sport I actively participated in was volleyball in high school and after that, life just took over. But life had a way of teaching me valuable lessons that would inevitably prepare me to accept the challenges of competition prep and embrace this lifestyle.
Before I began training, I had a career in Business to Business (B2B) sales, got married and had two kids. Working as a B2B sales rep was uncomfortable for me, because I am not an extrovert; cold calling and talking to strangers does not come easy, but I loved the challenge! Putting myself in challenging environments has always made me a better person. I’m drawn to that energy as a source for my motivation. I believe that is a major contributor to my finding my place in the gym. Pregnancy drained any strength I had left in me. I was willing to get it back again, but I was too self-conscious about not knowing how to utilize the weights and machines to attempt it on my own. I started consistently training with a trainer in Chicago after having my second child. After a few training sessions he brought up the idea of competing. At first, the thought of getting on stage wearing close to nothing in order to be judged did not sound appealing, but then I thought, sure, why not? I’m an empowered, able-bodied person and I’m up for the challenge! I needed a goal to get me into the gym and that seemed like a perfect push. Then my husband got a job in Colorado and we had to decide if we were willing to leave my career and our support network of family and friends for this new opportunity. Again I thought: sure, why not? Life is really good, but perhaps this will make it even better. The move was very stressful and difficult. Training on top of it all was rough. The Colorado altitude is a killer! But I made the decision and wanted to follow through.
I never had issues with body image, weight or an unhealthy relationship with food. I was simply curious: Curious to see if I would be able to transform my 100lb body into a beast. How was this even possible? I didn’t really get hooked until I competed in my first show doing the bikini division. As with every show there are more and more improvements to make in order to become closer to that illusive ideal. Naturally, this presents a never-ending challenge of making yourself better than you were before as well as a never-ending supply of motivation. So far I’ve competed in 2 shows for bikini and 2 shows for figure. Then, a lot of people encouraged me to do physique. The idea of that scared me and it wasn’t until I was told, “that is exactly the reason why you should do it.” when I actually considered it. Again, I was willing to take on the challenge. So I bulked for over a year and will be competing in both figure and physique at my next show in September 2015.
Doubts Don’t Win
Aside from having a shoulder injury and undergoing an appendectomy this past year the most challenging obstacle is mostly mental and not physical. The main obstacles in this sport are all the doubts and insecurities in my head. While training and dieting, nothing is immediate. All the improvements and work do not reveal themselves until you get on stage. Therefore, I’m always wondering, was that workout good enough? Could I have done something better? Will my body cooperate this time? Since balance in my life is equally important I try to not make training consume all hours of my day. But I feel guilt when I’m too busy with family things to be able to spend time at the gym, as well as when I spend too much time at the gym and not with my family. I’m also not used to all the attention that being physically bigger and different from the norms of society have brought me. I can no longer find comfort in blending in. Bulking past my highest pregnancy weight took some getting used to. I found myself always having to explain what I’m doing in order for people to understand why I look the way that I do. The discipline required in bodybuilding is what keeps my head straight and my eye on the prize. Because despite what I’m thinking at the time or what others might be thinking of me, I know what I need to do to reach my goals. With all the time that is required to train, cardio, buy food, prep food and eat food, dwelling on doubt is a waste of time. I always tell my kids, “you can’t control what others think or do; you can only control yourself.” I love how bodybuilding gives you the ability to shape your body into your ideal self. I am the way that I am because I choose to be. My plan is to continue to compete as long as there are more improvements to make and challenges to overcome. However, I’ve learned to enjoy the process and let go of all the thoughts and doubts I have no control over. I’m now having more fun and enjoying what I love to do.
The Lady Lifters
I love being part of the Lady Lifters because I know the importance of a good support system. I’m blessed to have great trainers, a great network of people in the industry willing to help and my loving husband and family. I would not be able to do what I do without their support and understanding. Through the Lady Lifter meetings I’ve been able to meet some wonderful like-minded women and get valuable information on how to navigate through this world of competitive bodybuilding. The simple act of ladies getting together and sharing information has lessened a lot of the stress of prepping for competitions.
Sharon’s Inspirational Advice
"For those who have big goals you want to achieve in life, my advice would be to step out of your comfort zone and meet challenges head on. If doubts fill your mind, always focus on the bigger picture and stay disciplined. Get rid of distractions that detract you from reaching those goals. Of course there will always be haters and supporters along the way. Cherish your supporters and pay no attention to the haters because you can only control yourself, not others. Life is short, not only enjoy what you do but enjoy the process. "