Welcome to the friends series part 5! Three years ago on a cold winter morning, I met JC while running with a local women’s running group at Druid Hill Park. My first thought was wow, this lady is fast and she’s in phenomenal shape! At the conclusion of the run, we walked to cool down and I told her that running bothers my knee. She questioned me about my strength training routine. I looked at her as if she had two heads and said, “I don’t like lifting weights, that’s not my thing.” She then explained how lifting weights will help to prevent injuries and reduce body fat and that I really needed to consider starting. I told her that I am not familiar with gym equipment and I asked her if she could help me to navigate my way around the weight room.
JC became my personal trainer. After working with her for several months, my knee pain went away and I lost body fat that I didn’t know existed! In addition, I shaved 2 minutes off my race times! She focuses on getting results from her clients and helping them to be the best versions of themselves. She is also a fitness role model to many.
The following year, JC launched her own business, “Set Goals Not Limits!” She is a personal trainer during the evening and weekends and she works full time at her day job. To top it off, she is a graduate student pursuing a Master’s Degree in Public Health with a concentration on Health Disparities in Low- Income Communities.
Recently, she participated in her first physique bodybuilding competition! She demonstrates consistency, discipline, and integrity in everything that she does. Her hard work and dedication paid off! I finally had the opportunity to chat with her about her future goals and life in general. Below is our conversation!
Moetips: Not only do you own the phrase “Set Goals Not limits “, you live by it! You are a fitness enthusiast, a personal trainer, a graduate student, a full- time employee, and you have a family! Talk about goals!! You managed to build your brand while investing in yourself and others. How do you balance life?
JC: Well first and foremost, you have to get used to a lot of late nights and early mornings. I try to give everything on my plate an equal amount of time and attention. We know it doesn’t always work out that way though. However, what has worked best for me is just staying ahead, maintaining a set schedule, and getting an extra early start to my day. But most importantly, when it comes to my job and school work I do not procrastinate, I get whatever needs to be done, done!
Moetips: You became a certified sports nutritionist and a personal trainer to encourage and motivate others and to help them become the best version of themselves. You also set the bar high! What does this do for you personally, mentally, physically, and spiritually?
JC: I think that we are all born with an enact ability. With me, my calling in life is to promote health and wealth. When I look around or read statistics about how poorly Americans are doing with their health and how disease riddled our communities are, I feel the need to share my talent. I switched my major from Psychology to Public Health upon entering grad school for this reason. And as you mentioned, when it comes to health, I set the bar high. This is because there are no gray areas when it comes to your life or your health. You’re either eating healthy, exercising regularly, getting the proper amount of sleep, drinking the appropriate amount of water per day or you’re not. This isn’t something you can do whenever you feel like it or for two months on two months off. It’s a lifestyle. I stress to my clients all of the time that “consistency is key!” And if you’re not consistent, I have no problem telling you that I can no longer work with you. I take my personal training business very serious. I don’t have time to waste and I am not going to hold up a spot that can go to someone who is really seeking a lifestyle change. Thankfully, I have an awesome group of girls who have become more like family to me. And there is nothing more gratifying then when I receive a text or see a post on Facebook or Instagram of them sharing their success story, their results, and how happy they are that they put trust into the process. This is what I look forward to…it’s so rewarding!
Moetips: What made you become so interested in fitness? What would you tell someone who is not motivated to live a healthy lifestyle if they ask you for advice?
JC: I haven’t shared this story with many people but I will on this forum because I need people to understand the importance of putting yourself first. Back in 2006, I underwent breast surgery. What my primary care doctor thought was a cancerous tumor turned out to be a mass of tissue. I was fortunate! To this day, I will never forget the surgeon who changed my life forever. Her name was Dr. Fernandez. Upon visiting with her for my final appointment, we had a long talk. Her final words to me stuck like a knife in my thoughts “while we cannot control everything, we have control to prevent a lot of things.” Those few words are the reason why I am so invested in health today. At that moment, I began to put myself first. I thought to myself, I must do this because I don’t ever want myself or my family to face that fear of possibly having cancer again. Immediately, I began to change my diet, I started going to the gym, I began to educate myself about food, I began to take my health seriously, and I’ve never looked back. My advice to anyone who is not motivated to live a healthier lifestyle would be to put yourself first. I always tell people, that the fork is the #1 killer in the world. Why, they ask? Because the foods you put into your body play a significant role in the ailments that will eventually affect your health at some point in time. Heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc. are all byproducts of what you eat. Unfortunately, because the effect of these diseases is a degenerative process, people tend to overlook the severity of them. So my best advice would be to Put Yourself First! Don’t allow unhealthy food choices to dictate your health because you have total control over that.
Moetips: You train a group of women whom you were able to cultivate close friendships with while still keeping them in shape. How important is it for a personal trainer to maintain professional relationships with clients even after friendships are cultivated?
That’s a great question. I have seen many personal trainers form friendships with their clients and forget the reason why they are there. I have formed a really good bond with all of the women whom I train. However, I never lose sight of the goals that they have set for themselves. We hang out, party together, engage in one another’s intimate events, and so forth…but when we hit that gym or the park, it’s time to work. They know how passionate I am about fitness and that I don’t want anything but the best for them. My clients know that with me, it’s not about money because I choose to do this as a hobby for the purpose of bettering the lives of others. Our aim is to get the results that they set for themselves and my goal is to make sure that they get those results. I can’t do that by being passive or allowing our friendships to get in the way. They know I am going to push them to their limits no matter what. To perfectly sum it up, it’s kind of like a love-hate relationship. Lol
Moetips: You recently participated in your first physique competition. Congratulations! I’m happy that I had the opportunity to attend! You’ve invested a lot of time in the process and you’ve made a lot of sacrifices along the way. How many days did you dedicate to training each week? How many months did you train? How did you balance family life? Were there any ups and downs along the way?
There are definitely a lot of sacrifices that have to be made in order to be successful at preparing for a competition. I trained for about 10 months 7 days a week. I awakened every morning around 4:00 am and was in the gym by 5:00 am. I also trained with a posing coach every Saturday for about two months. The process is very demanding and with all the other things that I had going on…school, work, etc. it was very hard finding a complete balance. Unfortunately, something is going to suffer from your busy schedule. In this situation, it was my family, friends, and social life. That’s why your support system has to be strong. Your loved ones must understand the process and what it involves. Your diet is very strict so having a dinner outside of the house is not happening. You learn that spending time involves prepping meals on Sunday for the week and catching up on your favorite TV shows. There will be a lot of events that you will not attend because you don’t want to burden people with having to accommodate your eating needs, although I have awesome friends who did at times with no problem. Fortunately for me, my family is just as busy as I am. My significant other is in school as well and is an avid softball player. The kid is at the age where his friends and cell phone are the only things that exist in this world. So that kind of helps with making my absence easier on the household. On the contrary, spending time with distant family was a little tougher to do. You bank on dropping by to visit when you have free time but then you realize it’s probably best to rest. Oh, did I mention that rest is so important? Therefore, all of my free time was spent resting. This is one of the biggest downfalls to this lifestyle. Missing your loved ones. In addition, about 1 month out from my show, I was forced to part ways with my coach whom I trained with for 9 of those 10 months. When someone’s vision doesn’t completely align with yours, you have to be ok with walking away. I leaned on my posing coach, who is an IFBB Pro Figure competitor, for further direction with preparing for my show. She is well qualified and I was comfortable with her abilities to lead me the rest of the way. After my show, I hired her as my full- time coach. We are now in the process of training for a bigger stage with the hopes of making it to the national stage one day.
Moetips: What does your diet consist of during training season? What does your diet consist of offseason?
JC: During prep season, which usually starts about 16 weeks out from the show date, my diet is very strict. I am only allowed six meals per day, seems like a lot but when your training seven days a week for one and a half hours a day, your body will devour whatever you put in it. Meals normally consists of chicken, fish, veggies, a gallon of water per day, and very little carbs. The closer I get to the show date; things change a bit depending on how I looked. Carbs may be added or taken away; water may be increased or decreased. The week of the show, my diet consists of a white fish, a veggie, and very little water. At that point, my diet was just enough to keep me alive; and yes I felt like I was starving. As of now, I am in my offseason. My coach and I have new goals as we are training for a bigger stage. The goal is to put on more size and add more muscle density. In order for that to happen, I have to eat big plates and lift heavy weights as she would say, Lol. Currently, I am eating eight meals a day on average every two hours. This includes a lot of protein, veggies, a significant amount of carbs, and still drink one gallon of water per day. In addition, a protein shake and 14 almonds as a mid-day snack and 1 tbsp. of almond butter before bed (the highlight of my day…Yum!). But what I look forward to most, is the one cheat or should I say re-feed meal I get to indulge in once a week.
Moetips: What advice would you give a person who wants to train for a competition; however, they don’t have the resources to hire a personal trainer? Are there any resources online?
I am not saying that it cannot be done. I know many people who have trained and continue to train themselves for competition. However, these people have been involved in this lifestyle for years. They are very aware of the process as well as what it takes to make it to the stage in the best shape of their lives. For someone who is just getting into the sport, I highly recommend hiring a coach. There is so much involved with this process that it would take you to actually go through it to understand. Therefore, I am not a fan of online coaching because I feel that this process requires your trainer/coach to be there with you every step of the way. For example, let’s say your online coach gives you an exercise routine to complete. How will they know if you’re performing the exercise correctly? How will they critique your form? How will they push you to your limits? These things are significant and necessary if you plan on getting on that stage and being #1. I mean, I am a personal trainer and have been for years, however, I understand that training for a competition and training to look good in a dress are two different things. This is why I have a coach. So my advice would be to do your research and find someone who is knowledgeable about the sport because I cannot stress enough how much is involved with this process from the beginning to the end.
Moetips: What tips can you share with our community about investing in themselves?
For those who are already invested in their health, always remember that the Benefits Outweigh the Cost!
For those who are looking to make lifestyle changes, begin to surround yourself with people who are already invested. Use these people as positive resources. Begin to educate yourself to find out what works for you. Set goals and work every day towards those goals. Don’t expect things to happen overnight, again it’s a process. Be mindful that it will not be easy, but don’t give up. Know that this lifestyle will force you to eliminate people from your life and you have to be ok with that. Most importantly, put yourself first!
Thank you for allowing me to share my journey! If you are reading this and you are not invested in your health, I hope the information that I shared will motivate you to make today your new beginning…because Health is Wealth! For additional information, you can follow me on Instagram @ _ninkey where I provide meal and workout tips!
I thanked JC for sharing this important information with our readers! I am so proud of all of her accomplishments and I’m happy to be part of the support team and the tribe! Readers, with that being said, do you have any fitness tips to offer? Do you have any questions? Are you motivated to change?