Interview with NPC Figure Competitor Ellen Hardesty


If you’re looking for inspiration for fitness and health, you’ve come to the right blog.  If you’re looking for inspiration for LIFE, then you’re reading the right post today.

Allow me to introduce you to Ellen Hardesty.  She’s 54 years young and competed in her first figure competition in March of 2012 and placed 2nd (technically placing 1st due to the winner testing positive for drugs).  But that’s not even the best part.  This is much more than a fitness story.

I’ll let Ellen tell you about her journey in her own words…And please share this amazing story with someone else you know that could use a little (or alot) of inspiration today.

What made you decide to pursue a figure competition and what were you doing prior to starting your training for it with regards to exercise? 

Three years ago I started my fitness journey. I was in alright shape, but never really worked out while maintaining a 115lb frame.

Then one evening, I was sitting on my couch looking at Facebook when I saw my neighbor posted something about competing in a figure competition – she was 34 or 35 at the time. Immediately, my husband and I thought what she was doing to be inspiring, and wondered if they had an over 50 category.

At this time in my life I was drinking White Russians (my favorite drink), smoking regularly, social partying with friends, and overall feeling pretty bad about myself. I thought to myself “Getting older sucks!”

What was your family/friends reaction when you told them you were going to get in a bikini on a stage?

My family didn’t really know much about figure competing! Ray, my husband, and my two boys were super great about it, but I’m not so sure anyone thought I could do it; especially since I was still smoking – although I told people I cut down to five or six a day, but that wasn’t true.

Who was your coach/How did you find him?

I used the same trainer my neighbor used in Columbus, Ohio – from which I live about an hour away. She was fine, but the moment she put me on an off season diet I thought to myself,  “wow I’m really going to do this?!”  That’s when I slowly cut back on my partying – but not the smoking!

What would you say was the most challenging part of your training?

The hardest part of my training then (and today) is working 45 hours a week and going to the gym on top of that. I go to the gym Mon-Tues, rest Weds-Thurs, then back at it Fri-Sun. Although, If I’m up to it, I’ll work Thursday – but I listen to my body, especially now, and rest if I feel I should!

Did you seek out any information/advice before you started training from others who also competed?

I tried to find as much information as I could about competing. My neighbor Sarah Johnson was a wonderful source of info because she already had three shows under her belt and was training for the upcoming season. We train together most of the time, which is great, and we both changed trainers at the same time. We train with IFBB Pro Linda Andrew from Columbus, Ohio. She’s a wonderful and tough trainer, I haven’t been able to restart our sessions since my heart attack but June 15th I’m headed back to Columbus to start training with Linda again.

What was your first show experience like?

My very first show was the NPC Muscle Mafia Natural Ohio in March 2012.  Dave Liberman is the promoter and it’s a great show! I felt very comfortable – which I attribute to my 40+ years involvement in the theater.   I was very thin when I competed for the first time – about 100lbs – but you have to remember I was dieting and smoking! I felt my posing was not great at all, so when I got first call out I about fainted! I’m also not used to wearing four inch heals, so I’m shocked I didn’t trip! In the end, I placed 2nd and was thrilled to death, but in the back of my mind all I could think of was “I’m totally lying to my self about all this because I’M STILL SMOKING!”

Did you ever experience what some would consider an “obsession with food?”  In other words, did you ever feel like you would fail or immediately gain weight if you had something “off plan?”

After the show we went out to eat, and it was strange, because I thought, Oh no what if I eat too much! I’ve been eating clean for three months, what’s going to happen to my body?? No worries I was fine! I didn’t go too crazy – that’s the key: don’t overindulge. And yes, you do tend to crave sweets like CRAZY but sugar puts on the pounds. My feeling is if you’ve worked this hard to get to where you are why blow it? I had decided to make this my new life; I was totally addicted to good eating and taking care of my body except for one HUGE stumbling block – which I can’t emphasize enough – smoking! I had to stop the madness!

Would you consider doing another competition in the future?

Hell yes, I was hooked! I was wanting to do another show ASAP, but my trainer thought I should wait until the following year and put more weight and muscle on. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of shows for 50 and over.  I strongly believe there should be more!

Tell us about  November 12, 2012: 

This was the day of my heart attack.  It was simultaneously the worst and the best day of my life.  Chest pains, a life flight ride, and two stints later, my life changed. When I woke up in ICU, the first two thoughts to cross my mind were: I can never smoke again(!) and what about my workouts? I never once thought about dying; in my mind that wasn’t an option, and I spiraled in and out of depression. One of the main reasons I had my heart attack is because I smoked a pack and half of cigarettes for 38 years. 38 Years! In retrospect, I was fooling myself thinking that if I worked out and ate well, my body would be fine – what an idiot I was!  While I was there I couldn’t wrap my mind around what had happened, and still to this day it seems totally surreal.

When you were told you couldn’t train for awhile, what was your reaction?  How did you manage to stop training and still stay determined to train once you were cleared to workout again?

I knew I wouldn’t be able to work out again for some time and that was very disheartening, but now that I wasn’t smoking I was very curious what my body would do with that. Three months later, after a lot of cardiac rehab and rest, my heart was back to normal and I was elated and ready to go back to the gym!

How has your life changed since your heart attack and how has it changed since competing? What do you think you would do differently if you had never done a competition?  

November 12th, 2012 changed my life in so many ways. I’m more determined than ever to compete again: I’m a non-smoker; drink very little; and don’t stress about things I can’t control.   The saying “life’s too short” means more to me now than words can express.

Wow, congrats Ellen on all your success in and out of the gym!  Talk about getting your life back.   You are a true inspiration and I’m so honored to be the platform for you to share your journey.

Showing off the guns!
Showing off the guns!
If I can look like Ellen in 20 years, I think I'm going to be a happy camper. :)
If I can look like Ellen in 20 years, I think I’m going to be a happy camper. 🙂

Please give some love to Ellen by commenting below if you liked this story or just share this with someone you know who could use a little kick in the rear. 🙂 

4 thoughts on “Interview with NPC Figure Competitor Ellen Hardesty

  1. Way to go Lily! I am blessed and proud to know you. My cardiologist says some depression is typical following a heart procedure; seems to me, however, that you are doing the perfect things to deal with it. Continued best wishes. Oscar

  2. Wow, Ellen, I was impressed with your body building before but am even more so now. So glad you were able to kick the cigarette habit. Good for you. Never knew you had had a heart attack. This is an amazing story. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Hi Ellen
    My name is Kellyrae.
    You are an inspiration. Im 47 and would love to compete at least once in my life. I am very low income and to compete im told I need to pay a trainer or at least a coach to train me to pose. Just to get the finances for shoes and suit is a workout! Not to mention that eating clean is more costly then eating healthy~ish. This is something I want to do for myself. even if I don’t place in a competition( I pray I do place)(first place) I want to be able to say to myself…… I did it ! In spite of all of lifes trials I consider my self to be a victorious woman.
    Do you have any advice.

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