Interview with Mindy Irish – NPC Figure Competitor

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Mindy Irish is the facilitator and founder of the Fit Gal Club which she started in the winter of 2010.  It’s a way to get like-minded women and men together to offer accountability, knowledge, motivation, and community no matter what point you are at in your fitness and health journey.  I stumbled across her blog from Facebook and saw she has made a huge transformation.  She’s also competed in NPC Figure Competitions so of course, I had to get her on FFTF to find out just how this busy mother and wife manages to keep it all together.  Read on to learn more about this inspirational woman!

FFTF:  Thanks so much for doing this interview Mindy!  I’m really excited for my readers to get to know you.  So, you are currently in an off season prep for your next competition to take place in the spring of 2014.  Let’s rewind to 2009 and ask how you got to this point in your journey:  What were the circumstances that led you to make the decision to get a hold of your life and make a change?

I had 4 kids ages 6 and under and knew I had to make myself a priority.  I looked in the mirror and knew I had gotten way off track and put so much focus into housing as a general contractor and into being a Mom.  The person I saw in the mirror was not me and I knew I had to change my lifestyle and that I could do better with my choices and outcome.  So, I pushed myself and said, “I’m going to get ME back” and I did!  My motto in getting there became, “Take care of you so you can take care of others!”  I learned to make myself a priority and put my workouts and time for food prep into my daily 24.  It just became my new lifestyle!

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Mindy’s 35th birthday and the day she brought her 4th child home from the hospital. This marks DAY ONE of her new journey to get her life back!

FFTF:  After you initially lost the amount of weight you felt you needed to, when and how did the decision come to enter a bodybuilding competition?

I had done Weight Watchers for the first 12 months and lost 80 pounds.  When I got to a certain number on the scale, I was happy to be there, but not happy with the product in the mirror. I knew there was more, that I could get more out of my physique and I wanted that strong, muscular look that said, “She works out!”.   If I was going to put the time in the gym, I wanted a physique that showed it and not one that was just skinny. I dabbled with several different plans and started to lose more fat and lean out.  In time I also got out of the cardio group exercise classes and started to lift weights.  Simultaneous to all that, I started following more and more figure competitors on Facebook and really grew an interest into that lifestyle.  I attended a few local shows to learn more and each time I could see myself up on stage.  So I dove in!

I won $1000 in a transformation contest in February 2012 and with that money I bought a new pair of running shoes (I was into running a lot of 5Ks then!), a 10-pack of hot yoga classes for both my husband and me and my first ever pack of personal training sessions at my local YMCA.  If I was going to eventually compete in a Figure show, I had to start prepping for it and needed someone to show me the ropes with the free weights.  I trained for one year before stepping on stage with a trainer named Jackie who had competed in Figure for several seasons.  She was able to help fine tune my physique and mentor me through the entire contest prep process.  Additionally, she taught me about correct form and body part training with free weights and gave me the confidence I needed to dig deeper into the sport.

FFTF:  What was your friends/family reaction when you told them you wanted to enter a competition?  Did they really understand what you were about to do?  Did you get any negative reaction or as I like to put it “back handed compliments” from people?

I don’t think I can ever quite understand the negativity that comes with all this.  It shocks me that when one chooses to compete, how lonely it can be and how distant others can become.  In my head I saw it all playing out so differently, that most people would be in awe and excited for this venture.  But in reality, those people are really in the minority in my life.  I do get a lot of “concern” and questions from those around me and even a lack of interest from some friends and family members who don’t seem to support my choice, maybe because they assume it’s too much about the body and seems very worldly or self absorbed?   I’ve learned to just let that go because in the end it says more about them and their insecurities of what they feel convicted about relative to their own potential and maybe what they feel they should be doing with their diet and fitness.  That is out of my control and I can only be responsible for me!  On the flip side, it seems those that are not as close to me are more impressed, supportive and motivated and have gone on to make improvements in their wellness and go for a goal that they really want to achieve as well.  In the end, I can’t try to impress or get approval from anyone else.  This is my life and my goals and I use this sport as accountability for becoming a better me inside and out.  Lifting weights is my form of therapy, my worship in taking care of the temple that’s been given to me and only the approval from my Creator is what truly matters!

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Left: October 2009; Right: 4 Weeks out from her first competition – March 2013

Change your mindset, change your habits….change your life!  Live big…..the sky’s the limit!

FFTF:  Many competitors say diet is 90% of this journey to the stage.  Would you agree?  How has your perception of food changed, if any, during this time?  (no doubt you probably weighed and measured food, had to turn down social engagements perhaps?)  I just know for myself, I’m almost developing a sense of “obsession” with food. 

I believe that when we all step on stage, we’re displaying our hard work and years of investment of time into our wellness, but we’re also displaying our level of discipline.  Being disciplined with the diet is definitely the biggest part to this sport, in the building AND the contest prep seasons!  I read a lot about eating disorders that are closely tied to this sport and honestly I started to see myself going down that path.  In my prep before my first show, I packed and tracked everything to a T.  I took my own meal to Easter dinner at my Mom’s and would eat before going out with friends and just order an unsweetened tea.  At the time it became all about staying in control and I almost feared eating anything that I did not cook or prep.  By the time I got to the stage in April for my first show, I actually did not place all that well (or how I envisioned it would pan out).

So, in prep for my second and third shows that were just seven and eight weeks after the first show, I changed things up a bit.  I gave myself a bit of a break!  I was not working with a Coach at the time, so I was still experimenting with the finer details of contest prep in the final weeks.  I actually increased my calories and found myself having more cheat meals than before (and I ended up placing better than in the first show!).  I even took a four day trip with my husband and friends to Vegas just three weeks out from a show and did NOT pack more than 25% of my food.  I used good strategies to order wisely at the restaurants and made sure to still track what I ate.  But, overall I was able to enjoy myself and not be a slave to the diet or feel guilty or scared of what I may have eaten and what it might do to my body.  I realized I don’t live to compete, I compete as a part of living.  If anything was going to run my life so tightly, then it was out of alignment and would not be for the long haul.  So now I make sure to keep things in balance and follow the IIFYM method, tracking my macros and allowing myself a nice variety of food options.  I’m much happier this way and my body seems to be responding nicely!

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Mindy in Vegas training while her pals were at the pool drinking! 3 weeks before her second Figure show.

  It shocks me that when one chooses to compete, how lonely it can be and how distant others can become. 

FFTF:  Tell us about the first competition you entered – what was that experience like? Had you hired your coach at that time for it or did you train yourself?  What was it like backstage?  Did you friends and family attend and cheer you on? Any negative experience from it?

I was in contest prep from early December to early June.  My first show was on April 13, 2013 and I had a trainer helping me in the weight room, but the diet was purely on my own.  I used a contest prep plan from Pauline Nordin’s Fighter Diet program and also started educating myself with Dr. Layne Norton’s strategies.  About four weeks out, since I was doing this all on my own, I started to research EVERYTHING and ended up with too much info.  I changed my diet up and by the time I got to the stage, I was 128 pounds and very, very skinny.  I had lost much of the hard-earned muscle I had worked to put on.  I just didn’t know what I was doing!  I did not end up placing well and actually after my second show, I was online and came across my first show’s results.  The first step on stage in the Master’s category I knew I did not place, but I found out I placed 7….out of 7.  Had you told me that I would have worked that hard and blogged weekly and put that much time, energy and money in only to get dead last, I would not have believed you.  Additionally, had I known my placing right after my show, I likely would have thrown in the towel and not gone on to train for my second and third shows (where I ended up placing better!).  After sulking for a few days, I learned quickly that you CAN’T focus on the placing.  Do this to be a better you, because you love lifting and to challenge yourself towards a goal.  A place is a place and you are NOT defined by that or the trophy that you may or may not bring home.  Get satisfaction in competing against the person you were yesterday and always aim to get better, all while embracing and loving all parts of you at the same time!  My first show’s experience was fabulous.  I had a blast and met a lot of great, like-minded people who were passionate about fitness and lifting and competing.  We’re a unique find and it’s fun to be around others who have similar interests as you!  My kids and husband, trainer, good friend and a few gym friends attended.  Many people followed my journey and pics online and followed up with congratulations and interest soon after.

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Mindy at her First Competition backstage

Do this to be a better you, because you love lifting and to challenge yourself towards a goal.  A place is a place and you are NOT defined by that or the trophy that you may or may not bring home.

FFTF:  What are your future goals (these can be fitness or non-fitness related)?

At one point I wanted to get my Personal Training certification and still have a plan to one day do that as a way to give back my fitness passion to others.  I also work in housing with my husband and I work as a General Contractor either building or renovating homes.  Alongside of being Mommy to the four little ones, I tend to put a lot of hats on, so I felt that getting the PT cert at this time needed to pause so I was not putting my mind in too many places!  I decided to take some time to just keep working my own fitness plan and go into a nice, long building season until the end of 2013 and focus on putting on more muscle and getting to know my body and its needs.  I hired a Coach named Shala Singer, IFBB Figure Pro, and she runs my macros and workouts.  My goal is to get really competitive for 2014 and compete at the National level.  I believe in giving the body a good building season and also a good contest prep season and not try to be competing all the time.  We’ll see what 2014 brings my way!  Of course, like so many, I’d love to get my Pro card someday and if it takes 10 years, so be it.  I turn 40 in 2014 and I’m driven to see what more I can get this physique to do, especially in such a special year of my life.  Society tells us that life is over at age 40, we should dress in black and think about how decrepit and over the hill we are.  To me, I’m just getting started….age is just a mindset!  I also aim to model fitness with good diet and activity for my kids.  They’re watching my every move and I’m planting seeds within them that will someday come to bloom.  That’s very important to me!

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Her first time at tan and hair and make up. Enjoying the moment!

Society tells us that life is over at age 40, we should dress in black and think about how decrepit and over the hill we are.  To me, I’m just getting started….age is just a mindset!

FFTF:  You have a very popular blog/website as well as a Facebook and Twitter page – What can people expect to see on these pages if they start “following” you? 

I use the Facebook page and blog as a resource for others.  I wanted to create a community of like-minded guys and gals who wanted a support network and accountability for their journey.  Although I have a few links to products on my website, I’m not selling anything or making money from any larger fitness operation.  It’s truly my way of giving back what I have learned in hopes it will inspire others as well.  I try to give tips, ideas and motivation on workouts, diet, and mindset on a daily basis.  I want to inspire other parents to make fitness a priority and make it work in their lifestyle.  I figure I will stay the course and walk my own talk if I’m broadcasting it out to so many people.  It’s accountability and motivation for my own journey as well!

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One of Mindy’s posts showing how she worked out on vacation, with family in tow!

I want to inspire other parents to make fitness a priority and make it work in their lifestyle. 

FFTF:  Any advice for the future competitor out there?  Something you wish you had known before you started?

Invest in a Coach, from the get go!  My Coach Shala is coached by Dr. Layne Norton and I would suggest any Coach that he recommends off his list.  Find someone who can get to know your independent needs and is not focused on growing a large team or empire in the industry.  I did not invest in a Coach my first season because I just had no awareness of the option, but I did invest in a Personal Trainer who was able to come alongside me in the gym and teach me proper form for safety.  Choose one or the other or both, but keep your health and safety a focus and make sure you go about this in a healthy, balanced way.  This is a hobby and does not define you.  Do it for fun, for accountability, but do it the right way…..Work smarter not harder!

FFTF:  How do you balance being a wife and mother and working full-time along with the training?  Do you find it difficult to balance it all?

It’s not easy, but I would not have it any other way.  My husband is a Realtor and I do all his marketing behind the scenes.  I also work as a General Contractor when building or renovating one of our projects.  I am SO thankful for the housing lull that we came upon in 2007 because it gave me a time to step back from my housing passion, add a few more kiddos to my line up and in turn take time out and focus on my health and well-being.  Now that housing is really gearing back up, I have a strong fitness base that has truly become part of my lifestyle.  I make time for my family, my diet, tracking, planning and workouts and then fit the housing in around that.   I’m very organized and goal oriented and use a daily to-do list to keep myself and agenda in check.  We often say, “It’s a crazy life, but it’s our life!”  When I get too much going and feel out of balance, I’m also very good about dialing it in and saying “No” to commitments as well.  I feel blessed to be able to get to do so much!

image024I make time for my family, my diet, tracking, planning and workouts and then fit the housing in around that.   I’m very organized and goal oriented and use a daily to-do list to keep myself and agenda in check. 

FFTF:  I know some people on the outside looking in sometimes assume those of us who frequent the gym must have no life OUTSIDE the gym  What other interests do you have besides fitness?

I love HGTV, the Bravo Housewives, to drive by and walk through old houses, gardening and outdoor dining.  One of my favorite things to do with my kids is to slow things down and go feed the ducks!  I love the summer and love being outside.

FFTF:  Anything else you’d like our readers to know about you?  Any words of inspiration you like to share or a mantra you like or a phrase you like to pass on to anyone? 

I feel that when we find our true purpose and calling in life, we can do anything and end up getting to so much more.  The outsider will ask, “How do you do it all?” and when you live in purpose, it just seems to work without feeling overwhelming or burdened by it all.  When you make your mind up to rise above mediocrity and push yourself to go for what scares you, you’d be amazed at what you can accomplish..  The mindset in any goal should be your biggest focus.  Change your mindset, change your habits….change your life!  Live big…..the sky’s the limit!

Excellent advice Mindy!  Thank you so much for passing on these words of wisdom, I’m sure many of our readers will take it to heart.  Congrats on getting From Fit To Figure and good luck on your next competition!

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