I had the honor to meet Jamie Sobolewski many years ago when she was a student at Wake Forest University, and she was a student worker of mine. Always a gym rat like me, Jamie learned to teach fitness classes and was always a sweetheart. A few months ago, out of the blue, Jamie reached out to me when she was a few days out from her very first figure competition. She revealed how following JillFit had helped her stay on track throughout the process and she finally wanted to let me know how much she appreciated the JillFit girls and our posts–it nearly made me cry hearing all that from her, years later. I asked her to share her testimonial (it is eerily similar to my own college story) and here it is! Thanks you Jamie, for your courage in sharing it!! OXOX Jill
In December 2009 I took out a scrap piece of paper from my notebook and wrote down my New Years Resolutions for 2010. Number one on my list was to compete in a figure competition. I had grown bored with my current fitness regime and needed a new motivating goal. I remember seeing Jill Coleman in the Wake Forest University gym, where I had worked as a front desk attendant during college, when she was always training for a competition, lugging around a gallon water bottle and sweating furiously on the step mill. At the time, being too shy or maybe too embarrassed, I never said anything to Jill, but deep down inside I admired all of her hard work, discipline and the fit female physique. I was inspired and made it my secret goal to one day be a fit, strong and fabulous female–though the thought of competing never became an actual possibility until after graduating college.
In college –> backstage –> “everyday Jamie”
Not being able to keep my goal for the New Year to myself, I mustered up the courage to tell a friend my dream. Her response? She laughed and remarked with, “well just promise me you won’t put any stage pictures up on Facebook.” Being all too influenced by what others thought, I felt ashamed and slightly embarrassed so I shoved my fitness dream in the back of my head for the following year.
It’s no surprise that I had dreams of competing; I have always naturally been a strong female athlete. Friends and family members joke that I came out of the womb with “those quads,” which were then further developed from being a three sport varsity high school athlete to a Division I college track runner. Throughout middle and high school I immediately landed myself into the “jock role,” and was deemed the most athletic female of my graduating class. While I relished in this fact and loved being able to beat anyone on the field or track I also wanted to be dainty and feminine (not realizing at the time that muscles ARE feminine and beautiful!)
Being insecure and uncomfortable in my athletic physique I felt awkward next to my thin friends. During adolescence and into my college years I found myself hiding my athletic exterior by shrugging off the comments about my developed quads, saying “its all natural,” and downplaying any and all of my hard work. Afterall, what guy wants to date a girl who can squat 252 pounds? During college I drifted away from my love of fitness and slipped into the late night binge partying. Of course–like everything else–I had to be the best, so naturally that included partying- I was always the first girl at the bar and the last one on the dance floor. But I never felt comfortable in that role- why was I hiding who I really was? Why was I trying to be someone who I wasn’t?
After having my latest fitness goal dismissed by my friend, I internalized my feelings and during 2010, I silently trained (or rather punished myself) in the gym. To compensate for my alter-ego-party-girl that I felt I still had to portray, I would get up at 4:30am just to sneak out of the apartment so my roommates wouldn’t know that I was doing two-a-day cardio sessions at the gym. I felt expected to go out to the clubs and end the night with pizza slices– all while trying to maintain an athletic and toned look. Trying to be two different people took its toll on my physically, emotionally and mentally— it was exhausting having to pretend to be someone I wasn’t anymore. Why did I feel the need to live up to a certain image and put on a facade? More importantly why did I feel so alone and unsupported when I had so many friends?
At about this time I remembered my first female fitness role model, Jill Coleman, and started turning to her Facebook page for tips, recipes, and inspirational stories. Shortly afterwards, JillFit.com was launched and I immediately became a religious follower since the very first post. For the first time in my life I felt like I had a support system through the JillFit team- beautiful, athletic, female role models. It didn’t matter that their support was virtual, or even that the JillFit coaches were unaware of their impact; it was easy to feel connected and inspired by the entire team through their real and honest blog posts. None of my friends could relate to my lifestyle so I kept my ambitions to myself and instead looked to all of the Jillfit trainers for encouragement. Through all of the inspirational posts, I revisited my initial idea of competing- maybe I COULD become a figure competitor? And so it was around the middle of 2010 that I started to “train” myself for a competition. Even though I looked up to all of the Jillfit trainers, I was still apprehensive and timid to ask for advice or help, so I tried to pick up bits and pieces from figure blogs but in reality I was very lost and confused with competition prep.
Towards the end of 2010, I finally got the last push I needed to compete- I met a bodybuilder and trainer, Adi Shein, in my NYC gym who said he would help me to compete. Skeptical of his intentions and unwilling to give up my 2-a-day cardio sessions, it took me awhile to become compliant. He will tell you that I was probably the “most difficult” client ever in the beginning but through his belief in me and unyielding support I was able to shed my insecurity blanket and grow in ways that I never thought possible. I already had the natural athletic ability to train for a competition but I needed to mature mentally and emotionally. I was well on my way to stepping on stage before even setting a competition date. I was already living the fat loss lifestyle: I had an extensive Tupperware collection, a meticulous coach, a dream and the entire JillFit team for support. I wish I could say the road to the competition was “easy” but there were moments of frustration when all I wanted to do was give up, storm into the kitchen and spread a huge double serving of peanut butter on top of a rice cake. However I knew that I owed it to myself to complete and see through my goal. The mental and emotional change was a gradual process, one that didn’t happen overnight; and almost two years after I wrote down my initial New Years resolution, I stepped on stage for my first figure competition on November 12th 2011.
The morning after my show I woke up and immediately started crying in bed from an overwhelming rush of euphoric emotions. All of the sentiments from the past couple of years hit me all at once. For the first time in my life I felt so complete; a sense of wholeness that can only be achieved by following your own dreams. Through challenging my mind and body, I learned more about myself than I thought I ever could. Competing gave me the greatest gift ever—it gave me the inner strength to discover my real self. The road to the stage allowed me to realize my passions, obtain perspective on life, experience the power of the mind, value the human body, love myself and love another.
Competing is not for everyone but I truly believe that by having your own personal fitness goal and by working towards that goal you can learn a lot about yourself. It is important to have a fitness goal that you set for YOURSELF, not for or because of anyone else. I encourage anyone to create an attainable yet challenging goal—and promise that the end result will be one of the most rewarding and gratifying experiences.
My journey to find self acceptance would not have been possible without my supportive coach or without Jillfit. I also would like to personally thank Jill Coleman for being the first female fitness inspiration to me, and to the entire Jillfit team for their unknowingly encouragement and motivation. I am thankful for the opportunity to open up on here on JillFit! I feel like I am “coming clean” and have been fortunate enough to publically show everyone who I really am :)
As 2011 comes to an end, I find myself reaching in my desk to find a piece of paper to jot down my New Years resolutions for 2012. There are no stereotypical goals this year such as to “lose five pounds” or “put XXX amount of money into savings.” Instead my goal is to “Be proud of who I am, don’t be afraid to be myself and to live out my dreams and passions.” There is no more hiding who I am, I know exactly who I am and have become the person I’ve always wanted to be. I have shed many layers to expose my true self— the Jamie who is confident in her own skin, who owns up to her lifestyle choices, who brings tuna fish cans to work and isn’t afraid of the smell, who is ready to make her passion her career— and who is proud to be a fit, strong and fabulous female!! :)