I had always loved seeing long, lean muscles on women. Madonna’s “guns” were something I admired, but thought I could never attain myself. But after lifting a few times with Jay, I became hooked. I loved how sore I felt the next day and how after only a few weeks I could see a change in the tightness of my body—something running and spin could never do. I decided to put my cardio workouts on the back burner and see where weight lifting could take me.
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The very first time I lifted on my own, I was intimidated. I had a pass to all NYSC’s around the city, but any time I went to a new gym, I would have to try and locate the familiar equipment, ask people to share weights, and so forth. It was a bit nerve-wracking. I would lift lighter and for more reps. I still didn’t understand the difference between building muscle, leaning out, and bulking, so I stuck with what I was comfortable lifting and would rarely increase my weight unless Jay was there to spot me.
But I was seeing results—and a lot faster than I had with cardio. I used to do 500 to 1,000 crunches, four times a week, and always had a flat stomach, but it wasn’t until I started lifting that I actually had abs. People would comment on my shoulders, and fellow gym-goers would ask if I was a trainer. It just built so much confidence in who I was. I was always very shy growing up, and while I grew out of that somewhat over the years, there is something so invigorating about people recognizing the changes in your body and your hard work. It makes you want to lift more and lift heavier.
A few months later, I left my job of four years to pursue my own company. I started with a solid plan and loads of motivation to begin my online athletic apparel boutique, Ella’s Sidewalk. But I faced obstacle after obstacle, and it landed me in a low place. I was hitting a wall, and I worried I’d made a huge mistake quitting my job. I had never started something I couldn’t finish, and I was scared that for the first time in my life, I was going to have to quit something.
So I decided to find accomplishment somewhere else: I would enter an amateur bodybuilding competition. It was me saying to myself, “I can do this—and I will.”