“I began my journey with two beliefs: the future can be better than the present, and I have the power to make it so – and I did.”
At 50 years old, Nancy Bowlin decided to enter and train for her very first NPC show. She transformed her lifestyle and physique and won her IFBB Pro card at the age of 52! In addition to being an IFBB Pro Figure competitor, Nancy is a mom of 3 kids and a full-time mechanical engineer; she is also studying to earn certifications in aromatherapy and nutrition. Nancy is proof that age is just a number, and she recently took the time to chat with to share her fitness and nutrition tips with FitnessRXwomen.
FitRX: Hi Nancy! Thanks so much for taking the time to do this! You have an incredible transformation, and I am amazed that you didn’t even begin competing until age 50! What prompted you to make this change?
Nancy: At 50 years old, I found myself in the worst physical shape of my life. I was 40 pounds overweight, 34% body fat, and too sick to get out of bed with acute mononucleosis. After spending several months in a state of complete physical exhaustion and sleeping 20 hours a day with no signs of improvement, medical professionals were telling me I was just going to have to accept being exhausted and overweight and depressed, having high blood pressure and high cholesterol and chronic fatigue, and suffer from fibromyalgia for the rest of my life. I was SICK of being sick and tired. I refused to accept this condition as my only option. I was determined to get my health back.
I had fallen into unhealthy food choices, had stopped exercising and my stress level was high. I knew that the path to wellness required me to change my lifestyle and make exercise and a healthy diet a priority. I signed up for a gentle yoga class and I began replacing one unhealthy food item with a healthy choice each week. Next, I added walking five minutes a day on the treadmill. I slowly added a little time each week and eventually added weight training.
With consistent exercise and wholesome food choices, I increased my stamina and strength and began feeling stronger, more energy, and less pain. I was so encouraged by my improvement, I wanted more and was determined to prove to myself that, not only did I not have to accept being sick and tired the rest of my life, but that I absolutely could get my health, energy and youthful vitality back through proper nutrition, exercise and alternative health care. In the Fall of 2010, I set a goal to enter my first NPC Figure contest in the Spring 2011.
FitRX: You have really made an incredible transformation. Congratulations! I thought I had started very late in the NPC doing my first contest as a 30-year old. How did it feel to begin competing as a 50-year old?
Nancy: To be honest I never thought about my age. My focus was on improving my health first and transforming myself physically and mentally into a healthy, strong, confident, and happy person again. My goal each competition was/is to improve myself.
Before I began competing I did a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of myself, I still do this every year. Just like in the business world to be successful, one must set goals to showcase your strengths, improve weaknesses, capitalize on opportunities, and eliminate threats. I set a short term goal for each show and one or two long term goals for in season and off season. Short term goals were make eye contact with each judge, smile the entire time on stage; improve posing, stage presence, or makeup. One of my long term goals in 2011, was to improve my shoulder caps. My strength was persistence. Opportunities were the selection of shows to compete in. A threat I worked diligently on was improving my immune system. Being naturally shy and introverted, posing and stage presence were my greatest weaknesses. To overcome this, I surrounded myself with women who I admired and aspired to be like – they were passionate, strong, focused, energetic, and radiated confidence and poise on and off the stage. I greatly appreciate these generous women who spent hours upon hours with me at Bombshell camps tirelessly coaching me how to walk and pose. I remember stepping off stage after pre-judging at Masters Nationals, running and hugging my coaches Shannon Dey and Genn Strobo, not because I was in the center square, but because we were so incredibly proud that I had walked out on that stage with confidence and poise – I had just conquered my biggest weakness. Incidentally, that was the day I won my pro card when two weeks prior I hadn’t even placed. My favorite thing about competing is the life time friendships I’ve developed with women of all ages, all walks of life, and from all around world – who share my passion for health and fitness.
FitRX: I love the SWOT test! I’ll need to try that myself. How long were you competing before winning your IFBB Pro card? What was that experience like?
Nancy: I entered my first local NPC Figure contest in May 2011. I won my IFBB pro card in Figure July 2012, at age 52, in the 35+ Division at Master’s Nationals.
The experience was unforgettable. I will never forget that moment when the head judge called my number and announced “new IFBB Pro Nancy Bowlin” I walked to the center square and raised my hands in victory – at 52 years old I had just proven to myself and the world that being sick, tired, out of shape and overweight is NOT an unavoidable side affect of aging and that ANYONE can be healthy, fit, and strong at ANY AGE. I began my journey with two beliefs: the future can be better than the present, and I have the power to make it so – and I did.
FitRX: Yes you did. Your story is just incredible. What is your current workout routine like?
Nancy: I am currently doing a 5 day weight training split: 3 lower, 2 upper. I do 10-20 minutes of cardio 4 days a week. When I’m prepping for a show, I add one day of cardio.
FitRX: Earlier you said your shoulders were one of your long-term goals, and one thing I instantly noticed about your physique before this interview was your delts! What is your favorite shoulder workout?
Nancy: Thank you, I have worked really hard on my delts as genetically they are nonexistent. I remember after one of my first national shows I asked the head judge for feedback and he tapped me on the shoulder and said “you have no shoulders”. I immediately started doing extra shoulder work. My favorite shoulder exercise is dead-stop laterals, they force me to use proper form and really recruit the medial delts.
FitRX: Awesome! In addition to your workout routine, what is your diet like?
Nancy: I feel best when I eat grain free, dairy free, and sugar free. Being hypothyroid, these foods do not support optimal wellness for me. I count macros, eat six meals a day and once a week I enjoy a high carb day. My carbs mainly come from fruit and vegetables. My protein is from lean proteins and protein powder. My fats come from healthy fats sources like avocados, nuts, olive or coconut oil and almond butter. I eat organic one ingredient foods (or a combination of one ingredient foods) the majority of the time. An example meal is: turkey breast, green beans and sweet potatoes. My pre-workout snack may be an apple and almond butter, and my post work out is protein powder with fruit.
FitRX: I agree that 1-ingredient foods are the best way to go. I know you are really big into essential oils as well. What one do you feel is your must-have for your workouts and seeing the physique results that you have?
Nancy: Peppermint!! Peppermint has been tested extensively for its performance boosting abilities. Control experiments with athletes who added peppermint oil to their water have demonstrated immediate improvement in performance measures like jumping, endurance and respiration. In a study published in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition, the total amount of work performed by test subjects who used peppermint oil in a drink was increased by 51% and time to exhaustion increased by 25%. Peppermint has also been shown to reduce joint and muscle pain, improve recovery, is anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, is an antioxidant and has a cooling effect on the body.
FitRX: I never knew peppermint was so potent. That’s really interesting! What is your best advice to women over 50 who want to get into great shape?
Nancy: It’s never too late to change. For change to happen – you must take action. For change to last – you must create new habits that you enjoy so you’ll stick with them for a lifetime. Surround yourself with people who share your goals and dreams and who radiate positive energy so you can absorb and emulate that same energy. Appreciate and thank your body for what it can do – do not focus on what you can’t do.
FitRX: That’s great advice for anyone I think. What is your best advice to younger women who want to look as incredible as you in their 50’s?
Nancy: If you desire a lifetime of health and happiness make that your priority. If you pursue the perfect physique or try to change yourself to look like someone else the result will be frustration, disappointment and unhappiness. Surround yourself with people who place a high value on a lifestyle of health, fitness, happiness and balance. Although we cannot control everything that happens in our lives, we can control our response. If something/someone in your life is a negative influence and is pulling you away from your priorities, simply recognizing it’s happening and having the courage to take action to move away from, or remove it from your life can be very powerful and inspiring to those around you. Don’t try to be perfect, just be the best version of you, you can be every day.
“It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently” – Tony Robbins.
FitRX: Love that quote! What would be your top tips for a lifetime of health and fitness at any age:
• Consistently choose foods that support your body’s nutritional needs – No food is forbidden. Everything in moderation – even moderation.
• Drink a gallon of water a day.
• Exercise consistently (choose an exercise you enjoy doing so you look forward to doing everyday).
• Prepare foods ahead of time. Prepare proteins and frozen vegetable in large quantities, divide into single portions, vacuum seal and freeze. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables for the week and divide into portions ahead of time, so when you’re hungry and tired you can put a nutritious meal together in seconds.
• Pack your gym bag the night before, to save time & stress in the morning.
• Carry water and healthy snacks like almonds and rice cakes with you at all times so you aren’t tempted by sugary drinks and fast food.
FitRX: What would be your top tips for women interested in competing?
• You must be willing to make sacrifices.
• Demand more of yourself than anyone else does.
• Be your own motivation.
• Find someone who has achieved the results you desire and emulate their energy and actions.
• You must study and learn everything you possibly can about your area of interest.
• Set objective, measurable goals for yourself.
• Identify and improve your weaknesses, while highlighting your strengths. Recognize and seize opportunities and minimize threats.
• Take progress photos, look back at old photos and remind yourself how far you’ve come – rather than focusing on how far you have left to go.
• Love and respect yourself no matter where you are on your journey, regardless of how many times you fall, or long it’s taking to see results. It’s not a race it’s a journey and everyone’s is unique.
• Never compare or compete against anyone but you. Patience + Persistence = Progress. Slow progress, beats no progress.
• If you start to feel overwhelmed or sorry for yourself, look around you there is always someone facing bigger problems than you – reach out and encourage/help them. There is no better exercise for the heart than reaching down and lifting someone up – John Holmes
• Do not set limiting beliefs – Believe you can do anything – and you can.
• It’s Never Too Late and Never Give Up!!
FitRX: Thank you so much for taking the time to share your wisdom, Nancy. These tips are really good! Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Nancy: On my journey back to health and fitness, I have overcome a multitude of physical and mental challenges. Along with nutrition and exercise, the use of essential oils (EOs) has been vital to regaining my health and wellness. One thing I learned my very first show is taking OTC medications during competition prep or on show day to deal with pain, inflammation, fatigue, stress, insomnia, digestive issues, bloating, headaches, menstrual or menopausal issues, hunger, brain fog, sore throat, flu, stage fright, sore muscles, feelings of being overwhelmed, anxiety, etc. – will have negative side effects on your physique. I guarantee one or a combination of all of these issues will happen during prep and/or show day due to the tremendous physical and mental stress your body is under.
Due to my own negative experiences I put together a Competitor’s Essentials Kit to help you Peak Like A Pro. The kit contains 11 essential oils that help you prevent these issues, but if they do occur you can quickly resolve the issue without any negative side effects to your physique. I also included oils to help improve post show recovery time. The Competitor’s Essentials Kit contains only Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade (CPTG) essential oils ensuring you receive the highest standard of quality, purity, potency and safety available. Essential oils can safely be used for a wide range of emotional and physical wellness applications, without the unwanted side effects. Please contact me if you’d like more information on how essential oils can help you Peak Like A Pro, or simply improve the health and fitness of yourself and your loved ones. You can purchase the Competitor’s Essentials Kit at www.essentialoilscoach.pro.
I hope my journey will inspire others, and impress upon them if they persevere and believe in themselves, they too can achieve their health and fitness goals, enjoy increased strength, youthful vitality, energy, happiness and harmony in their lives at any age.
My motto is: “No Matter Who You Are, No Matter What You Do – YOU Absolutely, Positively DO, HAVE the POWER TO CHANGE.” – Bill Phillips
FitRX: Absolutely! Thank you so much, Nancy. Best wishes to you in your training and competing!
For more on Nancy:
Facebook: Nancy Bowlin