Working out has always been a crucial part of Connie Scaparo’s life. She’s been teaching aerobics since 1984, and works as the group fitness department head at Lifetime Fitness in Michigan. It had always been a dream for Connie to participate in a bodybuilding competition, and finally this year, with her two grown sons out of the house and her 50th birthday getting closer, she decided that there was no time like the present.
Even for someone who was FOFit to begin with, achieving her dream took major discipline. To wit, on a five-day cruise vacation while training, she didn’t eat bread or dessert. For 17 weeks, she didn’t miss a single day at the gym. “There were a few times I almost cried. I’d feel like there was no possible way I could do it,” says Connie.
But then, this October, Connie competed and placed in the John Simmons Classic Bodybuilding Figure Championship National Qualifier in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Read on to find out how she did it: the details of her intense workout regimen, strict diet and what kept her going even when she wanted to give up.
When did you start training for the competition?
On April 25th of this year I asked a member of our gym, Lynn, to help me train, since she’s a pro at figure competitions. She took my measurements and put together a lifting routine for me to follow. I officially started training on June 25th.
What was your workout regimen like?
I was at the gym seven days a week, for about two hours per day at the beginning, then up to three hours per day as the competition got closer. Monday through Friday I did reps, ending with the heaviest weights I could handle. On Saturdays I would do cardio, then work out the lower body. On Sundays I would do a circuit — working every muscle group using free weights, then work out my upper body. Three times a week, I would do high-interval, intensity training — 30 minutes on the Stairmaster, alternating between a comfortable pace and a fast pace so that my heartrate was constantly going up and down.
What did your diet consist of?
Lynn had me eating five meals per day — a meal every two and a half hours. At each meal I was allowed to eat four ounces of protein and two ounces of good fat such as almond butter, hummus, avocadoes, or nuts. Each day I was allowed two fruits and as many vegetables as I wanted. I also could have four ounces of a good carb per day, such as a sweet potato, after my workout, and one ‘free’ meal per week where I could eat anything I wanted, to shock my body and metabolism.
Eating this way must have required tons of advanced preparation!
If we were going shopping for the day I packed my food in advance. In July, my family and I went on a five-day cruise. Lynn had me make up 20 bags of protein powder to have as shakes, and 20 bags of nuts, so that I always had a protein and a fat with me on the ship. They were very accommodating [on the cruise]. I didn’t cheat once. Was I feeling deprived? Absolutely not.
Did you ever think about giving up at any point?
Yes. It’s hard when you start to feel like you’re [doing all this work but] not making changes to your body. But Lynn and my personal trainer Corey would say, ‘Hang tight Connie, it’s gonna happen!’ and it really did. You just tune your mind to it and say, ‘I want to do this. This is what I’ve gotta do.’
What was your competition outfit like?
I had to get special shoes–clear 5 inch heels that lengthen your legs. I had my suit custom made by Suits by Sassy in Michigan. I set up an appointment and looked at samples and choose a velvet royal blue suit with glitter.
How else did you prepare for the big day?
I practiced posing. My friend Kelly who has done competitions helped me practice walking. My coach came once a week to go over my workouts and my diet. I was drinking up to a gallon of water a day, and then three days before the competition I was at a gallon and a half. Then, I had to drop the water weight. I had a friend come to my house and spray tan me, and another friend did my makeup and hair.
What were your final measurements?
I went down to 112.4 pounds from 125.5 pounds and went down from 20.9% to 14% body fat.
Tell us about the competition.
The day of the competition I got the jitters and was all excited. Everything my trainer said would happen to my body came true. You really saw the definition with my spray tan. It was unbelieveable how my body had totally transformed.
What did you place?
I came in about 9th or 10th out of 12. This show was the national qualifier for the pro, so I was going against women who were trying to be pros. I had 35 year olds standing next to me. Now, I look at the photos and see what I need to tweak for the next one.
What advice do you have for women over fifty who want to do any type of competition?
If it’s something that you want to do, I say do it. It can be done.