By Jill Farr
For many women, the realization that fitness matters comes to them for the first time after they’ve experienced pregnancy and childbirth. Joann Rivas was one of those.
After her son was born in March 2012, Joann knew that her personal level of health was in question due to the weight gain she’d experienced during her pregnancy, but it wasn’t until she saw a family photo taken at an amusement park that she made the decision to make a change.
“I thought, ‘This is not me’”, Joann says. “This is not who I am.”
The journey to get back—or uncover—her true self ultimately led her to strength training with weights and competing in a figure competition, but that path was prepared with another pursuit; yoga.
“I started eating clean and making some weight loss goals in 2012,” Joann says. “After seeing some increased fitness and weight loss, I had a setback over the holidays, but made a New Year’s Resolution in January 2013 to get back in gear. A few months later, I began practicing yoga daily. I also began to incorporate a more plant-based diet into my life.”
Although you don’t hear “yoga” and “plant based” mentioned very often in the weight lifting world, Joann believes that both had a powerful impact on her fitness beginning.
“I definitely think it had an effect on my core,” Joann says. “After about two months of doing that and researching, I felt I was ready to start lifting weights.”
The flexibility that yoga practice brings is a positive, balancing force to weight lifting, Joann believes, and she points those who are curious to the Internet for inspiration.
“Instagram is great for yoga,” Joann says. “The monthly challenges you can find are great—some of my favorites are @beachyogagirl, @kinoyoga and @laurasykora—and you can get in contact with others easily.”
While yoga helped to create a foundation for her fitness, Joann credits weight lifting with the final result.
“The weight melted off,” Joann says. “When I started in May I weighed 150, and by July I had lost 20 pounds and was 10 pounds lighter than my pre-baby weight.”
Joann began charting her progress and sharing her research on a blog, (jox0fit.blogspot.com) and on Instagram (@jox0_fit). Her social media sites also became a way to chronicle her progress towards another goal she had set; competing in a figure competition.
“I did my first competition last year,” Joann says, “And I plan on competing again in February.”
While not for everyone, Joann says that the experience was an encouragement, and she thinks it can have specific benefits for those who are curious…and careful.
“I like the stage, I like the process,” Joann says. “I’d like to get in the habit of doing it once a year or so; I feel like it gives me an accountability, a reason to focus.”
For those who want to try it out, Joann cautions against getting too caught up in the competition itself, and extols the benefits of good coaching.
“I did have a coach for my first competition,” Joann says. “The first few weeks, I thought I could do it on my own, but there’s a lot of fine tuning beyond the basics. Find someone you trust, someone who either sees eye to eye with you on your goals, or respects them. If you want to do it naturally, if you want to not eat a lot of meat or use artificial means, find someone who will work with you, not against you.”
“You might get short term results if you neglect healthy choices for the sake of competition, but it’s not worth your overall health.”
When she’s not preparing for a competition, Joann still follows a predictable fitness schedule.
“I usually train two days, take a rest day, train two days, then take the weekend off to be with my son,” Joann says.
While that time to just relax and enjoy being a mom is important, Joann says that the workout time is just as crucial.
“It definitely helps my inner peace,” she says. “Taking that hour after he’s in bed or before he’s awake is beneficial. I’ve seen the benefits of it. As a mom, taking care of yourself benefits everyone in the long run.”
Joann also knows that the average woman will experience setbacks, and wants to be a realistic example of someone who takes life’s curveballs and still keeps going, and making choices that lead to good results.
“Take it one day at a time,” Joann says. “Don’t overthink the process. Fit it to your life. As long as you’re moving forward and doing the next thing right, you’re doing good.”