WNBF PRO USA WOMEN’S BODYBUILDING CHAMPION CARA RAYMOND
Interview by Chrissy Zmijewski
MANY people think that bodybuilding is a younger person’s sport and that once they reach a certain age that it is too late for them to start competing. However, I have met quite a few successful athletes who didn’t start competing (let alone working out in the gym) until later in life. For me, these men and women are inspirational, as they demonstrate that it is never too late to go after your dreams. One of those women is Cara Raymond. I feel lucky and honored that she was willing to be interviewed and share her journey with me. I hope it inspires you as much as it did me.
CZ: When did you first start competing?
Cara: I first started competing in August 2008 at the Washington State Natural show in Arlington. At that time it was affiliated with the INBF.
CZ: What inspired you to start?
“I had weighed 265 lbs at my heaviest after my kids were born.”
Cara: I had earned a trip to the Bahamas and hired a personal trainer to help me lose weight. A different trainer at that gym came over and told me I had great symmetry and I should consider competing in bodybuilding. My husband and I had gone and watched a show first to make sure it was something I would want to do. Through downsizing, I lost my original trainer, and started training with the one who had approached me. We actually competed in my first show together…her in Figure and me in Bodybuilding.
CZ: Prior to your first show, how long had you been lifting seriously?
“Even though I did step aerobics almost every day, I could not lose weight.”
Cara: This was all new for me. I was always active in different sports growing up and would run 9 miles every day in high school. I never ate so that pretty much destroyed my metabolism at the time. [Prior to 2008], I had done step aerobics for years and had a collection of “The Firm” videos that I would rotate every day, but I only started lifting in January of 2008. I had weighed 265 lbs at my heaviest after my kids were born. Even though I did step aerobics almost every day, I could not lose weight.
CZ: So prior to your first show, you had only been lifting for 8 months! That’s phenomenal. Many people say they are too old to start bodybuilding, but I have a hard time believing that, especially with athletes like you who prove otherwise. If you don’t mind me asking, how old were you in 2008 when you started competing?
Cara: I turned 45 in October 2008 and earned my Pro Card in Masters Bodybuilding in 2011, then my Pro Card in Open Bodybuilding in 2012.
CZ: Wow! That’s fantastic. Between 2008 and when you earned your Pro Card, what were your biggest obstacles to overcome?
Cara: At first, I had to get my metabolism healthy. I had a benign brain tumor, which is in remission, but had done quite a bit of damage to my endocrine system. Learning about how to help my body through food and natural supplements has helped me to manage my health with minimum medications. There are so many side effects from medications that create more problems, so I work closely with my endocrinologist to do things as naturally as I can. This would be my greatest challenge. I don’t really use the word obstacle… I prefer the word challenge because it comes across as more positive.
CZ: Well said, Cara. With all of the challenges that you experienced, what were your biggest motivators to persevere?
Cara: The biggest motivator to persevere is also my health. Because of my age and past health concerns, I have every strike against me for osteoporosis, but my recent Dexascan showed bones of a 20 year old and I am turning 51 this year. That is pretty motivating!
CZ: Wow! What fantastic news! That sure does speak to the power of exercise and good nutrition! Since you began competing as a Pro, I’ve seen your physique transform tremendously! When you stepped on stage this year at the WNBF Pro USA, I was in awe of the physique you have created. What changes have you made (with supplements, training, dieting, nutrition, etc.) for your prep this year that helped you to bring a winning physique to the stage?
“I turned 45 in October 2008 and earned my pro card in Masters Bodybuilding in 2011 then my Pro Card in Open Body-building in 2012.”
Cara: Thank you! What a great compliment! My training under the mentorship of Katy Wayman-White over several years really built a foundation of strength and sound health. I learned the importance of focus and safety and balance in my training from her. This year I began training with Law and Patricia Payne and Team HARDBODY. Patricia has done a fantastic job of balancing my macros, and challenging my body with a different style of lifting and cardio. It has been a very effective change and she pays very close attention to every detail. I love challenging myself physically and they have formulated a plan which allows me to do so. Patricia encourages and supports me emotionally as well with the goal of being the best I can be. I don’t focus on my age. It is just a number. When your body and mind are in good health, you can do anything you set your mind to.
CZ: Can you tell me more about your current lifting and cardio?
Cara: I lift more now with mind/muscle connection…as heavy as I can, but trying to only engage the muscle involved to create more shape. And I do more visualization as I’m lifting. A lot of times I have my eyes closed so I can visualize what I want the muscle to look like as I feel it working. That is actually from a long conversation I had with Moji Oluwa last winter. I can leg press 1350 lbs for reps, but we all know my quads alone are not doing that work. My husband has always been my lifting partner so he encourages me, but I push myself with no limits. The lifting plan from Team HARDBODY is in line with the mind/muscle connection so it works extremely well. My cardio is not long bouts, but very intense. If I am sprinting, I have a rhythm in my head and challenge myself to keep pace with it for the duration of each sprint so I don’t slow down as I get tired. It becomes more mental than physical at that point. Sprinting has to be uncomfortable to get the most out of it.
CZ: Yes, it is amazing how much more you get out of your workout or anything that you are doing when your awareness is focused on the action! Do you have any competing plans for the rest of the year?
Cara: I am competing in Kansas City in September for sure, and I have a couple more lined up for this fall. My daughter just got married in August so we had to wait and see how finances were before I committed to more.
CZ: What helps you stay balanced while juggling competing, family, working, etc.?
“…you have to be satisfied with what you have accom-plished toward your goal.”
Cara: Balance is hard, but my kids are adults so I don’t need to worry about getting them places at this point. My husband goes with me to the gym most of the time, so we have time together every day no matter what our schedules are. [We also] do little day trips on Sundays together. Planning my daughter’s wedding with her and preparing for a competition at the same time was a true test of balance especially because she had asked that I make her dress and veil and do all the flowers. It was important to me to make her feel like she came before anything else, so sleep for me came last. However, I have an incredible coach in Patricia and she has encouraged me greatly during this time.
CZ: What have you learned throughout your journey in bodybuilding?
“…I don’t focus on my age. It is just a number.”
Cara: I would say the most important thing I have learned up to this point in this sport is that the competition itself is a by-product of all the hard work you put in, but you have to respect yourself for what you put into it. There are no comparisons to what someone else does. At the end of the day, you have to be satisfied with what you have accomplished toward your goal. I reflect each night by asking myself if I did everything I possibly could to the best of my ability. Only I know what other things happened in that day in my life, so if I can answer yes to that question, then I set my goals for the next day and I am peaceful.
CZ: So true. Bodybuilding really is about being the best YOU can be day in and day out! What are your goals/dreams for the future, both in Bodybuilding and in life in general?
Cara: I would like to continue competing going forward, and would love to motivate and inspire people of all ages to become the best they can be. We are each given a certain time here. When we know who we are and love ourselves for being that person, we tend to judge others less and encourage those around us more. I believe this is true no matter what our goals are and truly want the best for others. I have done some public speaking and would love to pursue that dream.
CZ: I bet you will be fantastic at public speaking. You truly have a great story to share and have accomplished so much, even when the cards weren’t in your favor! Is there anything else you want readers to know?
Cara: Thank you, Chrissy! I guess the best way for me to share who I am with people is that the glass is always half full. I believe that God has my days here figured out, but what I do with them and the quality of those days is my choice. When my brain tumor was diagnosed, my kids were very young and we didn’t know right away if it was cancerous… just that it was growing and affecting other parts of my body. I learned so much about how integrated the body is. One example is that I had 14 kidney stones because my ability to handle calcium was compromised. That is no longer an issue. When we take care of ourselves and pay attention to our health, it is extremely empowering. I love life! I want to inspire and encourage as many people as I can to be proactive with their health and wellbeing so they can love life as well!
CZ: Thanks Cara and good luck to you in your upcoming competitions this year! NMI
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