SETTING THE STAGE: MY JOURNEY AND HOW VCNFITNESS CAN HELP YOU ON YOURS
By Vanessa Lynn Campos
My name is Vanessa Lynn Campos. I am a 38-year-old mom of 2, a wife, a personal trainer, a dancer, an obstacle course racer, a Figure/Athletic competitor, a No Excuse Mom and owner of VCNfitness. This is my story.
My passion for fitness began at a young age. I was put in dance at the age of 3. I tried lots of other activities as a child; gymnastics, swimming, skiing, soccer, and cheerleading, to name a few. Dance was my constant, ballet, tap and jazz, the classic dance school trifecta. It was at age 15 that I found lifting and strength training. This was also the year that a very respected ballet master informed me that although I had talent, I did not “have the body for ballet.” I began working out at the local YMCA that summer, as it was the halfway point between home and summer school. I was going through a difficult year, and needed something to burn off steam. Lifting seemed to do the trick.
“LIFTING OTHER DANCERS, INCLUDING MEN, REQUIRED A LOT OF STRENGTH, AND THE PIECES I WAS PERFORMING REQUIRED A LOT OF ENDURANCE.”
I strength trained off and on throughout the rest of my high school years, but I focused on dance, modern, specifically, since my ballet dreams had been snuffed out. It was my goal to go to college and then pursue a career as a professional dancer. During my four years in college, I sporadically continued my strength training, as it complimented my modern dance training.
Lifting other dancers, including men, required a lot of strength, and the pieces I was performing required a lot of endurance. I took time away from lifting when I studied abroad, both in China and England, but I always came back to it to supplement my dance training and as a mental and physical diversion from “life.”
I moved to New York City following graduation to pursue the dream of dancing professionally, and spent a year going to and from auditions and working in retail, as an office temp, and as a bartender. I hadn’t thought to get a job in fitness because I was so focused on being an artist.
That year I did no gym workouts. I needed to be seen on the scene and spent much of that year in dance studios focusing on my technique. After a full year of rejection and disappointment with failed auditions, I went to graduate school to further my dance education and make more connections. I completed my two years of post-graduate work, during which I studied anatomy and kinesiology.
After graduating with my M.F.A. in 2002, I was invited to join a small modern dance company as a founding member and soloist. I was part of creating and performing many works, one of which I received a mention in a review in the New York Times. I was also blessed with the opportunity to shoot with a world-renowned dance photographer and have been in four of her calendars.
The life of a professional dancer is many things, one of which is financially unstable. I needed a job that had flexible hours that worked around my rehearsal and performance schedules, and that gave me time (and money) to take dance classes. I was a terrible bartender and hated waiting tables. Some of my colleagues worked as personal trainers. Suddenly my life came full circle.
I already knew how to properly use the equipment. I had a deeply engrained love for lifting. My in depth knowledge of human anatomy, kinesiology and body mechanics, made it a natural fit. I began training in a corporate gym and was immediately hooked. My education was more than enough to qualify me for the job and I thrived. Functional training, Pilates, core work, traditional strength training, facilitated stretching, bodyweight work and creating unique complex movement patterns set me apart from the other trainers that worked primarily with machines. I ventured out on my own as a freelance trainer after a year in the corporate setting. VCNfitness was born. I had found my second calling.
“MY ANSWER WAS ALWAYS A LAUGH FOLLOWED BY, ‘NOPE, I’M TOO CHICKEN TO COMPETE.’”
Fast-forward to 2015. Many people asked if I train so hard and with such focus and determination and have the physique I do because I compete. And my answer was always a laugh followed by, “nope, I’m too chicken to compete.”
Being fit had just become my lifestyle and my passion, aside from also being my career. But apparently, I looked like a fitness competitor, despite having gained over 40lbs during both of my pregnancies and having a life-long struggle with self-doubt and body dysmorphic disorder.
I never saw myself the way others saw me. All of my years in the dance world had my mind warped about my own body. I just trained hard because it was my only escape from the toils of life and I had become involved in obstacle course racing the year before. I never considered competing. Though I had never had stage fright as a dancer, I was terrified of presenting myself on stage. As a dancer I was able to hide behind a character, a story, a piece of music and choreography. It wasn’t ME that people were watching. But getting on stage in a bikini? That would be me, plain as day and it scared me.
“WHAT I DIDN’T KNOW WAS MY DANCE TRAINING WOULD COME IN HANDY.”
Earlier in the year, I was presented an opportunity to be on a television reality show, that would have put my work, my life and me on full public display, and it scared me to death. I wanted to do it to finally face my fear and share my story, but the opportunity fell through. Being the type of person that loves a challenge, I decided that I needed a new goal. With the support of my husband and children, I decided that competing would be that goal. Why not? You only live once! In March of 2015, I made the decision. I found my coach, Janet Marsico, of The Figure Workshop, and I committed to a competition in June.
What I didn’t know was my dance training would come in handy. Posture, stage presence, walking, and even in being able to “disappear” into a character are just some of the skills I have been able to use in competition.
Unknowingly, the physique I had built over all those years had more of a purpose. I have been able to use my experience as a dancer/ choreographer, my work as a trainer and recreational Bodybuilder, and my newfound passion for competing, both in Figure and in obstacle course racing to help motivate others. I now serve as the National Fitness Pro for the No Excuse Mom movement, and run my online training and group fitness business, VCNfitness.
My goal with VCNfitness is to make high-quality fitness, accessible and affordable to everyone. What I do not offer is cookie-cutter, “one size fits all” fitness. I know that every human being is unique, with his or her own needs, wants and goals. My sessions are unique for each individual, the classes have something for everyone, and the programs are personalized for each client, based on their lifestyles, schedules, and goals. I pride myself in offering versatile workouts that will challenge and change the body. I rarely use straightforward traditional exercises, as most people know them.
“…CORE STRENGTH IS A FUNDAMENTAL NECESSITY FOR EVERY BODY, FROM WHICH TOTAL BODY STRENGTH, BALANCE, AND FUNCTIONALITY EMERGES.”
I reach back to my choreographic background to create combinations that will challenge any fitness level, both physically and mentally. I want my clients to be fully engaged in the sessions and to walk away with a little more knowledge and confidence in their own physical capabilities every single time. VCNfitness is built on the philosophy that core strength is a fundamental necessity for every body, from which total body strength, balance, and functionality emerges. I do a lot of bodyweight work with most of my clients, in order to teach proper posture, form, and to correct imbalances. Then add in equipment to continue to build muscle and burn fat… on top of the centered, upright and solid core.
“ONE DOESN’T HAVE TO JOIN A GYM, OWN A LOT OF FANCY EQUIPMENT, OR HAVE ASPIRATIONS TO COMPETE TO TRAIN HARD AND SEE RESULTS…”
Furthermore, my main purpose is to eliminate the excuses and give everyone a way to get exercise into their lives. One doesn’t have to join a gym, own a lot of fancy equipment, or have aspirations to compete to train hard and see results… and it is my mission to deliver the information and direction that can help people reach their goals, be they moms wanting to lose the baby weight, or competitive Pro-level athletes.
My fields of expertise range from ballet and modern dance, TRX suspension training, pre and post-natal fitness, gait assessment, Pilates, fitness for children, and flexibility training. I have helped people change, not only their bodies, but their minds as well. I encourage a healthy, yet balanced, lifestyle, NOT extremes, and I practice what I preach. I don’t resort to extreme measures, and I don’t ask that of my clients. I truly believe that with a balanced and happy lifestyle, hard work, focus, and a proper and unique program anything is possible.
For more information about all the services, live and online, VCNfitness offers, please visit www.vcnfitness.com and follow VCNfitness Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. NMI
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