It’s a phrase we’ve all heard before— “Age is nothing but a number.” And it’s women like Mary Dent, age 53, who are proving that to be true every day.
Growing up, Mary was always active, but mainly did cardio on the Stairmaster and treadmill and took some fitness classes. Occasionally she incorporated a little weight training into her routine. Then at age 45, with some encouragement from her husband, Michael, Mary started training for her first NPC Figure show. She’s been training with Shannon Dey since 2007 and remains a Team Bombshell athlete to this day.
This year, Mary switched from Figure to Bikini after taking a little break from competing. At age 53, she recently received her pro card at the Masters Nationals in Pittsburgh and plans to make her pro debut by 2014, proving that age is truly just a state of mind! In addition to competing and staying fit, Mary is a mother of three, a personal trainer, and volunteers with Drug Free Collier and at her children’s school.
“My journey in fitness has made me a better person. I feel stronger emotionally, physically and stay motivated in all areas of my life,” said Mary. “I hope my winning my pro card encourages other women to reach for their goal and know that nothing is impossible at any age.
Recently, Team FitRx had a chance to chat with Mary about staying fit after 50. Here’s what she had to say!
FitRx: You have been working towards getting your IFBB Pro Card for many years. How does it feel to have earned it?
Mary: I still cannot believe that after all of these years of competing, I finally have the honor of receiving my pro card. I am so overjoyed and so thrilled that I never gave up on my dream. I got a little discouraged at times, but I always felt it was something I truly wanted.
I wrote a note to myself and always kept it in the pocket of my competition bag. It was a list of people to thank… just in case! I took that note out of my bag after coming off stage and just sat on the floor with such an overwhelming sense of awe! I am still so grateful that I am now eligible to join many of my friends on the IFBB stage. The feeling I have now is pure joy!
FitRx: Why did you decide to make the switch from Figure to Bikini?
Mary: After competing several years in Figure, I was a little hesitant to switch to Bikini but always wanted to try. I felt that it was for younger women. When I found out that Southern States had a 50-plus class, I was so excited that I decided to go for it. I was so focused and loved the changes that I saw in my physique. I think taking a little break helped me to be ready to reach my goal of bringing in my best physique possible.
FitRx: We all know that achieving and maintaining a tight, lean and sculpted physique isn’t easy, especially as we age. What has been the greatest challenge you have faced in your pursuit of a stage-ready physique? How have you overcome that?
Mary: Bringing in a tight midsection. I really have to make sure that I train that area a little extra. My coach is really good at tweaking my troubled areas with changes in my overall plan. I may also have to make adjustments in my cardio if needed due to any problems with my joints. I have been really lucky so far that I have been able to continue most of my exercises and cardio with very little adjustments.
I am in menopause, which also causes many women to deposit fat in lower abs and thighs and can also affect your metabolism, making it more challenging. Discipline is key! You have to stay away from soda, sweets and fried foods. I try to do this year round. If I have any of these things, it is in small amounts and only occasional, but never while getting ready for a competition. Alcohol also has sugar and is processed in your liver so it should also be consumed in small quantities.
FitRx: What advice would you give to a 50-plus woman who wants a body like yours?
Mary: Have a goal. It’s never too late to start working out. Get a medical clearance, especially if weight is an issue. Next they should hire a personal trainer or just have someone show them how to use the exercise equipment properly to prevent injury and to gain the most benefit. If someone wants to compete at this age, they should seek a coach in this sport who is able to give them guidance and encouragement.
Many women get discouraged after starting an exercise program because they do not see an immediate change or the scale doesn’t change, but it takes time to start seeing these changes. I always tell my clients that they have to be patient. It’s important to forgo the scale, paying more attention to the fit of clothing and how you feel.
Surround yourself with positive people who encourage your success. This may mean packing your meals and snacks and a little less social time. Find a workout buddy to maintain consistency and encouragement. At 50 we are dealing with a lot of changes, from hormonal to slowing of metabolism, dryness of skin, hot flashes, mood swings, changes in libido, hair and so many more. Just know that you are not alone and that these things vary in different degrees among us. Be encouraged and be the best for you!
FitRx: How have you had to change your training and nutrition as you have aged to achieve your physique? We all know that we can’t keep up with the same regimen and lifestyle we followed in our 20s and 30s.
Mary: When I perform an exercise that requires jumping, I am very careful about making sure that I do not twist my knee, making sure that I land softly. The switch lunge is an exercise that I have to perform in a stationary stance because it bothers my knee. I always listen to my body; if an exercise is causing any pain or discomfort, I modify the exercise or replace it with a similar exercise that is working the same muscle group.
Surrounding myself with these beautiful young women onstage also inspires me to stay focused. Staying out of the sun to prevent skin damage by wearing sunscreen on face and décolletage area helps preserve my skin. I also drink six to eight glasses of water and use beneficial products on my skin daily. I try to make sure that I get plenty of sleep and also try to minimize my stress as much as possible.
FitRx: How have your hormone changes affected your training, nutrition and body? What can you do to overcome and address the hormonal changes that negatively impact your physique and your mindset/emotions?
Mary: I definitely went through a period where my weight shifted and I was dealing with hot flashes as well as emotional swings. I tried several different types of hormone replacement and eventually started feeling better. I did, however, put a little weight on, especially in my lower abs and upper thighs. I decided to go off all my hormones before my last show, but I would advise any woman in menopause to consult her gynecologist for recommendations. Every woman is unique and experiences hormonal changes differently. Treatment has to be individualized and may take a few trials to get it just right. Menopause affects so many areas— emotional and physical, and this is not to be ignored. Know that you are not alone and seek out support from other women and the medical community. I plan to age gracefully and hold onto my youth vehemently!
FitRx: How have you instilled fitness in your families lives?
Mary: I have encouraged my husband to stay healthy and fit by cooking for both of us. It’s easier if he eats what I cook with a little addition here and there for his food. We also enjoy doing cardio together, especially on weekends. We also limit the amount we eat out so that we can stay focused. My children have adjusted to my food cooler coming along and me eating in the car. They still are allowed to eat out on occasion. I try not to make food an issue, but guide them to eat healthy. I also stress the importance of staying active but make it fun. We may go out and shoot baskets or just toss a ball to one another. My son loves bowling, so we try to do this at least once a week. I want to be a good role model for them and to show them that there needs to be balance in all areas of our lives.
FitRx: Is there anyone you’d like to thank?
Mary: I would like to first thank God for giving me the strength and endurance on a daily basis to face life and any challenge it sends my way. I am so blessed to have a very supportive spouse. He is my biggest cheerleader! He has been at all of my competitions except for a very few in my eight years of competing. He is the one that sparked my interest in this sport. My children are also always rooting for me as well. I have three wonderful children: Colton 23, Alexandria, 13 and Jonathon, 10. I would also like to thank my coaches Shannon Dey and Rob Rosetti, the founders of Bombshell Academy. They have changed my life! They took a skinny girl and transformed her physique to what it is today. Shannon has guided me throughout my journey since 2007.
Additionally I want to thank all of the coaching staff and the glam team with Bombshell. A special thank you goes out to India and Vanessa for their help with posing for Bikini. I also want to thank CJ Elite competition for making my beautiful bikini.
A shout out to all competitors. Another thank you to judges, promoters and expeditors. I also want to thank Jim Manion, president of the NPC and IFBB. Lastly, to all of my wonderful friends— thank you for all the support and for never giving up on me and my dream of becoming an IFBB PRO. Who could have imagined that at 53 I would become an IFBB pro in Bikini? It still seems so surreal but I am very humble to have received my pro card.
I have also had an outpouring of support from different people on my Facebook as well as Yahoo. This just inspires me more to continue to train and live a healthy lifestyle. A huge thanks to FitnessRx for the opportunity for this interview.
If you’d like to get in touch with Mary, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.