More Than Muscle
What does strength mean to you? For three Southeast Missouri Women it means a lot more than muscle, in spite of the size of their impressive biceps.
“To me it’s a manifestation of all the things in my life that I’ve overcome,” said Tamatha Crowson, of her bodybuilding physique. “I’ve tamed some beasts and climbed some mountains. But they were all inside jobs. When I train and see a visible and tangible result, that reflects grit, hard work, and determination. It is something I can be proud of.”
Crowson, along with two other Cape Girardeau area fitness trainers, Christine Jaegers, and Tara Landewee are fresh off impressive individual finishes in Figure and Bikini divisions of two different fitness competitions: The 2017 NPC Midwest Championships in St. Louis in April and the Kentucky Muscle Fitness Show two weeks later in Louisville. The ladies say their hard bodies came with focus, stamina, and commitment inside and outside the gym.
“To me it’s about the journey,” said Christine Jaegers. Jaegers is City of Cape Girardeau, Fitness and Wellness Coordinator. “I was 100% scared of the thought of ever stepping on stage in a bikini but I wanted to push myself to something that scared me. It’s that moment of ‘I want to give up,’ and ‘not today’ but you say ‘No!’.
Jaegers says bodybuilding comes down to making your mind your strongest asset. “You say ‘I have a plan, a goal, and determination and I’m doing this because I’m strong! Mentally and physically! I can do this and I will!’”
That journey can be all-consuming and challenging - even for personal trainers.
“It’s six days a week of workouts,” said Crowson. Crowson owns T. Crowson Fitness. “That’s each muscle group 1-2 times per week with 3-4 exercises per muscle group and 3-4 sets per exercise. My nutrition basically consists of food like egg whites, whey protein powder, greek yogurt, peanut butter, sweet potatoes, rice, chicken, fish, sirloin, oatmeal, broccoli, asparagus and berries.”
For each competitor, the road to the figure show becomes a life that revolves around perfectly timed and measured nutrition and workouts.
Muscles need consistent healthy fuel. Protein is key but just one component along with complex carbohydrates and healthy fats.
“I eat anywhere from 6-7 times a day. I am not at all scared of carbs! In fact even in contest prep I still maintain about 130-180 grams of carbs per day. I do have a cheat meal once a week,” said Crowson.
All three ladies worked with Steve Poynter, a fitness coach based in Kentucky. As the contest date nears, increased attention to nutrition and sweat is involved.
“He gives us workouts with the guidelines that are very strict for our dieting with meal planning and prepping,” said Landewee. “You go through stages and steps of building muscle and then leaning out.”
“As a personal trainer and wellness enthusiast, I’m always training and focusing on my health,” said Jaegers. The main thing I change for show prep is being very strict on my nutrition. As we get closer and closer to the show I weigh out and prep my food daily and focus on natural foods on and off show prep.” Jaegers is a pescatarian so her diet includes fish and eggs instead of chicken or red meat. “I love vegetables and nuts, quinoa, tilapia, salmon, avocado and can’t forget the peanut butter!”
They explain carefully planned workouts and meals with specific nutrition ratios and when to consume them are based on each athlete and where they currently are in their muscular development and fitness level. That means, the ladies make a lot of sacrifices in their personal lives to maintain a training regime that indeed becomes a lifestyle.
“I workout on my lunch breaks which is around 3 in the afternoon since I have such a crazy schedule,” said Jaegers. “I train and teach over normal lunch hour times and around a normal person’s workday. Before 8 AM and after 5 PM is a busy time for us trainers so we can work around our client’s schedules. For eating, I prep my food on Sunday for the entire week! I live to be prepared and have things ready to go. One less thing to worry about. Yes, I live out of Tupperware!”
While the three all juggle work schedules and training clients, Crowson and Landewee are both moms. They each have two boys. They say when their nutrition and schedules change so do their kids’.
“My boys are amazing and love it,” Landewee says of the healthy lifestyle. “They love to workout and exercise and eat healthy with me and don’t mind one bit when I carry my prepared Tupperware meal into a restaurant. We also pack all of our meals when we are on the go and eat out only on occasion. This saves money as well as is healthy for them. I’m teaching them lessons they can carry on through their life.”
Crowson explains her schedule also is not typical, but she manages to make it work.
“I am up at 3:30 AM and teaching Boot Camp at 5 AM. Then it’s back home to get my boys to school and then I have 3-4 hours of time to work and get things done around the house. Or, I take a nap. I’m usually working out from 1-3 PM and then I teach Boot Camp again at 5:30. After that it’s dinner and hopefully in bed by 9 or 10!,” she said. “My boys are teenagers and more self-sufficient than they used to be, but still need a lot. Luckily most of my work as a trainer is done online with clients so I don’t have to be gone all the time. For nutrition, the one thing that saves me is the fact that I eat pretty much the same thing every day and do my meal prep for the week sometime over the weekend.”
Eat. Sleep. Train. This is their life for several months leading up to the day they take the stage to show off their chiseled bodies. The hardest part comes right before the competition.
“You increase cardio and cut your carbs to get lean,” said Landewee. “Your energy level is low but you have to push through and keep rocking it.”
Placing in St. Louis and Louisville came as a shock to each of the ladies because of the fierce competition.
“They all looked amazing. I didn’t think I stood a chance,” said Jaegers.
Besides months and months of preparation, the day of the bodybuilding competition is quite an event.
“It’s long!” said Jaegers. “The morning starts rushed. We get up around 5 AM and get hair and makeup done while trying not to mess up the tan from the night before. They we go to a mandatory meeting, get another coat of spray tan and get into our suits, and jewelry and rush to pre-judging. Mornings fly.”
“Pre-judging is around 10 AM and can last a long time,” said Crowson. “There are so many different divisions and categories so there’s a lot of waiting around. About half an hour before we go on it’s ‘pumped up’ time. This is when we try to get a good pump in the muscle so we will use dumbbells or resistance bands and do exercises like bicep curls, tricep kickbacks, reverse flies, or calf raises. When I am about to go onstage for figure I will have some quick acting carbs.”
Crowson explained they line up and wait until their number is called. Then they have about 15 seconds to ‘pose’ and show the judges their muscularity.
“Being on stage is a slight high,” said Landewee. “You do your best to impress the judges and be proud of yourself just for getting up there and doing it.”
No results are given until after finals. Landewee says meeting the people and other fitness competitors is the best part of competition day, with a added bonus at home. “I come home with so many new friends and contacts,” she said. “But, taking my medals home to my boys was the best part overall.”
Motivation, for these athletes comes from their families and also their clients. They want to show them no matter how great your fitness goal is, it can be accomplished.
“There are days when I am tired and I want to go home,” said Jaegers. “But then I have a client who tells me they wanted to cancel but they didn’t want to let me down. Those statements run through my head every time I want to quit. They didn’t give up and neither will I!”
They feel health is beauty and that’s the message they want to send for anyone considering a bodybuilding show or improving their fitness level.
“Some of these individuals have come so far,” said Jaegers. “It is shocking and so encouraging. I’ve heard so many stories. Some of them have been 200 pounds overweight and now stand on stage in the best shape of their lives! You can do it! Everybody has a unique story and everybody has put in heart and soul to get where they are. The support of the health ‘community’ is amazing itself.”
“More than anything I want to let other women know that they are capable of so much more than they realize,” said Crowson. “I want them to see that transformation is possible. I want to inspire people to put away excuses and reasons they are not following their dreams and get out there and absolutely crush them!”
Note for inset:
Here are their specific placements in the past two shows for all three and one prior for Landewee and Crowson.
Landewee Stats: NPC MIDWEST NATURALS,ARNOLD, 4TH IN MASTERS BIKINI, AUG. 2016.
NPC MIDWEST NATURALS UNION STATION, 5TH MASTERS BIKINI, APRIL 2017.
KENTUCKY MUSCLE, LOUISVILLE, 3RD MASTERS BIKINI.
NPC MIDWEST NATURALS, FIRST PLACE BIKINI MASTERS OVER 40; 3RD PLACE BIKINI NOVICE MASTERS CLASS C, AUGUST 2016.
NPC MIDWEST NATURALS UNION STATION, 2ND PLACE BIKINI MASTERS OVER 40; 3RD PLACE FIGURE MASTERS OVER 35; 2ND PLACE FIGURE MASTERS OVER 40, APRIL 2017.
KENTUCKY MUSCLE, LOUISVILLE, 3RD PLACE BIKINI OPEN CLASS F; 2ND PLACE FIGURE NOVICE CLASS C, 2ND PLACE MASTERS OVER 40 CLASS B, MAY 2017.
NPC MIDWEST NATURALS UNION STATION, 2ND PLACE BIKINI, APRIL 2017.
KENTUCKY MUSCLE, LOUISVILLE, 2ND PLACE BIKINI, MAY 2017.
More information or photos can be provided upon request.