Sponsored by: Muscle Finesse
Hazel Smith: Hi Dawn, you are very well known and popular member on MT and busy with your own commitments, so thanks for agreeing to take part in this interview for us!
Dawn: Hi Hazel, thank you for the invitation to do this, makes me feel important!! I just hope what I have to say is of interest to those who read this.
HS: I'm sure it is! How old were you when you started training and how old are you now?
DR: I first started training seriously when I was 19. I am now 42 but I have not been training all this time. I lapsed in my late 20s but took it up again in my late 30s and I now feel better than ever for having done so.
HS: What made you decide to start working out?
DR: Initially I started at a basic gym in the local sports centre but when I look back at what I did, I was just messing about and only did exercises that I could lift more than one plate on. I was taken into a 'proper' gym by a boyfriend but I was too embarrassed to 'watch myself' in the mirror and I think I spent half my time giggling. Eventually I went to the gym that my Dad was training at and that was it, there were other women training there, some who had competed and I finally fell in love with the idea of getting on stage so the serious training commenced.
HS: Regular members know that you achieved a significant weight loss; can you tell us a bit about it please?
DR: During the lapse of training I mentioned, I became the complete opposite of what I had been as a competitive bodybuilder. I did no training at all and became rather lazy. I can't say to this day why I completely stopped but little by little the weight crept on and I was quite embarrassed when my husband would show people my competition photos and they would then look at me as I was sat in front of them. You could see them wonder why I'd 'let myself go' and they would always ask if I would ever compete again. The answer was "never, I wouldn't be able to cope with the diet". I also worked away from home for 3 and a half years and fell into a lazy mode regarding cooking for myself and got a taste for a nightly bottle of wine rinsed down with some brandy. My weight soared to over 11st, which at 4'10.5" is pretty heavy and I was in a size 18. The photo that many have seen of me from January '05 is not me at my biggest. To put things into perspective, I now compete at 7st.
In 2005, I was to turn 40. I hated the idea of being 'passed it' especially when I still felt so young inside. I had started to lose my weight gradually and was enjoying going to the gym again and I found myself getting back into the weights. I began to wonder if I could indeed get on stage again and what better challenge could I set myself to achieve before the big 40!?
I had already found MuscleTalk by then and asked Big Les if he could help me out. He was more than happy to do so and I could not have asked for anyone better. He knew exactly the right things to say to me when I needed a little motivation and soon knew how my body reacted to diet and exercise. I know I could not have done it without his support.
HS: How do you manage to stay motivated with training and dieting?
DR: Well as I said earlier, Big Les is certainly a huge help to me but also the encouragement from other MT members has been amazing. I find it helps to express how I feel in my journal as sometimes just getting things in writing can ease the burden. Knowing that I am training for a competition keeps me going, I personally need a purpose to do what I'm doing and what better way than to compete? If I find I'm having a negative day my husband turns to me and says "it's self inflicted" which makes me remember it's my choice for what I am doing and there is no way at this moment in time do I want to stop.
Dieting is harder than the training and I'm sure most who get on stage will agree with this. The way Les has designed diets for me to date is to keep the volume as high as we can and work off the calories with CV. If I don't feel hungry then I'm less likely to want to cheat.
I also try and continue to eat out once per week for as long as I can whilst dieting. I know which restaurants I can go to and have things like steamed salmon with salad for example. Just the fact that I'm still doing something 'normal' and having someone else make the food for me feels good.
HS: At what point did you realise you wanted to start competitive bodybuilding?
DR: The gym I started at with my Dad had quite a few people who competed including 3 women, 2 who were over 30. At 20, I was still under the impression that once you hit 30 it was not possible to have a good body and was completely mesmerised by these two. I remember turning round to one these women and saying "I hope I have a body like yours when I'm 30". I cringe now when I think of that! I was training with another lady that I'd met at the gym and she had decided to compete, she was about to turn 30 so I decided if she could do it then so could I, that was it, 6 months later I was on stage.
HS: What made you choose natural bodybuilding, rather than taking performance enhancing drugs?
DR: I never considered PEDs in the 80s. The level that I competed at was certainly achievable naturally so the use of anything never even entered my head. When I decided to compete again this time round I went along to a local show and was totally floored by the standard of the figure girls. They were on level with the physique girls from the 80s and I knew I would not be able to achieve that by the time I was 40 unless I wanted to turn to assistance. For some reason, this just did not appeal. I remember leaving that competition feeling pretty down that maybe I would not be able to step on stage again.
I then discovered the BNBF through the internet. I also recognised a face on their website, Cheryl (MT member Tortiecat) who had been on stage with me a few times locally back in the 80s. She had turned pro and I was amazed at how she looked. She has continued to train all these years and her level of muscular development was astounding. I found myself wondering how I would have looked had I carried on training and where I would be in the sport had I not given everything up. By chance we met up again and have been in touch ever since. Had I not come across the BNBF I don't think I would have competed at all this time round.
I can now honestly say that I am very curious to see how I could look if I took anything but my curiosity as to what I can achieve without is greater. I will never regret staying natural but I feel I would regret it if I didn't and by then it would be too late to turn back the clock. Cheryl's photos had shown me that it was possible. Fine, she's years ahead of me in terms of training and development but I have something to strive for, so look out for me in my 50s!! I now feel completely at home on the natural stage and can not see me ever wishing to change that.
HS: Where abouts are you from and where do you train currently?
DR: I am originally from Accrington but now live in Chorley. I train in a fitness type gym and although I miss the atmosphere of the serious bodybuilders gym the location of this gym is very convenient. The dumbbells do only reach 50kg, but I can't see them ever being too light for me, even in my dreams.
HS: What are you ultimate goals in your competition career?
DR: I'm not one for setting my goals too high otherwise I would get demotivated if they are not achievable. At the moment, a pro card is my goal. When I competed in '05 I never even gave getting a pro card a second thought, even last year it was not on my mind but having come second in the British finals, I realise it is not impossible. Hence, getting my pro card is now my aim and is what I am setting out to do this year. I will set new goals once I've achieved this.
HS: Is there a potential sponsorship deal in the near future?
DR: I am extremely pleased to say that I have recently been sponsored by Muscle Finesse. I am so proud of this and feel that I now have further cause to make sure I get that pro card. Many thanks to Bill for having me as part of his sponsor team and to James for his help and advice.
HS: What's your marital status and does your partner support you in your training?
DR: I am married to Dave who is the best husband ever. He's is so patient, tolerant, encouraging and supportive. I couldn't ask for more. We try to train together as often as possible and I can always guarantee a great workout when we do. He knows just how far he can push me and he sometimes seems to know my capabilities better than I do!
HS: Do you eat clean or do you allow any junk food in your diet?
DR: Oh dear, the dreaded one! I could certainly be better but I'm nowhere near as bad as I used to be. I find the best way for me to cope is not to have anything in the house that would tempt me. After dieting for so long last year my tastebuds have become more delicate and I find that a lot of junk food now tastes just nasty. My diet is certainly not 100% perfect and my main vice is probably more down to portion size rather than type of food. I do love a box of salted popcorn when we go to the cinema.
Alcohol is another matter altogether, that is my downfall. I am fine when I diet and realise I don't need it and actually lose my taste for it and enjoy feeling lively in a morning and better energy levels throughout the day. I have a desire to be completely t-total but have not found the willpower and drive to do it yet.
HS: How do you alter your nutrition when you have a competition coming up?
DR: Alcohol is certainly out of the window. Portion sizes are checked and I tend to eat more vegetables purely for the filling factor. I find I have to cut out wheat based carbs so mainly use potatoes and rice with perhaps a small serving of oats at breakfast. I am also more rigid with my meal schedules as I feel hungry more quickly. I do believe that variety helps when dieting but I often find myself eating the same thing day in day on a diet out just for convenience.
HS: How often do you train and do you have a training schedule?
DR: I train 6 days per week. 5 days on the weights and CV, one day just CV (usually just a long walk with the dog). Previously I never did CV unless I was dieting for a competition but I have now got myself in the habit of keeping some level of CV in each day. I do CV twice per day when preparing for a competition.
I split my weight program into 1)Back, 2) Hams and Glutes, 3) Quads, 4) Chest and biceps 5) Shoulders and triceps
HS: Do you participate in any other sports?
DR: No. I've never been a sporty person; I always hated sport at school apart from cross country (only because I was the quickest which meant I was the first in and out of the showers and able to join the dinner queue at the start). I did join a ladies rugby team a few years ago but that was not for me, I hated the tackling and being tackled!! I think I'm a wimp really.
HS: You took the bronze medal at the Natural Olympia last year, a fantastic achievement, which you wrote a great report for us; articles.muscletalk.co.uk/article-natural-olympia-2007.aspx.
What is next competition wise for you?
DR: Having competed in the Natural Olympia I have automatically qualified for the BNBF British finals in October this year. As I have set my target for this year to get the pro card, this is my priority and to date I have no plans to do any comps before that.
HS: How long would you like to keep competing for?
DR: How long is a piece of string? Seriously, I have no idea. I feel I have yet to reach my peak, I know I still have areas I can improve on in both my training and diet, pre and post comp. At this moment in time I'd still like to think I'll be on stage for my 50th!
HS: You inspire many members, especially the female ones. If you could pass on one piece of advice for someone thinking of competing, what would it be?
DR: Get as much support as you can whether it's those closest to you, people from the gym, other MT members etc. I am fortunate to have a husband who supports me in what I do and encourages me without making me feel pressurised. Competition preparation is a very lonely thing to do and if no one close to you understands it can add extra stress just when you don't need it. People will tempt you with the smallest of things and they just do not understand that 'go on one won't hurt' can actually blow the whole thing apart.
HS: Other than training and living the lifestyle of a competitive bodybuilder, What else do you like to do in your spare time? Do you get much time to relax?
DR: I don't have any hobbies and have often wondered what I could do but have not come up with anything that I think will hold my attention for long enough. I like to read to relax but find I use it more as a distraction from CV. I did take to gardening last year and often have the urge to grow my own veg so one day I may get round to that. Most of my spare time seems to be spent on MuscleTalk.
HS: How do people outside of bodybuilding circles react to you as a bodybuilder and your bodybuilding lifestyle?
DR: I have not come across any negativity personally. Most people I speak to are amazed about it and they are often curious about my diet and always ask how much I lift! They think I'm mad but at the same time also admire the fact that I do it.
HS: What made you join MT in the first place?
DR: I had decided that I wanted to get on stage again but was competely unaware of what the scene was like having been away from it for so long. I remember doing a google search and came across MT. I think my first post like many new comers was asking about my diet as that was the area I felt I needed more help on than anything.
HS: What changes would you make to MT if you could?
DR: I like MT as it is. Unlike many other forums we have a good mix of people at different levels of training and for different purposes. Not everyone wants to be a bodybuilder or even compete. There's nothing wrong in this, we don't expect every driver to want to be a Formula One racer so why should everyone who enters a gym or joins a related forum be expected to be a bodybuilder?
HS: Many thanks for taking the time to be interviewed and on behalf of all the MuscleTalk members, I'd like to wish you all the best in future competitions. See you on MT!!
Sponsored by: Muscle Finesse