5 Women Who Overcame Obstacles Through Fitness
Meet five fit women with inspiring stories of triumph.
Corpus Christi, Texas
Stats: 28 125 lb 5'8"
Gig: Counselor and personal trainer
Turning a Blind Eye
In a sport wherevisuals are everything, youd assumeblindness would pose quite a challenge.Yet for NPC bikini competitor BrittanyCulp who lost her sight gradually due toa hereditary eye condition thats not thecase. Being blind is an inconvenience attimes, but the biggest obstacle has actuallybeen myself, Culp says. Ive struggled withdepression a majority of my life, and I tend toget in my own head. It has taken time to learnto see outside myself and find the positive.
Culp got into bikinicompetition in 2013, and she immediatelyswitched from being a cardio queen to astrength-training devotee. Her hard workhas paid off: In 2017, she won her heightclass at the NPC Texas Cup, which qualifiedher for the 2018 NPC Nationals where shemade third call-out in her class. Her goalnow is to earn her pro card though otherscant comprehend her obsession. Im a blindwoman in an industry that focuses on whatyou can see, and though I cant see how Ilook, I can still feel it, Culp says.
These days, Culp followsa five-day split of legs, back and calves,shoulders and abs, arms and calves, andglutes and hamstrings. She does cardio threeto six days per week, depending on whereshe is in her competitive season. Its a mix ofsteady-state fasted cardio or interval cardioafter lifting, she says.
Stats: 27 140 lb 5'8"
Gig: Online personal trainer
Emily Cramer was indance classes before she turned 3, startedweightlifting at 19 and did her first bikinicompetition when she was 22, and she caninstantly point to her fitness inspiration hermom, Anita Susanne, who was a competitiverunner and Spin instructor. But in 2018,after a three-year battle with melanoma,her mom passed away on the morning ofCramers wedding. I was crushed, she says.I struggled to eat, sleep and even completethe smallest daily tasks.
Realizing she needed tofind her footing again, Cramer made it hergoal to qualify for the NPC National BikiniChampionships. I channeled my grief intothe one thing I knew would make me feelclose to my mom fitness, she says. A fewmonths later, she was onstage in Miami for the2018 NPC Nationals, and though she finishedoutside the top 15, she has plans to return andwin her pro card.
Homage to Mom
Cramer now works asan online personal trainer and hits the gym forher own workouts five to six days per week.She prioritizes legs and trains them two orthree times a week, and as a tribute to mom:I also teach Spin classes two to four times aweek in the evenings to spice things up, shesays. And though she eats a mostly clean dietyear-round, she admits that her favorite cheatis Mexican food.
Brooklyn, New York
Stats: 32 122 lb 5'7"
Gig: Holistic nutritionist, yoga teacher and fitness model
After years of struggling withdigestive issues, cystic acne and chronic stress,Johanna Sambucini had had enough. I wasin my early 20s and didnt understand what itreally meant to train or eat healthy, she says. Iwanted to change the way I looked and felt andset out to improve my quality of life holistically.
The former high-schoolcheerleader then developed an unorthodoxworkout plan that she still follows today. Istart each day at 6 a.m. with Ashtanga Vinyasayoga, then I strength-train three to four timesper week, she says. Afterward, I eithertake a flexibility and contortion class or dohandstand training. I also incorporate acrobaticconditioning, mobility training and bodyweightcalisthenics into my week.
Win Some, Lose Some
In 2010,Sambucini decided to try fitness competitionand did several shows, winning some andlosing some. Even though winning is great,its more about the journey, the feeling ofaccomplishment and the friends you makealong the way, she says. To me, that iswinning.
Sambucini currentlyworks with women to improve their gut healthand hormonal balance through nutrition. Mymission is to empower women by educatingthem about whole-food nutrition and movementusing a functional approach, she says.
Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada
Stats: 29 135 lb 5'5"
Gig: Licensed practical nurse
Fitting It In
Busy careers and long workhours have succinctly derailed many a fitnessambition, but Kalley Tucker was determinedto avoid that common pitfall. My health andwellness are very important to me, and althoughI work 12-hour shifts as a nurse, Ill hit the gymafter work and before crawling into bed,she says. People make time for whats reallyimportant to them and Im no exception.
But fitness wasnt alwaysa priority for Tucker, who was far from athleticgrowing up. It wasnt until her early 20s thatTucker embraced exercise when a friend whoowned a personal training business encouragedher to compete. I quickly fell in love with thesport of bikini and how empowered it mademe feel, she says. Since then, shes enteredsix competitions, and in 2017, Tucker earnedpro status in the Natural Physique & AthleticsAssociation as an elite pro bikini model.
While shelloccasionally indulge in Asian takeout for a cheatmeal, Tucker keeps her diet pretty clean year-round.She also has a unique breakfast idea:eggs in a bag. Its basically a two-egg omeletwith veggies and ham, which I put, uncooked,into a sealable sandwich bag, she says. Eachmorning, I boil the bag in water for about 13minutes and the eggs slide out easily inperfect omelet shape!
Stats: 37 135 lb 5'7"
Gig: Home Depot project planning team
WhenShondreka Palmer was 12 years old, she washit by a van, which shattered her right leg andarm. I had reconstructive surgery and myright leg was casted, she says. I was confinedto a wheelchair for months until I was strongenough to stand, then went to crutches for acouple of months. But her work was not overyet. Palmer had to literally relearn how towalk. It took about one and a half years until Icould walk and run again, she says.
Palmer discoveredstrength training in college, but she thenreceived a scary heath diagnosis. At a routinecheckup, they discovered that one of my heartvalves was leaking, Palmer says. Thats whenmy fitness journey really began. She createda consistent workout regimen, which includedcardio four to five days per week to ensurethe blood fl ow to her heart remained strong.She also revamped her diet. I grew up eatingramen noodles, fi sh sticks, frozen TV dinnersand the like, she says. So I taught myself howto cook healthy meals.
These days, Palmer hits thegym five to six days a week while managingmultiple responsibilities. Im trying to livemy best life while being a single parent to myson Aiden and working my day job as a fitnesstrainer, Palmer says. She has also managed tofit competing into her life and has done threebikini contests to date, finishing top five in each.
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