Hi, my name is Mandy Stafford I am a 32 year old Mommy of one! Fitness is my passion. I love training; I can’t ever seem to get enough of it! I am often asked why I call it “training” and not working out; well the answer is simple! I am in the gym pushing myself further and further each time getting stronger doing that one more rep, adding more and more weight to the bar, and I am not in the gym working out with 5 and 10 pound dumbbells and staring into mirrors! No thank you!
I’ve had the privilege of knowing Mandy Stafford for a couple of years now and even though she gets asked “Why don’t you compete?” all the time, this was my first time asking. I knew Mandy was extremely active in the fitness industry with photo shoots and knowing some of the top physique, powerlifting, and strongman competitors out there. And with those influences there had to be a good reason for her not to compete. Turns out I was right. Mandy embodies the Athlete’s Mentality without entering the competitive arena and shares an insightful perspective on the fitness lifestyle.
I have always been interested in fitness, ever since I was a kid, I even remember doing Jane Fonda videos and who could forget Buns of Steel!! I use to lift concrete blocks over my head just for the hell of it! Don’t ask. See, I started out with the iron bug!! In high school I joined my first gym and was also in a weightlifting class at my school. In 2000 I met my best friend Donnie Thompson and he’s the one who really got me into lifting heavy and wanting to be strong!!! He taught me the difference in working out and training. This was the stepping stone that has led me to where I am today. He taught me to train with intention!
Why don’t I compete in figure or bikini? One of the main reasons I chose not to compete in figure, or bikini is I don’t really agree with how the competitions are judged! To me they are beauty pageants with muscle, which is totally fine! I admire people that do the diet and the training and get up on that stage! I have nothing against figure or bikini shows! In fact I enjoy seeing all the beautiful bodies, for me personally, I don’t want to work that hard and train with everything I’ve got and give it my all just to have a panel of judges tell me “you’re not good enough” or “fit enough” or “pretty enough!” That’s just negative! Also, for the most part, when I attend those shows I NEVER agree with the judges decisions! I always pick first place to be the girl that came in 2nd, 3rd or even lower! It also cracks me up that some of the people judging the athletes on stage appear as if they have never seen a gym themselves! Like I said this is just MY opinion! I would much rather compete in something with a win or lose task such as squatting, benching or deadlifting. Either you make the lift or you don’t! Or compete in a race or obstacle course either you finish or you don’t, not just a competition based on someone’s overall opinion of my appearance.
At least a few times a week someone asks me “do you compete?” They’re always shocked when I say “NO I don’t!” Then comes the questions as to why do I workout so much and spend so much time in the gym, or why do I put myself through all of that and not get on the stage? My answer is simple: I do it for ME!! I love the lifestyle that comes with training hard and eating right. I love the way it makes me feel and I love having muscles! More than anything I love being strong! I like to know that I can pick up something really heavy and move it that most women can’t or would never even try! For example flipping a HUGE tire over and over again! Haha!! I hear a lot of my friends say “Oh, I couldn’t train day after day without having a competition to train for.” But I am different and I CAN train everyday just as hard as those who are competing I just choose not to compete! Training and getting stronger is like a drug to me I am totally addicted!If I feel I need a little extra motivation or if things are just getting a little boring I book a photo shoot!! I have done several shoots and each one gets more and more fun!! I recently had abdominal surgery in January for a torn muscle and I made sure to schedule a photo shoot 6 months after my surgery so I had NO excuses to stay home from the gym and I had to watch my diet! So instead of sitting around and sulking about having surgery I was back in the gym doing my thing!!! Being in front of the camera is always something fun and exciting and when you get your photos back you have something there forever showing all of your hard work and dedication. Fitness modeling is my “trophy!” I recently did a photo shoot for a Strongman Organization and totally fell in love with that style of training! Now all I want to do is flip tires and press heavy things over my head!!! Who knows maybe there will be a strongman competition in my future 😉
Keeping my motivation: I do not have a personal trainer, I’m not the type to do what someone tells me to do!!! I seek out information on my own, I read training articles and books and I ask a lot of questions (anyone who has ever met me will tell you I talk a lot). I also keep like-minded people around me at all times and those with negative attitudes can hit the road! There is no room for negativity in my life. I have lost a lot of so called friends during my fitness journey, most people think spending so much time in the gym is just selfish and they don’t understand it’s MY way of life! Of course you have to learn to maintain a healthy balance with this type of lifestyle and your family. It’s all about balance! My son is 4 years old and he already knows a lot about exercising and eating right! I believe the best I can do for him is to incorporate fitness into his life as early as possible. He is already playing football and baseball and he loves drinking protein shakes (and yes they were approved by our pediatrician). He will drop on the floor and show you how many push-ups he can do anytime he gets the chance. I also know that I can’t eat chicken and fish everyday of my life and sometimes its fun to go out to eat with friends or go have margaritas and not feel guilty for it! Everything in moderation! It also gives you something to look forward to! Having a cheat meal with my friends or family is something I really look forward to!
I’m very fortunate to have great people in my life that support me and are there for me. My husband never criticizes me about spending too much time in the gym and he is usually very considerate if I am dieting for a photo shoot and that helps! However, he does like to call me names like “linebacker” or comment on how “thick” I am getting if I start putting on too much muscle!! Grrr! This only fuels me to train harder!I have numerous friends that are there for me when I need them. One person that always gets me motivated and back on track is my dear friend Monica Brant. Those of you who know MO know that she is one of the most inspirational and positive women in fitness!! She always gets me fired up to train and be my very best!! We all have good days and bad days. So when those bad days pop up it’s great to have people that are there to turn it around for you!
A few months ago I met a guy in my gym named Alex and we train together as often as we can. I really look forward to training with Alex! He pushes me on every exercise we do and he doesn’t allow me to puss out! If I think I am done and can’t do one more rep, he sees to it that I do it and I do it right!! I have gotten stronger training with him and it has really helped me regain my focus in the gym lately. It’s great to have someone to train with, especially if you’re having a bad day or just not feeling it. It’s also very nice to have someone there to celebrate with when you hit a PR (personal record) on a lift!! Often times he will suggest doing an exercise that I haven’t done in forever or have forgotten all about so it keeps things interesting and fun. I’m not sure how he puts up with me sometimes, though. I know what a pain in the ass I can be at times!! He’s also the first to say: “Hey Mandy, take a day off and don’t over-train yourself” or “Stop being so damn stubborn!!” This is a common problem for me. I hate taking days off from the gym but I am learning more and more that rest is very important for my recovery.
My best advice to someone who loves the fitness lifestyle: it’s ok if you don’t want to compete! There is so much you can do in this industry without ever getting on stage. And if one day you decide that doing a competition is something you want to do then there are so many options out there for you! It frustrates me when I hear people telling others “Well, if you’re gonna workout that much you might as well compete;” that’s not true at all! Competition can be scary for a lot of people and I’d much rather you train and be happy with yourself than to get frustrated because you think you must compete and stop training all together!! Competing is something you have to truly want to do for YOU not for anyone else! So until you feel that it’s the right path for you, please do what makes you happy! If training your ass off in the gym gives you the body you want, peace of mind, and brings you as much happiness as it brings me then I’m here to say that it’s ok!! It’s ok to train day in and day out as hard as you can just for YOU!! Train hard, be strong and go where your heart takes you!
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