Getting to the gym can be tough sometimes, right? Some mornings you could be more tired than others, or maybe the couch is more tempting than the HIIT session you had planned.
But what if your barriers were more than feeling tired that day? What if you suffered from a unpredictable disease that caused you flare-ups of fever, malaise, fatigue, and overall pain – but you had set yourself a goal so big of competing on stage, so you had to get yourself to the gym?
That is exactly what Myprotein ambassador Brittany Bennett’s life is like. Brittany has Lupus, a systemic autoimmune disease which causes the body to attack its own healthy tissue. Though it has no cure, it’s controlled by a variety of immuno-suppressants, including chemotherapy, anti-depressants and painkillers.
Brittany always wanted to compete on stage but felt like her illness held her back. During an intense hospital stay, she tore out an image of a Figure competitor in a magazine – and decided to change her life for the better. This past past year, she placed 1st, 1st and Overall at Mid Usas, and inspired so many to change their lives to become fitter, healthier, and happier.
Brittany’s grit and determination to succeed on the stage will inspire you to get to the gym in your lower moments – here on The Zone, Brittany tells her full story, and later in her series of articles will share tips on how to keep training when you feel lower than low – and even some tips on how to begin your health and fitness journey when you feel like the odds are stacked against you.
As long as I can remember, I have always been sick. There was always SOMETHING going on. I was constantly in and out of the hospital; running tests, visiting specialists, taking medications. I missed school very regularly, and almost did not graduate with all the days that I missed. It was hard to plan things, because we would never know if I would be able to follow through since I was ill so often. People thought I was making things up – heck, even I thought I was crazy many times because people would say “it’s all in your head” or the doctors would tell my mom that I just needed attention.
I was pretty active in school, at least I wanted to be. I had to sit out a lot due to heart palpitations, chest pain, or abdominal distress. But when I was having a good day, it was a really good day! I always pushed myself as hard as I could, as I was really competitive – I did very well in running events, sprints, jumping, hurdling, and soccer.
To this day when I find myself getting exhausted in a workout or in the middle of a set, I remember running around the corner of the track in the last 100 meters of my leg of the Mile Relay, I hear my Coaches – Boenische, Moore, and Rincones – screaming my name: COME ON BENNETT! And I get through it. It’s funny how memories can stick with you – that was about 15 years ago now.
For a while, I gave in to the antidepressants, chemotherapy, and the pain killers, but I just knew that wasn’t IT. There was SOMETHING going on. I wasn’t making it up. While others were out eating fast food and not caring about their bodies, I was the one that ate healthy and tried to exercise, I’m the one that SHOULD have been healthy and happy. I was the one living in a prison, and I so dearly wanted to get out, but how do you tell highly-educated doctors no?
I moved to Colorado from Texas 2 years ago, when I had a near-death experience due to complications from the Lupus. There was this nurse that worked the night shift – he always used apple scented hand-sanitizer before walking into my room – he bought it specially, as the other sanitizers made me nauseated.
I didn’t see him when I was finally released, and to be honest, I don’t even remember his name. I just remember his face, his comforting smell, and the way he made me feel like a person, not a dying patient. I went home to Texas this past Christmas and walked into the gym, where this familiar face was staring at me like he had seen a ghost. It was the nurse. He ran up and hugged me and we both started crying. He said I came to life, and he was so happy to see where I was at in my new life knowing where I came from.
My doctors have called me Superwoman. These doctors were so focused on medicines and I just showed them that despite me discontinuing the treatment for Lupus; chemo, antimalarials – basically things that were going to keep me alive – that it could be done. It’s just crazy to me that I’m even here right now! I chose to break-free from the medicine. And now I am here.
I still suffer with Lupus flare-ups, quite often. In fact, I had one 2 nights ago, so I had to take the morning off to rest. I remain positive by thinking about my sweet dog, Baxter. I had him for 5 years, I saved him from the shelter, but even more, he saved me. I had a flare up in 2013 that left me almost paralyzed for 2 days. It took me hours to crawl to the front door to crack it open so that he could go outside. He stayed by my side the entire time, watching over me, trying to comfort me while I was crying and trying to breathe.
The inflammation and pain was so bad I couldn’t even control my bodily functions, it was terrifying. He passed away last October, and as crazy as it sounds, I know he’s still with me. It comforts me. I am also a follower of Jesus Christ. I find that is where my strength comes from as well. I also think of my momma and little brother, whom both have this disease. I also go back to thinking about when I was in the hospital, and nothing is worse than that. I’ve been in the darkness, and what keeps me positive is knowing that no matter what happens to me, I am not there anymore. I also think of all the amazing people that follow my journey now.
Even if I am on the floor crying, unable to move, I have a reason to smile.
This year I have had a full plate. The loss of Baxter left me emotionally unstable, the Lupus complications, moving, classes for school, three shows (placing 1st, 1st and Overall, and 6th at NPC Universe – a huge improvement from last place in 2014!), traveling for work, a large client load for Team Alpha Lifestyle and Competition Prep, helping out with Metroflex opening out here and becoming the Head Trainer.. 2015 has been pretty intense!
Currently I am taking on new clients (for online coaching and one-on-one training), writing a few articles for some small publications, and I have partnered with Myprotein, which as you can tell I am pretty excited about! I am a speaker for a motivational women’s health seminar tomorrow Breaking Through Your Glass Ceiling, and in September one of the main speakers for Breaking Free, another motivational speaking conference.
The windows of opportunity have truly opened up this year – every single day I just wake up in awe. Today also marks 16 weeks out from NPC Nationals in Miami, Florida. Remaining focused, surrounding myself with people that are positive, uplifting, and just removing all the negative from my life. If it takes me away from my goals, it will get none of my energy. My best friend recently got her IFBB Pro card at NPC USAs this past weekend.. watching her through her prep made me realize what it truly takes to EARN that status, so let’s just say that I am 100% focused and prepared for the next 16 weeks ahead.
Brittany would like to say thank you to her amazing support system; “a million thanks would never be able to show you just how much I appreciate each and every one of you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for everything you bring to my life. Myprotein: Javier Silva and Nick Natt, Metroflex Denver Family; Neeper, Nicole, and Derric, ZonGear, all my clients of Team Alpha, my little brothers Kevin & Chris, my family back in Texas; DaddyBear, Brigid, Melissa, Reebs, Cary, and Top Notch. My amazing friends: IFBB Pro Hailey McGrath, IFBB Pro Earnest Flowers, Matthew Jamerson, Erika Clum, Hannah Rose, Nick Nolen, Kyle Kube, Doug Larson, Dan Ray, Rick Savage, and the Mile High Monsterz Family.”