The Inspiration

Cylia, pictured on the right, with her sister in January of 2009

I was inspired to lose weight after I reached every other goal I set for myself. I graduated college, law school, became a member of an amazing sorority, passed the bar exam on the first time, became a prosecutor, bought my first home, etc., etc, but weight loss still escaped me. It was very frustrating because diet & exercise are really the only things I can have control over, but it was such a challenge! I left the States Attorney’s office and a lot of stress behind in 2008 and decided to get serious about losing weight. I’d done Weight Watchers for years and lost as much as 45.6 pounds once, but with stress and falling back into old eating habits I regained it all plus some. I have always belonged to a gym and love to exercise, but this time I hired a personal trainer to help me lose the weight. I hired Charles Harris a pretty well known personal trainer in the Baltimore area. He did the warm up when President Obama did the train stop in Baltimore and appears on the local tv often.  I decided to make the commitment of 2 hour long personal training sessions a week for 6 months. It wasn’t cheap and I had to cut back on a lot of other things, but I told myself to give it 6 months before my assess my progress. I made this decision in June 2009 so I bought 20 sessions for my birthday present to myself. I did the same from Christmas of 2009 and by May 2010, I was down 102 pounds!

Cylia in May 2010

My training workouts vary but always include cardio and weight training. I can leg press 340 pounds now! I usually begin with a warm up on the treadmill then do some free weights and machine weights and more cardio. My trainer always mixes it up so it’s never boring. Sometimes I run around the building other times I run up & down the stairs with weights, then we may do boxing and when he’s really bad he puts me in a harness and I have to drag him across the gym! On other days I take spinning, step aerobics, Body Combat (Les Mills kick boxing) , and Body Pump (weight training at a cardio pace) and my two new favorites are Zumba & Soca-robics. I have a treadmill at home so during the snow storm last year I was able to workout daily while I was stuck in the house. I do go hard when I workout sometimes. I’ll take 2 or 3 classes back to back. I started my blog and posted workout pictures on Facebook during my weight loss journey. Even Frenchie (from American Idol) has cheered me on as she is losing weight, too! I realized that for me exercise was the key to weight loss.

Iron Girl Competition

Iron Girl came about in 2007 after I did the Baltimore Half marathon. I wanted a new challenge and one day I went bike riding with a friend in Columbia, Md and literally ran into the Iron Girl competition and I said, “One day I’ll do that!” I have very supportive parents that instilled in me a “you can do anything” attitude so I meant it! For those of you who aren’t familiar with Iron Girl, its mission is to empower women toward a healthy lifestyle. Iron Girl has everything from 5k runs to triathlons for ALL women! I met all kinds of women from stay at home moms to attorneys like me! I met women of all sizes, shapes, races, fitness levels and ages. One of the oldest competitors at the Columbia Iron Girl was 79 years old!

I turned 35 this year so I picked this year to do Iron Girl, to celebrate life and health! And I opted to do it for charity. One of my linesisters (one of my sorority sisters) was diagnosed with Lymphoma at age 29  so I did it in her honor with Team in Training and raised over $1,500.00 towards their efforts. She by the way is now cancer free! Fit Feds did a feature and I talk some more about it !http://www.fedsgetfit.gov/Blog/SuccessStories/2010/8/24/Iron-Girl-2010/index.aspx

The Day of the Competition

After all of my training, the day had finally come. I woke up at 4am and packed my bag because as my luck would have it I got a flat tire the night before when I went to visit my boyfriend. I finally got 3 bags together– they recommend one, but I am a pack rat and it was last minute. I drove to Columbia, MD about 20 miles south of where I live and I played soca and reggae music the whole time to get me hyped! I got to the park and it was dead silent even though at least 200 or 300 cars were already there. I felt like all eyes were on me, but I didn’t care . Quietness does not help me focus I needed some good music! I went to the bike racks where we racked our bikes the day before and got body marked. I was # 648. I met two nice ladies the day before at the Iron Girl reception from VA beach and they came over and said hi and we walked over to the start area.

The .68 Mile Swim

The groups go into the water in waves. I was in the 35-39 year-old group which was the largest number of participants with over 800 I believe! A few of us watched the “Elites” enter the water and for a second I thought “What the hell am I doing?”  These women were swimming so fast they looked like sail boats gliding though the water! About a month prior we had a “Dress rehearsal” so I did the .68 mile swim but they changed the configuration of the route and it looked a lot longer than I thought! But then I said well .68 miles IS long! I watched the older women go in and I said well now look they are over 60 years old, therefore, I have no excuse! There were also 3 para-tri athletes who were missing a leg. I met 2 of them the night before. They are amazing women! Again when you see someone without a leg pushing themselves you can’t help but say “Woman up!”

When my group lined up and walked into the water my heart started to race, but I told myself slow and steady…FINISHES! I did the practice in 1 hour and they only give you 1 hour to do it so I got some more swimming in at my gym and I knew I could do half a mile in 32 minutes so I knew I could do the .68 in under 45 minutes. Sweet. The water was mild. It was warm in some places and cold in others which was good because on dress rehearsal day it felt like a hot tub. It’s a man made lake and I swear they have a faucet somewhere. On the day of the competition the water was very choppy which made it difficult to swim straight but on dress rehearsal day there were a little over 800 people divided into waves vs. the day of Iron Girl there were about 400 hundred at one time in one wave. I kept a steady pace and kept swimming even when different color swim caps were passing me by (each age group wears a different color swim cap and starts at a different time)! Also it began raining HARD! It was a blessing and a curse because it kept us cool and it was cloudy so as we swam to shore the sun wasn’t out to blind us!  Eventually I made it to shore to the cheers from the crowds and I made my way to the bike rack. At the bike rack I felt exhilarated because I felt good enough to do the bike ride. Since I rode the course about 3 times including in the pouring rain the Sunday before I knew I would be ok. I changed my gear and headed up the hill.

The 17.5 Mile Bike Ride

The course was as hard as it was the first time I rode it! I still don’t understand that! I kept saying to other riders: “I can’t believe this course didn’t get any easier!” They all agreed. Some of the elite athletes were on their way back when some of us were just leaving that was a little sobering. Since I was wearing a Team in Training outfit I got a lot of extra support from fellow TnTer along the way! Also the community really comes out to support the event and that felt great to hear people say “You’re awesome!” “You rock!” “You’re amazing!” I had to say thank you and inside I was thinking… Yeah they are right!

The bike course was challenging and by far the most difficult part of the triathlon because there were a number of hills. I made an executive decision to not do the hills because they took so much energy out of me that I barely had enough juice to do the flat parts. That strategy worked well! The 9.5 mile marker had angels in the form of Army volunteers with water and iron man juice and good conversation and good eye candy!  The last 6 or so miles were hard but I kept saying its almost over! Again the crowds were along the street cheering and when I made my way back into the park it was a huge uproar from people as I rode in! They were clapping and cheering and it felt great! A soror of mine was a little behind me so I saw her Mom and told her she wasn’t too far back and then I felt good only 3.4 miles to go and I am done!

The 3.4 Mile Run

The race course was decent. I walked it the week before with my boyfriend and it was a good walk but the trick was what would this feel like AFTER swimming over half a mile and biking 17.5 miles? I am a procrastinator so I told myself “This is what you get, now get going!” See normal people train and do “bricks” which are back to back workouts so you swim then bike or bike and run or swim and run back to back to get your body use to the transition. But nope not me I was going on sheer ego and adrenaline!

I racked my bike and grabbed my old school thick pink Ipod circa 2006! Vintage!  I hit the course and kept eating the caffeine jelly beans to keep me going. I could hear in the distance “Mary Jane You Are An Iron Girl!” And that’s when it hit me. I was bad ass! Sorry to curse! I got a little chocked up as I visualized the moment I would hear “Cylia You ARE AN IRON GIRL!” I kept replying it in my mind in between TI, Biggie, Beyonce, Janet & Jay Z on my Ipod!

I didn’t break any records and really my only goal was to finish and not be last 🙂  Mission accomplished!

Here’s what I learned and would like to share from this experience:

1. Everything works if you are consistent. Whether you do Weight Watcher, Jenny Craig, Atkins, surgery, heck even being anorexic works to lose weight! The issue is what can you live with long term.

2. Exercise is key! I know people who can just eat right and lose weight. I am not one of them and I am glad because I have friend who was half my size on medication because their cholesterol was sky high. Exercise is the ONLY fountain of youth I once heard my aerobic teacher say and she is right! But same as above find something you like. I like a challenge so walking isn’t my main exercise. I need a real challenge, but there isn’t anything wrong with that! Just do something more days than not and make sure you like it because you are more likely to keep it up if you do like it!

 3. Don’t be intimated. I used to always read and see people saying they were intimidated by the gym and scared to be overweight and go into the gym. I don’t get that! I am always front and center in any class and I am not going to say I never got funny looks but guess what while they were gasping for air I was still going and ready for more! That’s the good thing about increasing your cardio the more you do the more efficient your body becomes. 

4. Get a support system. A real support system. A few years ago I had a workout/weight loss buddy and one day we went shopping and I fit into a size 14 top. I was so excited and I told her and her response was “Well its stretchy top of course it will fit.” I felt so deflated I was wearing a size 26/28 when I started so a size 14 was a huge accomplishment for me. I got my thoughts together and emailed her and she apologized, but that was the beginning and end of our partnership.

 5. Therapy works! I once read that everyone has a vice or a weakness but people who are overweight display their weakness more easily than others who are say closet alcoholics or drug abusers or shop-a-holics. I agree but ultimately you have to make up in your mind that enough is enough and you want to live a happier and healthier life and take steps towards that goal.

© 2013, Shalena D.I.V.A.- Author| Speaker| Life And Business Coach. All rights reserved.

16 comments on “Call Me Iron Girl by Cylia Lowe”

  1. Girlllllll, this is such an inspirational story. I don’t knwo if I could do the Iron Girl because I don’t like to swim. But I’m feeling you on the weight loss in terms of exercising to lose and keep the weight off. I’ve struglle din this area, too and I coudl definitely relate to having conquered so many other areas in my life that I had little control over, yet struggling to lose weight–something I have a lot of control over. I am so feeling this post. Thanks for sharing!!!

  2. I hear you on that Janet Jackson body..I am over here trying to get my coke bottle back too..lol I started eating more fruits and veggies and I can really see the difference. I also do some cardio and I feel fantatistic!

  3. What an inspiring story. I love the fact that you kept going. The last time I did Zumba it almost killed me, I didn’t die …so I will try it again. I am so happy for you and you look FABULOUS!!

  4. Hi thanks for the love! It took almost 18 months but my first event was a 5k! Do one for charity and google Couch to 5k its a great workout!

  5. OMG! Cylia Lowe has inspired me just as I’m sure she has done lots of others. I’ve Always wanted to run a marathon and a mini triathlon. Those are my goals! Thanks Cylia for sharing your story and giving hope to the masses. Lets all get started…What’s your excuse? I’m getting ready to get my 5 mile run in shortly;). Our bodies are our temples and we have to take care of them. Lets Go!!!

  6. Thanks ladies! A group at my gym started called Iron Moms they will be doing the Iron Girl this year now its very humbling to think I played a small part in inspiring them!
    Some couldn’t even swim and became faithful YMCA members and are really on their way!

  7. I’m going to check and see if we have something like Iron moms in the LA area. I would participate in such a group. I’m going to need the support to train for my triathlon. Believe it or NOT i really like running. I can run 5 miles now no problem. However, trying to bike and swim in addition to running…

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