I am so proud to be a part of the Optimum Nutrition team, and can't wait to share with you all how and where my fitness journey began, and how it has enriched my life so profoundly!
As a child, athletics were always a huge part of my life, starting with competitive gymnastics by the age of 12, slalom waterskiing and dance team at 11, and by 16 I was picking up my first set of weights.
Right away I enjoyed the pump, the adrenaline rush, and of course the results I began to notice in my physique through bodybuilding and playing sports. I now know that I lacked knowledge at the time, and was doing most exercises incorrectly, but hey, throwing myself into the fire has always been the best method for me to learn anything new.
A week before my high school graduation, I decided to take two of my guy friends up on a bet that I could lift as heavy as they could. And I did! Although at graduation my arms were so sore and swollen, I could not even lower them to my sides. Clearly, I was still learning...
Fast forward 3 years, I moved from Northern California to Los Angeles filled with ambition and drive. I wasn't sure what my calling was yet, but I knew no matter what I chose, it would be a career that allowed me to both help and inspire others to live to their full potential.
I was so naÃ¯ve as a newbie to the big city of Los Angeles, and boy did I find that out very quickly! I learned immediately that in order to be successful here, I would have to very carefully pick and choose who I associated with, who I shared things with, and of course, where I put all of my effort. To be a small town girl in a huge city, I really had to toughen up. And thankfully, I sought clarity in exercise. While others partied, I trained. This realization helped bring me to a higher level of fitness.
By 26, a long-time on-and-off pain I had experienced in my bladder, decided to take a permanent seat in my daily life. I finally had a name to go along with that pain, and that name is Interstitial Cystitis. IC, as it's called, is a chronic, autoimmune inflammatory condition of the bladder, with an unknown cause, and no cure. Upon my diagnosis, my urologist asked, "Do you want to speak to a therapist about this? I have many patients that have come to me with the belief that they have it, and most do not. You do, in fact, have it. I'm sorry to tell you this."
It was as though the lights in my life were all dimmed for a moment. Or a year. :-/ To come to grips with the fact that this pain I came to get treatment/a cure for, (and that quite frankly put me in a state of pain I didn't even think I could bear for just one more DAY, let alone a lifetime) would be a part of me forever. Many ask what the pain is like, and it is almost impossible to explain. The quality of life for an IC patient has been compared to someone with end-stage renal failure. It is truly crippling times, and many women with IC are unable to work, and absolutely unable to exercise.
"Why me?" was of course my initial question. Never had I imagined that as a healthy young woman, I would be faced with something like this. But at the moment when I really dug deep and recognized that I only had two options, which were to stand up and advocate for this disease, or lie down and let it kill me, I gained the ultimate freedom. The freedom of acceptance. The freedom that comes from looking forward, rather than back. And by 27, I was ready to not only stop hiding my condition from others, but to rise against daily pain and live the full, rich life I knew I could have.
I wanted to be more than just a woman that worked out, I wanted to be a fitness role model! I competed for my first time in the NPC in 2013, placing 4th, and competed twice so far this year, winning my class at the Tournament of Champions San Diego, and top 20 at the NPC USAs. I still have lots of work to do, and much more to accomplish! I look forward to every minute of it!
I am currently still using exercise as my daily "therapy" session as suggested by my doctor :) I am now a fitness model, athlete, small business owner, and most importantly, an advocate! I make sure to find time to have bladder treatments and share my story with fellow IC warriors. My prayer is that I can somehow inspire just a few, if not many people, to rise against whatever adversity they face, and give 100% to all they do. Tomorrow certainly isn't promised to any of us, and it's so important we give it all we've got in our short time here. The best advice I can share with you, is to never forget, to...
"Create the kind of self you will be happy with all your life." -Golda Meir
Much love to all of you,
Danielle aka "Dani"