This article was first seen on the Huffington Post. For this installment, we are joined by Sara Fennell.
Let’s start off with a general introduction. How would you describe yourself, what are you all about and how did you get involved in health and fitness?
I am a goal oriented, driven person. I love to challenge myself and ensure I am living life in-line with what my heart desires. I have been involved with the fitness industry since 2009 starting with fitness competitions. In 2011 I started an online brand, helping women lose weight, and in 2014 transitioned that passion into holistic nutrition. Currently my passion is helping fellow health, fitness and wellness professionals build their beautiful brand and businesses.
I know you love to challenge yourself and are constantly creating new goals for yourself while working hard to inspire others to better their lives as well – what drives and motivates you to keep going?
I believe it’s the constant drive to better myself, my knowledge and the message I project to the world. I am always looking to up-level my life and others. Stagnant living bores me.
But it wasn’t always that way – in your early 20s you suffered from depression and got into drugs and alcohol – tell me a little bit about that time in your life and how you broke free.
That was definitely a darker time in my life, in my early 20’s, not knowing who I was or what I wanted out of life. I fell into the party scene and it took over my life for a few years. Getting into the gym, learning about nutrition and just focusing on my own well-being brought me out of that. This is when I got into the competitive scene….. I guess you could say that fitness saved my life.
Do you recall a specific moment in time where you decided enough is enough? What was the first step you took then?
I was in an emotional downward spiral, ended up moving back in with my parents, feeling like my life was falling apart. This forced me to seek professional help. Just taking that initial step of saying ‘I need help’, started a cascade of other positive changes in my life. It doesn’t happen overnight, but just taking the first step and focusing on taking things one day at a time helped. A few good days turned into a good week and then a good month…. and so on.
Let’s talk a bit about your competitive career – I read about how the first time you participated in a contest was on impulse – tell me about how you went about it.
Focusing on my health and changing my social circle allowed me to become consistent in the gym. Here is where I learned about fitness competitions. I decided to dive into a prep to give myself a focus in life, so I just went for it.
You’re also big on structure and routine right – how do you see the differences between structure and routine versus discipline and consistency?
Structure and routine is what helps me control and elevate my moods. Everyone has a routine in their life, whether they realize it or not. Just like we are all consistent with things. Whether those consistencies are bettering your life or not is the difference. What you are consistent with will determine your outcomes in life. Focus on being disciplined in bettering yourself!
Especially on the competitive side of the sport, stepping outside of your comfort zone tends to be the norm – cutting down to a very low body fat percentage. Where do you draw the line between performing as a competitor and your health as a woman?
This is definitely a delicate balance and struggle in such an extreme sport. When I am in prep for something whether it’s a show or a photo shoot, then I am ON! When I am not I focus on balance in life, ‘normal’ living and high nourishment to my body. Having breaks and periods of downtime and ‘off season’ are key!
I trust that when you’re competing it’s hard work, quite a few restrictions and very long days for about three months or so – how do your friends and family handle that?
It’s a difficult life/routine to explain to someone or for a loved one to witness you go through at first. Over time they grow to understand better. It honestly just takes time. At first my family didn’t understand at all, but as they grew to see my love for it and my successes, they were supportive.
Aside from being a professional athlete, you’re also a passionate business woman. How do you balance the two?
The athlete side of me has died down a bit within the last 2 years, focusing more on balance in life. I love the rush of competing but there are extreme highs and lows that can come with that. I thrive off helping and guiding others in life, whether it’s with their health and fitness, or other professionals in the industry with their business. Just focusing on being of service to others in whatever way I can with the knowledge I have gained over the years.
Looking back, what do you feel have been the top three most impactful lessons you’ve learned through it all?
1. Its an extreme lifestyle, so it’s key to keep a level head through the process and know that a ‘stage body’ is not realistic or maintainable. This has helped me with my body image.
2. If you truly want something in life you can have it with hard work, discipline, a solid plan and consistency. I have transferred this lesson into many areas of my life, especially business.
3. I have learned to become very self aware with my body, how it functions and what it thrives off. I feel like this is key for healthy living, both physically and spiritually.
Where can people go to learn more about you online?
Stay tuned for the next interview of Real Talk Real Women!