Lauren Laplante NPC National Level Bodybuilder

My Journey

Lauren Laplante, NPC National Level Heavyweight and Masters BodybuilderIn January 2002, I relocated to Chicago. I was excited about discovering a new city and was hopeful that my new surroundings would spark a new me! I knew that I needed to change my lifestyle as I hadn’t exercised in 8 years and was steadily gaining weight each year while becoming adept at gaming every diet on the market.

My turning point happened in August of 2001 when I got on a plane after several months of not having flown. I had gained a considerable amount of weight in a short period of time but hadn’t noticed the extent until I discovered that my hips had grown wider than the plane seat. As I sat down, it felt like someone had left something on the seat, so I reached back to remove the ‘object’ and realized that the object was me!!!

Even after this event, it took some time (about 2 years) for me to accept my body, take responsibility for my size and then summon the courage to make the changes I needed to stop this downward spiral.

My first meal after moving into my little studio apartment in Wrigleyville was breakfast at Melrose Diner. I asked my waiter to recommend a gym and a personal trainer. After breakfast, I walked down Broadway to Quads Gym and made an appointment with Erik. The next day I met with him and committed to training 3 times a week for the next 6 months.

I wanted to learn how to weight train, get toned and of course, loose body fat. Here’s a picture of me in January 2002 when I started at Quads Gym. I think I weighed about 212 lbs here at 38% body fat. I was 37 years old.

Lauren Laplante, NPC National Level Heavyweight and Masters BodybuilderAfter the early training sessions with Erik, I was tired and hungry. I would go home and eat a sumptuous mid-morning meal and then take a nap for an hour or more. After the 6 months, I had lost about 40 lbs but more significantly, I was hooked on how the weight training was getting me aware of my body and more in touch with my feelings. By this time, I had met my future husband who had also recently gotten back into the gym. However, we did not meet at the gym as most people assume. [We were matched by a Chicago-based yenta.]

Joey introduced me to his trainer, Bernie, who I worked with for 9 months on powerlifting exercises, bench press, squats, deadlifts. Bernie prepared me for an Illinois State powerlifting competition…by now my weight was up to 195 lbs. At the competition, I set state records in the bench press and deadlift. Now I was ready to move to bodybuilding. I needed support for both nutrition and training.

That’s when I started training with Tim Bell at Quads Gym (north) and Tim Smith at Quads Gym (south). I also consulted once a month with Tonia Williams. This team helped me get prepared for bodybuilding with training, diet and contest prep. I had set my sights on fall 2004 competitions. In the meantime, both Joey and I had lost our jobs in Chicago and we had to move to Philadelphia for Joey’s new job. It was a stressful time. I wasn’t working and we were moving 1000 miles to establish a new home. The only mainstay in my life was bodybuilding. I continued preparing for my first bodybuilding competitions for fall of 2004. I didn’t have much expectation for myself since this was new for me. I wanted to enjoy myself and learn. I competed as a heavyweight at 145 lbs, placing 1st in the Washington State and 2nd in the East Coast.

Following these competitions, I didn’t have a plan. After several months of heavy lifting and an unclean diet, I looked more like a powerlifter than a bodybuilder. Luckily, I was able to land a consulting job which put some regimen to my life. My focus shifted to doing well on my job. As I got more comfortable in that capacity, I slowly incorporated a work out routine. By now, Joey and I had relocated once again, across the river to New Jersey. With all these life changes, I decided not to compete in 2005 as we searched for a trainer/coach in our new location.

Through these years, I learned that I perform the best and am most likely to achieve my goals when I have a plan and a regimen to follow. This is true for all aspects of my life, work, bodybuilding, etc. In the spring of 2006, I decided to compete and worked long distance with Tonia Williams to prepare for the Masters Nationals that year. Looking back, I was afraid and not totally committed to the competition. My contest placing (13th heavyweight) reflected my lack of commitment. However, I was able to enjoy myself and learn from my first national-level competition experience. Most importantly, I met my new coach, Louis Cino, who was able to see my potential from the audience. This is when my preparation for the 2007 Masters Nationals began.

Starting in the fall of 2006, my husband and I have been training with Louis’ guidance. We travel to Lea’s Survival Gym on Long Island to train and consult with him on a monthly basis. It’s a big commitment. Joey and I share the lifestyle - its challenges and rewards. Food preparation and meal planning are a large part of our weekly routine. My consulting job has me traveling each week; typically I’m away from home and at the client site Monday through Thursday. I work hard to create a comfortable home away from home, finding a suitable gym for my intense workouts and finding hotels, restaurants and grocers that can accommodate my dietary needs.Lauren Laplante, NPC National Level Heavyweight and Masters Bodybuilder

Preparing for the Masters Nationals 2007, I listened to everything Louis suggested. Many times I had to ‘have faith’, doing things that were, on the surface didn’t make sense, but in the end everything came together. Our goal was for me to place in the top 5. When we saw the quality of the competitors, especially in the heavyweight class, I was doubtful that I would place. Then the lead judge called my number ‘319’ in the first call out. I was ecstatic. I could see LeaAnn in the audience jump out of her seat like burnt toast. At times that moment still comes to mind and I can’t believe that I placed 4th in the heavyweight line-up.

Now, I am preparing for Masters Nationals 2008 and once again working on bringing an improved package to the stage.

For me bodybuilding is not only about competing. The journey, one day at a time, is the best part for me. I enjoy getting up everyday and look forward choosing my clothes, knowing they will fit and that I’ll look good in them. The painful days of not feeling my best because I had no clothes that fit me and not knowing what I needed to stop my self-sabotaging behaviors are still fresh in my mind.

Lauren Laplante, NPC National Level Heavyweight and Masters Bodybuilder