Back in November I received a phone call from my trainer, Jen Hendershott, offering me an opportunity to compete at the Amateur Arnold Classic 2009.

The Arnold is the most prestigious amateur event you can be accepted to compete in and it was a true honour that my trainer and the event organizers figured I was ready.

Of course, for this amazing opportunity, I said “Yes!”

That was before Christmas. Now I am five weeks out from the show, and I have had my series of ups and downs.

First, there was Christmas and New Years, usual times for holiday cheer in the way of food and beverage; for me it was holiday cheer in the way of daily hour-long cardio workouts and strength workouts.

Now, that’s not to say I didn’t indulge a little.

I had Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve to pretty much eat what I wanted, which for me is always CHOCOLATE.

The trick for me is not Christmas dinner. Turkey breast, sweet potatoes and green vegetables are always a healthy meal and, for me, it’s not hard to skip the gravy and stuffing.

Now, dessert … that’s another story. I simply gave myself one day of indulgence and made sure I got back to the gym the rest of the week.

When I was younger, and way less healthy and overweight, I could drink rum and coke until the bottle was empty and I was the last one standing. Now, however, it’s a different story. I don’t drink … at all. It’s a personal choice.

It’s my belief that once you feel so great, it’s hard to allow yourself to do the things that make you feel so bad. My body is so sensitive now, and I am so in tune with how I feel emotionally, physically and spiritually that I do not enjoy the feeling when I am, or have been, drinking: my body aches; my workouts aren’t as good; I am not as alert.

And I do not have as much energy to put into my kids. Drinking is not enjoyable so, for me, it’s a conscious decision just to stay away.

So New Year’s was water and pretzels and lots of dancing. Someone has to be the designated driver. And you know what? I still had a great time.

Jan. 2 saw the beginning of the crazy training for the Arnold.

Pictures and measurements and goal-setting gave me that extra boost of motivation to train hard. Now, at five weeks out, I am 10 pounds away from my goal weight and on the right track to get there.

My training is crazy: two hours of cardio, seven days a week; 40 minutes of weights, five days a week. Add routine practice and extra ab work, each day and that ends up being a lot of sweat pouring off my body. But, at 135 pounds it takes a lot of dedication to lose another 10.

No, it’s not all fun and games …

If I didn’t enjoy the training and the competition and the camaraderie at the show, I wouldn’t get through the agony of the diet.

Last night I made homemade pizza for my family. Did I eat it? No. Did I want to? Heck, yes!

What stops me from indulging? (Knowing there will be 100,000 people at the Arnold and I have to get up on stage in front of them and show how far I can push my body.)

I am a competitive person. This is my choice to compete and no one is forcing me – far from it. It is esteem-building to know that you can push your body through such strains and get the results you desire in the end.

Now I am sick. I woke up this morning with a terrible head cold … my whole family has it. Now I go through the battle with myself with what’s better for me: getting some rest or pushing through my workouts?

Today I chose to go home and get my rest; tomorrow is a new day and I can make up my workouts on the weekend. I stick to my diet when I am awake and work on getting my rest.

The feeling of terrible guilt hit me and I have to talk myself through it. Five more weeks to go and, heck, it’s only a competition – not worth my health.

This column is provided by Peak Fitness. Mrs. Lee Randell is an ACE certified personal trainer. Contact information and past articles are available at www.pkfitness.yk.ca/Clients. Anyone who wants to begin an exercise program should consult their physician first.

This column is provided by Mrs. Lee Randell, independent fitness consultant, who is an ACE certified advanced health and fitness specialist and personal trainer. You can reach her at www.mrsleerandell.com.