Yes, Mommy Can: The Steadfast Weightlifter
Yes, Mommy Can! is a series dedicated to moms who are passionate about discovering their talents and pursuing their interests. Mommy Mundo believes that nobody is ever too busy or too old to learn a thing or two, and gives a big tight hug to moms who are not afraid to explore new facets of themselves. By Jing Lejano
On August 19, Hilary Isaac, solo mom, events host, athlete, and publisher of ToughGirl.online, joins her first international weightlifting competition in Hong Kong--the Arnold Classic Asia.
"Arnold Schwarzenegger is bringing his multisport festival to Asia for the first time. The Arnold Classic has been known for the weightlifting and bodybuilding competition that many people take part in... It's my first international competition. After winning a title in the national level four months ago, I would really like to do well in this one," says Hilary.
Last April 2016, Hilary became the Bikini Champion in the 2016 PCBF Bacolod Open B Bodybuilding and Physique Championship. It was certainly a feat for someone who has only been competing for nine months. But that Hilary performed well wasn't all that surprising to family and friends as she's always been a highly motivated athlete. She not only plays soccer, volleyball, and tennis, she's also into boxing and the martial arts.
Hilary in 2015, and in 2016
Discovering her passion
"People know me as a generally active person as they know I'm a regular gym member. However, I never had a real objective or goal in the gym. I was just going there to work out and stay active," she says.
Weightlifting grabbed Hilary's attention as it challenged her to face her physical limitations. She says, “You don’t start out strong. You start somewhere and as you go along, you build your strength. I love being able to track my progress and seeing how much stronger I get as time goes by and I stay consistent with my training. It’s amazing how much more I can do and how much longer I can do it because my body is able to increase its threshold.”
What she's not so fond of is the diet part of preparing for competitions. Her pre-competition diet is far from fun as it addresses what her body needs, and not what it wants or craves. But when she saw how the diet worked to her advantage in the 2016 PCBF Bacolod Open, she became a fan of proper nutrition.
She says, “It’s become instinctive to just make better choices now. It’s absolutely amazing to see the whole 80 percent nutrition-20 percent exercise phrase actually be put into action. I have seen my body respond to a good, clean diet—the transformation is undeniable."
Hilary in April 2011, and in April 2016
Hilary's days are built around her training sessions. She starts at five in the morning with a cardio workout. She has breakfast and does errands for her son Asher before hitting the gym at noon for an hour of strength training. She does this every day except for Saturday and Sunday, which she's designated as her rest days.
She says, “Luckily, my training schedule is pretty flexible so that I can move it around. But I make sure that as much as possible, I do not miss a training day.”
Fortunately too, her family is very supportive of her passion. They are inspired by her commitment and discipline, and amazed by her transformation.
She says, “They’ve seen me get up early in the morning for a bike ride, only to be back on that bike at 9PM at night to make sure I’m in prime condition. They’ve seen me diligently eating my chicken breasts and broccoli amidst a delicious spread at the dinner table and without any complaints. I think they respect the discipline and strength that the sport has grown inside me.”
Although they sometimes worry that she's pushing too hard, she assures them that she is taking care of herself fine.
"They want me to do well. But most of all, they want to know they're proud of me regardless of the outcome of the competitions I join."
Her winning form in the PCBF Bacolod Open
Discovering her strengths
But more than earning titles, Hilary is happy to have discovered her inner strength.
She says, “I learned that I am even more resilient than I thought I was.”
It's not all that easy to follow a strict diet and a demanding training program on top of all her responsibilities as full-time single parent and sole provider, but Hilary perseveres.
"Other things like relationship problems, parenting challenges, and personal issues are like a furnace. You know how a furnace purifies gold and silver? That's how I see it. Those challenges purify my character, my temperament, and my heart. It teaches me to choose to respond better and to be mindful of the consequences of anything I say and do despite what I really feel."
Hilary has also discovered how tough she can be, and hopes to encourage others to get “tough" through her blog.
"ToughGirl is you, she's me, she's any woman who has decided to take stock of her life by way of health and fitness. If I could do it, anyone can. The only thing that sets us apart is how we deal with our own personal challenges."
In ToughGirl, Hilary shares her fitness journey and gives exercise tips and nutritional information. She also features other individuals, who have overcome their own challenges in life.
Being a good role model
She is also proud to set an example for her son, Asher.
"Sometimes I bring my son to the gym when there's absolutely no one who can watch him, and he'll grab the one-pound dumbbells and mimic the exercise I'm doing. It's great that at such a young age, he understands that proper nutrition and exercise are important," she says.
"At five years old, he's already shown himself to be skilled at art, sports, technology, and storytelling. It's difficult to narrow it down to just one thing for now. Much like me, he appears to be a jack-of-all-trades. I do my best to encourage him in whatever he takes an interest in and I just go with the flow. As long as he doesn't feel like it's a chore or obligation, he will keep on and flourish. My job as a mother is to make him feel that he can do whatever he wants to do and even succeed if he keeps at it with consistency, and when limitations make themselves known, to help him deal with it with as much grace and grit. Failure is not he enemy--giving up is."
Hilary and her son Asher
Prepping for competition
Hilary has been prepping for the Arnold Classic Asia for some 15 weeks. Though this has been the longest that she's been on a strict diet, she has found it easier as she was already in shape from her last competition in April.
"This time, my training has been modified to help me get into fighting form for the international stage. I think I am bringing a better package this time. My body has improved and grown and I'm just excited to mark another challenge off my list."
Photos of Hilary with her son by Gerry Baclagon
Jing Lejano is a writer and editor, single mom of four and lula of one. She is the content head of Mommy Mundo.