"Just over a week ago, my husband left for his second tour of Afghanistan with the United States Marines. He is my world and without him here, I feel like half of a person; I’m only half as good as I can be. As I shared last year, I began competing during his first deployment in order to keep myself occupied and create a race against the clock rather than constantly watching the clock. I fell in love with the NPC and found so much comfort in getting on the stage. The diet provided the much needed structure and routine to my life. I was already always in the gym so it was an added bonus that my new passion fit in so well with my long time passion.
So far, 2012 has provided a very challenging sequence of events. In early January, I was laid off from the bank I had worked for since I graduated from college in 2007. Due to the economy, the bank was forced to reduce its staff by approximately 5% and I was one of the unlucky ones. I honestly never loved the job since I never felt rewarded from making the rich richer. My true passion was always been found in the gym. Although I didn’t necessary like my job, I was hit hard by the feeling of rejection. I was set to get married a week later and the timing could not have been worse! I did marry Adam, my true soul-mate the next week in Las Vegas, NV and did my best to ignore the fact that I had recently lost my source of income. I’m not sure if you know this, but people in the military do not get paid nearly as much as they deserve. In fact, as a side note, while I was forced to collect unemployment pay for a short period of time, I was making more money than my husband was as an active duty Marine. Two short days after we were married, Adam was sent away for a month long predeployment training in the Mojave Desert.
Before he left, my husband encouraged me to follow my passion and become a personal trainer. He so positively presented the layoff as an opportunity to follow my dreams rather than a soul crushing rejection. With his support, I started studying and obtained three personal training certifications in the month he was away.
During this period of time, I managed to sell my house, which helped reduce my monthly expenses. While the money saved was a plus, the act of having to move while my husband was away in pre-deployment training was a definite negative. I may be strong and in great shape, but a little woman trying to move an entire house full of stuff on her own can be quite challenging! I moved all of our stuff into a storage unit and brought a few of my belongings with me to a modest room that I planned to rent for the duration of the deployment.
The weekend I was moving, a very tragic event occurred. A dear friend of ours took her own life. It is still surreal. Suddenly, all of the stressful things that had happened to me over the preceding weeks seemed so very trivial. We are still heartbroken. The tragedy was a surprise to all of us, even her husband, who is my husband’s best friend. Ashleigh was a kind soul and was my main supporter during my husband’s first deployment. She could relate to everything I was going through since her husband was a Corpsman in the Navy and had deployed with the Marines several times to Iraq. She was the first call I made during the last deployment anytime I was feeling uneasy. She even drove all the way to Austin, Texas to cheer me on during my second competition, the 2011 Texas Shredder Classic. I miss her.
With everything going on, I felt so overwhelmed. As soon as my husband finished pre-deployment training, he rushed home in order to attend the funeral. Kind of sucks that the first time I was able to see my husband since our wedding weekend was the funeral of our cherished friend.
A week later, my husband was released for his 10-day predeployment leave and he and I spent every second together that we could. Most of this time was spent in the gym, since we both love being active, weight lifting, and working up a great sweat. One morning at the gym, exactly four weeks before the NPC Ronnie Coleman Classic, I was getting what my husband likes to call a little “pouty” about the upcoming deployment. That is the moment I decided I would bust my booty and get on stage in four weeks at the Ronnie. His departure window was between the 15th and 25th and that would give me just enough time to drive back to Texas and get on stage on the 31st. It wasn’t going to be easy. Doing a show with only four weeks of preparation time is NOT easy and typically not recommended. When you throw into the mix the fact that I would be flooded with the emotions of the deployment on top of the recent layoff, move (from my own house to one little room), and the loss of our friend, one could probably say that I was certifiably insane! But I did it. That day, I immediately switched into competition mode. I beefed up my cardio sessions. I altered my diet. I became focused. People may have thought I was crazy but to be honest, the last minute contest prep is probably the only thing that kept me sane.
I went with my husband back to Twentynine Palms, CA for the week and half leading up to the deployment. I was blessed with the opportunity to work out on the Marine base, which is packed full of the very best equipment. I was typically the only woman that was seen in the gym day in and day out and, by the way the Marines looked at me, you’d think that they had never seen a woman before. While my husband worked and got things ready for the deployment, I spent almost all day in the gym. It was my therapy. It worked. I got to spend every evening with my husband until the day I waved goodbye as they loaded up four white busses. That experience is like no other and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. The best I know how to explain it is it is a mixture of feeling ill, sad, fear, and helplessness. To hold him and kiss him one last time knowing I wouldn’t be able to do that again for at least seven months makes me sick to my stomach.
As soon as he was loaded onto the bus, I got in my car and started the two day drive back to Texas… alone. With tears running down my face and my car running down the road, I munched on egg whites, grilled chicken, and broccoli the whole way home. I stopped about halfway and spent the night in a little motel. I didn’t sleep because I had grown accustomed to sleeping in the arms of the man I love and by then he was half a world away.
I made it home to Texas after 20 hours in the car and immediately hit the gym. One week later, I was on stage in what ended up being the largest NPC show in Texas history. I was hopeful for a top five finish but unfortunately I didn’t make the first callout. At first I was incredibly disappointed. For some reason I felt like I was somehow letting my husband down by not placing. I felt like I let my sponsor, ProSupps, down by not taking home some hardware. But, after taking a step back and considering the first quarter of this year and all that had happened in my life, making second callouts in such a large competitive show is an incredible accomplishment. I am so happy with the way I looked and the way I felt.
I now have just over a week until my second competition of the year, the NPC Texas Shredder Classic in Austin, TX. I have continued working as hard as possible in order to always present a better version of myself. I may only be half of what I can be, but I’m going to make that half as good as possible.
My future competition plans for this year aren’t set in stone but I do plan on competing in Team Universe this July. I’m sure, considering the fact that my husband is deployed, I will be hitting the stage as much as possible this year. And, when I’m not competing, you can count on me attending many shows to promote ProSupps."
- Janessa Mitchell