The “Best of SAF” series features articles that were published as part of the original SeriousAboutFitness.com site that ran from 2002 to 2010. This article about Erin Bailey-Boyes was first published in October 2009. I originally wrote it for two reasons. One was to recognize Erin’s accomplishment in thoroughly transforming her physique and presentation to become a first-class competitor. The second was to tell her story so that it could inspire other competitors to look at their own strengths and weaknesses and make the changes necessary to improve. Understanding the need for getting good feedback and making consistent improvements is as relevant today as it was then. . . . Doug Schneider, SAF Founder
Originally published on SeriousAboutFitness.com: October 1, 2009
Photo right: Erin Bailey-Boyes competing at the 2009 SAF Elite Pro Championship
I often see up-and-coming competitors who show excellent potential, but I rarely see them make good on that promise. The reason is that although potential is important, it’s only one piece of the puzzle – taking that potential and making the necessary changes and improvements is quite enough thing. Most competitors never do that, often electing to just stay the same.
Erin Bailey-Boyes is an exception. She showed great potential at the Summer ’08 SAF Model Search, but she didn’t make the top cut – she just didn’t stand out among the large field of competitors, making it too easy for the judges to overlook her. But instead of remaining content and staying the same, Erin immediately sought feedback, made the necessary improvements, and emerged just five months later at the Fall ’08 SAF Model Search a new woman. Gone was the easy-to-overlook Erin Bailey-Boyes, enter the new can’t-miss Erin who stood out among the crowd and was brimming with confidence and charisma. The judges noticed, and Erin was rewarded with a second-runner-up placing that earned her a spot on the SAF Elite team.
Rarely have I seen potential fulfilled so well, or a transformation so complete and successful. But Erin pulled it off, and since that Fall ’08 show, she has done remarkably well in various competitions and has become one of our top SAF Elite competitors. The willingness to change and improve can result in amazing things.
I had a chance to talk to Erin in September, about one week after she competed in the bikini category at 2009 OPA Natural Ontario Championships in Hamilton, where she was the runner-up in her class, and six weeks before the 2009 SAF Ottawa Elite Challenge, where she undoubtedly hopes to place first. I wanted to learn more about her and, also, find out where she plans to take things from here. This is what she had to say:
DS: Let’s start by talking about competing. What was the first fitness-type competition you ever entered?
EBB: It was Summer ’08 SAF Model Search in June 2008 in London.
DS: Did you do as well as you expected?
EBB: Actually, no! It’s funny, but I went in thinking I was pretty ready and would place in the top eight for sure. I later found out I tied for ninth. I think my body was ready, but my confidence and stage presence needed some work, not to mention that my nerves were off the chart and I thought I was going to pass out onstage! I was the first girl on of about 20 in the class, and I had to stand there for nearly 15 minutes while all the other girls went up and did their thing. I started counting the people in the audience to calm myself down and distract myself. That didn’t really work. I got through it though – with a little bit of grace.
DS: You asked me for feedback afterwards, and I gave you quite a bit. If I recall, I didn’t hold back – I was pretty specific and blunt. Did you take it to heart?
EBB: To be totally honest, I was very discouraged immediately after the competition. However, you had recommended we get feedback and see exactly where improvements could be made. I was glad that you were so upfront and honest because without your suggestions, I wouldn’t have known what I needed to work on. An individual must have some pretty tough skin in this industry, but it is necessary to find out where your weaknesses are in order to become better.
I’m always striving to be "the best" and your suggestions definitely helped me to continue to achieve those results. I also bought the DVD of the show, watched and analyzed my performance, as well as seeing what the SAF Elite girls had that I needed to bring to the stage. I needed to find the "Wow!" factor.
DS: When I saw you at the Fall ’08 SAF Model Search, you had completely transformed – it was like I was looking at a completely different person. Did you realize at the time that your change was so drastic?
EBB: I seriously didn’t think I looked that different at the time. I laughed because I don’t think you recognized me at first. My confidence had taken a huge turn and I was proud of all the hard work I had accomplished. I also went in with the attitude to have fun and simply do my best and see what happens. My goal was to make top ten at the Fall ’08 show – I was second runner-up.
From summer to fall
DS: Now let’s talk about when you first started working out. Were you athletic your whole life? When did you start to train with weights?
EBB: I started my athletics at four years old as a gymnast and followed up with competitive dance. I now own my own fitness studio called Body By Design and teach dance to competitive students. I’ve always been involved in sports and athletics but got into some strength training ten years ago. I got very serious in March of 2008 when I had put my mind to train for the SAF contest in June.
DS: You live in a remote area of Ontario, Canada. Where do you train?
EBB: I live in Muskoka, which is beautiful, by the way. Since opening my studio in June 2008, I’ve been training there for 16 months. Up until then I was working and training at the local gym in town, Muskoka Fitness Club. A lot of people believe you need lots of machines in order to get a full workout. I find pulleys, cables, dumbbells and plyometrics very effective for achieving my goals.
DS: Since you teach dance, how do you balance that with training? In fact, give us a rundown of your week.
EBB: I’ve been teaching at the Bracebridge School of Ballet for nine years. I teach almost everything except ballet. In the past, I’ve taught 12 hours a week on top of training clients and myself. This year I dropped down to instructing seven hours on Wednesdays to focus more on my fitness career.
My schedule is a little crazy but it seems to work for me. I get between 4 and 4:30 a.m. in order to get to my studio by 5 a.m. I get up earlier during contest. I then train myself for one hour before my first client arrives for 6 a.m. Mondays and Thursdays I train until 6 p.m. with a couple of hours off in the afternoon to run my dog and do some errands. I find Wednesdays very exhausting because from start to finish I have an 18-hour day -- nasty! However, I find it all very rewarding, otherwise I wouldn’t do it. I also teach two fitness classes at the local gym on Thursdays. I try to be completely finished by 1 p.m on Fridays so I can get a jumpstart on the weekend. Sound exhausting? It is, but then it’s rest time!
DS: Do you stay close to contest shape year-round, or do you like to indulge occasionally?
EBB: When I first competed, I indulged way too much following the contest. I found it that much harder to get back into contest shape. I’m 5’7" and I like to be between 132 to 135 pounds for competing. Now I basically stay within 5 to 7 pounds of my contest weight and shape. However, I’ve been putting on more muscle and find that I may be a little heavier for my future contests due to muscle mass. I originally had my mind set that I was going to be 130 pounds for my first contest. I later realized that was an unrealistic goal. I was too focused on the number rather than my actual physique.
DS: How long do you give yourself to get ready for a competition?
EBB: I try to give myself 12 weeks. However, I don’t get really strict until the last six weeks. I begin to slowly reduce my carbohydrate intake as well as increase my cardio weekly for the final weeks before a show. I love lifting weights, but I find cardio a bit more of a challenge. Therefore, I have to get on my own case, kick my own butt to do it and not make excuses.
2009 SAF Elite Pro Championship
DS: You recently competed in bikini at the OPA Natural Ontario Championships and did very well – you placed second in your class. When is the next time that you step onstage?
EBB: I was proud of myself that I placed second in my class, but I now realize that I came in a little too defined for the bikini category. I emailed the head judge to get some feedback, so I could make a better judgment for future contests. The next contest is the SAF Elite Challenge in Ottawa on November 7 – I am so excited about it. The SAF shows are fabulous and I’ve established some friendships which should make it that much more fun.
DS: Do you have any role models who inspire you?
EBB: I don’t have any one particular role model that inspires me. All of the girls that compete and have a passion for fitness I find inspiring. When I’m training for a contest and feel like "giving up" during cardio, I picture one of my beautiful competitors and ask myself if they would give up. The answer is always no – so I keep on truckin’. Their dedication is amazing and I consider myself proud to be standing amongst them. I also get motivated by those who are overweight and are diligent and determined to get healthy.
DS: What are your competitive goals for the next two to three years?
EBB: The next two to three years? That’s a biggy! In regards to fitness, I plan on continuing to compete and hope to become a successful fitness model. Currently, I am toying with the idea of competing in fitness and putting together a routine. Mindi O’Brien and Vanda Hadarean have sparked my interest as they are professionals in their fields. Eventually, my goal is to choreograph routines for fitness competitors. With my extensive dance and gymnastics background, it would be a natural step, and I could combine my two passions. If I’m not stepping out of the box and challenging myself, then I’m not living. I find it tough and yet so rewarding at the same time.
DS: Thanks, Erin!
EBB: Thank you so much for the opportunity and I hope this helps to inspire others.