Hilary Isaac : The Power of Struggles
A lot of us think that others have it easy in terms of getting fit. When we see someone like Ms. Gold’s Gym 2016 Hilary Isaac in the gym, we’d think she must be blessed with not only good genes but the luxury of time. What we don’t realize is that Hil, a single mom at 35, had to overcome a great deal of obstacles. And those obstacles got her to where she is now in terms of her achievements in fitness and bodybuilding.
Hil went through becoming a single mom plus a tough breakup that she took to working out as a means of de-stressing. She juggles her single mommy duties with work and maintaining her blog toughgirl.online, and that is no easy feat. But this tough girl did it, and very well at that, feeding on her struggles in order to conquer every grueling workout session.
PF spoke to Hil just recently to find out how her struggles and discipline got her to place in a Bikini competition and the 2016 Gold’s Gym Body Convention’s top spot for females.
PF: What’s the story behind toughgirl?
They say “Breakups make bodybuilders,” and I guess I can say that there’s a lot of truth to that. After leaving a traumatic relationship, I found myself at the gym all day every day to help keep my mind off of things. One of the club trainers, who is also an old friend of mine, suggested joining a bodybuilding competition. It took a lot to convince me, but since I was leaving for the US three weeks later, I figured it would be a great way to go out with a bang. I went for it, did pretty well for a rookie, I felt good about myself for accomplishing something I would have never thought of doing.
After a moderately successful first attempt at competitive bodybuilding (where I placed 4th in the Bikini Short division and only had 2.5 weeks to prep for it), I left for San Francisco for half a year last year (2015) and returned in February this year. I was praying for a new direction and path that involved both my passion for people and fitness, as well as my media experience and expertise. My life has always been an open book in the over-a-decade I’ve been in the media industry. People generally know what I go through because I tend to be an open book even when I was still a radio show host. But the really difficult ones, I keep to myself and to people closest to me. During a particular struggle I was going through, a friend said to me, “You’re incredibly persevering. You are what I would call a “tough girl” because you manage to stick to your goals regardless of what tries to hold you back.”
I came up with the idea of ToughGirl as an avenue to reach out to and encourage other women (most of whom were mothers who wrote to me asking for tips) to take stock of their lives by getting on the road to fitness and healthy living. ToughGirl’s goal is to help women in their fitness journey and to help them maintain a healthy lifestyle in spite of the rigors of a demanding daily life.
PF: How do you fit all this while you raise your child?
Parenthood happened to me by surprise. I wasn’t planning on becoming a mother just yet, but when the news came, I stepped up to the plate without batting an eyelash. When I had my son, I needed to learn immediately the true meaning of selflessness, sacrifice, unconditional love, discipline, and grit. He became this beautiful thing in my life that helped me filter out people I did not need in my social circle. He helps me make better decisions like opting to stay in and enjoy a night at home with him, as opposed to going out until the wee hours spending money and missing out on rest and much needed sleep. Given my active lifestyle, rest has become so precious because muscle tissues, cells, etc. repair and grow while we sleep. I’ve had to tweak a few things in my routine but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I just bring my son with me to the gym when I absolutely have no one else to look after him for me. I don’t do late nights out like I used to anymore. Once in a while is fun to do, but I am more likely to choose a quiet night in than a rowdy night out with drunk people around me.
PF: So, what does your daily routine look like?
When I’m in on-season mode or in season prep, I will start my day at 530am for an hour of fasted cardio. After that, I eat my breakfast and spend time with my son before driving him to school. I work on my blog, read and respond to emails, craft workout programs, and attend to social media while my boy is in class. When he’s done, I drive him home, and then I head off to work — whether it’s a personal training client session, a hosting gig, a photo or video shoot. Somewhere in there I make sure I squeeze in at least an intense 45-minute gym session. I’d really feel so much better after a good strength training session. I try my best to clock in some more play time with my son after all the work is done but it can get pretty busy. So, weekends are definitely something my boy and I look forward to.
PF: You’ve joined several competitions and recently won Ms. Gold’s Gym in the 2016 BodyCon. How did you prepare for this particular contest?
I practiced flexible dieting, continued to train five days a week. Nothing out of the ordinary since fitness is really my lifestyle. I was battling the flu during the peak of our workshops and fitness challenge, so I had to dig deep to power through. It wasn’t easy doing 15 straight reps of bodyweight deadlifts, 15 atomic push-ups, and 10 back and forth rounds on the agility ladder! But I managed to smash it and in the end, my team won the fitness challenge with the best time.
On the day of the show itself, I made sure I was calm and relaxed. My prior experiences in bodybuilding competitions helped give me an idea of what it’s like anticipating call outs.
PF: But how do you maintain your energy level and physique all year round?
When I’m off-season, my day starts at 6am because waking up early is really good for you! My energy levels have gotten better ever since I started waking up early and I get so much more done.
It’s so important to eat well because what you eat will determine how your body is going to deal with external pressures and stimuli. If all you put into your body is junk, then you won’t have a strong immune system to cope with stress, traffic, or even a common cold. Ever since I started paying attention to my nutrition, I found that my body responded better to exercise, my mood was generally much better, and I felt stronger and got sick less. I have no problems keeping my energy up because the food I eat gives me the right kind of pep and boost.
PF: Any particular food/s you eat to keep your bikini-ready body?
Generally, I like to eat clean. Competition prep mode will have me eating a very strict, clean diet. But, recently, I’ve started flexible dieting which helps me stay lean all year round but also allows me to enjoy my food. When you have a good foundation of proper nutrition and exercise, it’s not at all difficult to stay bikini season-ready. I try to avoid foods that make me gassy or bloated and unless it’s my cheat meal/treat for the week, I stay away from sugar.
PF: Which foods can one eat that doesn’t cause bloating?
They contain quercetin which is a flavonoid antioxidant that helps reduce swelling. I just slice it up and toss it in my water bottle, which I carry around and refill throughout the day. It’s so important to stay hydrated and to flush out junk from our system.
These babies are amazing for post-workout snacking because of the potassium they contain. Potassium also prevents water retention by regulating your sodium levels. Some people feel and look bloated because they’re constipated, and bananas have soluble fiber that have been known to relieve or prevent constipation.
Some people don’t like asparagus because of the way it makes their pee smell. But this vegetable makes you pee which helps you flush out excess water that could cause you to bloat. They also help support growth of good bacteria and have soluble and insoluble fibers that promote good digestive health.
Greek yogurt is my ultimate go-to snack, especially late at night when I’m hungry for something but don’t want to go crazy with a full meal or junk food. Yogurt contains probiotics, which are good bacteria that help regulate digestion and help prevent bloating.
Hil’s story seems a perfect example of the adage, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonades”. Convert negative to positive; struggles into triumphs. A can-do attitude will get you to where you’ve always wanted to go.