Possibility for More – A Day In The Life of Susan

I’ve said it before, but I am going to say it again. Moms, in general, amaze me; moms that balance work and contest prep astound me. I am honored to share the journey of training for a competition with 14 other amazing women who come from all walks of life. We are all different, yet all the same.

Meet Susan, one of the astounding Bikini Or Bust women, who is adept at balancing family, work, and health while she lives out her dream of competing in a Figure Competition.

Yes! She lives up in the arctic-esque winter tundra with me. 🙂 I am glad to be in such good company.

Competition prep or not, I am a creature of habit.  A typical day looks like this.  Beware, this is riveting stuff.

The What

6:00 a.m. – My alarm goes off.  I snap it off and lie in the dark for precisely five minutes.  I keep my eyes closed, thinking how tired I am and scanning through my work-out and day to come.  I get out of bed at 6:05.  I get dressed in the dark, so I don’t wake my husband.  To help, I lay out my workout clothes on the floor the night before.  Some mornings I smack my head on the footboard of the bed when reaching for the clothes in the dark, causing loud swearing.  This wakes my husband anyways.  I shuffle downstairs, drink some water, and go down to our basement ‘gym’.  This is where the magic happens.

6:15 a.m. – I start my work-out.  I work-out at home six days a week (rest day on Sundays).  I do resistance work four days a week (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday) and cardio six days a week.  The resistance work takes about 50-55 minutes.  On combined lifting/cardio days, I do this first.  I can do the lifting I need with a set of adjustable barbells (which go to about 52 lbs per arm), a stability ball, resistance bands, and my bodyweight.  Then I do about 25-30 minutes of high-intensity cardio.  Day to day, I mix up my cardio between stationary bike intervals, Insanity DVDs, and Turbo Fire HIIT DVDs.  I drink a whey protein shake mixed with BCAAs during my workout. I am done working out by about 7:45 a.m.  By now, my husband and girls are getting up.  The house is officially awake.  I hit the shower.

(On Wednesdays, it’s a bit different.  I go to the gym on Wednesday mornings for legs.  I need the press machines and heavier stuff to do what I need to do for legs.  On Wednesdays, I’m still up at 6:00, at working out at the gym by 6:30.)

8:15 a.m. – Showered and alive, I eat breakfast.  Breakfast is typically a six egg white and veggie scramble and a quarter cup of rolled oats with flax meal and cinnamon.  And coffee.  Do not forget the coffee.  I love that most mornings we can have breakfast as a family and have a little – even chaotic – time together.  My daughters are aged five and two.  My husband has them up, their breakfast going, and is organizing lunches and school/daycare bags by the time I’m down from my shower.  Bless him.  A thousand times, bless him.

8:45 a.m. – I head to work.  I am a project-based consultant.  I study and assess the social and community impact of major infrastructure projects.  I love my work.  Some days I work from home.  Some days I’m heading downtown for meetings.  Some days I’m heading across town to the office for one of the companies I contract to.  Where ever I’m heading, I like to be working by 9:00 a.m.  I love – and am so grateful – that my work structure is flexible and autonomous.  This is what prevents me from having to get up earlier than 6:00 to get morning workouts in.  This lets me see my girls and husband every morning.

10:00 a.m. – I eat my morning snack.  This is usually ¾ cup of non-fat cottage cheese, some berries or half an apple, and 10 almonds.  If I’m en route to a meeting, or in a meeting where it’s not appropriate to pull out a tub of sloppy cottage cheese, I’ll have a Clif Builder bar.

12:00 p.m. –  I eat lunch.  Lunch is usually 4oz of lean protein (chicken or fish) on top of a whack load of spinach, plain coleslaw mix, and other veggies, with two tablespoons of light Italian dressing.  And water.  I carry a one-litre Nalgene bottle with me most days.  The goal is to make my way through three litres of water during the work day.  Amongst other things, my work day consists of going to the bathroom a lot.

3:00pm. – I eat my afternoon snack.  This is usually ¾ cup of Greek yogurt (mixed with a couple of table spoons of pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and stevia) and ½ a Lara bar.

5:15 p.m. – I am usually home by this time.  I try to get home and/or stop work earlier if I can.  The girls are usually home from day-home by 4:00, so every minute I can be home earlier is time I can have with them.  This is a time of chaos.  The girls are hungry, my husband is making dinner, and he and I are trying to catch up in four-word sentences over the shrieks of the girls and the rattle of the stove-top.  We usually eat at about 5:30 p.m.  For me, dinner is 4 oz of lean protein and an enormous amount of stir-fry vegetables with some spices or Braggs Amino Acids…peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, spinach. Whatever is in reach.

After dinner is family time.  Games, stories, some TV with the girls, general horseplay, and such.

7:00 p.m. – The kids’ bedtime.  We start getting the girls ready for bed around 7:00 pm.  This will involve bath, teeth, pyjamas, and lot of monkey business.  And then stories.  Lights are out between 7:30pm and 8:00pm.

8:00 – 10:30pm –  The evenings are a mixed bag.  Sometimes I need to use the time to work more.  But if not, I write (I am an aspiring writer).  Or check blogs I love. Or read.  Or watch a movie with my husband (and fall asleep about 45 minutes into the movie).  Or do laundry. Or do some other house-type chore.  I have a glorious protein shake (egg whites, almond milk, some fruit, BCAAs & crushed ice, guar gum, stevia – it’s just like soft-serve ice-cream) at about 8:30 pm every night.  I try to head to bed around 10:30 p.m., and have lights out by 11:00pm.

I know.  Like I said… riveting.

The How

Plain and simple, I could not do this – like this – without my husband.  As of about four months ago, he and I “flipped” roles, so I that I could work more and that he could spend more time with the girls.  This was something we’d been thinking and strategizing about for a long time.  And we finally did it in September 2010.  He now coordinates getting the girls up and ready in the morning, getting them to school/day-home, picking them up, most house and grocery stuff, and getting dinner ready.  While I miss spending that time with our girls, not having to coordinate all those logistical details by myself really turns the stress down in my life.  This is huge.  This is amazing.

With my workout schedule, I also try not to arrange early morning meetings that would require me to be somewhere before 9:00 a.m.  Most weeks I can do this, and keep my morning workouts uninterrupted.  The times I cannot, it means I have to split my workouts, doing a quick cardio in the morning and doing lifting in the evening.  I find this tough.  Evenings I am tired, and it takes twice the mental energy to move through a workout.

I also have a personal trainer.  He sets my workouts and nutrition regime.  I meet with him for a consult every couple of weeks, send him weekly progress photos, and communicate via email as needed.  I do occasional guided workouts with him.  I’m supposed to be doing more guided workouts, but it’s tough to fit in getting to his studio.  Working out from home early in the morning is just so much easier and is my preference.  But during these last two and half months of competition prep, I will do more guided workouts just to ramp things up.  And because I am terrified.

Favourite Times

My favourite time of the day is the early morning period when I am working out in a silent, sleeping house.  I love getting up early.  In the quiet I can work my body and collect my thoughts.  I feel like I’m getting a jump on the world.  Whatever happens from there in the day, whatever disaster or challenge, I have taken care of my body and I am energized.  Sundays, my rest day, I still get up early.  I sit at my computer in my housecoat and slippers, drinking coffee.  I write.  I read the headlines.  I read blogs.  I contemplate my wonderful life.  I revel in the silence.

Another of my favourite times is when my five-year old daughter comes down the basement as I’m finishing up my workout and am in the last throes of cardio.  I hear the basement door open, and she tip-toes down.  She thinks she’s surprising me.  I always hear her, but always pretend I don’t.  She hangs out with me while I finish up.  She asks me “are you doing exercise?” and “are you sweaty?”  Sometimes she jumps around with me for a while.  We talk (or more precisely I gasp between intervals) about what kind of dream she had the night before, or what’s coming up at school that day.  We talk about how important it is to exercise.  I love these stolen moments with her.  I wonder what her memories of these times will be?  What is her impression of me, all sweaty and breathing hard in the basement every morning?

There isn’t really a worst time.  But if I had to pick one, it would be the time it takes to clean up the kitchen every night after dinner.  Somehow, our kitchen is a war zone every night.  There are three loosely-connected-but-essentially-different meals being made: one for the kids, one for my husband and I, and then I always have to make my special enormous side-pile of extra vegetables.  There’s a lot of chopping, pans, microwaving, and vegetable debris.  Plus there’s all the food that gets thrown around and dropped on the floor by our children.  The kitchen is a disaster.  You’d think we’d fed an army of hundreds by the mess.  It never ceases to amaze me.

How am I Different? And Normal?

I don’t really know how I’m different and normal.  I *think* I may be different that I have a husband that coordinates the kids and house, and takes on a huge portion of this work.  This frees a large part of my mental space.  Him being around and on-duty with the kids in the morning allows me to do both lifting and cardio in the same morning window.  If I didn’t have this, I would likely have to break up my workouts between morning and evening (or get up earlier), leaving little relaxation time in my life.  I am learning that many competitors are up and working out during in the 3:00-5:00 a.m. shift; this blows my mind!

And I think I may be different than some in that I primarily work out from home.  There is no time spent en-route to the gym, parking, packing gym bags, waiting for equipment, etc.   A half-hour of travelling and packing time saved is a half-hour more with my kids.

I think I am normal in that I get tired.  Sometimes I question myself.  I fight food cravings, which sometimes I win and sometimes I lose.  And I think I am normal in that I don’t want to settle for a mediocre life. Like many fitness competitors and other fitness junkies, I find myself always striving to grow and evolve and find out what I’m made of.  I’m chasing the thrill of the challenge and the lure of the unknown.  And the structure and focus of having a goal really helps.

Any maybe, just maybe, I’m a little different that I am doing this – training for a fitness competition – for the first time at age 40.  I am feeling braver and stronger and fitter in my 40s than I ever did in my 20s or 30s.  Be warned, all you youngsters, things improve as you get older.  Don’t believe the myth.  There will only be possibility for more.

So this is my life.  It’s busy and full.  But it has support and focus and love.  And it all makes sense to me.

Competition prep, I am learning, is about marking out your time for workouts and guarding it fiercely in your schedule.  And then it is about meal prep, which for me is about always having egg whites, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, veggies, oats, protein bars, chicken, fish protein powder, and almonds in the house (and over my shoulder when I head out the door every day).  And it’s about having support and community with which to share the journey.  That is really it.  I try not to make it any more complicated than that.

Connect with Susan on Twitter and follow her journey on her blog.

I couldn’t have said it better, “There will only be possibility for more.

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  1. Susan!
    I was so excited when I read that you are using Insanity and Turbo Fire to train for your competition!!! I have just admitted to myself my goal to do a competition and was planning on using these workouts, as well as some other beachbody programs, and was wondering if anyone else has used them. (I LOVE Turbo Fire!!)
    You ladies are such an inspiration to me and so many other women out there!! You are amazing!

  2. YAYA Susan! I understand busy and kids and all that fun stuff. Seems like you have a good handle on things and routine is definitely key, for any of us! Love that your husband is so supportive.

  3. Go Susan!!!


  4. Tiffany Miller says


    I’m reading this long after it was posted, but I still gotta say you never cease to amaze me! As a girl who travels 40km to the gym I’m uber impressed by your drive and motivation to workout at home. I’ve never been a morning person. I find it difficult to get out of bed on time for work, nevermind a few hours earlier.

    I feel really inspired to try doing a few workouts at home in the morning. It just makes so much more sense and would save me so much money and time.

    Lots of Love,


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