Choosing Life Long Success

Sure, I love the bedazzled suits, feeling powerful, being in the best shape of my life, and everything that comes with competing. But what I love most are the amazing women that I have gotten to know along the way.

Want to know a secret?

Competitors don’t train all their muscles equally. They train their heart every single day and it becomes absolutely huge and stunning to look at.

Barbara Mencer is one of the fabulous competitors that I have gotten to know through Twitter. She has been competing for years and is an exemplary woman of mental discipline, joy, determination, and balance. Who she is on the inside is gorgeous and it shows up on the outside.

Barbara Mencer

Stunning! That's all I have to say about this.

Read her interview below and I am sure you will fall in love with her like I have!

What made you start competing? Can you tell me a bit about your journey and what go you here today?

I didn’t find fitness until I was in my 40’s.  Although at 5’5” and 136 lbs I wasn’t grossly overweight, per say, I was definitely out of shape and my bodyfat was an unhealthy 34%.  Newly married for the second time, I signed my husband and me up for 20 personal training sessions each at the local gym.  Little did I realize that this initial act of getting in shape would forever change my life.

Six months later I was 116 lbs and 20% bodyfat.  I had a full six-pack and loved my new body and energy level.  My personal trainer had become my friend and workout partner, and I was content for the next couple of years to maintain my fitness level.

Then one day I was approached while at the gym.  A gentleman asked me if I was a physique competitor.  I looked at him blankly.  The only kind of physique competing I knew about was bodybuilding and I certainly didn’t look like a bodybuilder!  What was he talking about?  Soon after, through a sequence of events that as I look back were clearly meant to bring me towards competing, I found out about physique competitions.  I didn’t have the gymnastics and dance ability needed for fitness, but figure caught my eye as something I could do.  I was intrigued!

After lots of research and a bit of trial and error I found Kim Oddo.  Kim is arguably the best in the business as far as coaching figure competitors and I signed on with him.  While some prefer to train themselves, I’m one of those who prefers NOT to have to figure everything out on my own, No reinventing the wheel for this girl. I’ve been an Oddo’s Angel since 2006 and I expect I always will be.

You’re a successful business owner and have a family; how do you balance all your training and prep and still manage to find time to have fun? What is your secret?

It’s definitely challenging to balance everything.  I’m fortunate that my kids are older so their needs are less demanding than if they were little.  I’m also lucky that my husband is extremely supportive.  He does a lot of the cooking and ends up eating very close to what I’m eating, so not worrying about having to cook separate meals helps a lot.  He’s also in the biz – he’s a personal trainer and lifestyle fitness coach – so he “gets” it.  He comes to all my shows.  He’s my biggest fan.

Owning my own business has its pros and cons when it comes to competition prep.  On the one hand, I get to set my own hours so I can create flexibility in my schedule when needed.  On the other hand, being a business owner has more demands than if I was working for someone else so I have to be sure I keep enough focus there. Scheduling and time management are of upmost importance. I live by my calendar.  Everything is recorded – time for eating, gym, cardio, client appointments, marketing, business travel, admin, family stuff, etc.

Prepping food in advance is another key to success.  I look at my calendar for the week ahead and make sure enough food is on hand, and cooked.  I then put together containers of any meals that will need to be “on the go,” labeling as necessary.  It makes it so much easier during the week and helps ensure I’ve always got my food when I need it.  Food prep is especially important when I travel.  I bring all my food with me so I’ve become quite adept at the art of flying with my cooler of food – and getting it through security without anything getting taken away!

What has been the biggest challenge that you have had to overcome in regards to Figure Competitions?

Hmm. This is a tough question.  There are two big challenges – one physical and the other mental.  The physical challenge has been overcoming injuries and other physical hurdles so I can keep on doing what I love.  Over the past few years I’ve faced osteoarthritis in my elbows and knees, bi-lateral medial tendonitis in my elbows, an ovarian cyst the size of a grapefruit (discovered 2 weeks before a show!), acidosis, and most recently a shoulder and neck injury.  I get some pressure from friends and family that I should view these obstacles as a message that I should stop competing but I just know that I’m still supposed to be doing this.  I simply do what I need to do to heal from whatever ailment is plaguing me, and become creative in finding ways to train around the affected body parts so I can continue on my journey.  At some point it’ll be time to stop competing, and I’m certain that I’ll know when that’s so.  For now, I’ll continue on doing what I love to do, the best that I can.

The mental challenge has been around my age.  Although I’m in my 50’s, I look like I’m in my 30’s – at least that’s what everyone tells me.  Sometimes I worry that competing in figure at my ages makes me look like a fool, like I’m trying to be 20 something again.  That at my age I shouldn’t be going up on stage and displaying my body or thinking that I could possibly get my pro card in Masters.  Logically I know this kind of thinking is nonsense, but it’s in the back of my mind nonetheless.

Barbara Mencer

Can you believe she isn't 30? I can't!


What do you most enjoy about this sport?

There are two things I love about this sport.  First, I love watching my body change. I like knowing that with just a minor tweak of the diet or a slight increase in cardio that my entire physique can change in a matter of days.  That just fascinates me.  I’m also a bit of a control freak so the discipline and structure required to do well in this sport suits me.

The other thing I love is the camaraderie. Men and women who compete in physique sculpting competitions live in a special world – one that isn’t understood by many on the outside. We just “get” each other, and the support and strength that we give and get is amazing.

What would you tell a woman that is just starting out? What MUST she do?

If you’re considering competing it’s imperative to determine why.  What is your reason – Is it to become a pro? To gain a name in the industry? For fun? To challenge yourself? To take your fitness to a new level?  The reason knowing why you want to compete is important because it will determine how much priority it takes in your life (if you’re not careful, it could become your life, and that may not be what you wanted) and how much money, time and effort to put into it. Do you want this to be a hobby or are you pursuing something more?  This is an expensive sport, more so if you want to turn pro. If this is you, you’ll most likely want to spend the money on a top trainer and nutritionist, as well as on some of the beauty aspects (posing suit, tan, makeup artist, etc.). You’ll also want to learn the strategy of the sport (yes, there is strategy involved). If your goals aren’t so lofty, you can definitely cut costs by doing your own nutrition plan, buying a used suit, doing your own makeup, and doing local shows so travel expenses are kept down.

I love being part of the fitness world.  If you want help getting started or perhaps have questions that you want to run by someone before making the decision to get started, I’m happy to help.

A true hero…I don’t doubt she can fly!


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  1. Wow! As a woman in my 50s, I’m impressed!

  2. Thanks Donloree for putting such an inspirational woman on your blog! Barbara, you are a true inspiration!! Good luck competing this year!! =)

  3. I LOVE stories of women in their 40s and 50s and beyond who are in incredible shape and continue to make their health, fitness and body-awareness a priority. She is inspiring. Now I’m all fired up for the day, and feel like measuring and labelling food. Look out.

  4. Oh I love this. Thank you for interviewing someone “real” and older! I can only dream to look like her when I’m her age. Awesome. Just awesome.

  5. Dan Mencer says

    As Barbara’s husband I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of her. On the superficial side, I couldn’t tell you how many guys and girls, strangers, that have come up to me to tell be I’m a lucky man, as if I don’t know that. But on a more important side, Barbara dedicates herself to her family, and that includes my two girls, even more than her career and fitness world. Without hesitation she would give it up if it was needed to help her family. She really does love the sport. She never competes against other girls but only against herself, which I believe is what keeps her so successful and mentally even. I tell her to continue to compete until it’s just not fun anymore. She rocks!

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