Tami Bellon knows that strength and endurance runs in her family because a Cherokee ancestor managed to endure the Trail of Tears trek.
“I was a really little kid, 5’4”, 98 pounds, and I’d look at women’s body building magazines and think, ‘I want an athletic look, I want to look like that’,” she says. Now she does, having competed for five years in regional and national competitions and placing in the Top 5 in all those contests — including the largest amateur show in the country.
“I started dabbling at working out and was in the gym off and on until I met Shawn (now her husband) and began bodybuilding under his tutelage in 2006. The training regimen increased as competitions got closer, focusing on different parts of the body each day — 3 or 4 days a week on weights, cardio 5 to 6 days a week, sometimes twice a day.”
“We’d do shows together for moral support,” says Shawn, 6’, 260 pounds, one of the strongest raw lifters in the world with a personal best 815-pound deadlift. “Counting weight and cardio sessions, dieting, food prep, and travel to and from gyms, it was like a real job because we were going from 4am till nearly midnight.”
Given a chance to turn back time, Tami says she’d probably do it all over again, but when she turned 40 recently, the Fort Wayne, Indiana native decided enough was enough and stopped competing. “I did learn some positive things about myself, my determination and how far I was willing to challenge myself. Like dieting for six months through Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and my birthday — that will test your will power.”
“You get well-known in a small circle and the identity and ego feedback is nice, but I’m at a point where I’m tired of the hard work and regimentation and don’t need to prove anything more to myself,” she says, adding: “I’m in better shape at 40 than I was in my 20’s and I intend to maintain a strong, healthy physique through regular exercise.”
At age 38, Shawn, founder of Body2Build Strength Training Systems, is also slowing down. Since he started lifting buckets of cement at age 11 on his Hicksville, Ohio farm, he has continued to train and lift and compete. But no matter how magnificent the machine, it begins to wear out.
“I’ve reached my personal goals and professional plateaus,” he says of his 27 year career. “It’s been fun, a bit of an ego stroke, and I’m proud of all the work I put into it. But you reach a point where you can’t do what you could do before, the wear and tear and injuries mount up, and teaching what you’ve learned to someone else begins to hold a promise for the future. Nature has been trying to slow me down for awhile and I’ve reached the point where coaching is an attractive option.”