From Depression & Injury to Overall Bikini Champion

Anna Heritage’s Story

I’ve been an athlete my whole life, weightlifting for 7 years now and bodybuilding for about 3 years now. I never felt like I was ready, good enough, or could be competitive enough to compete in a bodybuilding show. I just kept working day in and day out until I realized that if I kept putting it off, I’d never do it. In the Fall of 2019, I finally decided it was time.

On January 1st, 2020 I started my first competition prep. My body was responding perfectly to all my protocols and I was beyond excited to finally be doing something I’ve wanted to do for years. But then 2 weeks out from my first show everything was canceled due to Covid-19. My heart dropped when I heard the news as I walked into the gym that day. I was in disbelief that everything I had just worked so hard for and waited so long for was just taken away that quickly. 

Not even 2 weeks later gyms shut down. And then everything shut down. With the quarantine lockdown the company I had been working for also then transitioned to working from home. But it wasn’t long until Covid took its toll on that too. They of course were forced to downsize and then I found myself unemployed. My father ended up in the hospital shortly after, I went into a deep depression, binge ate my feelings away every day, you name it. Anything bad that could have potentially happened, happened. It was just setback after setback knocking me down. I had no motivation to work out, stay on my diet, or do anything for that matter. 

After a few months, the gyms and everything started to reopen. It seemed like things were finally looking up. And then on July 19, 2020, I herniated my L5/S1 disc in my back. The pain was so excruciating that it took me to the gym floor that day. For the next month, I couldn’t train. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t even stand up. I saw numerous different doctors and tried everything I could to avoid surgery. After a month of balling my eyes out in pain every day and not being able to move off of the couch, I finally agreed to have the microdiscectomy surgery. 

The next 3 months were spent on fully recovering and physical therapy. I was impatient to say the least but I was finally cleared to start working out again fall of 2020.

Shortly after this is when I met my current coach who I am so incredibly thankful for. He did nothing but put my health and wellbeing first and foremost to get me back to where I needed to be. The goal was to finally hit the stage in 2021 and we didn’t waste any time. My body recovered and bounced back remarkably better than anticipated so we began an 18-week long competition prep in January 2021.

On May 29, 2021, I finally competed in my first show ever at Dean Caputo’s NPC Northcoast Championships. I won both of my classes and the Overall NPC Northcoast  Championships Bikini Champion title. Being ready to give up and quit so many times during those 18 weeks of prep, I’m still in disbelief at the outcome but so incredibly thankful.

Although 2020 ended up being the worst year of my life, it was the most humbling experience. Everything that happened this past year was a blessing in disguise and has led me to some of the greatest moments and opportunities I could have ever imagined. 

I now have a new career, a new mindset, new opportunities and I’m doing what I love to do every day. It got me where I needed to be and I’ll forever be grateful for that. 

How did you feel after your show was canceled?

•Completely devasted and heartbroken were understatements. I sat in my gym parking lot for over an hour and just cried knowing all my hard work was for nothing. But somehow it all ended up being worth it and I had the best first show experience that I could have possibly had.

How did you bring yourself out of such a low place?

•It took a very long time, a lot of patience, and a lot of practice turning “why is this happening to me?” into “what is this trying to teach me?” before I was finally able to get through it. 2020 arguably ended up being the worst year of my life for unending reasons. It wasn’t until I was finally cleared to go back to the gym and met my new coach before things started looking up. I started to feel like me again when I was finally back to doing what I love.

What are your plans now?

•To enjoy life and all the things we missed out on last year with covid, to keep improving my physique, and working on my weak points. I was not expecting the outcome that we had at the NPC Northcoast Championships by receiving the Overall Bikini Champion title. I went into that show just hoping to gain knowledge, get some stage time and experience my first show. I could go onto a national show this year but I’ve decided to wait. I’m striving for longevity in this sport and I refuse to step on a national stage until I’m undeniably ready. So my coach and I have decided to take some time to grow, improve where we need to, and then hit that national stage next year.

Anna Heritage
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