In one word, Abi Dawn Stearns explained the key to being among the best at bodybuilding.
Asked to elaborate, she did.
“Waking up everyday and dedicating your life to your sport and not making up excuses,” Stearns said.
The Lihue woman is not one to make excuses.
She is one who puts mind, body and spirit behind whatever she happens to be doing. And recently, she put the results of her discipline on display at a North American bodybuilding championship in Pittsburgh.
The four-day event included 1,200 competitors and is one of the largest bodybuilding shows of the year.
When it was over, Stearns placed fourth in the figure division for masters over 35, which meant she was top five in the nation.
Her goals happened to be finish in the top five and win her pro card by taking first place.
One down. One to go.
“Amazing,” she said when asked how she felt about it.
She competed in the same show in 2015 and finished 11th. Her improvement wasn’t a fluke.
“I’ve really done a lot of work in the past two years,” the 39-year-old said. “I really upped my game this time.”
“For me, it was going back to the drawing board and really working hard to build over the past two years and taking time to do it right,” Stearns said.
The wife of Joey Stearns and mom to teenage daughters Aleya and Sadie is disciplined when it comes to pretty much anything.
Another critical aspect of bodybuilding is eating the right food. Her diet includes chicken, vegetables, lots of protein, six meals a day.
“If you want to feel better, you want to live longer, you’ve got to eat better,” said Stearns, a trainer at Kauai Athletic Club.
She works out up to two hours a day in the gym, weights and cardio, and runs sprints on the track. Her dedication to nutrition and exercise has paid off
“I feel better at my age,” she said. “I don’t have the aches and pains I could be having, or the injuries.”
Stearns stands a chiseled 5 feet, 7 inches tall, weighs a rock solid 145 pounds, and has 13 percent body fat.
Believe it or not, she does allow herself to occasionally eat sugary treats like ice cream and chocolate.
“In the off season, I allow myself to enjoy those different things once and a while, but it’s about being strict 90 percent of the time during the week so that you can enjoy that.”
“You could be hitting the weights and running every day, but if you’re not watching what you eat 90 percent of the time, you’re still going to hold that weight. You’re going to feel awful and it’s going to affect your overall health.”
Growing up in Minnesota, Sterns played ice hockey, hung out at the gym, but wasn’t particularly committed to a single sport.
Always active and fit, she was introduced to bodybuilidng about a decade ago and recalls thinking then that once her daughters were in school and she had time to train, she would like to see what she could do.
“I remember telling my sister 10 years ago, ‘I’m going to compete one day,’” she said. “And I did.”
Stearns moved to Kauai in 2010 and shortly after participated in her first show. She won. She won again the next year, and decided to travel for competitions on Oahu and the Mainland.
“Every year, I’ve raised the bar and gotten better and better,” she said.
Bodybuilding, she said, is a sport she can maintain for life, and teach others, as well.
“I really believe that strength training has changed my life, saved my life in a sense,” she said.
Her methods are effective.
Stearns will have six of her athletes competing in the Kauai Cup body building competition set for Oct. 21 at Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall.
She praised Kauai Athletic Club, where she works out and coaches, for its role in her success
“They have done a lot for me,” she said.
Surprisingly, she said bodybuilding is more mental than physical.
“When you break it down, it’s really a mental strength to be able to consistently do the same thing throughout the year without fail,” she said.
The Stearns, as a family, are always active. They enjoy swimming in the ocean, running on Sleeping Giant, anything that has them outside and moving. Joey is a top athlete in Spartan races. Dad, mom and daughters competed in last month’s Spartan race on Oahu.
Stearns homeschools her daughters, so she must be on task — a regimented life, if you will.
“A good life,” she added.
Now, she’s set her sights on the North America championships next July in Pittsburgh, where she hopes to win her pro card and then, become a professional bodybuilder.
“That’s what I’m going for,” she said.
It’s not so much for the chance to earn money, prizes or gain recognition.
“For me, it’s all about longevity and health,” she said.
At the recent championship, Stearns said the oldest competitor was 85 years old, which she found inspiring.
“They’re sticking with it every day, too, making good choices, and passing that down,” she said.
Stearns is proud that at 39, she has been able to perform at a high level and hopes it inspires other women to trust in themselves and what they can do, “no matter what your age is.”
All you have to do is believe. And work hard, too.
“What the human body is capable of, if you really put your mind to it, it’s amazing,” she said.