As I stood waiting to go out on stage, in my porn star shoes and bum hanging out of my bikini, I felt like I was going to be sick.
But as soon as I walked out into the spotlights, the adrenaline kicked in.
Not many 40-something-year-olds dream of strutting their stuff in £400 sequined bikinis, slathered in fake tan, and balancing on towering heels.
As a younger woman I hated my body. I had an ex who once told me I’d never have a flat tummy and that comment always stayed with me – even years later.
Then, in my early forties, I started my perimenopause – all hell broke loose and my body confidence plummeted further.
It was horrific. My mood swings were so severe that my poor husband Clifford and daughter Evie, now 13, didn’t know whether I was going to burst into tears or bite their heads off from one moment to the next.
Then there were the night sweats and itching; it felt like my skin was crawling with bugs. I’d wake up with my chest covered in blood from where I’d been scratching myself in my sleep.
Fifty is just a number for me – I’m breezing into my sixth decade in the best mental and physical shape ever
I went to the doctors numerous times and was initially told I was too young to be going through menopause. That was until one day, aged 44, I lost my temper and refused to leave until they agreed to check my hormone levels.
The surgery telephoned three days later, very apologetically, and explained that my hormone levels were so low that I was already fully into my menopause. I immediately got a prescription for HRT and two weeks later I felt like a new woman.
With my new lease of life, I thought it was a good time to improve my fitness, and saw that one of the PTs at my gym was offering bootcamp classes. All the women looked like they were having such good fun that I decided to sign up.
I’d always had a gym membership but wasn’t particularly active – I’d have gone in to use the cardio machines without really knowing what I was doing. Or I’d have signed up to the occasional spin class or aerobics, but never kept it up.
The bootcamp was great craic, with all the camaraderie with the other girls and the banter. The other women were always talking about Botox – they were all getting it so I decided I wanted it too. I saved up a couple of hundred pounds, but I hate injections so I started to lose my nerve.
So, I decided to spend my ‘Botox money’ on a month’s personal training sessions at the gym instead – to learn how to use all the machines and weights properly.
That month turned into two months, and then into three. I was completely hooked and felt the fittest I’d ever been. For the first time ever, I began to genuinely like my body.
Weight training became me time. I wasn’t worrying about work, or my family – I was doing something for myself. And once I started to see the physical benefits, changes in my body and an increase in strength, it spurred me on. I was discovering muscles I never knew I had.
My hard work started to show and, in 2019, the other girls at the gym said that I ought to start competing in bodybuilding. I thought they were joking – but then my trainer offered to help prep me for my first show.
In the run-up, my training intensified and I was very focused. Week by week my calorie intake was controlled and as I got leaner I found I felt the cold more. The nerves were starting to kick in, impacting on my sleep too.
Two days beforehand I went for two coats of fake tan, so my muscle definition would stand out under the lights.
My first competition, that May, was so funny. I had no idea what I was doing. I remember standing backstage waiting to go on, wondering if I was going to throw up or run to the loo with nerves.
I amazed myself by coming fifth in the Masters Figure category, which is for women over 40, and qualified for the national finals in Perth, Scotland.
As I began competing more regularly I was clear on one thing – I wanted to train naturally. I worried that taking performance-enhancing drugs could be dangerous for my health and I wanted to set a good example for my daughter.
That meant no steroids, fat-loss pills or performance enhancers. I will admit I eventually overcame my fear of needles to have a little bit of Botox, but apart from that I’m extremely proud of the way I’m ageing.
When lockdown hit I was determined to continue training so I borrowed my dad’s old gazebo and created a home gym in our back garden.
Competitions re-started in 2022 and I won Overall Female in a British Natural Bodybuilding Federation qualifier that summer, meaning I was the best across all categories – at the grand old age of 49, I was beating women in their twenties and thirties.
It was an incredible feeling and I was so proud to be representing mid-life women. Showing that being younger isn’t always better.
Evie and Clifford often come to watch me compete and I love catching a glimpse of them in the front row, cheering their heads off. Evie even texts me when I’m waiting backstage, telling me how proud she is.
Next month I will celebrate my 50th birthday, and in addition to a champagne afternoon tea to mark my half-century, I have another goal to mark the milestone.
I’ve told myself this is going to be the year I increase my size so I can move my bodybuilding to an international platform – taking on up to 3,500cals a day.
My diet is still healthy, it’s just increased in volume – so larger portions of things like my breakfast oats with protein powder, snacking on omelettes and bagels, and bigger portions of carbs.
It means taking a year out of competing to prep and build muscle, with a 10-month bulking season after my big birthday celebrations.
I’m going to start to compete again in 2024, with the aim of moving to the World Natural Bodybuilding Federation to try to get a PRO card – which means I can compete at a higher level, moving up from the amateur circuit to compete against the best of the best – by the time I’m 51.
Fifty is just a number for me. I’m breezing into my sixth decade in the best mental and physical shape of my life. I hope it helps show other women that age is no barrier to good health – or ambition.
*As told to Jade Beecroft
Follow Sarah on Instagram @mrsdavies12
Age is Just a Number
Welcome to Age is Just a Number, a Metro.co.uk series aiming to show that, when it comes to living your life, achieving your dreams, and being who you want to be, the date on your birth certificate means nothing.
Each week, prepare to meet amazing people doing stereotype-defying things, at all stages of life.
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