BIKINI PRO BETH COTE’S BREAKTHROUGH: HOW FITNESS SAVED HER LIFE
*By Beth Cote *Intro by Ben Yosef *Michael Brooks Photography
I am a big fan of Beth Cote’s. She has such a great outlook on life, really fun energy, and a fantastic physique, just to list a few reasons why. I felt honored to have her join the Bikini Open class at the 2015 IPL North Atlantic Championship, my new federation’s second contest ever, this past September. She looked incredible, totally rocked the stage and landed in first place, earning her IPL Pro-qualified status.
At the show we captured some really awesome photos of her, including several with her beautiful little daughter, that I knew would be perfect for Natural Bikini. Not only that, but we featured a very inspirational story on Beth a few issues ago entitled Single Motherhood & Competing, so I thought this would be a great follow-up story on Beth Cote’s enlightening fitness journey.
“I’VE DEVELOPED A HEALTHY DESIRE TO CONTROL WHAT IS WITHIN MY REACH. FORTUNATELY, I MANIFEST THAT IN MY LOVE OF FITNESS AND DESIRE TO COMPETE.”
As some of you may have read in my interview from the July issue of Natural Bikini Magazine, my fitness journey began many years ago when I was running or bicycling alongside my father while he completed his long runs. That experience was a driving force that sparked my interest in competing, but it wasn’t until I was facing major adversity that I realized fitness could be my savior.
Initially, the excitement and wow factor had me screaming “OMG, I am on the cover of a fitness magazine!” But, as a logic-minded, math teacher, I currently sit here trying to write without drowning in speculation as to whether or not I will be able reach my readers. Am I going to write like I talk, opening up far too much, and going on way too many tangents (no pun intended for my fellow mathies)? After A LOT of time and reflection, I realized that there are many things that led me to my success and hiding is absolutely not one of them.
All my life it has been my ultimate goal to reach others and help inspire people to overcome struggles or learn from my mistakes. Knowing how much value this opportunity truly has for me leaves me overwhelmed with a mix of emotions that stem back to three major factors; impulse control, insecurity and oddly enough a superiority complex. Notably, these are the exact same reasons it was fitness that saved my life.
All of my life I have struggled with various mental illnesses and sadly, I can’t recall a single time in my life that I wasn’t affected by my own mental illness or that of someone who I love. With all the impact that has had on me, I’ve developed a healthy desire to control what is within my reach. Fortunately, I manifest that in my love of fitness and desire to compete.
After beginning my career as a teacher, purchasing my home and getting settled into a routine of work, gym and co-parenting, I decided it was time for me to set a goal with regards to my personal growth. That’s when I entered my first fitness competition. I took a huge leap out of my comfort zone and stepped on stage as a Bikini competitor! Yes, me a single mother of two, struggling to budget time and money decided to compete.
“A FEW WEEKS LATER…I WAS APPROACHED WITH SOME HEARTBREAKING NEWS.”
The moment I stepped on stage, I showed my insecurities while maintaining confidence. But more importantly, I jumped out of my gym and teacher fully-clothed comfort, and took constructive feedback from more experienced judges and professionals in order to reflect and make changes. This reflective practice is critical in every aspect of life for every single person.
By stepping out of our comfort zone, we create opportunities to learn and grow. Not only did I feel like I was finally in love with myself, but I met so many absolutely amazing women who were supportive, beautiful inside and out, and shared the same passion for fitness. They’ve taught me the true meaning of being motivated by the desire to achieve, rather than the desire to beat others.
A few weeks later, just when I thought my life was starting to come together, the chaos was coming to a close and I was ready to compete in my next big show, I was approached with some heartbreaking news. I was forced to make a decision I never thought I would be faced with. With my history of anxiety and depression, my mind was completely controlled by the fact that my children would no longer have a father figure playing an integral role in their upbringing. I was enduring unbearable amounts of pain in knowing that my best friend, the one person outside of family who chose to be there for me unconditionally through all life’s challenges, did something so terrible that ultimately removed them from our lives.
I was paralyzed. It was like getting hit by a train, derailed from the track that led to my own destiny. I felt as if every single obstacle I overcame to get to where I wanted to be didn’t matter anymore. All of the difficulties I faced that led me to reach my goal of becoming an accomplished teacher, homeowner and mother were being ripped out from under me because I no longer could provide my children with the life I wanted for them. The shock and conflicts that overcame my mind followed me everywhere. It was like a dark cloud.
I would go to work and see children who I knew were facing the same or worse trauma at their house that my kids faced, come home and see my kids attempting to stand up against a battle of their father’s absence and get piled up with bills I no longer could manage to handle. Even though the gym was once my escape, my form of focus and stress relief, it now felt next to impossible with the anguish I encountered in every other aspect of my life. I was allowing the horrific actions of someone else determine the fate of me and my children. I was literally dying inside and out.
“I REMIND MYSELF THAT IF I AM NOT STRONG FOR THEM, NO ONE ELSE WILL BE.”
I couldn’t eat, sleep, or explain my mourning to anyone. Days, weeks and even a month went by that I would cry myself to sleep, get through work without any meaningful interactions and come home to minimally prepare my kids for the next day. Everything that I once loved, even spending time with my precious children, felt like a chore. How could someone like me, someone who has lived by Booker T. Washington’s words that “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.” be buried instead of fueled to my success? I needed to come to terms with the fact that what happens in our life is not always in our control.
One day, I woke up to a message from a friend and fellow competitor who reminded me that my depression would not only be detrimental to myself, but would potentially expose my children to realities that a five and seven year old shouldn’t be forced to face. With the fact that I am their only parental figure, that hit me hard. How could I be moping around, destroyed inside about the someone else’s actions? I was overcome by the fact that someone else did something that hurt my children so badly but I, in turn, was doing the same.
It won’t come as a surprise to my close friends and family that I actually did a little research at that time about success, motivation and how to climb out of this rut. I was amazed to find, research shows that the top three indicators of success are the exact same traits I was exhibiting in my original thought process; impulse control, insecurity and superiority complex. Success is something very difficult to define and even more difficult to achieve. I asked myself, what one thing helped me exhibit those traits, and how did I overcome the struggle of being a single teen mom? The answer was fitness.
At the time I became newly single, I was an employee at the YMCA and their core values and mission helped me through college, and the insecurities and struggles associated with being a teen mom. Although I was no longer an employee of the YMCA, I knew the value in developing a healthy spirit, mind and body and importance of consistency. In order to fill the missing piece my kids had in their lives, we needed everything the YMCA offered.
Everyday, when I get up and walk into each of my kid’s rooms to wake them up, I remind myself that if I am not strong for them, no one else will be. I use the undertakings I was up against to entice because I refuse to be defeated and allow my kids to be burdened by my losses. Instead, I show them that no matter what, we can be empowered and empower others with our compassion and all around strength.
“LEAP OUT OF YOUR STRUGGLE, OVERCOME YOUR OBSTACLE AND FIND YOUR MOTIVATION.”
By continuing my fitness journey and setting realistic goals as a competitor, I model tenacity and courage. Fitness is about so much more than winning a trophy or showing off the hard work I put in at the gym. It is what gets me out of bed in the morning, feeds my mind, spirit and body throughout the day, and pushes me to conquer the challenges I must overcome each and every day. I continue to thrive and push myself to exhibit the three indicators of success on and off the stage, in and out of the fitness facility.
My diet and nutrition supplement my impulse control, my insecurities are addressed on stage and off stage as I control and manipulate my physique, and my superiority complex is enhanced as I gain confidence and feedback from judges, friends and followers who admire my dedication to the sport. As part of this amazing, supportive group of fitness enthusiasts, I am confident and happier than ever to say that I look at myself and my kids and see pride and beauty.
Fitness has absolutely saved my life and in turn, it has saved my kids as well. There is so much that can change in a year, a month, a minute, even just a second. But, no one, nothing, can take away education and experiences! All of your experiences: failures, successes and reflection on those can lead you to greatness.
As humans, we can survive heartbreak, poverty, lack of proper health and nutrition, emotional instability, loss of loved one’s, incarceration, pain and lack of faith. But no one, absolutely no one, can take away what you learned from those life experiences! If you have an obstacle, an idea, a trouble, a problem and it feels like something is holding you back on your path, make that the catalyst that drives your success.
Whether you’re a mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin, grandma, grandpa or even a neighbor, you are a hero! Your learning experiences are what really make you who you are, so persevere, overcome, seize every opportunity you have to grow, be your own hero, be the role model you always wished you had, and be a teacher!
Competing was a leap in the direction of teaching and learning that I needed to be able to save myself and become the hero my kids needed. No matter what you’re facing, you too can help others learn because we ALL have something unique to offer! I hope if nothing else, my rollercoaster journey will inspire you to leap out of your struggle, overcome your obstacle and find your motivation.
Please feel free to reach out to me for support, motivation or to continue to inspire me with your journey.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2015 Issue – Click here to order this issue or a monthly subscription