Editor’s Note: The following article is written by a Skinny Mom Resident Mom. The Resident Mom program gives a voice to our readers, allowing real moms across the world to contribute content to Skinny Mom. If you’re interested in becoming a Resident Mom, click here to apply.

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Shortly after the birth of my first child in 2008, I saw a fitness magazine with Nicole Wilkins, a well-known model, on the cover. There was something about that photo that stuck with me and sparked my desire to get in great shape and one day participate in fitness competitions. For a variety of reasons, including a second baby the following year, I kept my desire a secret and just went along quietly with steady workouts and a somewhat healthy eating routine.

It took several years of stops and starts before I really committed to doing what it takes to compete. Part of it was probably due to lack of confidence in being able to get in proper shape after having two kids almost back-to-back and juggling a full time job that required a decent amount of travel. I sure had a lot of excuses.

For almost seven years the desire to compete in a bodybuilding contest in the bikini division was in the back of my mind. I had several starts and stops with getting fully on track and having the right discipline to pull it off. In May of 2014, my dream became a reality when I stepped on stage to compete in my first show at the age of 42.

resident mom Liz bikini competition

Looking back, here is some advice that I wish I would have known.

Set realistic goals. While I worked out regularly and ate clean most of the time, I knew that I would need at least 6-8 months to prepare for this particular type of contest. I mapped out a plan with my trainer and together we worked toward the show date. In order to fully succeed, you need to allow yourself ample time to reach your goals so that you’re not putting yourself under too much strain, both mentally and physically.

>>Read more: Pump Up Your Mental Strength to Finally Achieve Your Goals

Share your vision with key people in your life. As scary as it may sound, share your goals with key folks in your life that will be supportive. You should also know that not everyone is going to understand your decision. I had one family member actually get upset at the thought of me competing in this type of show – but that’s an entirely different article.

Assemble the right support network. For this contest, I needed help with training, nutrition and posing. I was fortunate enough to already have found a great trainer. I know full well that having a trainer is a luxury not all can afford to do. If you can’t afford a trainer, there are several great sites like Skinny Mom that can help with workout plans. As far as nutrition, I did hire a coach to help me with my macros. Again, if you can’t hire a nutrition coach, IIFWYM.com is an awesome resource. Regarding posing, I learned all I could from Youtube and practiced on my own.

Acknowledge that there will be setbacks. I did well with my training but the eating portion was really tough. I found that, despite my best planning, I was still struggling with certain foods. About two weeks out from the show, when it’s most critical to stay on track, I was out for dinner with my kids and ate a large order of French fries. At first, I beat myself up but, in hindsight, it was fine. Do your best and just know there will be some really challenging moments. Use those moments as lessons for next time.

Reward yourself for reaching your goal. Since training for this contest required very disciplined eating 12 weeks out from the show, I was having some intense cravings – pizza in particular. As a reward for staying on track with the eating plan as best as possible, I set up a pizza party with friends and family after the show as a celebration. It was well worth it.

Find your motivation. I’m not a sports analogy person at all but the following [Wayne Gretzky] quote pushed me forward when I almost talked myself out of competing. “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” As I approach my 44th birthday this fall, I want to make sure that I don’t look back and regret not competing. Self doubt and fear have crossed my mind a few times. I may be the oldest woman out there but honestly I don’t care. I’m going to have fun and continue achieving the goals I set for myself.

When I was in college and considered taking a leap of faith with regard to accepting my first job, someone asked me, “When you are old and sitting in your rocking chair reflecting on the life you lived, would you rather regret the things you did or didn’t do?” I’m moving ahead with no regrets and I hope you do, too.