Alexandra Stevens is not an ‘old lady’, though she may catch you off guard by jokingly referring to herself that way. One day far into the future she may eventually determine the time has come to officially enter ‘old age’; when that happens, you can bet she will redefine the image the term conjures up. The tall, toned and muscular 51-year old carries herself with an elegant, gracious confidence that draws from a core of inner strength she always knew she had, somewhere deep within. It just took a long, arduously winding journey to find it.
Born in Germany, Alexandra moved with her family to the United States at the age of eight. Growing up, she was always active, though perhaps not in a specifically sporting way. “My mom didn’t drive,” Alexandra says, “so I walked, rode the bus and rode my bike. Everywhere.”
Alexandra had an early role model in her mother, whom she describes as strong and tough. What she didn’t necessarily have in abundance was encouragement to participate in sports. When Alexandra did venture into trying out organized sport, it was somewhat by default. “I had a violin teacher who told me I was so tone deaf I would never be a violinist,” she recalls. “Luckily I had a science teacher who was also the track coach, and more positive. He suggested I try track. On the back end of hurtful feedback from my violin teacher, that meant a lot, so I tried.”
Though she earned top grades and enjoyed school, Alexandra was more accustomed to setbacks than success. A natural runner, she performed well at distance events. Her greatest obstacle was fear…of winning. “I self-sabotaged,” she says. “The one race I was winning, I felt panic that I must be doing something wrong. I vividly remember the moment I pretended to trip and hurt my ankle.”
Alexandra’s time on the track team was short-lived. At the end of her freshman year, she became pregnant and dropped out of school. Within the next five years, she had three children. She and her then boyfriend moved to Florida, and Alexandra started to build awareness of herself as a naturally active, physical person. “I picked up a book called “Pumping Iron” with a woman on the cover, and I thought ‘that’s so cool’,” she shares. “I’d always seen myself as a big, amazon kind of woman. She was in a relationship in which she found herself often intimidated and underminded. Seeing the book, I realized, I can take control of my own body; that was an empowering feeling.”
Alexandra purchased a set of used weights at a local thrift store and began working out in her basement. She found a gym close to home. “I was amazed at how quickly my body began building muscle,” she says. A trainer at the gym encouraged her and offered pointers, and Alexandra was inspired to enter a bodybuilding competition. Unfortunately, her partner was not so inspired. “He decided women with muscles wasn’t his thing,” she recounts. “He went so far as to move our family out of Florida, hoping to get me out of the sport.”
Alexandra agreed to move, but she didn’t stay in the relationship for much longer. Life is full of bumps, loops and turns, and Alexandra’s life took on a whole bunch of them before she would eventually get back into bodybuilding. She broke off her relationship with her children’s father, completed her GED, and earned her license in massage therapy. She also paid child support. “I had to work. A lot,” Alexandra says. “Usually until 2 am. I did massage in the day and was a bartender at night. There was no time. But it was the right thing to do for me and my children.”
Over the next few years, Alexandra began a new relationship, got married, and had two more children. While she credits her ex-husband with being understanding of her situation, the relationship ultimately didn’t work out, and they couple divorced in 2001. For some time, Alexandra was sole caregiver to her two young children. She was stretched to her absolute max, finding work as a seamstress and other odd jobs. And here, in the wake of turmoil and exhaustion, like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes she began to discover the true breadth of her inner strength. “I began to form my own identity,” Alexandra says. “I thought, ‘let’s get something good out of this’. I never took advantage of the welfare system, but I found resources in Boulder that gave us a leg up.”
She may have been short on time, but never in determination and resourcefulness. She learned how to salsa dance. She gave her utmost focus to her kids and their needs. And in 2005, she met Gil, a martial arts champion who happened to hold a formidable deadlifting record and who has now been her loving partner for the past twelve years. Inspired by Gil, Alexandra decided to take a stab at martial arts herself, and was offered a scholarship for both herself and her kids at a local studio. Before long, her diligent efforts yielded black belts in Muay Thai and Taekwondo, and she became an instructor. “It was a really tough program, the best thing I could have ever done for myself, and for my family,” Alexandra says. Eventually, her kids needed more time for schoolwork, and the family exited the rigorous program; but Alexandra maintains warm gratitude for the leadership, strength and focus the experience continues to provide.
In 2014, Alexandra and Gil settled in North Longmont, where she was able to throw herself into the pleasures of gardening. “It was so great getting back to good, strenuous work” she says. “Getting sweaty. I had missed that.” Seeing the spark ignited by physical activity, Gil encouraged Alexandra to take up bodybuilding again. “My first thought was a reflexive wave of panic,” she says. “I had had a relationship fail on the surface because of bodybuilding. But Gil found a trainer for me, one who was a perfect fit. Scientific, compassionate, no-nonsense, and she put my needs first. It was amazing!”
Re-entering the world of bodybuilding combined all of Alexandra’s experience, skills and fortitude together into one marvelous showcase. She brought her affinity for entertaining as a bartender, the grace, rhythm and poise of a dancer, and her physical strength and passion to the table. She has given her all to the sport, and it has welcomed her in return. This past summer, Alexandra competed in her first competition, the Loveland Natural Bodybuilding Championship, where she earned first place in women’s physique over 40, and 2nd place in women’s physical open/all ages. “I had no game face,” Alexandra says. ” I had such a sense of pride, was so excited. All my life I had people telling me no, I couldn’t do something. I couldn’t play violin, couldn’t finish school, couldn’t be a good mother, couldn’t do bodybuilding. It hit me as I watched the competitors, I had friends and family out there in the crowd supporting and encouraging me me. I had my boyfriend pushing me out of my comfort zone to get there, believing I could do it. And that belief complemented my own very quiet voice that I knew was there all along.”
Thank you for sharing, Alexandra! We believe in you, too.
LWL: Congratulations on your successful first competition! What’s next?
Alexandra: Next April, I’ll be competing in the Natural Southern States Classic. I got feedback from the judges at the last event regarding what I need to work on, and I’m looking forward to focusing on improvement in those areas.
LWL: You clearly thrive on being active. What are some other active activities you enjoy in addition to gardening, outside of the gym?
Alexandra: I love rollerblading, dancing, gardening, hiking. I realize I most enjoy things I can do by myself. I like not having to rely on others.
LWL: You’ve alluded to how intense bodybuilding is as a lifestyle. Would you elaborate a little?
Alexandra: It’s so much more than lifting the weights. The biggest thing is the nutrition. I’d say 20% is showing up at the gym, 80% nutrition. And it’s not a sport for camaraderie. You can actually push people away, with all your time spent shopping for food, cooking it, weighing it, portioning it. Close to competition, things really ramp up; nutrition changes drastically, you have to work on an ultra-dark tan, you practice posing choreographed routines. Your support network is really important, and I feel so fortunate to have on who truly believes in me and accepts all that.
LWL: What does your fitness routine look like generally?
Alexandra: It changes depending on competition, and in the off season, but generally I work out in the gym for an intense hour first thing in the morning five to six days a week, adding in an hour of cardio seven days a week at night a few months out from competition.
LWL: Any tips for others who might want to try something rigorous and new, or getting back into something after quite a gap?
Alexandra: Trust the process. Just stick with it. Nothing is overnight, you have to give it time. And challenge yourself, always. Put yourself in an environment that will make you a little bit uncomfortable.
LWL: Where is your favorite outdoor place to be active?
Alexandra: I love running the back roads, the peace and quiet there. I love the loop at Rabbit Mountain. But, my back yard is the best!
LWL: What do you treasure most about Longmont?
Alexandra: I love that it has an outlook of keeping things accessible and natural–parks, trails, dog parks. It’s a nice place to live. We have access to everything we want to do.