Isha Barrow - IFBB Bikini Pro

Competing was something I always knew I wanted to do (and likely would). I discovered bodybuilding when I was 8, and was completely intrigued by the beauty, strength, and capabilities of the human body when taken to its optimal capacity. At the time there was no Figure, and certainly Bikini wasn’t a division. I began prepping myself for my first show in December 2012, and competed June of 2013. I won my height class, and from there I knew my goal was to become an IFBB Pro! I took all of 2014 off to hone my skills and develop a competitive physique—returning to the stage in 2015, and earning my first overall.

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I have never counted calories or macros. I have always been a bit of a ‘health nut’ growing up. In fact, I competed using a plant-based diet for the first 3 years of competing. I never say, ‘I’m a vegan’ , or ‘I’m a vegetarian’. I am not a diet...I am woman who enjoys practicing various diets at different points in my life. I enjoy experimenting and playing with what works and what doesn’t. I’m flexible in the sense that what works one year or for one prep may not work for another. My absolute favorite meal(s) for prep are delicious salads. As of 2016, I began implementing animal-based protein into my diet. So a beautiful mixed-spring greens salad with fresh (and or dried fruit), water-based vegetables, a protein (usually chicken breast or salmon) is my go-to! My diet remains consistent throughout the year. As I inch closer to the stage, I may remove cheese from my diet or use less dressing, but I keep it pretty clean 365 days a year—allowing myself to enjoy deep dish pizza and a good burger here and there! Health is my priority above all else. Bodybuilding is my lifestyle, not a fad.

As I mentioned prior, I don’t count calories or macros—therefore I don’t practice one particular diet at anytime. I listen carefully to my body from day-to-day, and sometimes from hour-to-hour. I give my body what it needs. One day, my diet may look more keto-based, and another it may look like a typical carb-cycling diet. No diet is perfect—that’s why I find it’s important to listen to and understand my body. Being deeply in tune with my body gives me a great competitive edge I feel. I rarely feel like I’m on a ‘competitive or prep diet’. Again, it all goes back to living a healthy and sustainable lifestyle that goes far beyond my time on the stage. Health has and will always be top priority.

It’s a lifestyle. My training and cardio regimen changes from prep to prep. I do not avoid cardio. In fact, I love it! I love every element of living a balanced healthy lifestyle, which makes me a well-rounded competitor. Lifting is my bone and muscle ‘medicine’. Cardio is my heart, circulatory, and lung ‘medicine’, yoga and meditation are my joint, tendons, and mental-health ‘medicine’. This doesn’t mean I’m always healthy—always perfect, but what it does mean is that I’m capable of finding my equilibrium whether I’m in prep or not. It’s important to me not to avoid any aspect of fitness. My lifestyle doesn’t fit into bodybuilding, but bodybuilding fits into my lifestyle.

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On stage
I was meant to do this. I never have to diet too hard or lift crazy amounts. I have a natural knack for dance, so that has made a huge impact on how I pose and present my physique. The confidence isn’t a question—it’s more about overcoming self-doubt and doing what I love, even when my confidence may not be there. When I’m on stage—my alter-ego takes over, and no one would ever know I was a nervous wreck just moments before. When my foot hits the stage—it’s SHOWTIME!

My 2017 IFBB Pro debut was marked with self-doubt the morning of. I questioned was I ready to be a Pro. How would the judges receive me? Would I be lost in a sea of experienced pros? In the line-up I came directly after Narmin Assria—one of the IFBBs best and most well known bikini pros. She was the favorite to win going into the show. I knew I had no choice but to ‘turn-on’ and turn it up! I didn’t want to look foolish. That was one of the best, pressure-filled feelings. I rose to the occasion. My alter-ego showed up and showed-out! I took 4th, beating out many established pros. I didn’t take home first, but I felt like a winner! I conquered my fears and self-doubt. It still remains one of my greatest experiences and achievements in my bodybuilding career.

Being a Pro competitor is a huge part of my life. I make no attempt to separate them. I enjoy what I do. I absolutely love it. I think it’s because I’ve always been in the gym—always a competitive athlete throughout high school and college that transferring many of those same skills to the stage was a seamless transition. Don’t get me wrong—it’s not always easy to be a competitor, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

2018 will mark my second year as a Pro, and my 5th year on the stage. I hope to compete in 6-8 Shows this year. I’m crossing fingers for Olympia qualification, but nothing is guaranteed. All I can do is give my absolute best, and leave the rest up to God and the judges. This year I’m expanding my posing business. I’ll be sponsoring several athletes throughout the year. I’m excited to share my knowledge with those who seek it out. I’ve been approached by many for prep-coaching. In the past I’ve turned down these opportunities, but this year I’m looking to begin training first-time competitors who are ready to live a healthy lifestyle, while taking on the rewarding challenge of the stage. To say I’m thrilled with the potential of 2018 is an understatement! I can’t wait to see the year, my journey, and my story unfold!

IG: Isha.meshed

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