"FIT FEATURES" - By Denver Fitness Photographer MikeCon Photography

The time has come for me to take it upon myself to feature all of my clients.  Most times they've been accepted by magazines for stories and features, however the magazines have put them on the back burner and archived their stories and images.  As much as I appreciate the magazines for accepting the images, I still can't sit around waiting for over a year, or longer for them to feature my people.  One of them even went into the written clause on the release form of, "We never guaranteed a cover and story.", after being told that it was accepted and to be used that year (2016), frustrated me to see those words come out.  

Yes, as much as I preach to my clients and potential clients, "There is no guarantee to be published in ANY magazines, and to those who promise you that either own the magazine, or they are going to get you recognized (not really published) in an online magazine that NOBODY has really heard of, or cares about.  To some this may come off as arrogant, or egotistical, however it's not, and it comes from a place of love for my people and for them getting their hopes up and having them shot down with lip service.  That's not how I operate, and now....I'm going to give them a spotlight.  It's a tough pill to swallow, however there's no difference between here and an online magazine, (seriously)...the biggest difference is that I run this show and can do it my way...so...now I'm going to give my first feature to one of my favorite Fit Mom's... Mandy Stevenson.

Mandy Stevenson image by Denver Fitness Photographer:  MikeCon Photography

Mandy Stevenson image by Denver Fitness Photographer:  MikeCon Photography

Mandy and I did our photo shoot in June of 2017.  She's one of the nicest people that I've EVER met and I consider her a very good friend.  Here's her story below:

Name: Mandy Stevenson

City: Sedalia

State/province: Colorado

Main occupation (ONE only please): Labor & Delivery Registered Nurse (& Mom)

Height: 5’ 8”

Birthday and sign: May 5, Taurus

Q:  Describe your life before you started training.

A:  I have always been an athlete.  I was a competitive swimmer and dancer growing up, I was a cheerleader in high school, and continued competitively swimming into my adult life until a shoulder injury.  Then I took up running, having run 4 marathons, dozens of half marathons and 10K’s.  I decided I wanted to be a bikini athlete, found a great coach and changed my routine to lifting weights more than running to be stage ready.  Now I have a balance of both weights and cardio in my life.

Q:  How different do you feel now compared to then?

A:  Now that I have balanced my workout regimen to include weight training, cardio, and a clean diet, I feel like a million bucks.  I have a ton of energy to keep up with my kids, and I feel like I can tackle nearly any challenge without having to spend months to prepare.

Q:  Was there is pivotal moment that motivated you to start training?  If so, what was it?

A:  I have a friend who had asked me to train with her for a bikini competition, but I soon found out I was pregnant with my third child, so I had to hold off and cheer for her from the sidelines.  After I had my baby, I really wanted to follow her footsteps and train for a competition.  The bonus was I had motivation to lose the final baby weight I had gained.

Mandy Stevenson image by Denver Fitness Photographer:  MikeCon Photography

Mandy Stevenson image by Denver Fitness Photographer:  MikeCon Photography

Q:  Do you remember your first training session?  How different is your training today?

A:  My first training session was intimidating.  I didn’t want to be “that girl” who was not in prime shape, but I knew I had a ways to go to be stage ready.  I pushed myself so hard on my first legs training day, it was hard to walk the rest of the week!  I still train by separating my muscle groups into different days, and I tailor my cardio sessions to fit in with my day rather than forming my day around my cardio sessions.  I have a lot of flexibility in my workouts now, and I really try to listen to my body.  I lost 20 pounds, 23.25 inches all around, and 15% body fat. Those results, and bringing home a trophy, was all it took for me to know that I had changed my life forever.

Q:  What has been the most rewarding aspect of training for you?  Why?

A:  The most rewarding aspect of training has been seeing how far I can push myself to reach a goal or change my body. I love being strong, and I love a challenge.  It’s great to feel good about the skin you’re in.

Q:  What has continued to motivate you throughout your training?  Why?

A:  The energy I have from staying active is a huge motivation to keep going.  I have 3 very busy and active kids, so being able to keep up with them is priceless.  Feeling good and staying healthy-you just can’t put a price on that.  I want this body to keep going for a very long time.

Q:  What are your qualifications - why did you set out to achieve these?

A:  I am not a fitness pro, motivational speaker, or national qualifier.  I am an athlete, a wife, a mom, and a nurse.  My fitness journey has helped me be better at all these things by making me both mentally and physically stronger than I was even 5 years ago.


Mandy Stevenson image by Denver Fitness Photographer:  MikeCon Photography

Mandy Stevenson image by Denver Fitness Photographer:  MikeCon Photography

Q:  What have you had to overcome to get to where you are today? Did that change you in any way?  If so, describe how.

A:  I have made a lot of sacrifices, and I have had to learn several lessons more than just once.  Eating clean when you are constantly on the go can be a challenge.  I learned the value of food prep and planning ahead. I know that if I am going to be eating out, I plan my day around that so I don’t go totally overboard and jeopardize my goals.  I have also learned the incredibly valuable lesson of giving yourself grace. You can’t be perfect 100% of the time, and you need to be okay with that.  Allowing myself grace has helped me find balance with my training and diet that fits my lifestyle.  

Q:  What is the number one lesson you have learned about health and fitness through your training? 

A:  It’s okay to not be perfect in your diet and training all the time, but this is the only body you’re ever going to have and you better take care of it! Going to the gym is not the hard part of training, it’s staying consistent in your diet.

Q:  What do you wish you had known when you were 16?

A:  I wish I would have learned better eating habits when I was younger.  I was certain my metabolism was always going to be amazing. I’d go back to my younger self now force it into her head that balanced, clean eating is a lifelong skill-best learned at a young age.

Q:  Describe how training makes you feel.

A:  Without question, I am an endorphin junkie.  Always have been. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the way working out makes me feel.  I have never walked away from a workout thinking “that was a waste of my time.”

Q:  Do you have a quote that you live by?  If so, why this one?

A:  There are 3 that I say to myself more than once a day... 1). “Nothing is impossible.  The word itself says, I’m Possible.” 2). “Let your smile change the world, but don’t let the world change your smile.”  3). “It’s okay to not be okay...just don’t stay there.” These all have special deep rooted meanings to me...ultimately, they all challenge me to be a better person.

Q:  What was your reason for taking health and fitness to the level you have?  Why is it so important to you?

A:  I have a handsome husband and a beautiful family.  I want to be the best version of me that I can be for them.  I want to be healthy, live a long and happy life, and I want to feel incredible about the skin I am in.  A fit lifestyle does that for me, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Q:  What advice would you give to women wanting to get into the best shape of their life?

A:  You can do it, and you won’t regret it!  It IS possible to have a family, have a career, to be a busy person, and still fit this into your life.  Make time for yourself and make yourself a priority...You are worth it!!

Q:  What is the most important thing women need to remember when training?  Why?

A:  It takes time to see change. Stay consistent.  It takes 4 weeks for you to see change in yourself, it takes 8 weeks for friends and family to see the change, and it takes 12 weeks for everyone else to see the change.

Q:  We all have days where motivation is low – how do you overcome these? Have you always been able to do this?

A:  On low motivation days the hardest part is usually getting to the gym.  Get dressed, get yourself out the door, and have a plan.  Once you’re there, it’s easy to put in your headphones and get to work.  Having a preset plan for your workout and diet helps you get through the tough days.  Flavored water also helps me get through hard days when drinking enough can be a challenge.

Q:  Do you enjoy training alone or with a partner?  Why?

A:  I much prefer to train by myself.  My family teases me that I go to the gym to be social, but the truth is, if I train alone I stay focused and get my workout done better and quicker than when I am with a partner.

Q:  What would you like to see change in the health and fitness industry?

A:  The ill-perceived notion that it is too hard to get started in your fitness journey, or that it is too late to get started.  There is a lot of information out there on how to workout to be healthy, and it doesn’t have to come with the price tag of a trainer.  Educate yourself, find an activity you like, drink more water, and eat clean 80% of the time.  Your future self will thank you for starting now.  It doesn’t have to be hard or scary-one step at a time.  Find the resources and use them.

Q:  What would a perfect Sunday involve for you?

A:  My perfect Sunday would be going to church in the morning with my family, family lunch date after church, then home to meal prep and spend time together before the new week starts.  Currently it is close to that, with the exception that I work Sunday nights.

Q:  Contest history - do you have a highlight?  Why?

A:  I have competed in 2 bikini shows.  My highlight was the first show, first of all, because it was my first show, and there is something very special about that, and then second, I brought home a trophy for 5th place-a wonderful validation for the hard-work I put in to my prep.

Q:  What's your diet?

A:  Breakfast-Greek yogurt, raspberries and blueberries, coffee and protein powder. Morning snack-handful of almonds (approx 30 grams). Lunch-baby spinach with 1 hard boiled egg and 2 hard boiled egg whites, cherry tomatoes and 1/3 oz salad dressing, protein shake. Afternoon snack-protein bar.  Dinner-chicken breast or white fish, steamed broccoli florets or asparagus, ½ cup brown rice.  After dinner snack-a piece of dark chocolate.

Mandy Stevenson image by Denver Fitness Photographer:  MikeCon Photography

Mandy Stevenson image by Denver Fitness Photographer:  MikeCon Photography

Q:  What's your outline for a typical day’s meals?

Workout week

Monday:  Legs day, 20 min cardio, abs

Tuesday: HIIT class

Wednesday: Shoulders & biceps, 20 min cardio

Thursday: HIIT class

Friday: Back & triceps, 20-30 min cardio

Saturday: 45 min cardio, abs

Sunday: Rest Day



Describe yourself in three words. Happy, Simple, Stubborn

What is your favorite food to indulge on?  Chocolate and peanut butter! (I LOVE sweets)  How often do you treat yourself?  At least a couple of times a week I will have a small spoonful of peanut butter with some semi-sweet chocolate chips. That seems to help balance my sweet-tooth without me over-indulging in treats.  I stick to the 80/20 clean eating rule pretty consistently.

What is your favorite non-cheat food? Zucchini noodles (Zoodles) and shrimp! I’ll add a touch of cocktail sauce to spice it up. Super easy to prep and tasty.

What is your favorite home-cooked meal?  Who cooks it?  I adore baking and breakfast foods...I have a recipe for an amazing, fairly healthy low carb German pancake that my family adores. I also make self-proclaimed amazing Swedish pancakes with coconut syrup.

What are the staples in your fridge?  Liquid egg whites, fresh berries, broccoli florets, Greek yogurt, snow peas, and baby carrots.

What is your favorite body part to train?  Why?  I love training my shoulders.  I had 2 shoulder surgeries in my early twenties and it took a very long time to rehab them.  I am so proud of how I have gotten my strength equal in them and how strong they look.  Fun fact-I have an cadaver achilles tendon in my shoulder as well as some pins and screws.

Mandy Stevenson image by Denver Fitness Photographer:  MikeCon Photography

Mandy Stevenson image by Denver Fitness Photographer:  MikeCon Photography

What is your least favorite body part to train?  Why?  Arms-both biceps and triceps.  I am strong in them, but it is so hard for me to develop good definition.  It’s frustrating to put in the work and not see the results the way that I do with other body parts.  I don’t let it stop me, but it is the hardest body part for me to train.

Do you prefer to train outdoors or indoors?  Why?  That all depends on what I am doing.  Nothing can beat a good trail run or the mini incline in Castle Rock, or the Manitou Springs stairs climb.  Weight training for me is best done inside, and I love the gym that I train at.

Describe the atmosphere in your favorite place to train – what can you see/feel/hear etc.?  I love my gym-the energy from the people training there, the cool air that is pumped through the vents, the music that they play (even though I always listen to my own playlist).  When you get into a routine, you start to see the same people there day to day and so it becomes a social thing as well.

Do you prefer cardio or weights? Why?  5 years ago, my answer would have been running-I was still running races and pushing a baby jogger. I loved that season of my life.  I got addicted to the thrill of weight training and being strong.  Now I prefer weights to cardio any day.

Mandy Stevenson image by Denver Fitness Photographer:  MikeCon Photography

Mandy Stevenson image by Denver Fitness Photographer:  MikeCon Photography

Do you have a favorite book?  Why this one?  Usually whatever book I am currently reading is my favorite book.  If I had to pick an all-time favorite, it would either be Tess of the D’urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, or The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.

What is your favorite feature?  Why?  My favorite features are my shoulders and back.  Having been a swimmer growing up, I developed broad shoulders.  And at my height, it is a trait that I can carry well.  

Name five (5) things you can't live without.  1). My Bible, 2). My family, 3). My phone, 4). My mascara, 5). My sarcastic sense of humor!!  ;)

Name three (3) things most people don’t know about you.  1). I really like old muscle cars (I own a ’66 mustang), 2). I hate scary movies, 3). It’s very hard for me to sit still and do nothing.

What is on your bedside table?  A clock, a glass of water, Chapstick, hand cream, my glasses, a book and/or my kindle.

What is your best beauty secret?  Wash your face every night, and wear sunscreen.

Who inspires you?  Why?  My family (husband and kids) inspire me to be a better person every single day-from staying active with them, to be a better cook (not that I am bad), to be a more patient mom, a more loving wife, to fully love harder and deeper every day.

Who is your fitness and body role model?  Why?  For someone I know, a role model is Jessica Kidd.  She is amazing-strong, beautiful, and passionate.  It’s a joy to watch her take on challenges and crush them.  For someone that I don’t know-I follow Emily Skye on Instagram and Snapchat.  She’s a new mom and is crushing life both in the fitness realm as well as motherhood. I love listening to her because she is Australian-the accent is awesome.  She is all about living a healthy balance-good whole food choices and being active.  Not to mention how gorgeous she is.

What do you have in store for the future? What do you want to improve on?  For now I am trying to crush life in motherhood...My kids keep me so busy with their sports and activities-and I love every second of it.  I make sure I keep my gym routine because that is important to me.  I do have plans to compete again.  I am not sure if it will be bikini again or if I would like to compete as a figure athlete.  My goal is to hit the stage within the next 36-42 months.

Any final thoughts?  I'm currently preparing for:  Life.  Every day. Seriously...it’s not so much of prepping for something right now, it is maintaining where I am, or even working on some features to tighten up a little.  If I maintain now, when I do start prepping for my next show, I won’t feel like I am starting from ground zero.  Daily grind.  I love my daily grind!  These days my focus is for a different reason.  I am not currently training for competitions, but instead training to be the best and healthiest version of me.  Not just for me, but for my husband and for my kids, to be the best for them, also.  Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is crucial to me. It helps me feel strong and confident, gives me energy and keeps me focused, and allows me to be the role model that I want to be for my kids.  I have never felt better or stronger than I do now, and this is just the beginning

Mandy Stevenson image by Denver Fitness Photographer:  MikeCon Photography

Mandy Stevenson image by Denver Fitness Photographer:  MikeCon Photography