VISTA — The gym has always been her sanctuary.
The weight room acted as a therapy office where 43-year-old Vista resident Jill Braxmeyer could set aside the day’s challenges.
In addition, it also provided an outlet for her to overcome battles with depression and a shy personality.
Initially, though, Braxmeyer wanted to gain weight as a junior in high school — when she weighed just 97 pounds. She was able to reach 117 pounds, which helped with her depression and back pain she sustained as a teenager.
“Over the years people tried to get me to do a show and I was scared,” Braxmeyer said. “The depression was kind of holding me back. I started getting some health issues such as digestive and immune system.”
However, after the death of her father in March, the married mother of twin 18-year-olds found the courage to take to the stage in a bodybuilding competition. It was the first time, even after friend Jim “Smitty” Smith prodded her to do so. Braxmeyer finally joined Smith’s Team Waya.
All she did was win her age group and the overall competition at the California State Championship presented by Muscle Mania in October.
“Did they make a mistake?” Braxmeyer laughed as she recalled the announcement as the overall winner. “I kept letting fear hold me back in all areas of my life. I just pushed myself, and my dad would have loved that. ”
Her first journey on to the stage ended in victory, even as Braxmeyer still suffers from two bulging discs in her back. But her workout acts as a sort of physical therapy. Now, she’s hoping that a recent platelet rich plasma injection into her back will help fix the discs.
Although she battles back problems, Braxmeyer, on the heels of her win, was awarded her pro card. She competed in Las Vegas for a national competition against seasoned professionals, but didn’t make the podium.
Regardless, she said she’d wait until next fall to take the stage again so she can heal and get her body prepared for the show.
“It was pretty intense,” Braxmeyer said. “It was only my second show, so I was still a little nervous.”
In the meantime, the housewife-turned-bodybuilder is beginning a new chapter.
Braxmeyer has a sensitive diet, as she has also battled immune issues throughout her life. Her diet is mostly of the paleo variety, which features lean proteins, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats from nuts and meat.
She is aiming to develop a healthy protein bar catered to people who battle the same immune issues she does.
“I changed my diet,” she explained. “I don’t eat grains, dairy, sugar and I generally don’t drink. It’s like an auto-immune paleo (diet) and (it) really boosted my immune system.”
And while she is in the first stages of starting a small business, Braxmeyer and her husband Jimmy are busy with preparing to send their boys, James and Bryce, off to college.
Steve Puterski covers Carlsbad and Vista. For tips or story ideas, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @StevePuterski.