Mental strength gets you through

Vanessa Calafiore has the mental strength of a warrior.

It was early in March this year when the Baptcare Moonee Ponds receptionist was watching athletes perform in the Arnold Classic competition, when she realised her calling.

20 weeks later, Vanessa had conquered her body, her fears and her goals. She was the one to walk up on stage.

It wasn’t just 20 weeks of simple weights and exercise either. Vanessa’s dedication since that day, consisted of going to incredible lengths to prepare her body for this moment.

It called for two-hour sessions of cardio and one-hour sessions of weight training per day. It called for a highly nutritional and clean diet.

Born without both hands and feet, Vanessa’s struggle to do the things she loved was real enough, forcing her to be realistic and understand the limitations of her body.

The 28-year-old was guided by her mentor and coach at Doherty’s Gym, a gym dedicated to bodybuilding, which she joined in February to simply “get fit”. Her training was extremely regimented and systematic, causing Vanessa to be unhappy with her cardio sessions for a small period.

“I became resentful of the cardio sessions towards the end of the prep,” she said. “But I never missed a session, or slacked off on my diet. I trained hard right up until the competition,” Vanessa added.

When she realised that she needed new prosthetic limbs – costing approximately $7000 each – to be able to even get up on stage, that warrior mentality came into play. No matter what, Vanessa was going to get herself up there to be able to compete.Upon setting up a GoFundMe page, Vanessa raised almost $10,000, which in accompaniment to a very generous donation from a private benefactor, enabled her to purchase the prosthetics and reach her goal.

“That moment where I looked out into the crowd is the proudest I have been.”

Vanessa works for the Administration department of Baptcare’s Moonee Ponds Office, and could not praise her manager and co-workers high enough for their support and interest taken in her journey.

“My manager was incredible. She was there for me when I was in chronic pain before I began my training, and stood by me when the pain got worse because I had started training, helping me in any way she could,” she noted.

Her aim now is higher. Vanessa will compete in the Arnold Classic in March 2018, giving herself just a 15-week preparation time as she looks forward to her well-earned break for the next seven weeks.

“The year goes so quickly when you map out your weeks of training,” she says as she laughs.

Vanessa is also looking forward the opportunity to help people in similar situations as her, encouraging them to persevere through those mental hurdles because it is well worth it in the end.

Motivational speaking is her go-to option to be able to help, which would be well worth listening to regardless of your situation. Vanessa’s drive and passion for what she does is second-to-none. Her words really encapsulate her journey as she endeavours to be someone that people can turn to.

“I have a perceived limitation and if I can do it, anyone can,” she concludes.

Vanessa’s incredible story was also recently featured on Seven News and the Herald Sun.