Have you ever met someone who left an impression on you that remained for years to come? I can’t even say exactly how old I was at the time, perhaps 10 maybe 11 yrs young, which would have made Sylvia Ray 14 or 15 years young. She was close friends with one of my cousins. At the time it seemed like a huge age difference in terms of maturity. She was the teenage goddess, statuesque, beautiful, stylish and confident. Her demeanor was always polite and welcoming. I am not sure what lit the room more, her smile or her eyes. And me? I was like the little girl who wanted to grow up to be just like her big sister.
Fast forward 36 years later and I am still like the little girl who wants to be like her, ‘big sister.’ The years appeared to have robbed her of nothing, but has given her what every person desires—passion, purpose, and a strong will to succeed despite the odds.
Today, this mother of two daughters ages 27 and 19, owns her own educational consulting company named, S.W.A.T.ed (students with academic training), where she assist students in getting accepted into the best universities and colleges in the United States. In addition, her company provides professional athletes, who have entered into pro sports prior to finishing college, the opportunity to obtain their four year degree through virtual learning.
But, when Sylvia Ray is not making college dreams come true, the 5'9 beauty is pounding the gym floor 5-6 days a week turning HER dreams into a reality of becoming a professional bodybuilder. She started off training on her own, but in 2015 when she was ready to take it to the next level she reached out to local trainer and IFBB Pro in the figure division, Rhonda Jones. Rhonda taught her the science of food and how to use it to her advantage as well as how to intensify her workouts.
I asked Rhonda to describe Sylvia in one word, and the word she choose was…ambitious. A word very fitting, because on March 5, 2016 Sylvia Ray joined women from as far away as Italy, Australia, Venezuela, Russia, and all across the U.S. to compete in the largest bodybuilding competition in the world—The Arnold Amateur, dreamed up by the 7 time Mr. Olympia winner himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
This year the event was held in Columbus, OH. It's not an event where any ole body can be a part of. The selection process is very strict. So, what was Sylvia’s response when she opened up her email to see that she was a contestant?
“I was blown away! I had only done two shows prior to being accepted to the Arnold Amateur.”
That’s a big deal, and very... ambitious. Who goes after such a stage with so little experience? Oh, that would be a woman who believed she could, so she did. Before I go on let me digress for a quick second to add in the fact that those two competitions she mentioned-- she placed first and second place in varying categories.
Let that be a lesson that it's not always the amount of experience that qualifies you, but the quality that you put into the experience.
"The only competition I have is myself"
Rhonda Jones, IFBB Pro/Trainer
PrayHers: What made you decide to commit to fitness?
Sylvia Ray: Over 15 years ago I dealt with a serious illness. Dealing with that whole process reminded me of how important it is to take care of your health. Ever since then I have been on a mission not to just improve my health, but to help others also.
PrayHers: How many days a week do you work out? And how long?
Sylvia Ray: It’s usually two days on and one day off repeatedly. You must allow time for your body to rest and your muscles to grow. I don’t spend any more than two hours a day. I weight train for 45 minutes to an hour. I isolate muscles when I train so to continue working out any longer would be counterproductive. Then I may split my cardio by doing some in the morning before work and the rest in the evening after I train.
PrayHers: What is your favorite body part to work?
Sylvia Ray: My favorite body part to work is my lower body…the legs and glutes! As a National Physique Committee (NPC) and National Bikini Competitor that is the area where we are judged the hardest. For females, the lower body is the hardest area to perfect along with the upper and lower abdominals, which is my least favorite body part to work, but I work my abs for a few minutes after each gym workout then I finish up at home by finding a good TV show, and then I go to town on my fitness ball, and other floor exercises.
PrayHers: A lot of us don’t have the patience to go to the gym in order to work off the pounds, so what are your thoughts on fat-burning supplements to help in the process?
Sylvia Ray: The best fat-burning is clean healthy living. I personally do not recommend using fat-burning supplements; however, there are many fat-burning products on the market that people take. They can help if you don’t overuse them. I caution users, who prefer to go that route, to please consult with their doctor prior to taking any fat-burners because most of them contain caffeine and other ingredients known to speed up the heart rate.
PrayHers: What is your pre-workout food that helps you maintain energy for your entire workout?
Sylvia Ray: I do a small carb load with good carbs like brown rice with nothing on it except sea salt, sweet potato with just a little cinnamon, sea salt, or pumpkin spice on it, or rice cakes with almond butter, along with a lean meat such as organic chicken breast, extra lean ground turkey, or white fish.
PrayHers: What drives you to keep pushing yourself to be better?
Sylvia Ray: I drive myself to keep pushing for better. I feel that the only competition I have is myself! Everything I do in fitness and bodybuilding is a personal goal; however, I am very competitive so I am always striving to win and get closer to achieving pro status and getting my pro card.
PrayHers: What’s next for Sylvia Ray?
Sylvia Ray: My future goal is to help as many people as possible to live a healthier and happier lifestyle by forming better eating habits, and by making exercise a way of life. I want to own a line of health and fitness products, which is why I added a health division to S.W.A.T. With that I will conduct health and fitness workshops, and nutritional coaching not just for the students, but for the general public as well.
'The gym is not the only place where Sylvia’s passion is at hard at work. She is an avid roller skater, and I do mean avid. She seems to put as much into perfecting her skating skills as she does perfecting her body.
Sylvia comments, “I love to skate!!! That is one sport that I am passionate to my gut about. I’ve been skating since childhood. I am a dedicated skater, and I attribute my skating to much of my success as a bodybuilder. I try to skate at least once or twice a week. I also attend the national skating events and parties as often as my schedule will allow. Skating is a place of solace for me to relax, have fun, and relieve stress”.
She is known around skating circles as Lady Skate. I’ve seen her skating skills, and they are to be admired Rev. Mary Harris is also an avid skater who skates with Sylvia, but humbly admits that she is nowhere near as good. As a matter of fact Mary confessed to being a, “Sylvia fan.” “I looove her! She is very intelligent. She is the epitome of a woman who has found her worth. She has a drive that doesn’t allow anything to stop her. When Mary told me that she could go on about how wonderful she thinks Sylvia is, she was serious. She kept going by giving credit to Sylvia, who unknowingly, encouraged her to pursue her Ph.D. in Psychology at Grand Canyon University. Mary decided, if Sylvia is not letting age, or anything to stand in her way then why should she? Then again, why should we?
Have you thought about what you can do by simply believing that you can? For some of us, in order to jump we must be pushed. Pushed by sickness, by becoming an empty nester, pushed by losing our job, our home, or a relationship. Sometimes, it takes trying situations to push our faith into action.
Sylvia Ray aka Lady Skate
In celebration of turning 50, in May, (can you believe it?) Sylvia is giving back to the community in a big way. She is garnering support from business owners in an endeavor to raise as many bottles of water possible to aid the Flint, MI water crisis. In addition, she is looking out for her Facebook friends. She is inspiring her followers to get healthier, be happier, and smile more. She will be flooding your timelines with 50 plus great health tips, exercises, her favorite workouts, nutritional ideas, recipes, supplements, surprises, and more!!!! If you are not one of her “friends” then follow her on Facebook at Ladyskate. If she can do it, so can you!
website coming soon SylviaRay.com. Look for it May 16th, 2016