Debby Rijos is already thinking about, and training for, the 2010 Gay Games in Cologne, Germany, even though they don't begin until next July.
Thing is, the 42-year-old Rijos who lives on Chicago's Southwest side will compete in the physique competition.
So every calorie truly counts, even today.
After all, Rijos has golden dreams.
"I feel a bit intimidated since Germany has a reputation for having exceptional athletes," Rijos said. "I plan on working hard and doing what it takes to be ready by July 2010. It takes a lot to get back into the mind set of drinking two to three protein shakes a day and eating four to five times per day in order to be successful at gaining lean muscle, not to mention endless amounts of supplements and vitamins.
"At this point I can eat as much as possible, but cardio is the key. Nonetheless, I feel privileged yet again to have the opportunity to be apart of such a prestigious event. I plan to enjoy the beautiful city of Cologne endlessly and hopefully make a presence while I am there. My overall perspective is more challenging because I am training harder and re-inventing my physique along with my self-efficacy as an athlete."
Rijos is now training four times per week, which allows her body recovery time to grow. "My trainer has an exceptional background in bodybuilding and mix martial arts," Rijos said. "He doesn't take 'no' for an answer when I am down to those last couple of blood thirsting reps."
Rijos, who works as a Communicable Disease Investigator for the Chicago Department of Public Health, graduated from Chicago's Roberto Clemente High School in 1985. She earned degrees at North Park University ( B.A. in human development ) in 2006 and National Louis University ( M.A. in psychology ) in 2009.
She competed in the 2006 Gay Games in Chicago, finishing in fifth placeand those memories are still fresh.
"To be photographed by Victor Skebneski [ for the 2006 Gay Games ] and representing 'the faces of Chicago athletes,' that was priceless," she said. "It was like having celebrity status throughout the summer [ of '06 ] . From viewing my picture alongside the other 13 [ photographed ] athletes' at Water Tower Place, and all the media coverage from the local newspapers and TV channels, it was a surreal life experience.
"The magnitude of emotions that I experienced walking into Soldier Field [ for the 2006 Opening Ceremony ] was breath taking. The competition itself was great and a lot of fun. Of course the best part was toward the end of the evening show when everyone heads out to eat everything in sight. To have had the opportunity to compete and share that opportunity with the world makes me even more proud to be a Chicagoan."
More about Debby Rijos:
Status: "I am currently dating."
What does it mean to you to compete in the Gay Games?: "To express my personal best yet again, but having the advantage of knowing what to expect. Experiencing that ultimate glorifying feeling while you're on stage after subjecting yourself to rigorous training and eating habits for 12 to 15 months is priceless. In addition, for me it signifies empowerment, purpose and above all, a great opportunity to represent my city halfway around the world. I am excited about competing even more this time around since my competition category will be the 'master's division' [ age 40+ ] ."
Hobbies: Softball, beach volleyball, hiking, riding my motorcycle and repairing automobiles.
Superstitions: "I believe in karma."
Little-known fact: "I have been riding with Dykes on Bikes in the Chicago Gay Pride Parade since 2004."
Greatest sporting accomplishment: "Winning my first and only bench pressing competition in the late 1990s and placing first."
Favorite sports team: Miami Dolphins
Favorite pro athlete: "It will always be MJ [ Michael Jordan ] ."
Favorite quote: "Strength does not come from winning; your struggles develop your strength. When you go through hardship and decide not to surrender, that is strength."
Another quote or note: "I would like to share this experience with the entire LGBT community in Chicago. Those who are not able to travel to Cologne will know what it's like through my eyes. I want to thank everyone who supported me in the 2006 Gay Games. So stay tuned for a bigger, stronger, and more competitive Debby."