I am Lado

Mary Lado started off as a star pitcher in softball. Now a two-time IFBB Figure International champ, she's setting down competitors one after another on stage

July 30, 2008
I am Lado
She has come a long way from her days as "Scary Mary." Not to mislead you, Mary Elizabeth Lado wasn't dubbed "scary" because of her looks (obviously) — she was given the nickname because of her out-of-control fastball. You see, Mary's athletic career didn't begin on a contest stage. Rather, it started on a pitcher's mound. "My high school coach's philosophy was to take the strongest player on the team and turn her into a pitcher," Mary says. "Coach picked me."

Able to channel her inner Ricky Vaughn, Mary had a very successful senior season and earned an athletic scholarship to Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Florida, in 1996. After two years at the juco level, she was offered a scholarship at the larger Georgia Southwestern State University (Americus). "I adjusted easily because the competition in junior college was pretty similar," she says.

A softball scholarship eventually led to softball coaching, which, in Mary's case, led her to the weight room. She explains it like this: "When my college days were over [in 2001], I moved back to Louisiana and began to fool around with weights as a bit of a hobby. I met a bodybuilder who asked me if I had ever thought about competing [in figure], and I was surprised to learn there was such a thing."

Two years later, in 2003, she entered her first show in New Orleans and won her class — so much for getting off to a slow start. She quickly followed up her debut win with a second-place finish at the NPC Louisiana and another win at the NPC Greater Gulf States. It took Mary only one more year to become an IFBB pro; she then made her pro debut at the 2005 Figure International in Columbus, Ohio, and placed third behind Jenny Lynn and Monica Brant-Peckham, both icons in the sport. "I was in shock that I finished that high," she says. "To place behind two women whom I had looked up to and seen in magazines was incredible." But Mary's excitement was short-lived because a real challenge was on the horizon.

While Mary was competing in Spain, news reached her that Hurricane Katrina was headed for her hometown of New Orleans. "I was petrified and worried the whole time because my mother, brother and dog were going to ride out the storm," Mary says. "I didn't hear from them for four days after the storm struck, and I was a wreck. The only thing I could do to alleviate the pressure was train. When I finally got word that they were okay, I was extremely relieved."

With her family safe, it was time to focus on the biggest event of her career — the 2005 Figure Olympia. "Since my local gym and grocery store were damaged in the hurricane, I had to prepare for the competition at a friend's house two hours outside of town," Mary says. "I was able to focus a little bit, and I did what I could with my training."

Needless to say, with everything that was going on in her life, Mary was unable to peak the way she wanted and finished in a disappointing fifth place. "I just wasn't confident going in, and that shows onstage." While some athletes might have felt sorry for themselves, Mary dusted herself off and got right back to working toward her goal.

"I used the poor performance as a wake-up call," she says. "I was determined to show myself and my fans what I could do." So Mary got a new trainer, changed her diet, re-evaluated her workouts and in just three months capitalized on the results with a sweet victory at the '06 Figure International, the second-biggest title in the sport.

"I couldn't help but cry when I won," she remembers. "Dieting and training like never before paid off." She went on to finish fifth at the 2006 Figure Olympia and then repeated her title win at the '07 Figure International.

These days, Mary is training for the Jacksonville Pro Figure Championships in August and updating her website with plans to provide an online training resource. "When you get kicked down and get back up like I did, you gain an enormous amount of confidence," she explains.

SNAPSHOT — MARY LADO

Birthdate:Sept. 16, 1978
Birthplace: New Orleans
Current Residence: Metairie, Louisiana
Height: 5'7"
Weight: 135 pounds
Career Highlights: 2006—07 Figure International champion
To Contact: marylado.com

>> To read up on Mary's back-building routine, click here.