Q & A With Barbie Thomas:

What's the typical day like in the life of Barbie Thomas?
Barbie: I get up, make sure my son gets off to school, clean up breakfast dishes, throw laundry in, go to the gym ... it's a pretty normal life. I do the same things that any other mom does in my opinion. I may do it a little differently, but same stuff.
The bodybuilding, when did you get into that?
Barbie: I've been active and athletic my whole life. And I really got into weight training after my first son was born. To get back in shape, to get my baby weight off. I was a fitness instructor, taught lots of different classes. [Upon] reading about all the fitness competitors in magazines, I was like "I want to do that." Eventually I quit doubting myself and went for it.
What did that training regimen entail -- to become a competitive bodybuilder?
Barbie: I'm not actually a bodybuilder per se. It's all in the same world, but fitness is in a different category. A lot of training and cardio and a strict diet, routine practice, and dance and gymnastics practice. It's a lot of work; a lot of dedication. It's time consuming.
How many hours a week were you in the gym?
Barbie: A whole lot in the beginning. 'Cause I kind of went very extreme with it. I thought if I don't get my two hours of cardio in, I'm not going to look good or whatever. And now, I've learned how to balance my life out with it. Not be so one-track minded. I do spend about an hour-and-a-half at gymnastics, three days a week. Right now it's off-season, but I'm still doing about 30 minutes or so of cardio 4-5 days a week. Leg training, ab training. It doesn't seem like a lot to me right now, but I guess it's still kind of a lot.
What would you consider your most amazing accomplishment given the limitations you've had?
Barbie: I would say probably my kids. And not necessarily because I don't have arms, just because I think it's amazing for anyone to have kids and raise them, and turn out some good young men.
I've heard you say "Can't is not an option." What motivates you on a daily basis to get things done?
Barbie: "Can't is not an option" came from my parents, some therapists and my mentor growing up. 'Cause I used to say, "I can't" a lot. And they used to say, "Did you even try?" And usually the answer was no. I got to the point where I would get sent to my room for saying "I can't." Can't wasn't allowed in our vocabulary.
Can you describe how you lost your arms?
Barbie: I was two-and-a-half. I climbed up a transformer and grabbed onto the wires. The wires from the electricity went in through my hands and out through my legs. They had to amputate my arms. People have asked, "Well, how come they didn't amputate them more symmetrically?" Just because the way they were burned -- they weren't burned symmetrically.
As a parent, the idea of what can happen if you take your eyes off your kid just for second...
Barbie: My dad blames himself because he was the one that was there. He was also dealing with a newborn baby at the time, trying to watch a two-year-old and my mom was at the grocery store. It all happened so quickly. I was also playing with older kids. I was in and out of the apartment ... I don't blame him one bit. I know how quick two-year-olds can be. It can happen in a matter of seconds.
Of all things that you're able to do in your life, what would you say inspires the most awe in people?
Barbie: Different things. Some people are amazed that I can text. For some people, it's my makeup or driving. Some people are amazed I work out. It's different things for each person.
Do you enjoy the fan support you've received?
Barbie: I have mixed feelings about it. If it's because I'm inspiring them in some way, that's awesome. I love to know that I help other people even when I don't know that I'm doing anything to help other people. But as far as the fanfare and all the accolades and praises, to me it's like I'm just a normal person doing normal things. I don't need all this praise and recognition. I think there are so many other people who deserve it. Like our military people who've lost their lives, or lost limbs. Or their families. There are so many other people who deserve recognition way more than I do.
What's the most you've ever gotten done in one day?
Barbie: There are days when I think, "Man, I feel like I had a productive day. I got this, this and this done." ... I think I'm pretty efficient. I manage to get a lot done.
Do you use technology or apps to organize your life?
Barbie: I remember a day when I did not want a cell phone, but my husband at the time made me get one. And now it's like my best friend. I have everyone's information in there; my appointments are in there; I have apps in there; I keep lists in there. So, yeah, I use technology.
How often do you cook versus order in?
Barbie: Honestly, I don't like to cook. But I do. I have a family ... I do make most of my own meals. I try to stick to my clean eating for the most part. But I do like to go out to eat, too. But I don't like to cook. I'm good at it, but it's not something I enjoy.
What's next on your to-do list?
Barbie: I'm still going to compete. I'm still working on my gymnastics skills. Every year I say I'm going to write my book this year and so far I have written an outline and that's as far as I've gotten. I have a couple of books in mind that I'd like to write. I just need to get off Facebook.
How do you do that?
Barbie: I type with my feet. I type pretty fast.
It's pretty amazing what you can do with your feet.
Barbie: That's what I have. So that's what I have to use. I never liked prosthetics. They were uncomfortable. They never worked properly. They were a bigger pain in the butt than anything to me. I got to the point where I wanted just one arm. But the battery would die. Or I'd be sweating my butt off from wearing that thing. Or it would be heavy or hurting. So I raised my foot in class and asked the teacher if I could go take my arm off? Then I'd have to go carry the darn thing around in my backpack all day -- with an arm sticking out. But it became more fun to just put it in the back window of the car than to wear it just to see people reactions ... I like to mess with people.
Is there anything you'd like to see our country embrace in terms of how they handle people with disabilities?
Barbie: I don't consider myself disabled. I think disabled, for me anyway, is a mindset or attitude. Obviously some people really have disabilities ... We all have a handicap if you will in some way or another, limitations. I think just accept people for who they are, and what they are, and for their differences. I don't think disabled people or handicap people or physically different people want to be spoken to differently. They don't want you to behave differently around them. Treat us like normal people ... because to us, we are.
Barbie Thomas To learn more about Barbie Thomas and her world, visit her website, Fitness Unarmed.