Body building or fitness competitions is an intense sport, one that requires dedication, hard work and discipline.
Recently, a number of women from the Sunshine Coast have put these tools to work for them as they have garnered success at national and provincial competitions.
Last year Coast Reporter told you the story of Michelle MacDonald, and we updated her progress two weeks ago when she finished fifth overall at the national championships in Vancouver.
When we first ran MacDonald's story, Laura Dyck, who summers on the Coast with her family, read the article and was inspired by MacDonald's journey.
Dyck is a physiotherapist, and has always enjoyed being active, living a healthy lifestyle and encouraging others to do the same. But she also thrives on new challenges.
The day after seeing the article, Laura and her husband Jeremie recognized MacDonald working out at the Sechelt Aquatic Centre fitness room.
They began talking and MacDonald encouraged Dyck to give competing a try.
“I had another friend in Kelowna who also encouraged me to start training, but my talks with Michelle really got the ball rolling,” Dyck said.
Dyck started ramping up her exercising last August and after 12 weeks of intensive training, placed sixth at the Sandra Wickham Fall Classic in November.
“It was a great experience, and I was very happy with the results. At age 40, I thought that's not too bad — something to now cross off my bucket list,” she said.
But just two months before the Western Canadian Championships in Kelowna, friends who were just starting out in the sport encouraged her to just do one more show with them.
She did, and captured first place in the open figure short category, qualifying her for the provincial championships in New Westminster.
She trained hard for the next six weeks for the provincials and finished first in the master (over 35) figure A short competition and second in the open (all ages) figure A short competition — which then qualified her for the Canadian Bodybuilding Federation Nationals in Vancouver.
She carried on training for another six weeks and competed on the national stage alongside MacDonald, where she placed sixth in Canada in the masters short (35 and over) category and fifth in the open (age 19 and up) figure short category.
Based on those results, both Dyck and MacDonald have qualified to return to nationals next year and also for the International Federation of Body Building (IFBB) North American Championships, the IFBB Amateur Women's World Championships and the IFBB Arnold Amateur Classic.
“It's pretty unbelievable to digest what has happened to me over the last year,” she said. “To take up a sport like this and then be on a national stage is incredible.”
Dyck said the accolades that she has won are one thing, but she sees her experiences as an inspiration for others — including her children.
“A trophy is something to be proud of, but it will just sit on my shelf and gather dust. Getting that email told me there is just more than the actual trophy. To be a mom and set an example for your kids and their friends — this is what pushes me to set more goals for myself and push myself that much harder to live a healthy and happy lifestyle,” she said.
Gibsons Mary Shaw went on a slightly different path to her success at the International Natural Bodybuilding Federation (INBF) competition in Vancouver in July — a journey of self exploration, learning and growth.
“When it comes to fitness competitions, there is only one person pitted against you — yourself — and the only judge whose opinion matters is you. Those who make the experience external and compare themselves to others or feel defeated if they do not win may be well advised to reconsider taking to the stage,” Shaw said. “In my experience, the journey is not really about competition day. Ultimately, the experience of this kind of intense and focused effort goes way beyond, and stepping off the stage does not mean it's over.
“The competition process is the goal, and is a tool for uncovering all of the amazing potential that is hidden beneath the surface. I discovered my true self (Atman, in yoga) through this process: something a trophy could never provide.”
Shaw said when she engages in consistent and progressive training, there is a commitment above all other priorities.
“It takes precedence over doing dishes, mowing the lawn and all social activities. It becomes your single pointed focus (Dharana in yoga),” she said. “This, when combined with very strict dieting, can be like riding a roller coaster of emotional (Rasa) fluctuations (Vrittis). Our diet directly corresponds to our mood and emotional well being.”
Shaw said many people who present with even mild characteristics of an eating disorder can become completely defeated by the process.
“It's not uncommon to see competitors just a month later balloon up, gaining even more weight than when they started,” she said. “The mental effort to regulate hormones when the fuel supply is so unbalanced is very high, and in fact women experience amenorrhea for a few months, losing their menstrual cycles completely. Prolonging this condition can lead to osteoporosis, among other debilitating and dastardly effects.
“Fitness competitors joke that their partners know to keep their distance when it's competition season; mood swings are very common. My meditation practice (Dhyana) was an invaluable component for keeping my emotions at bay.”
She said having a coach to help her understand these things and to be there when it becomes too difficult to manage would be fantastic, but she did not go this route. “Just as in my yoga practice, I chose to make this a journey of self exploration, learning and growth. If you have the basic knowledge, and you are committed, there is no reason you cannot do it on your own,” she said.
Shaw plans to compete again at the 2013 Vancouver Cup at the end of July.
“There are many federations to choose from; I prefer INBF because it is the only organization that tests its athletes to ensure everyone is 100 per cent natural,” she said. “If you would like to join me in this adventure, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.”