2017 ABBA SOUTHERN CHAMPIONSHIPS - BACKSTAGE PHOTOS & INTERVIEWS

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RedDeer, Alberta.  June 10th. Red Deer College Arts Centre hosted the 2017 Margaret Logue Northern Alberta Bodybuilding Championships. Congratulations to Cabel McElderry for putting up another memorable, and successful show. A Special thanks to Alberta Bodybuilding Association, and all the volunteers for their support for the athletes. 

Congratulations to Cabel McElderry for putting up another memorable, and successful show. A Special thanks to Alberta Bodybuilding Association, and all the volunteers for their support for the athletes. 

ATHLETE PROFILE

ATHLETE NAME: Alina Oprea

Social media contact: Facebook: Alina Oprea, Instagram: ali_oprea

How did you get started in Fitness Alina? I was born in Brasov, in communist Romania, from athlete parents: my mother in Brasov’s handball team and my father, a professional soccer player. They gently encouraged me to be active, however I only became serious about fitness in my adult life, in 2011, when I discovered martial arts, specifically Muay Thai and I fell in love with practicing and competing. This year, 2017, is the first year when I turned my focus into competing in fitness and had a fantastic time going through the process.

What’s the best part about being a fitness competitor? I enjoyed the whole process, from the first time meeting with my coach, through the diet and the workouts, and finally to competition day. It was an extremely fulfilling experience to observe the rapid, drastic changes in the body and the satisfaction that came along with the rigorous lifestyle and completing the numerous daily requirements. I experienced tremendous flow and joy training and when the day came, well…how can anyone not love seeing their body more beautiful and slender than ever, the diamonds, the glamour, the friends, the make-up, the hair…Competition day was one of the happiest, most energy charged experiences that I can recall in my recent memory. I competed in many other areas in the past, and I know now that I can only reach this high level of flow and positive energy in sports competitions specifically.

What was the reason(s) you decided to compete at The Southern, and what category did you compete in? Practicing Muay Thai for many years, hitting bags, sparring, being surrounded with tough fighters masculinized my body and demeanor to the point where I naturally craved turning to the aesthetics part of fitness for a while. I wanted to get back a certain degree of femininity. Firstly, I am a girl who wears dresses and heels when I am not in the gym and secondly, I strive to be a complete athlete: training Muay Thai improved my power, endurance and agility, therefore adding training for the fitness competition added the aesthetic, feminine dimension to my training, and tons of fun.

What was the highlight from the entire show for you? I loved the energy of the stage, the glamour and the adrenaline of the night. Winning comes secondary to me; I am an attention seeking goof since my pre-school years, I love to make a show, energize and raise waves in general, whether through making people laugh, putting on diamonds bikinis, singing, walking on stage, whatever it takes to get a reaction. The show was the perfect opportunity for that energy.

Who did you train with? Team Ignite – Coaches Ryan Richardson and Sarah Prudhomme.

How did you stay motivated during prep? I get very excited from training, and that is my main single motivation by and large. Also, I have a great support system: many athlete friends to consult with and family liking what I do. Another motivating factor is that a lot of people close to me changed their lifestyle, diet and physical activity levels. seeing how excited, healthy and how much better I looked each day,

Any advice for those who are going to compete for the first time? I would first look at the two costs for competing: finances and time commitment. If you can afford spending the cash and the time, don’t think again, hire a coach and start day 1. Also make sure the people close to you are onboard and supportive of your journey. The rewards are astronomical: invaluable lessons you learn about yourself, mental endurance, friends you gain, confidence…the list is long.

What are you most proud of in your journey? I am proud about being a novice and having placed amongst many seasoned athletes. I am proud about sharpening my awareness on my mental and physical strengths and weaknesses. I am proud about people approaching me for health and fitness advice. What are your short and long-term fitness goals? Short Term, I can be specific here: I am targeting building my legs and glutes. I understand that building these big muscles takes a lot of work year-round. I am committed to three specific leg and glutes workouts each week. I created a Facebook group for this purpose, where I post the workouts, specific diet information, scientific research, anything that I find worthwhile knowing for building that area. Long Term, I will compete internationally in 2018. WBFF New York.

What is your favorite motivational quote? “The one single main indicator of longevity is leg strength” – Dr. Andy Galpin – Athletic Performance Physician

Who would you do you like to send your thank-you to? Thank you to all my good athlete friends who spend hours with me researching, practicing, discussing new ways to bring athleticism and performance to new levels. Thank you to my family who encourages and supports all my endeavors. Thank you to my coaches, Ryan Richardson and Sarah Prudhomme who gave me specific direction and shared their years of experience and knowledge. Thank you to my friend photographer Ali Sohrab who knows how to bring out the best of me on camera. Athleticism is hard to capture in a picture – Ali can do that with immense passion and pleasure. Thank you to the amazing people of ABBA, judges, committee members, organizers who work to promote this sport.

ATHLETE NAME: Francesco Persechino

Social media contact: Instagram: cescochino

How did you get started in Fitness Francesco? It’s actually a funny story. I started training off and on when I was 19 and I got a job as a doorman at a strip club and I was only 155lbs haha. One night when I was working the front door with a girl I was into at the time we were talking then out of nowhere she jumps the counter and puts her hands around this guy's arms and with every other girl in the bar was all over this huge guy all night. I saw this and was like “I gotta get big!”, and next day I started training more seriously. Looking back, I never thought what that started or how much it would change my life for the better.

What’s the best part about being a fitness competitor? Everything! You're changing your life for the better. You're adding discipline skills, mind over matter skills, drive, determination; there’s no end. The thing is no one skill is more or less important you need them all and do them day after day. You’re not only building your dream physique, you’re building a stronger mind and setting yourself up to handle life’s obstacles.

What was the reason(s) you decided to compete at The Southerns, and what category did you compete in? I competed in the new classic physique C class. I was going thru a few low points and my friend/boss signed me up to keep my mind busy.

What was the highlight from the entire show for you? Haha, that’s also another funny story. So I’m following this guy on instagram and I read he’s going to Provincials in classic physique C class as well, so I write him saying how great he looks and he’s gonna kill it and that I’m so glad I don’t have to compete against him. He writes back saying thank you and all that and it ends there. I show up to southerns and sure enough he’s there! And he’s just a monster. So we go to weigh ins and they try to tell me I was too light to compete. I was only 182lbs and everyone else was 200lbs and up. I told them i’m competing. So we line up to start to head out and I got one guy 205lbs on my left and 223lbs on my right haha. I have never felt so small in my life! I told myself whatever I wanted to stand beside the best and sure enough I was right in the middle. Long story short I ended up getting 2nd at my first show first time stepping on stage in a show they told me I was too small to compete.

Who did you train with? I have a few in the off season mostly friends but for show prep I trained alone mostly.

How did you stay motivated during prep? I never really thought of that to be honest. I just wanted to do well so bad that it was easy, at the end it got hard when I found out who I was compete against and my friends, boss, family and girlfriend talked to me kept me calm and were great. Without them being there for me I wouldn’t have stepped on stage.

Any advice for those who are going to compete for the first time? Don’t listen to every piece of advice people give you. Keep your friends close and listen to your body.

What are you most proud of in your journey? My friends, girlfriend and family. they stuck by me without question thru being hungry 24/7 / can’t sleep / always at the gym. Your prep life is a selfish road and you need very understanding and loving people in your life. I can’t thank them enough.

What are your short and long-term fitness goals? Win southerns, then top 3 provincials and top 5 nationals all in a row next year.

What is your favorite motivational quote? 'I love you, you’re gonna do great I know it….'

Who would you like to send your thank-you to? My mom and dad, they cooked my meals on days I just couldn’t move, my girlfriend for seeing past a sport that’s hard for most people to understand and being there for me always when I needed her the most, big rob for the endless hours and advice and Billy for the science behind everything and putting up with all my random annoying questions.

ATHLETE NAME: Amber Leavitt

Social media contact: Facebook: AmberLeavittPersonalTraining , Instagram: @amberleavitt

How did you get started in Fitness Amber? I got started in fitness after having my third child. When he started toddling around, I was finding that I didn’t have energy to keep up with my three kids and wanted to be a good role model for my children and I wanted more for my health. I started running but didn’t love it and after 8 months I started to incorporate weight lifting in the basement in my home with the guidance of my husband and bodybuilding plans that I found online. I loved how strong and confident it made me feel and the difference it made to my physique. Bodybuilding has become my passion and I have been working to improve my physique ever since.

What’s the best part about being a fitness competitor? My favorite part about being a fitness competitor is being inspired and motivated by all of the beautiful bodies that I get to share the stage with. I get to meet spectacular people with the same goals and vision as my own and to be surrounded in the positivity that is cultivated by our sport. My love for it is renewed and grows every time I step on stage.

What was the reason(s) you decided to compete at The Southerns, and what category did you compete in? 5 years ago I competed in my first ABBA Southerns Figure competition after seeing pictures on Facebook of a friend of mine competing the year before. I was inspired by the amount ofcommitment, determination and confidence that it must have taken to get ready for the stage. And, like every other woman, I wanted to look like my friend…like a fitness model. I saw the competition as a goal that I could work towards accomplishing and then went for it. I fell in love with Figure my first year on stage (2013) and have continued to push myself every year since.

What was the highlight from the entire show for you? The highlight was definitely the moment my name was called for first place in Figure D and getting to compete in Overall Figure in the finals! Every year I compete, I set myself a goal to work towards, and my goal has always been Top 5, or Top 3. Winning 1st place and competing in Overall has always been my dream…not really a goal. One of my dreams came true at ABBA Southerns this year, and that was definitely the highlight for me!

Who did you train with? My coach during this prep was my idol and four time Ms Figure Olympia winner Nicole Wilkins. It was so amazing to work with her as I have looked up to her for years while I went through my previous 4 preps on my own without a trainer or coach. I decided to ask her to help me after attending her Phat Camp in Calgary for the second year in a row back in January 2017. She is one of the most down to earth, matter-of-fact, tell-it-like-it-is, beautiful and delightful human beings that I know. I love how much she loves what she does and I wanted so badly to have her involved in my prep in a much bigger way than just following her on social media this year. I am so grateful for her expertise, support and guidance.

How did you stay motivated during prep? My husband, kids, family, Nicole, coworkers, clients and community members were all a huge part of my prep this year. I had the biggest support system cheering me on this year and they were my motivation day in and day out.

Any advice for those who are going to compete for the first time? A competitor’s lifestyle is HARD! Surround yourself with those who believe in you and who will support you through all of the challenges and sacrifices that you will have to make for prep. Also steer clear of negativity. Keep positive, keep your eye on your end goal and enjoy the process.

What are you most proud of in your journey? I am most proud of the example that I am setting for my children. I want them to learn to take care of themselves and make health a priority in their life. I want them to learn to chase after their dreams, have big & scary goals and to work hard, and have the dedication and the commitment required to accomplish greatness.

What are your short and long-term fitness goals? My short term goal is to compete at ABBA Provincials 2017 at the end of June. My long term goal is to one day compete on the Olympia stage.

What is your favorite motivational quote? If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you. Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and the thinkers, but most of all surround yourself with those who see greatness within you. Surround yourself with people who are going to lift you higher.

Who would you like to send your thank-you to? First and foremost, my biggest Thank You goes to my husband and my daughter. They have taken on so many extra responsibilities with juggling house work, watching kids or running kids around. They took on all of the responsibilities of the home and family off of my plate so that outside of working three jobs, my free time could be used to dive deeper into this prep with more focus and dedication than I have in years past. Their sacrifices, support and commitment to me is the most precious gift that I have received. A huge thank you to Nicole Wilkins as well! She has taught me so much this prep. This year I have realized the importance of having a coach there to support and push you through prep challenges. She pushed me harder than I have ever pushed myself and seemed to know just what to say to keep me motivated and on track when negativities from my personal life started threatening to derail me. I love that she was there with me throughout this year’s prep in this capacity…rather than just another social media personality on a screen. My clients get a huge thank you as well. They were so gracious and understanding during my prep. As the weeks went on, and my appointment availability started becoming more scarce due to the hours that I had to spend in the gym working on my own fitness goals, they accepted the shift of focus from them to me and continued to cheer me on. They were a huge part of my support system and appreciate them all so much!

ATHLETE NAME:  Leticia Rodriguez 

Social media contact: 4evrfit78 (Instagram)

How did you get started in Fitness Leticia? A friend of mine in high school originally got me into going to the gym and taught me how to use the weight machines. I started going on my own just to get out of the house and have some “me” time. After I graduated I took some time off from school to figure out what I wanted to do next, and ended up getting a job at the same gym. A year later I moved out west to Alberta, and got a job managing a fitness club in Edmonton. I met some of the local competitors here and decided to try my first Figure show in 2005. I had no idea what I was doing at the time, and quickly realized how much was involved in the sport. By the time I had finished the show, I had fallen in love with it! In 2006 I hired a coach and put on 20lbs of lean mass. I also got certified as a Personal Trainer, then later as a Nutrition & Wellness Specialist and have worked in the fitness industry in some capacity ever since. I just got back into competing this year after an 11 year hiatus, and realized how much I missed it!

What’s the best part about being a fitness competitor? I love the process, particularly the diet aspect of it. With my background in nutrition, I am fascinated by the science of it all. Seeing how even the slightest tweaks in my own meal plan can make significant changes in my physique is so interesting to me. By further applying my training knowledge in the gym, I am able to continually transform my own body and it’s so gratifying. I love that there is always room to improve and find ways to keep progressing. Plus I’m happy to inspire friends, family and clients to pursue their own fitness goals by living by example.

What was the reason(s) you decided to compete at The Southernz, and what category did you compete in? I competed in both the Masters Figure and Open Class D categories at Southerns. Normally I would compete at Northerns but this was the only show that offers the Tier 1 level for my age category. What was the highlight from the entire show for you? The whole day was a really fun experience. I made some new friends backstage and got to chat with some competitors who are new to the whole competition scene. But the highlight I’d have to say, is meeting a 56-year-old Grand Masters Figure competitor (who I believe won the overall title). She is simply stunning, and was having so much fun, it was so motivating. We were all in awe of her. I hope I can look half that good when I’m her age!

Who did you train with? My coach is Angela Shaw of Perfect Body Consulting. I worked with her (and her husband Al) for my 2006 show as well. She’s a fellow competitor, an amazing mentor, and has also become a great friend.

How did you stay motivated during prep? Honestly, I don’t struggle with prep too much. Don’t get me wrong, I have my tougher days when all I want is a burger or some ice cream (usually on a Friday or Saturday night!), but those moments are rare for me. The results I get from sticking to the process are more rewarding to me than the 5 minutes of pleasure I’d get from a cheat meal/treat. When I’m tempted to stray I just remind myself of my goals, and that the prep phase goes by quickly so when I am finished and get to reward myself, it’ll taste that much sweeter!

Any advice for those who are going to compete for the first time? Don’t be too hard on yourself, just have fun with it and trust the process. When you scrutinize yourself every day in the mirror it’s sometimes hard to see the subtle hints of progress you’re making. Remember that not everyone can do this, so you should be proud of your accomplishment. Take your time, put in the work and focus on your goals. If you’re doing it for the right reasons, it will all will pay off in the end.

What are you most proud of in your journey? After my last show in 2006 I went through some hard times in my personal life, suffered a few big losses including the passing of my father and I let it all derail me for a while. I never stopped exercising, but didn’t do it with the same passion that I normally have. Although I was still “fit” by most standards, my body composition wasn’t where I knew it could be. So, last fall I decided it was time to get back into it, and I knew if I chose to compete again, I’d be 100% focused. I had a lot of catching up to do in order to be competition ready, and being a decade older was definitely a factor. In 9 months, I was able to gain another 19 lbs of lean mass, completely transform my body and was even better conditioned than in my last show. I am in the best shape of my life and have never felt better!

What are your short and long-term fitness goals? Short-term, I want to focus on improving my conditioning and development even further. I have some areas of my body that I want to work on that I am confident will be the key to advancing in this sport. My main focus will be to place top 5 so I can advance to the Provincial and then National level. Long-term, I would like to see if I could get as far as winning a Pro-Card. I’d love to be able to compete in the US, and maybe even do a show in my hometown Toronto. But I’m also planning on exploring how to develop my own personal brand, maybe start a blog/write a book, and have my own online business. And of course, continue to share my knowledge with my clients and inspire others.

What is your favorite motivational quote? “Don’t count the days; make the days count” – Muhammad Ali; this touches me on a personal level. And simply “Persevera” (Spanish for “persevere”) which I have tattooed on my back; it reminds me of my dad and to never give up pursuing my dreams.

Who would you like to send your thank-you to? I’d like to thank my friends, family and coworkers for all their support, encouragement and kind words, as well as my “FitFam” — those who I don’t know personally but have reached out to me through social media to cheer me on and thank me for motivating them by sharing my journey – some of the comments I’ve received are truly heartwarming. And of course my coach Angela Shaw, because without her I probably would’ve over-obsessed and been too harsh on myself. She has kept me in line and has taught me so much. I cannot wait to see what we can do next!

ATHLETE NAMES: Marcin Florynski and Erin Turley.

Social media contact: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter: Marcin Florynski, Erin Turley

How did you get started in Fitness both of you? Marcin: I was always active, for as long as I can remember but with many different types of activities. But it wasn’t until I came to Canada that I really got into weight training. Because I was away from my family, working out helped me to release the stress caused by being away from home. Erin: Fitness has always been a part of my life; bike riding when I was younger, and going to various gyms, but it was when I worked and lived at a camp in the oil sands that I started to really push myself. It was a high stress job and it was away from home. I found working out helped me to centre myself and to release the stresses from my day. No matter how tired I was after a 12-hour shift, I always felt better after my workout.

What’s the best part about being a fitness competitor? Marcin: When you place (hahaha) even though you went just for the experience. Because this is an accomplishment after putting in a lot of hard work. Erin: The ice cream I got the day after competition! (just kidding) For me, it’s the self-confidence I built by knowing I pushed myself and achieved the mini goals I had set for myself. With every challenge in life I complete, I feel like I can make it through the next difficult situation.

What was the reason(s) you decided to compete at The Southerns, and what category did you compete in? We competed to experience what it is like to reach the next goal. It was great seeing the evolution of our bodies and seeing how far we can push ourselves and how our bodies responded to proper diet and effort in the gym. Men’s Physique, and Bikini Masters.

What was the highlight from the entire show for you? We both met great people who share the same passion as we do.

Who did you train with? Each other. We did not hire coaches, we learned everything by careful research and trial and error of how our bodies responded to different exercises and nutrition. Perhaps we were at a disadvantage because we did not have a professional guiding us, but this was a great part of our experience and helped make this feel like even more of an accomplishment.

How did you stay motivated during prep? Working out became an addiction. Of course, there were always moments when we felt weak or not good enough, but we picked each other up and encouraged each other.

Any advice for those who are going to compete for the first time? Even though we know this is stressful, remember that fear has big eyes, meaning that your fear makes things look twice as bad as they are. There is no failure until you quit. Just go to have fun, go for it, enjoy it, and meet great people. Yes, it’s a competition, but those are your peers and you will make some great friends.

What are you most proud of in your journey? That we never gave up. With both of us working full time jobs, ten-hour days, it was very taxing on us physically and emotionally. We had early mornings to go to work, rushed home to have a quick snack, rushed to the gym, rushed home to prep dinner and lunch for the next day, and late to bed every day. All the while, we were maintaining our caloric intakes and macros and ensuring to eat meals every three hours. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

What are your short and long-term fitness goals? Marcin: Short term: Going for Provincials this year in Calgary, but of course I’m not expecting to place, I’m going so I can experience the next level and see what it looks like. Long term: We will see where the future will lead us, but for sure I want to improve myself. Erin: I’m going to train harder, build more, and see how far I can get.

What is your favorite motivational quote? Marcin: Love what you do and do what you love is all you need to be happy. Erin: Somewhere out there someone is warming up to your max weight. Both of us: Hard work pays off.

Who would you like to send your thank-you to? We want to thank our gym “family” (all of our friends we made at the Collicutt Centre; the staff and our workout buddies). Also, each other for surviving the challenges we faced together, picking each other up, inspiring each other, and not killing each other when we were tired and hungry, hahaha.

ATHLETE NAME: Vanessa Dufour.

Social media contact: Instagram: vdufour02, Facebook: Vanessa Dufour

How did you get started in Fitness Vanessa? I have always been athletic and enjoyed an active lifestyle. Growing up I ran cross country and track (sprinting). From elementary throughout high school, I maintained top levels in multiple sports. As I got older I continued running and started weight training. I have always been intrigued by bodybuilding and a year ago decided it was time to take my fitness to the next level!

What’s the best part about being a fitness competitor? The best part about being a competitor is testing and pushing your limits and boundaries. This journey has forever changed my life and pushed me in an exciting direction! Not only have I been challenged physically, but I have also been challenged mentally and forced out of my comfort zone. The changes I have seen in myself, not only physically but in every area of my life has been amazing and the whole process became “my magnificent obsession” – CT Fletcher.

What was the reason(s) you decided to compete at The Southerns, and what category did you compete in? I decided to compete in Red Deer, at Southerns for Masters Figure as it was not offered here in Edmonton this year at Northerns in the Tier 1 level. Since it is my first year competing, I wanted to gain as much experience possible in all classes that I am eligible to compete in.

What was the highlight from the entire show for you? The whole process was the highlight for me. Beginning Friday, walking into the spray booths for my tan the first time, not knowing anything about the process and having to stand naked in front of strangers to get it done. The next was entering my first athletes' meeting and all the nerves wondering how I would compare to all the other competitors and if I was in good enough shape to be in there with everyone. Finally, the show day came and it was building up the confidence to get out there and show off all my hard work and dedication and hoping it would all come together and that I would make everyone who supported me proud!

Who did you train with? I trained with the amazing team from The Fitness Evolution, Tom and Laura McKinnon. Also with the help from my boyfriend Matt George and my friend Jacqi Kirk.

How did you stay motivated during prep? I stayed motivated by the changes I was seeing monthly, weekly, and daily! The more changes I began to see the more motivated I became, and the drive to became stronger to achieve beyond what I ever felt was possible! It becomes an obsession, I wanted to keep pushing and the sky’s the limit! I am also blessed to be surrounded by amazing family and friends that have supported me every step of the way throughout this whole process!

Any advice for those who are going to compete for the first time? So many things I could say to someone going in for their first time but I think the list below are what I feel are some of the most important things I could pass on. Open your mind and get outside of your normal bubble and comfort zone. Be willing to test and push yourself at all times. Take advantage of any support that is offered. Surround yourself with positive people and energy! Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Never look at anything as wrong or a mistake, every moment is a learning experience and use it to build and learn from to empower yourself. I had someone very special whom stood beside me every step of this journey that daily told me “trust the process”, when I wasn’t seeing the changes I thought I should be. This is such a true statement, enjoy and trust the process it all comes together in the end!!

What are you most proud of in your journey? I am proud of everything I have overcome and achieved mentally and physically. This is not just “working out”, this process has affected every aspect of my life and has become a new lifestyle that I love and left me wanting more!!

What are your short and long-term fitness goals? My short term to long term goals are to continue to improve and build my physique, and to take myself as far as I can in this amazing sport.

What is your favorite motivational quote? I have a hard time picking just one favorite so below are two that I really find help me stay focused and motivated. “The meaning of life is not simply to exist, to survive, but to move ahead, to go up, to… CONQUER.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger. “If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” – Bruce Lee

Who would you like to send your thank-you to? I would like to thank my family and friends who have stood by me throughout this whole process. But most of all my amazing five daughters and boyfriend, whose support and love is ongoing and unconditional; and to Tom and Laura McKinnon, Jacqi Kirk, for all of their time, knowledge and support. Thank you for believing in me!

ATHLETE NAME: Anna Dumont

Social media contact: Instagram: @anyadumont, Facebook: Anna Dumont

How did you get started in Fitness Anna? Growing up I played variety of sports but my main focus was ballroom dancing where I competed at national level. Being fit, strong, active and living healthy fit lifestyle is something I am naturally passionate about. Throughout my competitive dance journey, I have learned how to push myself beyond the limits, how to block negative thoughts, take criticism and that you have to work hard to achieve the results you want. After having my second child and getting back into pre-pregnancy shape I needed a new challenge. I set a goal to build muscles, improve endurance and strength which sparked the desire to enter the world of competitive fitness so I began my fitness competitive career in 2012, placing first and winning overall title in bikini category at my very first show at Northern Alberta Bodybuilding in 2013 followed by second place same year at Alberta Provincials. Since then I have competed at INBF events and earning my WNBF Bikini Pro card. After a few successful years competing as an WNBF pro bikini athlete I have resigned which was one of the toughest decisions I have ever made in my fitness career. I have always pictured myself gracing the Arnold’s and Olympia stages so I have returned to Alberta Bodybuilding to pursue my dream.

What’s the best part about being a fitness competitor? Meeting other athletes who share the same passion, drive as myself for fitness.

What was the reason(s) you decided to compete at The Southerns, and what category did you compete in? With strong goal in mind, love for fitness, fire and desire to follow what I visualize I can be, I started to prepare for Southern Alberta Bodybuilding as it was the first step I had to take in order to advance to the next level in Canadian Bodybuilding Federation. I competed in Bikini A class.

What was the highlight from the entire show for you? Having an excellent backstage photoshoot with Ali Sohrab was a blast, I had so much fun, it helped to boost my confidence and make the time before going on stage fly by. Also qualifying for Alberta Provincials and getting one step closer to the CBBF National Stage.

Who did you train with? Mostly I train on my own as I like to zone in into my workout and really focus on every rep and set I do, at the end of my training session my husband joins me to help push me that extra mile to ensure I get the most out of my workout.

How did you stay motivated during prep? When it comes down to competition prep, I need a complete focus with none to minimal distractions so good upbeat music is #1, changing my workout environment by going to different gyms, taking cardio outside. Trying to keep things interesting and fresh helps to battle complacency and fatigue.

Any advice for those who are going to compete for the first time? If you are thinking on competing for the first time, it’s very important to have a knowledgeable coach who can not only guide you through prep but also teach and explain to you what the process will hold. Don’t judge and criticize yourself through prep just put your 110% effort into it, remember to stay positive and patient when trying to achieve the physique you are looking for.

What are you most proud of in your journey? Being able to achieve the balance between family, full time work and fitness through challenges, sweat, few tears then and there, I can honestly say I exceeded my own personal expectations.

What are your short and long-term fitness goals? Right now, I am focusing my efforts on stepping on the CBBF National stage on July 1, 2017 striving to obtain my IFBB Bikini Pro card and competing internationally representing Canadian Bodybuilding Federation. My ultimate goal is to continue my fitness journey in order to one day step on the Olympia stage.

What is your favorite motivational quote? Some of my favorites are “Everything you need is in within you”, “Strive to Thrive” Challenge your personal best! You are capable of more than you think.

Who would you like to send your thank-you to? I would like to thank my loving caring husband Gary Dumont for being by my side every step of the way. I am very grateful to have such an experienced, knowledgeable, kind coach Steve Marteski who takes care of his athletes and their wellbeing, emphasizing on sustainable nutrition diet and its importance, his unconditional continuing support and direction. I would like to extend thank you to my friend Tiffany Peterson who was checking on me daily through the peak week, Asha Belisle who was in the audience cheering me on, and the rest of my family and friends.

ATHLETE NAME: Christie Dziver

Social media contact: @cdziver

How did you get started in Fitness Christie? Fitness has been in my life for most of my life. I started playing around in the gym at the end of high school and then took up running in university. Eventually, I got into long distance running. I completed a full marathon but my passion was half marathons.

What’s the best part about being a fitness competitor? I have two highs about being a fitness competitor. The first one is all of the new friends I’ve met along this journey. I trained with Excel Fitness & Nutrition and the people on this team are so kind and absolutely incredible. My coaches, Asha and Rob, are wonderful and very talented people. They’ve generated quite a family environment, which I cherish. The second high is that I felt reinvigorated about being back in the gym environment and not only training hard but training for a purpose. That purpose being to build a better me.

What was the reason(s) you decided to compete at The Southerns, and what category did you compete in? I had never done anything like this before and I was looking for a new challenge away from running. Someone had planted a seed in my mind saying that I should try a bikini competition. I was curious to see if I could transform my runner’s body into one of those bikini bodies and so I challenged myself to do it.

What was the highlight from the entire show for you? The highlight of the entire show was sharing in this experience with my new Team Excel friends as well as being supported by all of my other friends who came to see the show. I had one friend come from Saskatoon to watch me in my first show! That meant a lot.

Who did you train with? I trained with Excel Fitness and Nutrition and worked directly with my coach, Asha. She is such an incredibly supportive person and has a heart of gold. For my gym workouts, I trained with my amazing friend Vanessa Urkow, and we made sure to laugh and have fun during every workout!

How did you stay motivated during prep? I enjoyed the whole prep process so motivation was never an issue. I’m a person who likes structure, so having a set meal plan and workout plan was great, I knew exactly what I needed to do.

Any advice for those who are going to compete for the first time? Enjoy this time, have fun with it, record your changes throughout the process so you can see your progress, and don’t compare yourself to anyone else but yourself.

What are you most proud of in your journey? I’m a pretty shy person and I have a fear of being in front of crowds so I’m most proud that I worked through that fear and stepped on stage with confidence and gave it my all.

What are your short and long-term fitness goals? My short term goal is to keep training and prep for Muscle Beach in the fall. My long term goal would be to make it to Nationals and maybe even reaching for that pro card.

What is your favorite motivational quote? I was really struggling with building confidence and bringing it to the stage. One day, I read this quote on someone’s Instagram account “Attitude determines direction” and it stuck with me. If I let my fear override me, I would fail, so I changed my attitude. I started to believe that I deserved to be up on that stage and be proud to show off my hard work.

Who would you like to send your thank-you to? Wow, where to start? My friends were so supportive of me when I first told them that I was thinking about doing a bikini competition and so I thank first and foremost Moses Atsbaha and Vanessa Urkow for encouraging me to actually go through with this adventure. I would also like to thank Asha Belisle, my coach, she has been so amazing, so supportive and always there to listen when I needed to talk. One last thank you would go to all of the Team Excel athletes that I met throughout my prep; that group is full of beautiful people, both inside and out.

ATHLETE NAME: Guinnevere Mary Field

Social media contact: Instagram @guinn_lifts, Facebook: Guinnevere Field

How did you get started in Fitness Guinn? I have always been physically active through sports and dance, but I never weight trained. Like many women, I was afraid to lift. I thought I would look manly. But one day my Dad and I were talking about it, and he thought I would look good with more muscle, and he encouraged me to try bodybuilding. I lost my father to cancer a few months later, and I started weight training as a way to honour him, and help me with my grief. And my Dad was right. I love how I look. Strong. Confident. Happy.

What’s the best part about being a fitness competitor? All of your hard work in the gym, in the kitchen, fasted cardio, overcoming cravings, pushing your body to its limits…. it's all worth it once you hit the stage. Nailing your poses and knowing that you’ve brought the best you to stage, it gives you a sense of accomplishment and pride. That for me is the best part.

What was the reason(s) you decided to compete at The Southerns, and what category did you compete in? It was a hard decision to decide to compete, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I competed at Southerns as they had the masters class. I was in Women’s Masters Physique, and Women’s Physique Class B. I am proud to say I won masters and overall.

What was the highlight from the entire show for you? Winning overall for my class, and beating someone half my age to do it. That was pretty incredible. But also knowing that all of my hard work paid off. I set a goal and I crushed it. That is a great feeling. And I know I made my Dad proud.

Who did you train with? I train with Team High Definition. IFBB PRO Helen Bouchard and IFBB PRO Daphne Madigin are my coaches.

How did you stay motivated during prep? This was my first prep, and the struggle was real!! Especially at the 6 weeks out mark. I am so fortunate to have the support of my amazing husband, and he kept me motivated. He never lost faith in me, and he was so encouraging. I couldn’t have done this without him.

Any advice for those who are going to compete for the first time? This was my first competition, and my best advice is to smile and enjoy the day. Have fun!!! The hard work is over, enjoy your time to shine.

What are you most proud of in your journey? I am so proud of my journey!! I am an anorexia survivor and I never thought in a million years that I could overcome my disorder, and I proved myself that I could. I hope to inspire others battling their ed. It can be done!! It was a long and difficult road, but so rewarding.

What are your short and long-term fitness goals? Next week I am competing in Alberta Northerns, and I hope to win the women’s masters physique provincial title. After that I am going to take some time off to grow. I see nationals for me in the future, and I know there is going to be a pro card with my name on it.

What is your favorite motivational quote? “Winners never Quit. And Quitters never Win.”

Who would you like to send your thank-you to? Big thank yous to my coaches IFBB PRO Helen Bouchard and IFBB PRO Daphne Madigin. Their knowledge and experience are incomparable and I couldn’t have done this without them. Also, a big thank you to my husband Darren. He is so supportive, even dieted with me (although he still got carbs lol. Lucky guy)

ATHLETE NAME: Jennifer Ho

Social media contact: IG: @mss.jho FB: Jennifer Ho

How did you get started in Fitness Jennifer? When I was at my heaviest weight of 196lbs and decided I needed to change my lifestyle and better myself.

What’s the best part about being a fitness competitor? I love the process, I live seeing the changes in me. That’s what motivates me.

What was the reason(s) you decided to compete at The Southerns, and what category did you compete in? It was a goal for me. A step further in my weight loss journey. I wanted to see what else I was capable of. I competed in Masters Bikini and Bikini B.

What was the highlight from the entire show for you? Being on stage. Feeling proud and confident. It was an empowering moment.

Who did you train with? Tamen Ewasiuk

How did you stay motivated during prep? I stayed motivated looking through my transformation pictures. All my pictures give me motivation. I’m addicted to bettering myself.

Any advice for those who are going to compete for the first time? Stay focused. Know what your goals are, keep a strong mind set.

What are you most proud of in your journey? I’m so proud I’ve made it to the stage. I’m proud that I’ve gained back my confidence and well being. I’m stronger than I think I am. I’ve learnt so much about myself that I never knew. I’m so happy I never gave up.

What are your short and long-term fitness goals? short term: to get my certification for nutritionist and/or personal trainer; long term: train to compete again but this time in Figure.

What is your favorite motivational quote? The body achieves what the mind believes.

Who would you like to send your thank-you to? To my coach, Tamen Ewasiuk, thank you for your guidance. My family, thank you dearly for all your love and support . My boyfriend I love you, thank you for believing in me. And to my friends and clients whom all have been tremendously supportive right from the beginning. I love all of you!

ATHLETE NAME: Julie Dobbin

Social media contact: Instagram: Jdobbinfit, Facebook: Julie Dobbin Fitness

How did you get started in Fitness Julie? In 2009 I watched my sister compete in her very first fitness competition. It was very inspiring to watch. At that time I would say I was a bit overweight. I didn’t watch what I ate and I wasn’t very active either. I decided to give myself a goal, compete at a fitness show. I lost 30lbs and stepped on stage. I really loved it and then I was hooked!

What’s the best part about being a fitness competitor? I love the intensity of it!

What was the reason(s) you decided to compete at The Southerns, and what category did you compete in? After 4 years off from competing I decided I wanted to do another show. I missed the intense training and I missed the stage. In the past I have competed in Fitness model, this time I tried my hand at Bikini.

What was the highlight from the entire show for you? I love getting glammed up! I always love having my hair and makeup done and seeing the final look all come together.

Who did you train with? My trainer is Darren Toma of Custombuilt Training. He is a retired IFBB Pro bodybuilder.

How did you stay motivated during prep? Once I make up my mind to do I show I’m all in. I don’t see the point in not giving it your all. I guess you could say the fear of regret keeps me going.

Any advice for those who are going to compete for the first time? Do your research and hire a coach! There is a lot involved in competing, having a expert to help you along the way is a really good idea. I highly recommend Darren of Custombuilt. He is very knowledgeable and has lots of experience in the industry.

What are you most proud of in your journey? I’m proud of myself for constant improvement. Pride for me comes from striving for excellence.

What are your short and long-term fitness goals? Good question! Short term I'd like to build my fitness brand. I really want to help motivate or inspire others on their own fitness journey. Long term keep improving, I have always wanted to compete at the Arnolds sports festival.

What is your favorite motivational quote? 'There is no finish line'

Who would you like to send your thank-you to? My Husband Thomas. He is really an amazing person. He fully supports me and encourages me to go after my goals. He is my rock. I also have to thank my Trainer Darren Toma. He is a great coach. Also his wife Lara Toma who really helped me with my posing.

ATHLETE NAME: Suzanne Brownfield

Social media contact: @suzpaul70

How did you get started in Fitness Suzanne? I used to be a long distance runner – I have completed numerous 10km races, about a dozen half marathons and 4 full marathons. I hung that area of fitness up when I blew out my SI joint attempting to wakeboard back in 2009. I have strength trained for many years but not seriously until 2012 when I started my prep for my very first Figure Competition. I love lifting and seeing how I can sculpt my physique!

What’s the best part about being a fitness competitor? Meeting other competitors and creating friendships with these like-minded people. I actually met my husband through competing!

What was the reason(s) you decided to compete at The Southerns, and what category did you compete in? I decided to give Women’s Bodybuilding a shot for the first time at Southerns! I have competed in Figure for 5 years and qualified last year for Provincials but the allure of bodybuilding took hold and I absolutely love this division! My husband and I qualified last year for Couples Bodybuilding at Nationals so I thought since I will be there with him, why not try it solo?!

What was the highlight from the entire show for you? The highlight was all the interactions with the amazing volunteers and other competitors! Such wonderful people and I felt at ease and like I truly belong to the ABBA community.

Who did you train with? I train with Impact Nutrition and Fitness in Lethbridge. We have a fantastic team and my coach Justin Wilson has a knack for knowing how to bring each of us in just so!

How did you stay motivated during prep? Knowing that I am heading into my late 40s and the pride I feel for being in the best shape of my life! My husband who is also currently in prep and teammates keep me going and my coach has my back too.

Any advice for those who are going to compete for the first time? Do your research and hire a good coach – one that works for YOU! Having someone guide you and to whom you are accountable to is of upmost importance! Make friends with other competitors who you can lean on as well.

What are you most proud of in your journey? Sticking to my prep even during the most challenging times – working and going to school, buying a new home as well as through the times when I just felt like I had enough. I just won Women’s Open Bodybuilding, Grandmasters Bodybuilding and Overall Womens Bodybuilding so I am thrilled! Age is only a number.

What are your short and long-term fitness goals? Short term, to hopefully place top 5 at Provincials and to spend the next couple of years building more muscle. Long term, I want to be lean and muscular old lady! This is a lifestyle and not just a temporary gig.

What is your favorite motivational quote? “It is a shame for a woman to grow old without ever seeing the strength and beauty of which her body is capable.”

Who would you like to send your thank-you to? My thank yous go to the team at Impact Nutrition for the guidance and support and to my husband Tyler for standing beside me even when the “hangry” moments kick in!

ATHLETE NAME: Joe kadri

Social media contact: responsetow23@gmail.com

How did you get started in Fitness Joe? I got started in fitness about 8 years ago and can’t stop. It is part of my life now.

What’s the best part about being a fitness competitor? The experience and the other competitors whom you meet.

What was the reason(s) you decided to compete at The Southerns, and what category did you compete in? It started off from the gym, where a few guys and gals said you should compete you look great 

What was the highlight from the entire show for you? For me it was just being on stage . It was very exciting.

Who did you train with? One of my good friends, he is like a brother to me and he also competes, (Housam el Salah

How did you stay motivated during prep? He also kept me motivated during my prep also my trainer Bobby whom also competes .

Any advice for those who are going to compete for the first time? Stay focused and don’t let anything stop you.

What are you most proud of in your journey? I am most proud of the dedication and work that goes into preparation.

What are your short and long-term fitness goals? Short term goals is to improve and long term is to compete as a pro.

What is your favorite motivational quote? Never give up.

Who would you like to send your thank-you to? God first and all whom helped me on my journey.

About Ali Sohrab

Holding a Masters degree in Lighting from University of British Columbia, with years of directing performances, the Vancouver based fitness photographer, Ali Sohrab brings his broad artistic expertise into the fitness world.

Ali has captured the beauty and the true personality of hundreds of athletes with his creative touch. In his world, every model possesses a unique gift and it’s the job of the photographer to discover that gift and manifest it through professional imagery. He believes that the work  of the artist should speak for itself.

Ali’s passion for lighting, story telling, body language, mood creating, and forms manifest though all his work, and has put him under many spotlights.