Bodybuilding competition emphasizes natural training

ARLINGTON — Local athletes held their own against statewide and several out-of-state challengers in a state bodybuilding and fitness competition at the Byrnes Performing Arts Center.

Although no one from the Marysville or Arlington area came home from the Aug. 8 amateur exhibition with their pro card, several vied in the qualifying categories of the Washington State Natural Bodybuilding, Fitness and Figure Championships put on by local trainers Kevin and Denise James of United Fitness.

Competing in the masters division for athletes over 40 years of age, Marysville-based bodybuilder Jose Robles placed a close second to lightweight champion John Nickerson of Issaquah, who went on to win the masters overall against heavyweight champion Daniel Rutherford of Lake Stevens, earning Nickerson his pro card.

While Robles has been training for eight years, it was his first competition.

“It’s awesome, I’m going to keep doing it,” he said. “I’m in my 40s, but I feel like I’m in my 20s. I’m going to keep going until I get my pro card.”

Once athletes earn a pro card, they are eligible to compete for cash prizes in their qualifying category at professional competitions around the country.

The training for a bodybuilding show is not easy. Contestants must bring their body fat down to a very low level to reveal the muscle underneath, requiring a strict diet.

Experienced bodybuilders learn how to shed fat methodically to prepare for shows, said Denise James, a pro bodybuilder in her own right and a personal trainer who guided many of the show’s athletes to competition. But in an amateur show like this one where many bodybuilders were competing for the first time, it was the culmination of a lifestyle change.

“A lot of our competitors started out just losing weight, dropped 100 pounds,” James said during the show intermission. “This is our fourth year (doing the show), but we’ve been helping people do this for 15 years. I’m on a crusade to get this place healthier.”

For James, healthier also means drug free. She puts a big emphasis on the “natural” in natural bodybuilding. While steroids are viewed as the usual in non-natural bodybuilding, people who share James’ concept of the sport steer clear even of legal enhancers like excess thyroid medication, diuretics or insulin, which can be abused in bodybuilding and fitness training.

As an athlete and trainer, she hopes to bring people — especially women — to the sport, by banishing the demons of steroid abuse.

“So many women are afraid they’ll go into the gym and wake up looking like a man,” she said. In addition to women’s bodybuilding, the competition offered fitness and Ms. Fit Body categories, allowing women to show off their physiques in heels.

Several local athletes picked up top places in their competitive categories. James Decaro of Marysville won the novice lightweight category, going on to defeat the heavyweight winner in the novice overall category. Jennifer Matthewson won the novice women’s bodybuilding category, also placing first in the Ms. Fit Body tall class, edged for a pro card in that class by Californian Kelly Green. Arlington athletes Cara Raymond and Robin Russell went 2-3 in the masters women category, and locals Celeste Anderson and Bo Gutierrez went first and second in the novice figure category.

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